Dharma@Cinema : From a Physical 'Whiteout' to a Spiritual Blackout
- From a Physical 'Whiteout' to a Spiritual Blackout
In the movie ‘Whiteout’, a U.S. marshal, being the only one assigned to Antarctica, makes it a point to solve a murder case there… a mere three days before the merciless winter which lasts for six months in darkness begins howling. The more she investigates, the darker a conspiracy gets. Before the darkness of night arrives, she faces the perils of whiteouts – a weather condition in which visibility and contrast are severely reduced by heavy snowfall and strong winds. It is similar to a blackout in terms of disabling clear vision, except that it’s white in colour. Visibility can be so severely reduced that immediate dangers might be seen only at an icy breath’s length away.
In the Andhakara Sutta, the Buddha speaks of a powerful cosmic darkness pervading the void of space, that even the light of suns and moons cannot reach. He next remarks that there is a darkness greater and much more terrifying than that… the darkness of delusion or ignorance, of not discerning the Four Noble Truths, of not identifying the distressing dissatisfactions of life, of not recognising their causes, of not knowing what is the end of these dissatisfactions, and of not being aware of the path that leads to the end of them.As a result, the severely unenlightened are caught up, trapped in the cycles of suffering. They fall ‘into the darkness of [re]birth. They drop into the darkness of aging… the darkness of death… darkness of sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress and despair.’ The Buddha then encourages all to contemplate the Four Noble Truths – for it is the way the leads to the end of this darkness. In ‘Whiteout’, ironically, the blinding brightness of white was a cover for the darkness of evils within the human heart. The villains too, are as the Buddha described, within the darkness of delusion due to their twisted craving to attain happiness via killing for gains. When there is strong spiritual darkness, even worldly happiness fails to shine for long. While a external whiteout might spell physical death, an inner blackout spells the darkness of spiritual death… till the light of the Dharma illuminates… to resurrect spiritual life.
- Shen Shi'an