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Cinema Nirvana: Enlightenment Lessons from the Movies Paperback – February 22, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Could funnyman Jim Carrey possibly have anything to teach us about the nature of reality? The answer is a resounding "yes," according to Sluyter, cofounder of the New Jersey chapter of the Dzogchen Foundation. He explains: in the film The Truman Show, Carrey uses his "superb physical acting skills" to portray one man's "journey of spiritual discovery." This is only one of 15 examples of the enlightenment lessons apparent in Hollywood movies that Sluyter happily explains in this unorthodox film guide. From The Graduate and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to Jaws and Memento, Sluyter analyzes each movie's basic essence, tying its characters, plots and messages to spiritual teachings. Despite the book's gimmicky hook, it's is actually quite in-depth, and Sluyter seems to know his stuff. He can be funny ("As a role model, Snow White sucks"), but intellectual, too (the conflict Rick faces in Casablanca "recalls the choice faced by Arjuna the warrior, hero of the Bhagavad Gita"). Basic knowledge of the films and religious texts is recommended, but certainly not required; Sluyter explains each concept in a non-technical, conversational way. (On sale Feb. 22)
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Review

“Dean Sluyter has one of the freshest voices in spiritual writing today. From the common ore of pop culture, he extracts the gleaming diamonds of dharma-wisdom." —Lama Surya Das, author of Awakening the Buddha Within

“If you spliced together DNA from Quentin Tarantino and the Dalai Lama, you’d get Dean Sluyter and he’d write this amazing book.” —Michael Gelb, author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci

“Entertaining and thoughtful in turn, Cinema Nirvana compels you to watch the movies in the way a buddha might see them.” —Stephen Batchelor, author of Living with the Devil

“Sluyter is the movie guru I have longed for. Virtually every page contains jaw-dropping insights and laugh-out-loud surprises.” —Lama John Makransky, Professor of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press; First Edition edition (February 22, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400049741
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049745
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,012,214 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dean Sluyter (pronounced slighter) has taught natural meditation throughout the United States since 1970 and is the author of several books and audio programs, including Cinema Nirvana, The Zen Commandments, and his latest, Natural Meditation: A Guide to Effortless Meditative Practice. A grateful student of eminent teachers in several traditions, including Advaita Vedanta, Vajrayana Buddhism, and Bhakti Yoga, he has completed numerous pilgrimages and lengthy retreats in the U.S., Europe, India, Tibet, and Nepal. Dean is known for conveying authentic teachings in a form that is practical, accessible, label-free ... and fun. When not writing or teaching, he narrates audiobooks, is a singer-musician (kirtan, blues, jug band), and happily rides his Vespa through the streets of Santa Monica.

Dean has led retreats and workshops at such venues as the Chautauqua Institution, the Garrison Institute, New York Open Center, Tibet House, and Barre Center for Buddhist Studies, and has spoken at colleges including Columbia, Rutgers, Wesleyan, and the University of Pennsylvania. He blogs for The Huffington Post and has been featured in The New York Times, USA Today, New York Magazine, and Publishers Weekly, which called his work "extremely well written and joyously entertaining." His media appearances include Oprah Radio, National Public Radio, and The Lisa Oz Show.

Born into a family of musicians and political activists, Dean grew up in New York and Los Angeles. He dropped out of college to hitchhike around the country and embark on a path of spiritual investigation, eventually returning to earn a B.A. in English and an M.A. in interdisciplinary education. Dean taught English and developed classroom meditation programs from 1977 to 2010 at The Pingry School, and worked beginning in 2005 as a volunteer chaplain at Northern State Prison in Newark, NJ. He was married for 25 years to the late artist and dharma teacher Maggy Sluyter and has two grown children. In 2010 he moved to California. He is married to documentary filmmaker Yaffa Lerea and is on the faculty of the West Coast Writers Conferences.

Dean loves traveling and teaching. If you represent a school, a corporation, an organization, or a group of individuals who would be interested in attending a workshop, contact him about organizing one in your area. He is also happy to chat with book clubs and discussion groups anywhere in the world via Skype.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Many I have seen/read and some I ended up seeing to watch from his point of view.
Y. Saavedra
They have not yet had a chance to read it since I just gave it to them yesterday, but they were excited about receiving it and anxious to read it.
Protein Nut
This is a must read for anyone who loves movies and for those who look deeply into things.
Alba I. Vargas

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By DPR on March 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
After searching through the Spirituality section of my local Barnes & Noble, I finally found this book shelved under Film, keeping company with the Marilyn bios and Leonard Maltin guides. That sort of makes sense. Like Certs ("It's a breath mint AND a candy mint!"), "Cinema Nirvana" is an oddball but well-informed romp through the world of classic American film, as well as a savvy guide to meditation and spiritual growth. Sluyter writes like someone who's been around both of those blocks more than once. He excels at noticing the overlooked (the shark in "Jaws" has been terrorizing the beach, but the three heroes illogically hunt it down in deep water, out of sight of land) and squeezing epiphanies out of it (the ocean represents the deep waters of the infinite, where familiar moorings are left behind). Sluyter's brand of spirituality is mostly - but not dogmatically - Buddhist, with the plain-spoken, common-sense approach of the best Buddhist writers. His writing is extremely clear and often very funny. His wit and his skillful use of personal stories (his saga of involvement with a cultlike group in the "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" chapter, or his account of the psychedelic 60's in "Easy Rider") make for top-notch entertainment. But what's most entertaining is watching him make astonishing connections - his cosmic interpretation of the lyrics of "Jailhouse Rocks" will blow your socks off.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Steven Rosenberg on March 21, 2005
Format: Paperback
A lot of spiritual writing succumbs to the platitudes of new-asge mush. Not so with this book. Cinema Nirvana is extraordinarily well written, creative and insightful. Basically, Sluyter does an analysis of cinema in terms of Buddhist teaching. Each analysis made me think again about the movies I had taken at face value - I even ended up reading some of them twice. I have definitely reconsidered the way I approach popular culture as a result of Sluyter's critical technique. I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in Buddhist philosophy, wants to steer clear of the new age drivel, and enjoys well wrought, intellectually stimulating critical writing. Even those who don't have much knowledge of buddhist philosophy, but want fresh crticial insight into cinema should give this book a reading.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Jackson on March 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Cinema is an art form that combines still photography, motion, and sound on a grand scale. The combination of the sheer number of individual stills, the technology of light, and the magic of sound (the first element of creation in the secular model) is sheer wonder. It is no accident that this miracle of creative intelligence happens in large interior spaces, darkened, and viewed in the presence of many other souls focusing their attention to a single location at the front of such chambers. For nearly a century, such temples of light, motion, and sound have reached into the interior spaces of individual viewers not unlike the model of Self versus self found in Eastern traditions. The form has become a tool of persuasion, propaganda, and profit effectively used and replacing reality itself--"live" events are no longer complete without a simultaneous broadcast on it derivative technology--television.

So, Dean Sluyter makes explicit what has been implicit in the technology and the form. Sort of like Hero's steam engine that opened the doors to the Egyptian idol, so too does the cinema make possible the worship of our secular religious values. When we look at cinema, we must learn to see beyond the image, the motion, the sound, the thrill--we must learn to see the screen and the light--we must learn to recognize the structures of our own self and creative intelligence that connects us, the viewer, with that of the director/producer. Actors and props are the doors of the idols, but the vision of the director/producer is the Hero.

Dean takes us through this process. He ignores the obvious selecting the obscure in order to make clear how the underlying principles of intelligence and self are expressed to us in current symbols. He is not DE-constructing--he is IN--structing.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By David Cohen on March 17, 2005
Format: Paperback
Dean Sluyter has done it again! If you are looking for yet another place to find the seemingly ubiquitous and universal teachings of spiritual practice, Dean has opened the doors of american popular film. I loved rethinking some of my favorite movies as important spiritual teachings. What I found most helpful about this book, was that it explained what can be difficult concepts in easy to understand ways. Using movies has his area of exploration, Dean takes spirituality out of some far off esoteric eastern tradition and puts it right in my living room. A great book for someone who's just beginning to be interested in spirituality, or a spiritual "veteran" (not to mention movie buffs!).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Objectivista on May 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
Cinema Nirvana is a terrific book and a way fun read. I want to go over some of it again because it is quite thought provoking for me. I got a non-New-Age-Oh-Wow-How-Cosmic-Dude look at roots of some of my own beliefs and practices. Completely unexpected, and pleasantly surprising.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nancy Privett on November 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Reading Cinema Nirvana was an exceptionally gratifying experience. It was hard to put the book down, and every time I tried to do so, I was drawn back to it. The reading of it was a comforting experience, as well as being entertaining and making me laugh. When I poked my head out of its waters, I felt like I had been meditating for quite a while.

But it actually did more than that. Sluyter's life experience and committment to seeking consciousness infuses this book with a clear and cogent energy that passes on to the reader. Not many books have this magic. In the reading of it, I felt something in me unlock, taking me deeper within myself, a priceless experience.

Sluyter's ability to recognize and interpret the presence of spiritual guidance in the movies is amazing. But it is not just this skill, nor just the knowledge imparted, that makes this book shine. It is also his willingness to be real, to share his passion and to bare his heart. I highly recommend it.
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