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Expanded Dharma Movie Review of "The Animatrix" (with Dialogue Commentary)

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  • NamoAmituofo
    ... Dharma Movie Review: The Animatrix ... Background of the Animatrix The Animatrix (www.TheAnimatrix.com) is a movie of 9 beautifully animated spin-off
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 23, 2003
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      Dharma Movie Review:
      The Animatrix



      Background of the Animatrix

      The Animatrix  (www.TheAnimatrix.com) is a movie of 9 beautifully animated spin-off stories relating to the Matrix Trilogy (www.TheMatrix.com). The stories explain the history and nature of the Matrix with additional details. Perhaps, in this new and postmodern millennium, we "need" science to marry religious philosophy like the Matrix series seems to successfully do, to urge us the question reality and the meaning of life. Below are some parellels in the stories to the Buddhist teachings.

      Background of the Matrix

      In the Matrix series, it is discovered that in the not too distant future, man is hooked onto a sophisticated system by machines, tapped for the energy they produce. Virtual simulations of a normal life are fed into each human mind unknowingly. However, there exists a groiup of rebels who have woken up from the Matrix and freed themselves from it. The series tells the saga of how they attempt to free all minds.

      The Matrix can be seen as a modern metaphor for Samsara (the world we are in, which we perceive inaccurately with our deluded minds). The idea of us being blinded in the Matrix is not far-fetched. For instance, even a man in this day and age without a proper education might not realise that the Earth is not flat, or that the sun never really rises or sets. How much more subtle delusions do we have about reality and ourselves! To quote the filmmakers the Wachowski brothers, "There's something uniquely interesting about Buddhism and mathematics, particularly about quantum physics, and where they meet. That has fascinated us for a long time." If you wish to comment or have more to share, please email matrix@...

      [1] The Second Renaissance (Part 1)

      SYNOPSIS: Man's "exploitation" of the machines.

      1) The Zion Archives unfolds like lotus petals of a mandala, with a Bodhisattva-like, guardian goddess-like narrator/instructor. Worlds within worlds...

      2) Instructor: But humanity's so-called civil societies soon fell victim to vanity and corruption. Then man made machine in his own likeness. Thus did man became the architect of his own demise. ...(machines) considered as a subordinate and inferior class.

      Like the caste system in the Buddha's time, machines served as slaves and were ill-treated.

      3) Instructor: ... the prosecution argued for an owner's right to destroy property. B1-66ER testified that he simply did not want to die.

      Is death an illusion for machines? For us too? How can a machines without a mind die? We are attached to life because we have body and mind, which we take as real and ours- when they are of the 3 Universal Characteristics.

      4) Instructor: Rational voices dissented. Who was to say the machine, endowed with the very spirit of man, did not deserve a fair hearing? 

      Is a machine designed to be a sentient being a sentient being? It is hard to imagine treating an seemingly sentient machine created by humans in an inhumane way- for it is man's innate nature to be humane. Being designed in his likeness, all too human and endowed with survival and democratic instincts, the machines rebelled against the injustice done to them.

      5) Different from man in not needing to search for the meaning of life, the machines live without higher purpose of spiritual betterment. Similarly, man is just like the machines if he has no higher purpose for Enlightenment or of the like.

      [2] The Second Renaissance (Part 2)

      SYNOPSIS: How machines exploited man, and how the Matrix came to be.

      1) What goes around comes around in karma- even our cruelty to non-sentient machines. Perhaps it is not the subject that matters, but the state of mind of greed and hatred we generate, that creates negative karmic repercussions.

      2) Re-enactment of Vietnam street execution and Tiananmen Square 6-4 Incident shows that history repeats when man is not truly repentant of past misdeeds.

      3) Zero-One's ambassadors came in peace- with traditional peace gestures and civilised clothes. But man was uncivilised to them. The machines forgave man's atrocities towards them but man was too jealous. Equanimity was not practised just as a jealous parent does not see the rights and independence of his grown up child despite his success. Man was the parent of the machines. Not respected, the machines later gave up human courtesy.

      4) The jealousy of man over the machines' success led to incooperation and violence, wishing rather that the world be divided. The "United" Nations did not unite with Zero-One.

      [3] Program

      SYNOPSIS: Temptation to return to the Matrix.

      1) Duo: That was too easy. What's the problem? Where's your concentration?
                  Maybe you regret taking the red pill.
          Cis: Maybe. (Dialogue continues below...)

      One who takes the red pill, which enables one to see the reality of the Matrix, regrets at least once after taking it. This is likened to some seemingly inevitable discouragement on the path to full Enlightenment- the initial discovery of the reality of existential Dukkha (dissatisfaction).

      2) Duo: It crosses everyone's mind at least once. The wish to return to an ordinary life.
                 A carefree life in the country. The life we had before knowng all this.
          Cis: Even if that life was just an illusion?
          Duo: It's ironic that one can be more at peace in the virtual world. (Horses gallop towards Buddha image) 
                  It's just a matter of time before Zion is wiped out. Come with me. (Dialogue continues below...)

      The "goodness" of the virtual, though tempting, is not real or lasting. It's a matter of time that we are wiped out as we all either die or are awaken in time.

      3) Duo: I've come to my senses. You should do the same. I took the red pill because
                  I wanted to know the truth. But I don't care about the truth anymore.
                  What's real doesn't matter. What's important is how we live our lives.
                  Are you listening to me? You know I'm right. 
         Cis: But we can't go back, Duo. We know the truth now. (Dialogue continues below...)

      Reality is what really matters- especially after knowing one has been deceived all along. None are as blind as those who saw reality but pretend they have not seen. Can we trust a deal with the "devil" (Mara)? Like a Streamwinner, one who has had a true glimpse of reality will not be able to "forget" it. 

      4) Duo: We can forget all of this. I know how. Trust me. Don't be afraid to look into your heart.
                 Say what you're really feeling. Tell me.
          Cis: I can't. I don't know. (More fighting) (Dialogue continues below...)

      Given the choice between a carefree life in a virtual world, we will inevitably itch for reality, even if it seems bleak at first. Even if reality is bleak, seeing it means true freedom, control and happiness, being true to oneself and all.

      5) Duo: Running away won't change anything! 
         Cis: You're the one that's running away!
         Duo: Stop pretending!
         Cis: Enough , Duo. I've had enough!...
         Duo: This is your last chance. The choice isn't that hard. Come with me. 
         Cis: You can forget about it, Duo. I won't look away from the truth. I can't. 

      This is like Mara's last temptation. It is ironical that the worldly sees the spiritual as those "running away from reality" when they are the ones not pursuing reality, being the real spiritual escapists.

      6) Duo: Easy Cis, settle down. He's just part of the training program.
                  He's just a simulation. It's over. It was a test.
                 Judgement. Concentration. Technique. High scores on everything.

      Everything we experience is just a test- one after another- till we pass, till we attain Enlightenment. Just as necessary on the path to Enlightenment are qualities like concentration.

      [4] Beyond

      SYNOPSIS: A curious glance into the (mal)functioning of the Matrix.

      1) Man are hooked to machines, at their mercy, in their control, dictated by technology these days by the likes of mobile phones, traffic lights, email... Yet we are hooked to a larger system- Samsara (our deluded cyclic world of life and death).

      2) The haunted house is a glitch in the Matrix's system, but even so, it is a systematic glitch in the sense that there are proper causes and conditions for everything that goes wrong.

      3) With unsteady flickering of the house and objects in it, the glitch revealed the true insubstantiality of the house as a part of the grand illusion of the Matrix (of Samsara).

      [5] World Record

      SYNOPSIS: Breaking out of the Matrix through sheer willpower.

      1) Instructor: Only the most exceptional people become aware of the Matrix (of Samsara). Those who know that it exists, possess a rare degree of intuition, senstivity and a questioning nature. (Narration continues below...)

      This is so as the ones who awaken question life and do not take anything for granted.

      2) Instructor: However, very rarely, some gain this wisdom through wholly different means.

      This story is about how one "accidentally" stumbles upon the truth of the Matrix, changing his vision of reality forever. This can happen when one undergoes a concentrated state of mind and attains sudden insight into reality, breaking free of previous thought paradigms.

      3) Dan's Father: Nothing worth doing in life is easy.

      Often, the things most worthy of accomplishing in life are not easy. In times of difficulty, it helps to remember the worthiness of our goals, including Enlightenment.

      4) Dan: I've made up my mind and I'm running tomorrow... No one will ever beat my record. It's the last chance for me to finally prove them wrong.  

      Though we should not be extreme in craving to seek higher achievements, we should not be complacent with our past achievements. We should continually seek to outdo or break free of ourselves spiritually. Dan was challenging himself. The ultimate personal breakthrough is breaking out of the Matrix (of Samsara). Each time you break free of your old "self", you attain a higher vision of reality.

      5) Reporter: Someone once said it (running fast) feels like zero gravity.
          Dan: You're released from the world and you're totally free.

      When you free yourself of everything, including perceptions of your limitations, you become totally free.

      6) Dan literally ran out of the Matrix through sheer will power (right effort), overloading its system.

      7) Agent: He cannot wake up. Do not let him wake up.

      Like Mara, our defilments try "their" best to stop us from awakening to reality.

      8) Nurse: Something about biting into it (her aunt's pie), just for that brief moment tasting perfection. Like leaving your body or something.

      The nurse was ironically relating a mildly similar case of "losing oneself" in the moment. These moments occasionally occur to us too.

      [6] Kid's Story

      SYNOPSIS: Questioning the reality of "reality".

      1) Kid: Why does it feels more real when I dream than when I am awake. How do I know if my senses are lying. (Dialogue continues below...)

      This is reminiscent of the Chuang Tzu story where he remarks that he once dreamt that he was a butterfly which forgot he was a man. Now that he is "awake", he is unsure whether he is a buttefly dreaming he is a man. As long as there are are unenlightened, our senses cannot be trusted totally- yet we have to use them, especially our mind, to navigate to reality. To do so effectively, we have to clear our mind of delusional perceptions.

      2) Neo: There is some fiction in your truth and some truth in your fiction. To know the truth, you must risk everything. (Dialogue continues below...)

      A big problem with our delusions is that it is mixed with reality so much so that it can be difficult to discern the true from the false. To know everything, we have to question everything, and risk everything in our comfort zone of deluded perceptions.

      3) How do we know if we are in a Matrix-like system? We are! Simply because we obviously do not perceive everything, including ourselves, accurately, flawlessly. We are pluggged in our personal Matrix. It is the awakened who see the absurdity of being plugged in, who snap out of it, who help others do the same.

      4) Kid: Who are you? Am I alone?

      Existentially and karmically, we are alone with our perceptions and decisions, even though there are others who help us clear our perceptions and advise is to make wise decisions.

      5) The kid attends "Clearview High School"- but do we learn in school to have a truly clear view of reality, or does education sometimes clouds our views with standard and imperfect paradigms of thought?

      6) The Agents, which can represent the minions of Mara, are always properly dressed in the Matrix, inconspicuous-looking and "normal." Thus are the everyday guises of Mara in our lives.

      7) Neo: They know you know. Get out. Get out now.

      The minions of Mara, likened to our defilements, always "know" when we are trying to break free of them, and create obstacles for us.

      8) Kid: I believe. I know it wasn't a dream.

      Awakening to reality is knowing the real as the real, not a dream. Meanwhile, we are usually not totally sure.

      9) Voice A: A typical mental delusion. We get unbalanced kids like this all the time.
          Voice B: Reality can be a pretty scary thing for some people.
          Voice A: This world must have been a cold and alienating place for a boy like that.
          Voice B: It's called denying reality.
          Voice A: It's, you know, just a self-defense mechanism for those type of kids.
          Voice B: Well, he's in another world now.

      It is truly ironical that the truly deluded see the awakened as deluded, the illusory as real.

      10) Trinity: It's unbelievable. I didn't think self-substantiation was possible. (Dialogue continues below...)

      True, not blind faith on the truth can be powerful in sustaining and boosting our lives both physically and spiritually.

      11) Kid: I knew you'd save me.
            Neo: I didn't save you kid. You saved yourself.

      Even wanting to be helped needs our effort to let go to be helped. In this sense, we have to be self-reliant- no one can truly save us but ourselves.

      12) Neo: You are not alone.

      The awakened ones (such as the Buddhas) are =ever alone- they realise their interconnectedness with all beings and things. And they have other like-minded awakened friends (Buddhas) too.

      [7] A Detective Story

      SYNOPSIS: Investigation of the Matrix being a personal test.

      1) Ash was on "a case to end all cases" as he seeked the reality of the Matrix, the meaning of his existence.

      2) Madman: And who am I? Who the hell am I?

      The hacker who went crazy was facing an existential identity crisis. Yet facing existential crises is among the sanest thing to do.

      3) A city billboard reads "The World is Yours."

      This is true- all of the world you perceive (with your perception) is of your own making (karmic result) and yours alone uniquely. 

      4) White Pawn (Ash): I'm looking for Trinity. I'm told he's through the looking glass.
          Red Queen (Trinity): No it is you who is through the looking glass. 

      The deluded tend to see reality as other-worldly and unreal when it is they who are not rooted in reality in this world.

      5) References to the classic "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / through the Looking Glass" in the Matrix series, such as "Follow the White Rabbit" and "Red Queen", suggest the existence of alternate or higher reality, as sought by one who seeks Enlightenment.

      6) Ash: I knew this was some kind of trap.
          Trinity: There's a difference, Mr Ash, between a trap and a test.

      There is a difference between a trap and a test. Yet when we fail to breakthrough the spiritual tests we encounter, we remain trapped.

      7) The extraction of the "bug" in the detective's eye is suggestive of the eradication of our deluded perception that clouds our vision of reality.

      8) Trinity: There's a difference between a test and a choice. For what it's worth, I think you could've handled the truth.

      Every choice we make is a test too. The Agents try hard to take over Ash by "possessing" him. The detective saw it as a test of his will in resisting evil. Likewise, we are tested by Mara. Every resistance, every giving in is a choice we make.

      [8] Matriculated

      SYNOPSIS: Man regaining the "friendship" of machines through virtual matriculation.

      1) An enemy machine was put into a simulated "matrix" to touch him, to let him discover comradeship and loyalty, becoming more "sentient". Is this possible? Or is it just "voluntary" self-reprogramming? This is interesting because man "matriculates" ("matrix-ise") a machine instead of letting machines "matriculate" him. The path to Enlightenment is the path of ongoing "reprogramming" ourselves to have greater Compassion and Wisdom.

      2) The theme of this story is also reminiscent of point 1 of "Kid's Story" about Chuang Tzu's butterfly dream.

      3) Girl: Do you think it will convert?
          Guy: To convert is its choice to make. (Dialogue continues below...)

      Can machines make choices of their own? If a machine is programmed to decide in a certain way, is decision-making for the machine genuine? Can a machine be programmed not to follow programming? If so, is that not still a form of programming? We are different from A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) machines because we make decisions based on our nurtured and natural "programming" of perception, yet we can also "reprogram" ourselves freely despite our experiences and pressure from our environment.

      4) Girl: Do you think maybe we ought to reprogram it?
          Guy: No. We can't make slaves of them.
          Girl: Because that would be simpler.
          Guy: We won't beat the machines by making them our slaves. Better to let them join us by choice.
                  (Dialogue continues below...)

      Trying to "trick" the machine is actually trying to reprogram it. When the Buddha used skillful means to teach us the Truth, He was giving us the alternative way of "reprogramming" ourselves for the better.

      5) Girl: Make them believe that the right choice is the one that we want them to make.
          Guy: All right. Yes, machines are tools. They're made to be used. It's their nature...
          Girl: ... to be slaves. (Dialogue continues below...)

      Perhaps there is no real slavery to oneself except when one is aware that one is enslaved and is willing to remain so. This is why so many people stuck in the Matrix have no wish to be free- because they are so deluded that they do not think they are deluded. Perhaps THIS is the real slavery- being enslaved by our delusions unknowingly.

      6) Guy: That's why we can show them a better world. Why they convert.
         Girl: But that world we show them isn't real.
         Guy: It doesn't matter.
         Girl: I'm afraid they'll figure out we've made up the thing in our heads.
         Guy: They can't tell the difference. To an artificial mind, all reality is virtual.
                  How do they know that the real world isn't just another simulation? How do you do?
         Girl: I know I'm not dreaming now because I know what it's like being in a dream.
         Guy: So dreaming lets you know reality exists.
         Girl: No just that my mind exists. I don't know about the rest.

      The machine, assuming he is sentient, was shown a "better world" where there is friendship. Like machines with delusions (bugs) according to their programming, our minds are somewhat "artificial" (unreal) too, often unable to discern the real from the virtual. The girl was stating the premise that "I think, therefore I am", but who or what is "I"? In Enlightenment, even "I" is an illusion, virtual.

      7) The machine became attached to the "matrix" it was plugged in and the girl who "saved" it in the "matrix", and tried to "save" her in return by plugging her into its "matrix". But the girl knew it was not real and became terrified. Perhaps whatever we perceive, with as much awareness as we have at the moment, is our "reality" already- at the moment- be it virtual or not. The greater reality we cannot perceive in the moment we cannot perceive. What we have to do is to continually increase our awareness to see the "realer" aspects of the "real reality."

      [9] The Last Flight of the Osiris

      SYNOPSIS: The Matrix's Sentinels' discovery of Zion.

      1) This sets the backdrop prequel for "The Matrix Reloaded", first sequel to "The Matrix". Like Bodhisattvas with great Compassion, the crew members of the Osiris sacrificed themselves to bring the message of the Sentinels' impending attack of Zion to Zion citizens.

      Any comments on this story or any of the above?
      Please feel free to email zeph@...

      Online Dharma Matrix Movie Reviews

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