There is something magic, something mesmerising, about the Star Wars saga. Many young viewers, after having seen the films, have a desire to experience some of the adventure that the heroes in Star Wars experience, and imbibe the chivalrous ideals exhibited by them. In other words, they desire to become like the Jedi knights in the films. Painfully aware that this is not possible (due not least to the absence of wookies, light sabres and star fleets in our part of the galaxy) they disappointedly get on with their lives in the ‘real world’, which seems grey and shallow by comparison to the Star Wars universe. However, a new book was recently published by Arktos Media about the Jedi religion and culture, which, according to the book, are based to a large extent on the Vedas, particularly on the kshatriya way of life and the stories of the रामायण Ramayana and महाभारत Mahabharata. The book I am referring to is The Jedi in the Lotus by Steven Rosen. In this article I will, on the basis of Rosen’s book, present some themes in the Star Wars films which I found inspiring and which could, perhaps with a little help from their source – the Vedic tradition –, be applied in the lives of idealistic Westerners like the readers of Aryavarta.
Before discussing how one can, in spirit, adopt some of the ‘ways of the Jedi’ I would like to start with a disclaimer. With the word ‘Jedi’ we generally associate a person with a hood, light sabre and the ability to levitate objects. There have been cases of such ‘Jedi knights’ in the UK – one of whom was requested to leave a supermarket because he refused to remove his hood, another facing the same problem at a job centre. Apart from the question of what business a Jedi has in a super market or a job centre I would like to emphasise that it is not this form of ‘Jediism’ I am going to discuss in this article. Another example of phenomena that this article will not be concerned with is modern ‘Jedi churches’, such as the Canadian ‘Temple of the Jedi Order‘ whose ‘Jedi Creed’ reads:
“I Believe in The Living Force Of Creation;
I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace;
Where there is hatred I shall bring love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
I am a Jedi.
I shall never seek so much to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
In pardoning that we are pardoned;
And in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Living Force Of Creation is always with me; I am a Jedi.”
Whilst this credo is deeply profound (and hence quoted it in its entirety) – perhaps even revealed to the Council of the Temple of the Jedi Order by the hidden workings of the Force itself – this article should not in any way be misunderstood to advocate such ‘Jediism’ (nor, for that matter, any other ‘Jediism’).
Adventure, heroism, idealism
One of the themes Rosen considers in his book is heroism. In Part IV of Star Wars, the first part of the original trilogy, Luke is torn between going with Obi-wan Kannobi to save Princess Leia (the adventurous, heroic path) and staying behind to help his uncle at his “moisture farm” (monotonous day-to-day life). It turns out Luke is left with no choice. Imperial “storm-troopers” raid the farm and kill Luke’s uncle and aunt. He therefore decides to go with Kannobi to try to save the princess. In so doing he not only experiences great adventure – he comes to live a truly meaningful, idealistic life; he gains realised metaphysical knowledge of the Force; and ends up saving the whole universe from an evil, despotic emperor.
Apart from this being part of a good story, it prompts us to introspect and ask ourselves: are our lives truly meaningful? In other words, are we living lives of conformity to the modern world, doing whatever everyone else is doing – “girlfriend”, “for the time being permanent life partner” or current wife, career, mortgage, one or two children, flat-screen television, and big car – or are our lives dedicated to a struggle for a higher ideal, something which is our primary focus in life, and which we are willing prioritise over everything else?
This is a question I myself have struggled with for some time. I am still not sure what the exact solution to this dilemma is – and perhaps it’s different for different people –, but I am quite sure that I will not live a life of conformity only to bitterly regret having done so at the time of death.
Being guided by the Force
Rosen identifies the Force with two phenomena in Vedic philosophy: the Force in its impersonal aspect is identified with योगमाया Yogamaya (the light side) and महामाया Mahamaya (the dark side), and in its personal aspect as परमात्मा Paramatma (the ‘Super-soul’). The dark side of the Force is characterised by anger, greed, lust for power, and, at a deeper level, attachment to sense objects. We see this in Part III, where Anakin Skywalker (soon to become Darth Vader) consults Yoda about his fear of losing Padmé during childbirth. Yoda tells him that the cause of his anxiety is attachment to (love for?) Padmé. Anakin suffers from a fear of losing what he is attached to. This anxiety – along with his arrogance, blind ambition, and lust for power and recognition – eventually result in his ‘turning to the dark side’. He becomes the servant of the emperor and helps him bring most of the galaxy under the emperor’s control.
The lesson here is to avoid the ‘dark side’ and instead live in accordance with the the ‘light side’. How is this done? It cannot be learned simply by watching Star Wars. It requires deep introspection and strict spiritual discipline under the guidance of a bona fide spiritual master. Yogamaya – the ‘light side’ – is characterised by detachment, self-discipline, clarity of mind, compassion and philosophical understanding. By cultivating the ‘light side’ one may benefit greatly. The storms of life in this world will not affect one as much and ultimately detachment leads to inner peace and joy. Compassion gives one the ability to serve a higher cause without one’s ego getting in the way – something a lot of mini-Führers in the nationalist milieu could learn from.
Another aspect to this is taking guidance from the Paramatma. Paramatma means Vishnu, God. He resides in His fullness in every atom, binding the universe together, and within the heart of each living being. He is the cause of phenomena like inspiration, and He gives us, at times, intuitive knowledge of the right course of action to take. However, Rosen points out that there is a danger in ‘searching your feelings’ and listening to your heart in that sometimes that voice is not the voice of the heart-of-hearts (Paramatma) but that of the restless, hankering mind.
Without the help of a bona fide tradition we cannot imbibe the ‘light side’. And without the ‘light side’ we are vulnerable to become victims of the ‘dark side’ – of passion, attachment, and desire for self-promotion. These make us deeply unhappy because our desires are bound to be frustrated and we are all destined to be separated (at the time of death or sooner) from the objects and persons we are attached to. We need spiritual support to make our lives meaningful, to give us direction and to engage us in selfless service to the higher cause.
The culture of the क्षत्रियाः kshatriyas
The Jedis – although perhaps less so than the kshatriyas – are depicted as fearless, determined, idealistic and serious. They are not allowed to marry, instead practicing ब्रह्मचार्य brahmacharya (celibacy); they are taught from a young age by their गुरवः gurus (masters), whom they must obey; and they do not indulge in frivolous activities like parties, unnecessary violence, and party democracy (nor, for that matter, food shopping and salaried employment).
The interesting thing here is that a lot of so-called revolutionaries today consider themselves to be ‘kshatriyas’, or something of the sort, identifying themselves with the ancient Germans, or whatever, while not at all living like the ideal kshatriya is supposed to. Instead, they have illegitimate connections with women – sometimes resulting in illegitimate offspring, which by the way the Bhagavadgita describes as “unwanted population” –; they consider themselves totally independent – perhaps even more so than the modern shudra – refusing to submit to any authority; and, apart from going to modern ‘parties’, rock concerts and the like, live a very ‘ordinary’ modern life, which in this abominable age implies American culture, food, slang, mannerisms and the rest.
No one has a right to call himself a right-wing revolutionary until he submits to a higher spiritual authority, exhibits self-control and ceases to indulge in the culture of the shudras. I am not saying that everyone reading this should become an ascetic warrior-monk, but at least those who are serious should marry, surrender to a spiritual authority and imbibe, to the extent possible, real kshatriya culture. (I will write a separate article on this.)
Conclusion – should you buy the book?
I think Rosen’s book is worth reading by anyone interested in Star Wars as well as anyone interested in the Vedas – although there are much better books on the latter subject, particularly Bhagavadgita As It Is.
Whilst the book enables you to draw some ‘lessons’ from the Star Wars films, which were perhaps not meant to be purely entertainment, it suffers from being, at times, overly academic. Rosen seeks to show that Star Wars was influenced largely by the Vedic literature. That’s all good and well, but – I am tempted to respectfully ask – so what? It would have been better, in my opinion, if Rosen had taken it upon himself to lead today’s ‘Jedis’ out of the job centres, and out of the Temple of the Jedi Order, and shown them the real thing.
Nonetheless, it’s definitely a good read.