A while back I wrote a post about Yoda the “Zen master” in Star Wars, but since today is Star Wars Day or “May the 4th” (get it?), I felt like exploring another character in Star Wars that I feel embodied many Buddhist principles as well: Qui-Gon Jinn.
I admit that The Phantom Menace has kind of grown on me over the years especially since my daughter and I watch it from time to time. In particular I really like the character of Qui-Gon Jinn.
The opening scene where he and a young Obi-Wan are waiting in the ship was a good Buddhist moment when he tells his apprentice to “keep your concentration here and now, where it belongs.”
Later of course is the famous fight scene with Darth Maul, when Qui-Gon stops to meditate before they can resume fighting. The contrast between Qui-Gon and Darth Maul was interesting to me. Qui-Gon calmed himself and meditated peacefully while Darth Maul stalked his enemy back and forth behind the screen, ready to pounce.
As the author of The Dharma of Star Wars writes:
Darth Maul once said, “Fear is my ally.” Fear is something the Sith use to weaken people, corrupt them, and bend them to their will. It’s a very effective instrument. Who hasn’t been rendered utterly docile by fear? When in the grips of extreme fear, don’t you grasp wildly for someone or something to relieve you from your horrifying state?
But Qui-Gon wasn’t subdued by the fearful power of Maul. He didn’t even draw back and wait for Obi-Wan to help him once the laser doors swung briefly open. Qui-Gon wasn’t afraid to face Maul alone because he had already seen the roots of fear in his own mind. He did not try to repress his fear, send it away, or ignore it like the inauthentic bully swaggering in front of him. Qui-gon accepted his fear and didn’t allow it to overwhelm him. Qui-Gon saw his fear for what it truly was, and that insight rendered his fear harmless. (pg. 14-15)
Further the author says:
We need to learn from Qui-Gon’s example. Buddhist practice isn’t a self-help regimen to take us from an undesired state to a desired one. Practice is about facing yourself right here, right now, and opening your eyes to the truth of who you are. That’s what Qui-Gon did. Then, when it was time to re-engage Maul, fear couldn’t push him back or cripple his ability to slap sabers with the zealous Zabrak. (Fat lot of good it did him —no son of Dathomir goes down that easily!) (pg. 15)
So anyway, May the 4th be with you!
Edit: a few typos have been fixed. The Force was not strong with me. 😝