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
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