The Three Jewels of Buddhism, Triratna in Sanskrit; and Ratna-traya in Pali are the three hearts of Buddhism. As Buddhism spread across Southeast Asia it changed to suit each culture it found itself in, adopting local customs, adding sutras and Bodhisattvas. However Buddhism might have evolved, these Three Jewels, the Buddha, Dharma (teachings) and Sangha (community) have remained constant in all variations. It is in the Jewels that Buddhists look for guidance, for inspiration and for support in their practice and their path of soteriological enlightenment. These Three Jewels are represented in Buddhist films. This quarter films containing representations of the Three Jewels have acted as vehicles to highlight different themes of the class. By looking at the films that offer ‘film as meditation’ or film as “exploration of reality through art is a particular form of religious practice” (Cho p.108). we can see thee representations of The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangra as devices, tucked into film, to move us along on our own journey of enlightenment.
Not all films give accurate portrayals of the Three Jewels or fall into the ‘film as religious practice’ category. You cannot simply tune into a movie that features Buddhism and expect to walk away with an ability to see the world through Buddhist-colored lenses. Sadly, elements of racism, portraying Buddhists in particular and and Asians in general as outsiders are found overtly in the early films we viewed this quarter. Broken Blossoms showcased a Caucasian actor made to conform to racial stereotypes of Asians, poor posture, heavily lidded eyes, uncertainness of movement, opium use and overall sneaky nature. The character of ‘Yellow Man’ conformed...
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...y of self discovery and the difficulty associated with creating your meaning of the text is lost. This struggle of the mind is crucial for a lasting lesson to be gained. We see the importance of the struggle in the films discussed, Hwaomkyung, Why has Bodhidharma Left for the East?, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring. Buddhist film is able to present to the lessons of the Three Jewels in an accessible way. This golden bullet of film leaves bright flashes of upsight that do not stick with the viewer as they might had the revelation come from more orthodox Buddhist practice, meditation and textual study.
Film is a powerful tool. Filmmakers are able to challenge our perception of reality, open us to visions and give form to lessons of Buddhism. For those interested in Buddhism the presentation that some films give of the Three Jewels echo honestly and accessibly.
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