-Buddhism Connection~

enter the matrix

Layout: Kato: XX/06/00
Compilation, Annotatation, Revision: Shian: 08/08/99, 12/06/03

Forget everything you know... Forget everything you've seen... the Matrix has you

Movie Plot

Adapted from: http://www.darkhorizons.com/1999/TheMatrix.htm

What if reality was false and your nightmares were true? Thomas Anderson begins suspecting these questions. Anderson is a young man trying to live his life in the hustle and bustle of your typical modern day Metropolitan City. But lately, he has plagued by a nightmare, a horrific dream of himself being physically wired against his will into a vast futuristic computer system. As the dreams continue, his life suddenly being taking a strange turn.

Is he really here in a present day city, or is he wired up with millions of others into the massive 'Matrix' in the future- all blissfully unaware of where they really are? If the latter is true, then how and why is he there? Who is he really? Is everyone else around him trapped like he is, or are they just computer projections? And most important of all- Who put him there and what will they do if they realize he suspects the truth?

"The Matrix" is not inspired entirely by Buddhist teachings.
Below are some apparent connections of this movie with the Buddhist teachings.

Main Characters

NEO: New, in a different way. Neo can also be rearranged to spell the word "One". Neo in the movie is described as the One who will Awaken, similar to being Enlightened, such that he will save all Mankind. Neo is akin to a disciple to Morpheus, who is like is guru, initiating him into reality.

MORPHEUS: In Greek mythology, his name is that of the god of dreams, the son of Somnus, god of sleep. Morpheus forms the dreams that come to those asleep. He also represented human beings in dreams. Morpheus in the story plays a Buddha-like fatherly figure to Neo, till he overtakes him in mastery of the Matrix.

Neo Meets Trinity

TRINITY: And when I found him (Morpheus), he told me I wasn't really looking for him. I was looking for the answer. It is the question that drives us. It is the question that brought you here. Do you know the question?

Morpheus is like a somewhat enlightened and mysterious figure who knows more than most people. In this sense, similar to the Buddha. All who seeked the Buddha discover that it is not Him per se that they were really seeking. They were seeking the key to the Truth from Him. The question that drives one to seek the enlightened is about ourselves and the world we live in and what it means to us as an individual.

NEO: What is the Matrix?
TRINITY: The answer is out there. It is looking for you. And it will find you if you want it to.

The Truth is always there- and all it takes is for us to embrace and see it.

Neo Talks to his Boss

BOSS: Every single employee understands that they are a part of the whole. Thus, when an employee has a problem, the company has a problem.

This statement actually relates to the nature of the Matrix, or rather, to the world (Samsara), where everything is interdependent, each part affecting the others. This is a gist of the teaching of Dependent Origination.

Trinity brings Neo to Morpheus

TRINITY: Let me give you one piece of advice, be honest, he knows much more than you can possibly imagine.

Before those who know more, it is always wise to be true, to be humble, or one will fail to learn. This is an attitude that Buddhism encourages.

Neo Meets Morpheus

MORPHEUS: Do you believe in fate?
NEO: No.
NEO: Because I just don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
MORPHEUS: I know exactly what you mean.

Buddhism does not subscribe to the idea that we do not have full control of our lives. While we are dealt a hand of cards (by ourselves in the past), how we choose to play our cards now determine whether we win the game.

MORPHEUS: We are trained in this world to accept only what is rational and logical. Have you ever wondered why? As children, we do not separate the possible from the impossible which is why the younger the mind is the easier it is to free while a mind like yours can be very difficult.
NEO: Free from what?
MORPHEUS: From the Matrix. Do you want to know what it is, Neo? It's that feeling you have had all your life. That feeling that something was wrong with the world. You don't know what it is but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad, driving you to me. But what is it? The Matrix is everywhere, it's all around us, here even in this room. You can see it out your window, or on your television. You feel it when you go to work, or go to church or pay your taxes. It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

The feeling is analogous to the nagging feeling of dissatisfaction we have pervading our lives- the First Noble Truth.

NEO: What truth?
MORPHEUS: That you are a slave, Neo. That's you, like everyone else, was born into bondage... kept inside a prison that you cannot smell, taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself. Remember that all I am offering is the truth. Nothing more.

The Matrix is analogous to Samsara in nature.

Neo Breaks Free of His Cocoon

When Neo woke up from his cocoon, he looked around and discovered that there were thousands of other similar cocoons. It is as if each of us is in a personalised prison (karma / Samsara) that feels like home, living separate deluded realities linked by collective karma into one "reality". His discharge from the system was like (re)birth from a womb, where he was unplugged from from the "source" that had been sustaining him, much like cutting of the umbilical cord. His painful and shocking experience during the discharge is somewhat similar to birth pains of a child. His flowing out is a parellel to him being a streamwinner, entering the stream of Truth.

Neo Wakes Up into the Real World

NEO: What is the Matrix?
MORPHEUS: Have you ever had a dream, Neo, that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream, Neo? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?

What is real? Is a real nightmare or real dream? How is the experience different from real life? Or is reality all in the mind only, ultimately?

Neo Enters the Loading Program

MORPHEUS: This is the Construct. It is our loading program. We can load anything from clothes, to weapons, to training simulations. Anything we need. Sit down.
NEO: Right now, we're inside a computer program?
MORPHEUS: Wild, isn't it?
NEO: This isn't real? Right now, we are inside a computer program?
MORPHEUS: Is it really so hard to believe? Your clothes are different. The plugs in your head and arms are gone. Your hair has changed. Your appearance now is what we call a residual self image. It is the mental projection of your digital self. What is real? How do you define real? If you're talking about your senses, what you feel, taste, smell, or see, then all you're talking about are electrical signals interpreted by your brain...
(Turns on TV) This is the world as you know at the end of the twentieth century. This world exists only as part of a neural-interactive simulation that we call the Matrix...
NEO: I can't go back, can I?

We are tricked into believing the reality our senses present. Once one has awakened to some aspect of reality, it is impossible to "unawaken".

MORPHEUS: No, but if you could, would you really want to? When the Matrix was first built, there was a man born inside that had the ability to change what he wanted, to remake the Matrix as he saw fit. It was this man that freed the first of us and taught us the secret of the war; control the Matrix and you control the future. When he died, the Oracle prophesized his return and envisioned an end to the war and freedom for our people. That is why there are those of us that have spent our entire lives searching the Matrix, looking for him. As long as the Matrix exists, the human race will never be free.

The "first" man to break free is analogous to an ancient Buddha, who set the example of the possibility of breaking free of Samsara with the power of understanding. The prophecy is analogous to the prediction of a future Buddha's arrival. As long as Samsara (the embodiment of the Three Poisons of Greed, Hatred and Ignorance) exists, all sentient beings can never be free.

Neo Learns to Fight and Jumps Roofs

MORPHEUS: (Training dojo) Some of these rules can be bent. Others can be broken. If you can break free your mind, the body will follow. You have to learn to let go of that anger. You must let go of everything. You must empty yourself to free your mind... If there are rules, there are limitations. If there are none, there are no boundaries.
What are you waiting for? You are faster than this. Don't think you are- know you are. Come on, stop trying to hit me and hit me...

(Top of roof) I'm trying to free your mind. But I can only show you the door. You are the one that has to walk through it...
You have to let it all go - Fear, Doubt and Disbelief. Free your mind...

These statements refer to the way our minds trap ourselves, and the importance of setting it free, it being the source of our true power, itself being all powerful if mastered and utilized correctly.

NEO: (Comes out of the training program, bleeding) I thought it wasn't real.
MORPHEUS: Your mind makes it real.
NEO: If you killed in the Matrix, you die?
MORPHEUS: The body cannot live without the mind.

Even if the mind is in illusory or deluded state, it can still cause real harm or even death if not taken care of. Thus, mastery of the mind is of utmost importance in Buddhism.

Neo Enters Another Program

MORPHEUS: The Matrix is a system. That system is our enemy. When you are inside, you are inside, you look around and what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters - the very minds of the people you are trying to save. But until you do, they are still a part of that system that they will fight and to protect them.

Ordinary people's minds are who the enlightened beings aspire to save. But as long as these beings are deluded, there is a chance that they might pose as their "enemies", not understanding their intentions to save them from delusion, which many are still comfortable in- to the extent that they might die for their delusions.

MORPHEUS: If you are not one of us, you are one of them. What are they? Sentinel programs. They can move in and out any software program still hardwired to the system. This means that anyone that we haven't unplugged is potentially an agent. Inside the Matrix, they are everyone and no one. We are survived by hiding from them, running from them. But they are the gatekeepers they are guarding all the doors and they are holding all the keys. Someday will have to fight them.

If one is not enlightened, one is deluded- there is nothing equivocal about this. Sentinel programs are analogous to "demons of Mara", who can easily slip in and out anywhere in Samsara to confuse and endanger the Wisdom Life of sentient beings. As long as sentient beings are unenlightened, each of them has the possibility of manifesting anymore, even if just for an instant, as the demons of Mara in terms of negative qualities of Greed, Hatred and Ignorance. Thus, they can be everyone, yet to one in particular, us all being "connected" to Samsara. We survive "attacks" from Mara by first escaping them- but is a matter of time when we have to face them to win them once and for all. Our personal demons are gatekeepers in the sense that only when we conquer them with our understanding, do we have the key to Enlightenment or liberation.

Cypher Talks to Agent Smith

CYPHER: (Pausing, he examines the meat skewered on his fork) You know, I know that this steak doesn't exist. I know when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, do you know what I've realized? (He pops it in, eyes rolling up, savoring the tender beef melting in his mouth) Ignorance is bliss. I don't want to remember nothing. Nothing! You understand? And I want to be rich. Someone important. Like an actor. You can do that, right? All right. You get my body back in a power plant, reinsert me into the Matrix and I'll get you what you want.

Ignorance might seem to be bliss at times. But it is a form of escapism and can never offer permanent bliss. An illusion is after all, just an illusion. No matter how long it might be sustained, it will end, bringing suffering. The nature of Samsara is such that remaining in it as a deluded sentient being can never bring True Happiness. Because of this, we all should be enlightened to the reality of all things.

Mouse Talks to Neo

MOUSE: To deny our impulses is to deny the very thing that makes us human.

Human beings have noble and base impulses- it is the following of our noble aspirations that make us great, that bring forth Enlightenment; not vice versa.

The Psychic Boy Talks to Neo

BOY: Do not try to bend the spoon. There is no spoon. Instead, only try to realize the truth, that there is no spoon. Then you would see that is not the spoon that bends- it is only yourself.

This is a way of teaching the oneness of all things with our mind that relates to all in perfect synchronized harmony. It also reminds us of the Sixth Zen Patriarch Huineng's teaching that it is neither the flag nor wind that moves, but the mind.

The Oracle Talks to Neo

ORACLE: Being the One is like being in love. No one can tell you are in love- you just know it. Through and through...

Being destined for Enlightenment or being an Enlightened One is something that one knows beyond all doubt.

ORACLE: You got the gift- but you are waiting. Your next life maybe. That's the way these things go.

We all can be the One, as in Enlightened Ones, as we all possess the perfect Buddha-nature, or potential to be Buddhas. However, we procrastinate our spiritual advancement again and again, life after life.

Agent Smith Talks to Morpheus

AGENT SMITH: Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area... There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus.

This reminds us of the Buddha's teaching that all life on Earth is interdependent. Thus, we should live as one, in balance, according to the Middle Path. When step off the Middle Path our of Greed, we are in conflict with our own nature and nature, us becoming a threat to the planet- to other humans, the environment and ourselves.

Neo Saves the Day

When Neo resurrected from his death, it was as if he underwent a higher spiritual rebirth, realising the full the power of his mind, becoming "fully Enlightened". He saw the Matrix in its underlying digital reality, akin to having attained penetrating insight into the true nature of all things. With that, he had total control of his environment, stopping bullets coming at him, morphing the walkway, subduing the agents...

Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is... You have to see it for yourself...

Comments & Suggestions Welcomed