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The Dharma of Star Wars Paperback – April 15, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Bortolin, an ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh's Buddhist community, may be the ideal person to write about the Buddhist themes in Star Wars: he camped out for tickets to all of the movies—even the less than stellar ones—and possesses his very own set of Jedi robes. In short, consistent chapters, Bortolin explores themes such as suffering, mindfulness, karma and transcending the dark side. One especially helpful chapter examines what nirvana is, comparing it to the all-pervasive Force of Star Wars, and clarifying that nirvana isn't a sort of Buddhist heaven or a blissed-out mental condition. Rather, Bortolin asserts, it is "the very absence of ideas and conceptualization." Bortolin looks to Jedi meditation as a parallel discipline to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness meditation. In this state, Jedi knights "get in touch with reality as it truly is," observing their minds with calm compassion and allowing greater understanding of the present moment. One of the book's greatest strengths is Bortolin's stubborn determination to find something redeeming about the two most recent Star Wars films, and he does actually recover enough of these nuggets to make some fans take a second look at those overhyped flicks. With humor, strong examples and timeless wisdom, Bortolin offers a new way to think about a pop culture phenomenon. Lead us to Yoda, he does. (Apr.)
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"With humor, strong examples and timeless wisdom, Bortolin offers a new way to think about a pop culture phenomenon. Lead us to Yoda, he does." (Publishers Weekly)
"Whether you interpret 'The Force' as being Nirvana or the Holy Spirit, finding spirituality in 'Star Wars' can bring that galaxy far, far away a lot closer to home." (Newsweek)
"A light-hearted exploration of the Star Wars movies, providing a new take on the six-part space fantasy epic. It's a good introduction to teachings of Buddha, and how they infuse the characters of Star Wars...on both the light and dark sides of the force." (SFRevu)
"The Dharma of Star Wars is, simply put, many of life's little lessons wrapped up in Jedi robes. You don't have to be a believer in the Buddhist way of life to appreciate some of the wisdom that emanates from these pages." (StarWarz.com)
"Star Wars fans will find Bortolin's pleasant humor and simple directness immensely enjoyable and thought provoking, while longtime spiritual practitioners will discover a new and profound avenue into self-transformation."-- (Robert A. Johnson, author of He and She and We and Owning Your Own Shadow)
"A must-read for anyone ever inspired by the wisdom of Yoda, the courage of Luke Skywalker or drawn to the dark side by Darth Vader." (Noah Levine, author of Dharma Punx)
"This will be a welcome and enlightening addition to Star Wars fans' world, opening up a new way to understand the narrative of this beloved series. Bortolin's Padawan Handbook is especially useful." (Sumi Loundon, editor of Blue Jean Buddha: Voices of Young Buddhists)
"Whether you are a fan of Star Wars or not; whether you are a newcomer to Buddhist thought or a long-time practitioner, his light, yet richly rewarding approach provides a fresh perspective that should encourage deeper thinking and practice." (Frank Jude Boccio, author of Mindfulness Yoga)
"This entertaining and insightful primer provides a useful service to future film buffs who want to better understand the real-life religion behind this popular fictional world. Bortolin succeeds in ferreting out some real wisdom from [the films], providing a Buddhist interpretation of the Jedi Way." (Tricycle)
"A clear and clever introduction to Buddhism. The work will also broaden anyone's understanding and appreciation of the subtle underpinnings of Lucas' films. Bortolin's work is an important contribution to the lexicon of modern Western Buddhist studies. The book draws an arc of meaning and wisdom across the centuries from the deer park to the pinnacle of 21st century pop culture." (Ashe Journal)
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Top Customer Reviews
At first it seems like THE DHARMA OF STAR WARS is short on Dharma and long on STAR WARS. There are 150 or so direct references to STAR WARS in the first thirty pages (count them!). Some of them are gratuitous ("Your mind, like an out-of-control podracer..."). By the end of the first chapter---Okay! We get it! This book uses the STAR WARS universe as a paradigm!
It's clear that Mr. Bortolin must have written Chapter One last. A college student swigging caffeine drinks trying to stay awake all night to write a term paper will be as tweaked as Bortolin is seemingly tweaked on STAR WARS. It's understandable. Matthew Bortolin must have watched each STAR WARS movie scores of times and spent countless hours in study, in rewriting, and in meditation to create this book, which is clearly a labor of love. Fortunately, Mr. Bortolin must have been drinking decaf throughout most of the writing process. His ability to tie sometimes unfamiliar Buddhist ideas to sometimes obscure incidents in the STAR WARS scripts is quite an accomplishment.
Getting past the first chapter, we discover that THE DHARMA OF STAR WARS is a thoughtful, intelligent, well-written generalist explanation of basic Buddhist concepts. Bortolin uses well-chosen incidents from the STAR WARS films (and books) to colorfully illustrate and explain such Buddhist core concepts as Karma, Nirvana, meditation, Dharma, and the Five Aggregates (also known as the Five Conditions or Five Skandhas).
Mr. Bortolin avoids using much "foreign" Buddhist terminology and doesn't reference the Heart Sutra or any of the other thousands of Buddhist writings. Far more importantly, he refuses to get lost in windy theoretical discussions. Sitting meditation (zazen) is referred to throughout as "sitting meditation." "Monkey Mind" becomes "Jar Jar Mind" (very appropriately!). Let us thank the Maker that Bortolin isn't interested in being a Buddhist recruiter. Rather, he wants the reader unfamiliar with Buddhism to use its concepts and precepts in a practical fashion to live mindfully. If references to Luke, Leia, Darth, and The Force do it, that's just fine by him.
The end of THE DHARMA OF STAR WARS has a section called "The Padawan's Handbook." A collection of aphorisms, thoughts, affirmations, and Buddhist (and other) commentaries rewritten in the STAR WARS idiom, "The Padawan's Handbook" is an intelligent guidebook to issues confronting us all as human beings. Each line in "The Padawan's Handbook" is a meditation in and of itself.
Perhaps Mr. Bortolin should consider expanding this section into an independent volume. And why hasn't George Lucas endorsed this project?
Gassho, Mr. Bortolin, and I look forward to hearing from you again.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS
The examples are spot on and makes a lot of sense, explain sometimes complicated and deep buddhist concepts through the awesome Star Wars universe.
Great teaching aid for anyone trying to understand buddhist concepts a bit more, and, IMHO, it inadvertently talks about mindfulness as well.
The force is around all of us and in us! May the force be with you!