Movie-Dharma : What the "Pirates of the Carribean" Taught Me
What the "Pirates of the Carribean" Taught Me
Plot Outline: Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) brave the Caribbean Sea
to stop a ship of pirates led by Captain Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush), who intend to break an ancient curse... with the blood of Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley).8 Lessons from "The Curse of the Black Pearl", the Prequel to "Dead Man's Chest" :
Captain Barbossa: Compelled by greed we were and now we are consumed by it!1. Desire is undesirable because it leads to so much of the undesirable, such as desiring more and more. Fulfilling desire does not quench itself- it is like drinking seawater to quench thirst. What seems to work for a while only worsens your thirst. Thus is the only fruitful desire the aspiration to end desire. But even this desire is to be eventually relinquished, for the ending of desire to be actualised.
Captain Barbossa: [as he bluffs Elizabeth]...the (Pirate) Code is more what you'd call "guidelines" than actual rules...
2. No rule or precept is hard and fast. Rules are always needed for the unenlightened as a guide, but these rules need to bend too, when they need to. We should rule rules more than let them rule us - morally of course, for the greater good, with Compassion and Wisdom.
Even attachment to precepts and practices is one of the ten fetters that bind us from Enlightenment. For other imperfect human-made rules for imperfect humans to work, there must be exceptions to every rule. Even amongst "enemies", parley can be called - a discussion over terms of truce - for a mutually beneficial and interdependent exchange. Even pirates need a Pirate Code to work, much more do we need moral guidelines or precepts. There must be some honour amongst thieves for them to work together. Without any guidelines, no one can get anything done well, not even pirates.
Jack Sparrow: The only rules that really matter are these: what a man can do and what a man can't do. For instance, you can accept that your father was a pirate and a good man or you can't.
3. If you should and you can, you should and you can. That is the spirit of being moral.
Will Turner: You cheated!
Jack Sparrow: [shrugs] Pirate! [Jack's is a pirate after all!]
4. We are always operating according to what we perceive to be our original nature. But how true is it, when our Buddha-nature is our true nature beyond all defilements of greed, hatred and delusion?
Jack Sparrow: Me? I'm dishonest, and a dishonest man you can always trust to be dishonest... Honestly, it's the honest ones you want to watch out for, because you can never predict when they're going to do something incredibly... stupid.
5. Nothing is certain (especially fickle human nature?); everything is uncertain - only this is certain. Because of this truth and our clinging to the uncertain and dissatisfactory, we suffer.
Will Turner: I am not obsessed with treasure!
Jack Sparrow: Not all treasure is silver and gold, mate.
6. The true treasure is always immaterial, unseen by the human eye - our innate Buddha-nature to be discovered - the "innermost" and most precious treasure beyond form.
Ragetti (pirate): Is it supposed to be doing that?
[pointing to the Black Pearl which is sailing away, with the good guys]
Pintel (pirate): They're stealing our ship!
Ragetti (pirate): Bloody Pirates! [Pot calling kettle black!]
7. Even pirates can't stand it when they are "pirated" by others. Even the evil know what is evil - because it arises from greed, hatred and delusion, which leads to suffering. If even the evil finds evil evil, then the reverse must be true - they know the opposite (generosity, loving-kindness and wisdom) as good, as it leads to the end of suffering - even if they can't see this clearly at the moment.
Jack Sparrow: One question about your business, boy, or there's no use going: This girl...how far are you willing to go to save her?
Will Turner: I'd die for her.
Jack Sparrow: Oh good. No worries then.
8. When you are willing to stake your life for your ultimate goal, the journey becomes a fearless one. Only when you are willing to risk and renounce everything can you be free from everything - and attain Enlightenment.
- Shen Shi'an (Revised edition of review written on 25 Sep 2003)