Star Wars and Hinduism
It is a very little known fact that George Lucas, the creator of the Star Wars world, has strong Hindu beliefs. Just as Hinduism affects our lives, so has it affected his, which can be shown by the fact that he has incorporated Hindu themes throughout the Star Wars trilogy. This essay will touch, through various examples, the way Lucas has weaved Hinduism into his movies.
Of the trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back seems to portray Hinduism in the fullest sense. Specifically, the part when Luke Skywalker goes to find Yoda. When he first arrives, Luke finds himself in a forest, looking for the old, wise Yoda to learn the ways of the Jedi. This is very like Hindu's Janoi (Gujarati), where young males run to the forest in search of the old, wise yogi, who would provide great knowledge. Just as a yogi "tests" potential students on their patience to enter into the arduous task of learning, so does Yoda "test" Luke by not telling him who he is. His purpose, of course, was seeing if Luke had patience or not.
As the training progresses, Luke learns to control what is called "the Force." Yoda explains that everything is part of the Force, such as the "...the tree, the rock..." etc. This Force is very similar to the Hindu concept of the One or the Universe (in essence Om). In Hinduism it is said that we are all part of the One, just like what Yoda said about the Force. Simply put, it is concluded that Yoda was referring to "the Force" as the Force of the One.
Luke also learns about illusion. In one scene, he tries to pickup his X-wing with the Force, but fails. Yoda explains that one should not judge anything by it's size (in essence, what we see is an illusion). He calls all material items "crude matter" and that these are the not the things to judge with. This scene illustrates the Hindu concept that life is an illusion (or Maya).
During the same training scenes, Luke gets a vision of his friends in trouble. Luke then prepares to leave to save his friends. Yoda persuades him not to go by saying that he must finish his training because it is more important. This exemplifies the Hindu concept of duty over family. The duty over family lesson can be seen in stories like the Bhagavad-Gita, where Lord Krishna tells Arjun to fight his cousins, despite his feelings for them, because it is his duty.
At then end of the training scenes, as Luke is leaving, Ben Kenobi warns Luke to never "give into anger and hate." This lesson of benevolence is also taught by Mohandas Gandhi, which he derived from Hinduism.
Besides the training scenes, there are other areas of Star Wars that portray Hinduism. For example, the concept of destiny. In Star Wars, the word "destiny" is used many times in the context of fulfilling one's destiny. This is very similar to duty. Another example is the father-son relationship between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. This parallels with Krishna and his uncle who are both related and nemesis. Finally, one last example, Luke, being the only son, cremates Darth Vader at the end of Return of the Jedi. Though I have heard of other religions cremating, it is a predominantly Hindu ritual. In the above examples I have suggested a few connections between Hinduism and Star Wars. Of course, these are arguable, but they are a starting point in which to provoke thought.
-Rajan Rajbhandari, 1994
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