Movie-Dharma: Are the Buddhas X-Men?
Are the Buddhas X-Men ?
(This review of the first X-Men movie, written in the year 2000, is still relevant to our times.
Upcoming is review of "X-Men 3: The Last Stand")We live in an increasingly intriguing age - one in which the walls of communication collapse with the advent of the Internet. This is the IT age which cyberspatially expands so fast that it is able to predict the next (r)evoltionary age at hand - the biotechnological age. Cloning seems on the verge of perfection, replaceable bionic body parts are being designed. If knowledge (as harnessed through the net at the speed of light) is power, then what is knowledge plus long life? Extended Samsara or a shortcut to Nirvana? All phenomena is essentially empty of any intrinsic characteristics, no matter how fantastical they might be. Empty in the sense that like a knife, everything is capable of cutting both ways. Power corrupts, it is said, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Yet on the other hand, enlightened power purifies, and absolute enlightenment purifies absolutely. For all the moral dilemmas of this and future ages, the enlightened mind is never more crucial in ensuring that the two combined double-edged and thus doubly dangerous knives of IT and Bio-science cut skilfully, the right way, so as to save rather than scar, in the surgery theatre of life.At seemingly the most apt time possible, the first X-Men movie is currently being screened throughout the world. "Children of the atom. A new race born out of the fires of evolution"... such is the premise of the X-Men. Both science and the X-Men comic series seem to agree on this - there is the potential in every being, human or not, to take a revolutionary leap in evolution every few thousand years. This is possible because there is the potential in our genes to mutate. In fact, there is the latent ability for anything, animate or not, in this world to change - this is one of the universal characteristics of the universe's elements and its inhabitants. In Buddhism, we call this the law "Anicca" - the law of the constant change of all conditioned mind and matter.Mutation seems to be a less than friendly word for evolution - it seems to denote twisted or warped evolution, of "normal" forms morphing into something wicked and nasty. But just like evolution, it is a neutral word, simply meaning genetic change causing divergence from the stereotypical. Is the Buddha an X-man? Well, He is definitely no stereotype amongst us. Let's see... The Buddha was not an ordinary man. In fact He is not of the homo sapien species we are; He was of it like we are of it, but He went beyond. As X-Men cheekily puts it, the mutants are "homo superior." If so, the Buddha is "homo supreme" such that he belongs to a whole new class of species together, the race of enlightened beings called Buddhas, awakened ones, ones whom had voluntarily evolved towards, and reached, the peak of evolution, in both the spiritual and physical sense.
No, the Buddha did not attain an adamantium skeleton on the path to Enlightenment. Instead, He trained and mastered His mind, realising that "mind is over matter." Having mastery of the dynamics of the mind, He became adept at manifesting His form at will (in ways more adept than Mystique!), along with the accompaniment of immeasurable psychic powers. In fact, the Buddha could probably go down in history as the greatest "miracle-man" in the sense that He was clearly a master of psychic ability, however reluctant He sometimes is in openly utilising them, as He constantly reminds us that these powers are mere by-products of a trained mind, which unequipped with Wisdom, are not only useless, but dangerous. In fact, the Buddha is so practical that He proclaimed that the greatest and worthiest miracle possible is in being able to help transform evil men into an enlightened ones.The Buddha is an "eX-man" then, not an X-man, since He transcended yet-to-be-enlightened humankind. When asked if He was a god or man, He simply replied that He was "awake." (The word "Buddha" means the "Awakened One".) Thus the Buddha is not so much the result of a mutation accident, but of intentional efforts to become perfect in Compassion and Wisdom, so as to be able to assist all spiritually unevolved or unperfected sentient beings fulfil their highest potential, by reaching the same final rung of evolution - to attain Buddhahood that is synonymous with the meaning of True Happiness. Another interesting fact about the Buddha is that He in reality is not a "He" or "She" - as the peak of evolution transcends gender limitations, since each gender by itself tends to have inherent weaknesses of body and mind. He is addressed as "He" only for conveniece, since calling Him "It" would seem most distant and vague!The X-Men movie is about a handful of X-traordinary men and women living in some time not too distant from us in the future. These humans were born with an extra twist to their chromosomes that allows them to do superhuman, even somewhat "supernatural" psychic feats - fire a solar eye beam (eg. Cyclops), or read others' minds (eg. Professor X & Jean Grey)... They are often feared and despised by the world, forcing them to resort to desperate actions. However, a group of mutants banded together to show the world that it need not fear their kind. The movie clearly shows the emptiness of mutation - of it being able to cause as much good as evil. It reminds us that there is always essentially nothing really wrong with the world out there - all that is wrong first happens in our minds, in our inability to comprehend the roots of evil being within - the evils of craving, hatred and ignorance, that cause us to brand the misunderstood as freaks and misfits. The movie thus also served as a tactful way of speaking against the harms of racial or religious bigotry, or as the Buddha would put it, the evils of having any caste system in any society that divides the human race into superior versus inferior classes (homo superior and inferior!).As the X-Men comic series reveals, some of the more powerful mutants are the result of human tampering and experimentation (eg. Wolverine). In our present reality, however, mutation has almost always been degenerative. Perhaps this is time for a real world reality check then - to remind ourselves that it it perhaps wiser to leave evolution on its own - letting it happen naturally on the individual level, letting the individual choose whichever way (s)he wishes to evolve. Democracy is perhaps not playing "God" to people, but letting people be the own "Gods" of their own lives. We are our own masters, we choose our path of evolution, both physically and mentally. With each and every thought, word and action we choose, we are re-shaping ourselves karmically, both grossly and subtly... morphing by the second... What are you evolving to be today?
- Shen Shi'an