Hindu chaplain explores religious connections in The Matrix
Posted October 16, 2012 at 10:56 pm in News
Gadadhara Pandit Dasa, the first ever Hindu Chaplain for Columbia University and New York University, compared The Matrix, a 1999 film about a man who discovers that he is living in a computer program, with Bhagavad Gita, a foundational sacred Hindu text.
Dean of Religious Life Varun Soni opened the event in the Tutor Campus Center on Tuesday, which was hosted by USC‚Äôs Office of Religious Life and the Levan Institute for Humanities and Ethics, with a brief introduction of The Matrix, one of the most overtly philosophical films to ever come out of Hollywood. He explained that Neo, the film‚Äôs protagonist, represents the ‚Äúliberated one.‚ÄĚ
The talk included a combination of clips from the film followed by discussions.
Pandit connected Hindu theology with Neo‚Äôs belief that there is something missing in the world and the film‚Äôs depiction of characters entering the alternate reality through sleep.
‚ÄúWithin the Hindu tradition, it is understood that we are partially asleep,‚ÄĚ Pandit said. ‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a certain part of us that‚Äôs actually still asleep. The goal of human life is to wake up out of that slumber. Somehow, we‚Äôre not conscious of everything that‚Äôs going on.‚ÄĚ
Pandit also focused on the dialogue between Neo and another character, Trinity. He emphasized Trinity‚Äôs remarks to Neo that ‚Äúit‚Äôs the question that drives us,‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúit‚Äôll find you if you want it to.‚ÄĚ
Pandit said that for humanity, there are certain questions that are always driving us. He then led a discussion, asking students in the audience if there are certain questions they reflect on.
Students answered with questions such as, ‚Äúwhat is my purpose,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúwhat is love‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúwhat makes the struggle worth it?‚ÄĚ
Pandit also made a direct comparison between the struggles of Neo and Arjuna, a character in the Bhagavad Gita, who has a panic attack and is unable to undertake the duty he has been waiting to perform for 13 years. His dilemma is whether to fight or not fight in a battle. Pandit said humans must first have a high degree of self-awareness before making choices to act.
‚ÄúWe can‚Äôt ever stop asking these questions,‚ÄĚ Pandit said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs our goal to try as hard as possible to address some if not all of these questions.‚ÄĚ
Pandit also said that oftentimes, humans give up because they think these questions are beyond understanding, but claimed that answers always exist.
‚ÄúIf we really want the answer, it‚Äôll find its way into our life, but we have to be looking for it,‚ÄĚ Pandit said.
Divakar Singamsetty, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said she found his presentation to illuminate religious undertones within the film.
‚ÄúGadadhara Pandit‚Äôs connections between the Bhagavad Gita and The Matrix, and the hidden spiritual aspects of the film were very intriguing,‚ÄĚ Singamsetty said.