Dharma Movie Review: The Matrix Revolutions
Dharma Movie Review: The Matrix Revolutions
We are Surviviors of The Matrix Revolutions
(36 Reflections on the Conclusion of the Trilogy)
Tagline: Everything that has a beginning has an end.
Plot Summary: The machine army continues to drill towards Zion. Within hours, they will overrun the population of the Zionites and lay extinction to human kind. Meanwhile, Neo is held captive by the Merovingian at a train station. Trinity & Morpheus set out on a journey to release him from a mysterious train operator. Also, Smith resumes his quest to kill "Mr. Anderson" as he reveals his identity into the real world and resumes to replicate his program inside the system of The Matrix, causing it to decay. All hope is placed in the freed Neo, who must travel to the city of the machines in the Logos ship with Trinity and bargain to save each kingdom from destruction by finishing Smith once and for all. But even with his new powers over the sentinels, will he be able to fight them off?
The Complete Matrix Dharma Movie Review Series:
The Matrix : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/174
The Matrix Reloaded : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/171
The Matrix Revolutions : http://www.moonpointer.com/movies/matrix3.htm (as below, with 30+ additional pictures)
The Animatrix : http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/186
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Here are some reflections on how scenes from the movie appear to run parallel to the Buddhist teachings. Please note that these are loose associations and not technically exact Dharma. (All pictures interspersed randomly are from thematrix.com.)
01) Bardo of the In-Between
Neo wakes from his coma in a subway station named "Mobil Ave". "Mobil" is an anagram for "Limbo". This resembles the Buddhist bardo state in which one's consciousness exists in an in-between state, between the life that one just left and a new life to be reborn in. Likewise, the station was located between the Matrix and between the Machine City. As explained by Rama, the place is "nowhere", but between here and there. The bardo state is likened to a trap if one does not break free of it, just as Neo was trapped there by Merovingian.
02) Neutrality of Karma
Rama tells Neo that he doesn't resent his karma, but is instead grateful for it, for having the love of his wife and daughter. He was expressing his appreciation for the "bright side" of his karma, instead of lamenting its dark side. The truth is, the law of karma is essentially empty of any fixed characteristics- it is neither good nor bad by itself, much similar to the half-full or half-empty glass analogy. Because we have unresolved karma, we suffer, but this karma can bring us blessings too.
03) Purpose of Existence
Rama tells Neo that programs have purposes of existence. This is true as they are written for specific reasons. However, sentient beings face the existential crisis of uncertainty over one's reason for living- for there is no program in us directing us to specific specific vocations or goals. However, what we know is we want to be truly happy and have the perfect Buddha-nature to attain this true happiness.
04) Meaning of Words
Rama tells Neo, "Love is a word- what's important is what the word implies... Karma is a word, like love..." What truly matters whne we use words is how we connect to what they impl. Sounds like a Zen dialogue about seeing the reality beyond the words that describe them, about grasping the essence of what they mean exactly.
05) Value of Love
Rama's dialogue with Neo was a brief reflection on the power and importance of love, of making positive connections to each other. Sati (which is a Pali term meaning "mindfulness" in Buddhism) helps Neo understand the power of innocence and unconditional love, surprisingly playing a nondescript calming role amidst the violence which she does not understand. It is ironical that Neo learns about this through Rama, who is a computer program in human form. Rama was an intelligent program that seemed to have developed genuine feelings of love and affection. This hints that even technological evolution will inevitably be able to connect to the noblest human sentiments, instead of just its worst aspects, as exemplified perhaps, by Deus Ex Machina, which is the single intelligence that is the voice of the Architect.
06) Circling in Bardo
Neo tried to escape the station by running along its track in one direction. But he found it looping to where he started from. This is likened to being trapped in any state of being, not just the bardo. When one does not break free of one's spiritual short-sightedness, one ends up circling in Samsara in the same miserable state- the inherently dissatisfactory "comfort" zone.
07) Breaking Free of Samsara Through Self-Reliance
Still trapped in the station, Neo thinks to himself, "You got yourself in, you can get yourself out." Similarly, just as we continually re-enter the wheel of Samsara, we can get ourselves out through self-reliance by practice of the Dharma.
08) Relativity of Time
The train man wears many watches on his wrist, each telling a different time. This is suggestive of the relativity of time- there is no absolute time for one and all. Interestingly, time is indeed relative in experience, as the Buddha defines "time" as "the measurement of change".
09) Cause and Effect
Merovingian tells Trinity, Morpheus and Seraph that there is no action without consequence. This accords with the Buddhist teaching of the univerally affecting law of cause and effect. He says that he does not see chance, as deluded ones do, but cause and effect. He still takes pride in seeing everything in an overly rigidly predictable and mechanistic cause and effect manner, thinking it is his edge over others. He forgets the unpredictable intelligence of wiser humans. If everything is strictly mechanistic, there would be no free will at all.
10) Love & InsanityMerovingian remarks, when Trinity expresses her willingness to die for Neo, that the pattern of love resembles that of insanity. While it is somewhat true if love is born out of blind attachment, great selfless love (eg. compassion) can be the sanest and greatest strength.
11) Blind Saviour
Neo was temporarily blinded after a fight with Bane/Smith, becoming a "blind saviour". But even so, he continues to fight the good war to save himself and all humans. Likewise, even if we are spiritually or even physically blinded to some extent, we have to "grope" our way through and never give up our quest for the light of Enlightenment.
12) Heavenly Eye
Despite his physical blindness, Neo discovers that he can see in another energy-light spectrum with his mind's eye. In fact, he somewhat sees more accurately and detailedly. This reminds us of Anuruddha, who was one of the Buddha's disciples. He became blind due to not sleeping, so that he could practise and listen to the Buddha's teachings. When he attained Enlightenment, he obtained the powers of the heavenly eye. Not only could he see again, he could even see into the heavens.
13) Rebirth of the Oracle
The Oracle had to take on a new "shell" or body, as a result of Merovingian's "assasination". In a sense, she was reborn, as she states that taking a new body, she unavoidably loses some aspects of her previous "self" and acquires some new characteristics. This parellels real life, where Mary Alice, who plays the Oracle in The Matrix Revolutions, replaces Gloria Foster (who played the Oracle in The Matrix and The Matrix Reloaded) who passed away.
14) One Believes What One Wants
The Oracle tells Morpheus that we all believe what we want to. This is true in the sense that even if someone hoodwinks us, it's ourselves, with our delusions, who choose to believe in the lies, who caused ourselves to be deceived. Those who deceive us are only the conditioning factors.
15) Inevitable Death
Oracle: Very soon he's (Smith) going to have the power to destroy this world, but I believe he won't stop there, he can't. He won't stop until there's nothing left at all.
Neo: What is he ?
Oracle: He is you. Your opposite, your negative, the result of the equation trying to balance itself out. (continues below)
Agent Smith represents Mara (the evil one in Buddhism, whose name means "death in life" representing the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance), or the impending doom and the inevitable death of all, in a sense representing the law of impermanence, which can result in the sudden deaths of many. The Oracle tells Neo that Smith is his opposite and negative, "the result of the equation trying to balance itself out." This reminds us of our inner demons which seemingly gather strength when we become more and more mindful of them, in our efforts to vanquish them.
16) Limited Perception
Neo: Where is this going? Where does it end ?
Oracle: I don't know.
Neo: You don't know or you won't tell me ?
Oracle: I told you before, no one can see beyond a choice they don't understand. And I mean no one. (continues below)
Because we are unenlightened, we have delusions, which warp our perception of our choices, much more so of their consequences.
17) One's Personal Choice
Neo: What choice?
Oracle: It doesn't matter. It's my choice. I have mine to make, just as you have yours. (continues below)
We are existentially alone with our free will and the personal choices we make with it. There is no escape from making choices, for better or for worse. Even not making a choice is making the choice of being apathetic.
18) Right Time for the Right Thing
Neo: Does that include what things to tell me and what not to tell me?
Oracle: Of course not.
Neo: Then why didn't you tell me about the Architect? Why didn't you tell me about Zion and the Ones before me? Why didn't you tell me the truth?
Oracle: Because it wasn't time for you to know. (continues below)
A skillful teacher or person sharing the Dharma dispenses the right teachings in the right amount in the right way to the right person at the right time and place.
19) Extending Beyond Oneself
Neo: Tell me how I separated my mind from my body without jacking in. Tell me how I stopped four Sentinels by thinking it. Tell me just what the hell is happening to me.
Oracle: The power of the One extends beyond this world. It reaches from here all the way back to where it came from.
Oracle: The Source. That's what you felt when you touched those Sentinels. But you weren't ready for it. (continues below)
The power of our mind, when fully enlightened, extends beyond our illusory limited self. The Source of all things is not a creator God in Buddhism. We collectively form the source of everything. From everything springs forth everything, constantly evolving spiritually and materially, interconnectedly and interdependently. The Buddha's Source of power comes from His wisdom of understanding everything and compassion for every being. There is nothing more powerful than this.
20) Returning to the Source
Neo: The Architect told me that if I didn't return to the Source, Zion would be destroyed by midnight tonight. (continues below)
In Buddhism, to return to the Source is to return to the entire universe itself, to realise non-self, Enlightenment- to be one with all.
21) Unbalancing the Equation
Oracle: (rolls her eyes) Please. You and I may not be able to see beyond our own choices, but that "man" can't see past any choices.
Neo: Why not?
Oracle: He doesn't understand them. He can't. To him they are variables in an equation. One at a time each variable must be solved then countered. That's his purpose. To balance an equation.
Neo: What's your purpose?
Oracle: To unbalance it.
If one lives life without wanting to break free from the matrix of delusions that one is trapped in, and complacently lett things be, one is not "disturbing" the equation of Samsara. Conversely, to unbalance this equation is to break free of Samsara, to become enlightened.
22) Faith in One(self)
Niobe says she does not believe in Neo being the One who will save them all, but that she believes in Neo himself. It is interesting that she played a pivotal role in saving Zion herself. She believed in herself too, not just placing hopes in Neo alone. In this sense, there were many "Ones" who functioned as self-reliant and mutually-cooperative Bodhisattvas in saving one and all.
23) Give Only What One Needs
Morpheus: You went to see her (Oracle)?
Niobe: Just before the Sentinels rammed us.
Morpheus: Why, what did she tell you?
Niobe: The same thing she always does: Exactly what I needed to hear.
A good teacher of the Dharma knows the capacity of his or her students well, and tells only what his or her student needs to hear- nothing more or less.
24) See the Enemy Beyond Flesh
Bane: Mr. Anderson...
Neo: Who are you?
Bane: Look past the flesh and see your enemy.
Neo: (Recognises Bane as Smith.) It's impossible.
Bane: Not impossible- inevitable.
When we see past the flesh, at our enemies within and without us, we realise that it is never the person per se who is the enemy, but the immaterial three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance. That is to say, the enemy is the greed, hatred and ignorance; not the greedy, hateful and ignorant.
25) Confidence Over Choicelessness
Trinity: If you tell me we make it, I believe you.
Neo: We'll make it. We have to.
If we have no choice over our choicelessness, but to choose a hard path to trod, let us be confident about it and bravely face the obstacles in our way. It's the only thing to do there and then to advance spiritually.
26) The God Out of the Machine
Neo tells the collective machines (the Architect?), also called the "Deus Ex Machina (Greek for "the god out of the machine)", that the viral-like program "Smith" has grown beyond the Matrix's control, and strikes a mutual peace bargain with them. The collective consciousness of the machines is like a "god out of the machine" or "ghost in the shell". Likewise, we individually have a "god" within the machine that is our body. It is our consciousness, our will which (re)creates our "self", our sum of wisdom and delusion- only as almighty as we are enlightened.
27) Fighting One's One Demon
Agent Smith fights Neo empty-handed and alone in a showdown, while his cloned minions stand aside and watch. This is reminiscent of us needing to fight only essentially one demon- our innermost one. After it is defeated, all outer demons are rendered powerless over us.
28) Purpose of Life
Agent Smith tells Neo, "The purpose of life, Mr. Anderson, is death." Smith has a classically cold existential outlook on life, seeing only where it leads to, instead of the worthiness of the journey that leads to the final destination. Out of hatred and seeing the apparent "pointless" proceeding of all life towards death, he has no other worthy goal than to accelerate all lifeforms to their inevitable destiny. But what he does is unnecessary, for nature will take its own course. In Buddhism, the noblest purpose of life is transcend life and death, and to help others do the same, gaining liberation in Enlightenment.
29) Pointless to Fight?
Smith: (When Neo collapses) Why, Mr. Anderson (Neo)? Why do you do it? Why get up? Why keep fighting? Do you believe you're fighting for something? For more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom? Or truth? Perhaps peace? Yes? No? Could it be for love? Illusions, Mr. Anderson. Vagaries of perception. The temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying to deperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose. And all of them as artificial as the Matrix itself, although only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love. You must be able to see it, Mr. Anderson. You must know it by now. You can't win. It's pointless to keep fighting. Why, Mr. Anderson? Why? Why do you persist?!
Neo: (Stands up) Because I choose to.
Agent Smith once again states his heartless unsentient and spiritually hollow existential view of human life. He fails to understand that sentient beings seek meaningfulness in existence, and even death and beyond, inevitably leading to the struggle for love, freedom, truth and peace. Human strife in the right direction will inevitably lead to the peak of spiritual evolution in Enlightenment. These are concepts that Smith, as an "evil" program, cannot understand, as opposed to Rama.
30) Smith's Existential Crisis
Ironically, in Smith's attempt to point out what he supposes to be Neo's existential crisis while fighting him, he was in fact stating his own existential crisis, which he does not see. If it is as he assumes, pointless for Neo to fight back, it is just as pointless for him to keep Neo down. Smith's multiplying hatred is, by his own logic, just as existententially pointless, in that it has no basis and useful purpose.
31) Peace for Man & Machine
Is the final harmony achieved between man and machines a message for us? Yes- for with the simultaneously rapid advance of artificially intelligent technology and increase of human selfishness, the day might come when man exploits AI to the extent that it retaliates. It was greed and hatred that led the machines to conquer mankind in the first place, creating the Matrix. Perhaps this day has already come? Perhaps we are plugged into the Matrix still, just as the vast majority of humans still are, at the end of the show.
32) The One Sun
Neo seemed to merge both into the real world and the Matrix, in the form of golden light. The dawning golden sun at the end of the movie reminds us of the sun-like Rocana Buddha and the omnipresent Vairocana Buddha. In Buddhism, Vairocana represents the Dharmakaya (aspect of Buddha's body of truth that pervades all time and space) and Rocana Buddha represents the Sambhogakaya (reward body of the Buddha which compassionately emanates manifestation bodies or Nirmanakayas in "human" Buddha forms- eg. Shakyamuni Buddha). Vairocana is generally recognised as the spiritual or essential body of Buddha, pervading everything like light, also symbolised by the sun, or its light. Vairocana is the chief of the Five Dhyani Buddhas, occupying the centre position, also known as the Great Sun Tathagatha.
33) We are Still in the Matrix
We understand from the conversation between the Oracle and the Architect at the end of the movie, that the peace treaty is such that the ones who want out (of the Matrix) will be freed. This still implies the need for the individual's wish and effort to wake up from the Matrix. This applies to us too. The Matrix Trilogy is hereby officially immortalised as a realistic modern myth that we can all relate to at a spiritual level.
34) Will Neo Save All?
Keanu Reeves (in interview): The first (movie) is about birth. The second about life. The third about death. I don't know though. Maybe it should be called The Matrix Resurrection (instead of The Matrix Revolutions).
Will Neo eventually save all the other humans plugged in the Matrix? Is it possible? Well, he can only give us wake-up calls time and again- the rest is very much to us- whether we wish to wake up or not. In The Matrix, we saw Cypher, who could not bear "the desert of the real" and spiritually "retrogressed" back to the Matrix. It thus takes personal courage to break free from the matrices of our delusion. Just as Neo was first contacted and guided by Morpheus in The Matrix. He might contact you! Neo somewhat represents the enlightened Buddha or Bodhisattva, who try to nudge us out of our spiritual comfort zones. It is interesting that the final scene of the trilogy resembles our everyday "normal" world. After The Matrix Revolutions, we still need our personal Spiritual Revolution, to be enlightened. In the mean time, we are "reborn" into the Matrix of Samsara time and again, or as Keanu Reeves (who acted as Neo) says above, "resurrected."
35) You are the ONE!
By now, you should have realised this... Ultimately, you are the ONE to save yourself. Here is an excerpt of an interview with the Wachowski Brothers, the creators of the Matrix Trilogy. This interview was done way back, after they the first Matrix movie was screened.
Q: What is the role or faith in the movie? Faith in oneself first and foremost or in something else?
A: Hmmm... that is a tough question! Faith in ONE's self, how's that for an answer?Salvation is essentially "self-vation", even with all the compassionate guidance of the Buddhas we can get!
36) Everything That Has A Beginning Has An End?
Conventionally, the tagline seems to make sense. However, in Buddhism, there is one thing often described as beginningless, which however, can end- Ignorance (delusion), which gives rise to our greed and hatred, which causes all our unhappiness. It is useful to remember that conventionally, our present life, which had a beginning on the day we were born (though we were reborn countless times already), will have an end too, in death- on a day we cannot predict. In our world of cyclic existence, everything is changing, (re)beginning and (re)ending in each moment. It cannot be more apt that this series of Matrix reviews with the last exiting words of the Buddha Himself- "Subject to change are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence." And may I add, "Let us, survivors of the Matrix, break free of it soon!"By shian@... To comment or share, please email me.
We sincerely hope you enjoyed the Matrix Trilogy and our reviews as much as we did watching and writing about it!