Hellboy ~ Dharma-Inspired Movie Review
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Tagline: Give Evil HellPlot Outline: A demon, raised from infancy after being conjured by and rescued from the Nazis, grows up to become a defender against the forces of darkness. -imdb.com
Which prevails, nature or nurture? The movie attempts to answer this age-old question. A personal question actually... with its answer up to you, the individual - for it is your choice, to either allow your force of habit to take dominance, or to let light in, casting out your darkness. As Professor Bruttenholm utters, "In the absence of light, darkness prevails." Likewise, the Buddha tells us that wherever the bright wholesome states of mind, of generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom exist (even if only in the moment), the dark unwholesome states of greed, hatred and delusion cease to be.This movie reminds me that Mara (the devilish Buddhist personification of the three roots of evil, of greed, hatred and delusion) in the sutras is not portrayed as a single fixed character, but as an evil heavenly god with massive powers accrued from past merit, which he chooses to abuse. Because Mara's character, as with ours, changes, he is able to repent and even become enlightened! For example, Mogallana, one of the Buddha's enlightened chief disciples, was once Mara in a distant previous life! There is hope for the most "hopeless" of us yet! Likewise, Hellboy, though born from hell, needs not burn in hell forever - by virtue of his deeds of self-redemption. Hellboys and Hellgirls we might be at times, but we can all grow up spiritually to become Buddhas!It is interesting to note that the villians who are more than willing to unleash demons of chaos into the world are more demonic than Hellboy, who is ironically demonic only by appearance, but far more humane. In fact, some beings from the lower realms, eg. animals, are more humane than some humans. Compassion is thus within all beings just as the perfect Buddha-nature is omnipresent. The difference lies in the individual's willingness to let it shine forth.
"What makes a man a man?" Agent Myers asks in the ending voiceover, as he wonders whether Hellboy is more of a human or a demon. He answers, "It's the choices he makes. Not how he starts things, but rather, how he decides to end them." The law of karma tells us that living life if like playing a game of cards. You might be dealt a poor hand (as you deserved), but if you play your cards right with wisdom, you can still win. The "poor hand" is due to your negative past karma - which is why you need to gain the "upper hand", by putting in Right Effort (part of the Noble Eightfold Path) to better yourself. Literally or figuratively, so what if you were born in hell? Speaking against hellishly unfair condemnations of lower castes, The Buddha teaches that we are noble by our actions after birth, not by the status of our birth.
"What makes a man a man?" I take this question to ask "What makes us truly human?" How would the Buddha answer? Here is my take though... "Our humanity makes us human. Our willingness to be compassionate and wise, and to perfect these qualities, so as to become Buddhas, to help all become Buddhas." This is the ultimate destiny we can choose. Well, let's get on with it then. Hellboy, though a comic character, already seems well on his way as a mighty wrathful Bodhisattva! "Give evil hell!" No need to hate anyone though - the real evil is hatred itself - along with greed and delusion. Give evil hell by being as relentlessly determined as Hellboy in not succubming to our inner demons (Mara). If, as mentioned, the only way to overcome darkness is to let in the light, then let us shine like "hell"! (with the light of wisdom and compassion.)