Jediism vs. Zen


Post written by Monica Gaylor.

Left is Yoda, middle is Buddha, right is Lao Tzu.

  • “Can you step back from your own mind / and thus understand all things?”  — Tao Te Ching
  • “Luke, you’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”  –Obi-Wan Kenobi

It is the nature of things to evolve.  But, the more things change, the more they stay the same.  I was plunking around on the internet last night and somehow ended up looking at sites about how people are choosing / writing in Jediism as their religion on various information and census forms.  Hhmmm. (That’s my little Yoda sound.)  Cool.  Sci-fi geek alert!

It is interesting because it is not an insignificant amount.  It was as low as half a percent but as high as 2.6%.  In the west, that is the combined total, in some cases, of both Taoism and Buddhism – where practitioners of those religions are not plentiful.

Zen.  The historical records of the beginnings of the practice of Zen are lost to time and shrouded in mystery.  It comes down from the ages in the traditional “oral” passing from Master to student.  As many cultures and traditions with rich oral histories – Zen survives today.  There is much speculation and correlation that Zen is a hybrid of Taoism, Buddhism, and Yogic practices.

Today in America, we have a mixing and melding of different cultures, religions, belief systems, and philosophies.  In India, China, and Japan, 2,500 years ago the same mixing and melding occurred and thus Zen was born.

Jediism.  This definition comes from Wikipedia: “Practitioners identify themselves with the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, believe in the existence of the Force, and that interaction with the Force is possible. Believers align themselves with the moral code demonstrated by the fictional Jedi. One Jedi church described the religion as syncretistic, incorporating beliefs from various religions including Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Shintoism.”

I believe I was about 10 when the first Star Wars movie came out.  That would be the one in the 70’s.  We all thought it was so cool.  It’s all we could talk about.  “May the Force be with you,” we would say to each other as someone pointed their hand at something and tried to move it with their mind.  Well, it’s 2011, I teach high school now, and not a year goes by when I don’t see some (or several) students stick out their hand and try to move something with their mind.  I always have to chuckle because it is funny in a very honest and poignant way.  I think the Force is still going strong after all these years (maybe even gaining momentum) because it smacks of “truth.”

I will say it again.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  Perhaps it is because truth is truth?  I like Zen.  I like sci-fi and Star Wars.  And I see very similar correlations between the two.  I will let you decide for yourself as I put the philosophies side by side.  (The Jedi philosophy will be in blue and the Zen – eastern – philosophies will be in red.  They are all quotes and grouped by similar ideas.  Also, quotes from the Tao Te Ching have slashes “/” indicating a new line – it is written like poetry.)

  • To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders. –Lao Tzu
  • You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.  –Yoda
  • Patience, use the Force, think.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Clear, your mind must be if you are to discover the real villains behind the plot.  –Yoda
  • He is able, who thinks he is able.  –Buddha
  • I don’t believe it… (Luke)  That is why you fail.  –Yoda
  • Why is the Tao so valuable?  Because it is everywhere, and everyone can use it.  –Lao Tzu
  • The Force is what gives a Jedi his power. It’s an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.  ―Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • The Force is strong in this one.  –Darth Vader
  • All that we are is the result of what we have thought. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him. If a man speaks or acts with a pure thought, happiness follows him, like a shadow that never leaves him.  –Buddha
  • Your father was seduced by the dark side of the Force. He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.  –Buddha
  • Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. –Buddha
  • Can you coax your mind from its wandering / and keep to the original oneness?  –Tao Te Ching
  • Ready are you? What know you of ready? For eight hundred years have I trained Jedi. My own counsel will I keep on who is to be trained! A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind. This one a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away… to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. Hmm? What he was doing. Hmph. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh. A Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!  –Yoda
  • Do not overrate what you have received, nor envy others. He who envies others does not obtain peace of mind. –Buddha
  • Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.”  –Yoda
  • The mind is everything. What you think you become. –Buddha
  • We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts, we make the world. –Buddha
  • A Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny. Consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.  –Yoda
  • Things arise and she lets them come; / things disappear and she lets them go. / She has but doesn’t possess, / acts but doesn’t expect. / When her work is done, she forgets it. / That is why it lasts forever. –Tao Te Ching
  • The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.  –Yoda
  • Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.  –Yoda
  • The Tao is like a well: / used but never used up. / It is like the eternal void: / filled with infinite possibilities.  –Tao Te Ching
  • Death is a natural part of life. Rejoice for those who transform into the Force. Mourn them do not. Miss them do not. –Yoda
  • The Tao doesn’t take sides; / it gives birth to both good and evil.  –Tao Te Ching
  • Twisted by the Dark Side, young Skywalker has become.  –Yoda
  • Vader was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • The Master observes the world / but trusts his inner vision. / He allows things to come and go. / His heart is open as the sky.  –Tao Te Ching
  • You must do what you feel is right, of course.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Your eyes can deceive you, don’t trust them.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • Stretch out with your feelings.  –Obi-Wan Kenobi
  • You will not be punished for your anger; you will be punished by your anger.  –Buddha
  • Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.  –Yoda

I saved the best for last.  This verse of the Tao Te Ching is awesome.

  • The Master keeps her mind / always at one with the Tao; / that is what gives her her radiance. / The Tao is ungraspable. / How can her mind be at one with it? / Because she doesn’t cling to ideas. / The Tao is dark and unfathomable. / How can it make her radiant? / Because she lets it. / Since before time and space were, / the Tao is. / It is beyond is and is not. / How do I know this is true? / I look inside myself and see.  –Tao Te Ching
  • For my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us… and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this… [nudging Luke’s arm] crude matter! You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock… everywhere! Even between the land and the ship.”  –Yoda

For further instruction on how to use the Force, I would direct you to the Tao Te Ching.  This link has a wonderful translation by S. Mitchell: http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html.  It is a very short, beautiful read, only 81 versus, but a lifetime of contemplation for understanding.

I would like to qualify this post by saying:

I am serious while being tongue-in-check at the same time.  And, it is not my intention to slander any belief systems, etc.  I fully support freedom of religion.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am not going to start calling myself a Jedi, just as I am not going to call myself a Taoist or a Buddhist.*  Nor am I going to start believing in god and religion.  But – energy!  Now that is something I can get behind.  Science has all kinds of proof about energy and its entanglement with the tangible and intangible world.  I, myself, have had too many coincidences (and some would say there is no such thing as coincidence) in my life not to believe that the function, manipulation, and use of energy is possible – albeit a bit uncontrollable.

(*Explanatory note:  I am very interested in Taoism, Zen, and Buddhism philosophically and intellectually – not religiously; much like one would be interested in Socrates or Plato.)

Just as Christianity evolved out of and incorporated the Pagan, Greek, and Roman religions / mythologies and started out with only a few believers, perhaps the same will become of Jediism.  I would love to be around in 2,000 years to see what became of it?  Will it become a huge religion as Christianity did?  Or, will it become a good story that people still read – like Homer, The Iliad, and Shakespeare?  As an art academian, and the pictures don’t lie, it truly captivates me how one religion evolved (or branched off of) into the next and the next.  As Spock would say “It is fascinating.”

“May the Force be with you.”