What does Buddhism have in common with The Matrix?
I've just returned from a weekend retreat at Kripalu with Professor Robert Thurman, the first Western Tibetan Buddhist monk. This was a deep-dive immersion into Buddhist philosophy. Thurman makes several connections between Buddhism and the Hollywood blockbuster The Matrix.
The Apparent Becomes Transparent: One of the core practices of Buddhism is meditation, the practice of disconnecting the brain as you lose your sense of self. Thurman says, "You are like one of the characters in The Matrix, present and active as a real being, yet at the same time realizing that the apparent reality that surrounds you is only illusory." The characters in the Matrix pass through different levels of being, Which is their real world? The one connected via the computer, or the one with which they see around them? Who is the real enemy, which one of the thousands of Agent Smiths?
There is no reality, you create your own reality: The mild-mannered soft-spoken Neo (aka Keanu Reeves) can not conceive that he could be the Matrix. Note the pun in his name being Neo, which stands for "The One". Neo thinks to himself, I am a nobody, I can not possibly be the hero of the world. Thurman draws the connection back to Buddhism, "None of us knows who we really are. Facing that and then becoming all that we can be- astonishing, surprising, amazing- always fresh and new, always free to be more, brave enough to become a work in progress." Buddhism calls on each and every person to aspire to be their best self, to cultivate a life filled with Generosity, Justice, Patience, Creativity, Contemplation and Wisdom. Can you be brave enough to see yourself as a work in progress and to strive for more? Can you become all that you can be?
Control your mind, control your life. Neo's triumph in the movie, is his ability to learn to control his mind thoughts. He achieves mastery even going so far with sci-fi special effects to deflect flying bullets with his powerful mind thoughts. Thurman notes " The mind is the most powerful controller in the whole universe. It determines not just what you do, but how you interpret what you do. It determines how you make decisions, what you chose to remember, and how you plan for the future. Your mind is responsible for all of your experiences, bad and good." The Buddhist mindset calls on us, in each and every moment of our day, to choose how you see and experience the moment.
As an executive coach immersed in coaching executives to achieve their best possible self, I strive to share these concepts with my clients while also applying these ideals to my daily life. Thurman notes that you don't need to convert to Buddhism. No matter what your religion, the Buddhist principles of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, contentment and self-discipline apply to you.
I embrace seeing myself as a work-in progress, and the journey ahead....For more Robert Thurman's amazing lectures are podcasts available at https://bobthurman.com/