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#1879 - Wednesday, August 4, 2004 - Editor: Jerry
This issue of The Highlights features selections from a new book: Journey to the Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy, by Dr. Pradheep Chhalliyil.
Dr. Chhalliyil is a senior scientist at Genetic-ID in Fairfield, Iowa. He also runs the Sakthi Foundation, a non-profit organization that offers free healing to people around the world through a folk medicinal system.
You may read more about Journey to the Source and order it at http://www.matrixjourney.com/
These extracts, exclusive to The Highlights and selected by this issue's editor, are reprinted with the publisher's permission.
Journey to the Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy
by Dr. Pradheep Chhalliyil
~ ~ ~
from the Foreward, by Don Davis, composer for The Matrix Trilogy:
Pradheep Chhalliyil has thoroughly documented the clear and precise analogues between each character in The Matrix and the corresponding Vedic counterparts. ... As Morpheus told Neo, he can only show the door but Neo is the one who has to walk through it. Journey to the Source holds the door open and illuminates our path.
~ ~ ~
from the Introduction
The Upanishads and The Matrix
An actor takes many roles but he remains the same. God is
like this. Different are his names and his forms but he is the
"one" behind it all.
The central theme of The Matrix Trilogy questions the reality of this world we live in. This is also the essence of a branch of Vedic literature known as the Upanishads whose purpose is to explain the truth about the universe and our particular role in it as human souls. Although The Matrix Trilogy draws on many different spiritual traditions for its names and mythological symbols, the core of the story seems to be strongly influenced by both the Upanishads and the Puranas, a series of dramatic mythological narratives about battles between good and evil, which explain the principles laid out in the Upanishads.
The Upanishads are a collection of approximately 120 literary works written mostly in the form of dialogues between a spiritual master and his students. Responding to a series of inquiries about the nature of reality, the master leads his students to a state of enlightenment or realization, like Morpheus and Neo. The Upanishads also include Vedanta, the final chapter of Vedic literature, in which the illusory concept of Maya is exposed and instructions are given about how to understand it.
Similarity of the themes indicate that The Matrix Trilogy is strongly influenced by the Upanishads, which is further strengthened when we hear the music behind the credits for Matrix Revolutions. The song "Navras," brilliantly composed by Don Davis and Ben Watkins, is comprised of a series of Upanishadic verses, the chief one being Asatoma sad gamayay, set to music. Similar chants are also used in the background during the fight scenes between Neo and Smith. The following is an extract from an interview with composer Don Davis:
[quote] Larry and Andy told me they wanted the super burly brawl, which is the cataclysmic fight mano-et-mano between Neo and Agent Smith, they wanted the choir to have a significant voice in that scene. And I told them that I thought that was a really good idea but if the choir just sang "ooooohs" and "aaaaaaaahs" it would be significantly not very good. So I asked them if they would look for something in literature that represented some of the ideological themes that had influenced them when they were writing The Matrix that we could give to the choir and have them sing. And I told them that I actually preferred a language that wasn't English and if possible a "dead" language like Latin, so that even around the world there's nobody who is actively speaking the language that the choir is singing. They eventually came up with about six passages from the Vedic scriptures called the Upanishads. And we had them sing it in the original Sanskrit. And these texts are amazingly apropos to the whole ontological concept of The Matrix. It refers to "the one." Let me read one of them: "In him are woven the sky and the earth and all the regions of the air. And in him rests the mind and all the powers of life. Know him as "The One" and leave aside all other words. He is the bridge of immortality." I mean [laughs] that's amazing. And the first text you hear sung in the burly brawl sequence is a prayer which goes "From delusion lead me to truth, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to immortality." I think that adds a whole layer of meaning to the entire trilogy. [end of quote]
Keeping this in mind, the purpose of this book is a scholarly look at The Matrix Trilogy in the light of the Upanishads and particularly from the concept of unity or "Oneness" that is the key teaching of this scripture. The uniqueness of the Upanishads is that the Truth revealed by it does not differ from other spiritual traditions of the World. Like the universality of scientific facts discovered throughout the world, the Truth declared by Upanishads is unanimous for all other cultures. Therefore through this book you can identify the Truth immaterial of your spiritual background.
~ ~ ~
from Chapter 1, The Beginning of the Journey
Morpheus asks Neo to jump out of the skyscraper to avoid the three agents. Neo is confused by what is going on and finds Morpheus' commands impossible to follow.
The fact is, we often don't trust our teachers in the beginning and see their advice as strange. It takes some time to fully understand what the teacher is trying to tell us. Neo is not sure of himself. As this is his first encounter, he has little faith in the words of his teacher. He disobeys, and eventually gets caught by the three agents that protect The Matrix. According to the Upanishads, the three "Agents" that guard our Matrix-like world and blind us from the Truth are:
1. Total enquiry into the physical world but failing to
recognize the soul (Sattva).
2. Excessive action in the physical world without enquiry about the purpose of action (Rajas).
3. Ignorance, laziness, or too much inertia to inquire (Tamas).
These three "Agents" prevent us from knowing whether we are in the Matrix-like illusory world of Maya.
The symbolism in the Matrix movies is working on two levels, internal and external. Agent Smith, for example, represents the inner workings of the Ego, the false sense of individuality which while working through our thoughts and perceptions, restricts awareness of our true universal Self (soul). Morpheus, on the other hand, externally represents the spiritual teacher who guides us and, internally, represents our own inner wisdom that awakens to direct us on the path.
Agent Smith grabs hold of Neo and calls him by the name "Anderson." Smith tells him he has dual lives: one as a computer programmer and another as a hacker; and he warns him one of the lives is going to end soon.
Here, Neo is the soul and Agent Smith is the ego. The ego is a false reflection of the soul making it seem individual and isolated rather than universal and unbounded in nature. In Matrix Revolutions, the Oracle tells Neo that Smith is the opposite of him.
Internally we are under the control of the ego, ego rules our life. It exercises its power in making decisions and we follow it. Though we are slaves to the ego, we struggle to free ourselves from it. The struggle gains power and momentum once we start to question the nature of our true Self or soul. Our search for soul-recognition makes the ego very uncomfortable so it curbs our struggle for freedom right from the beginning.
Why is the ego scared of us knowing the Truth? Because once we realize the true unbounded nature of our inner Self, we understand that the ego has no value and becomes powerless. In order to survive, it threatens us with fear, its most powerful weapon. It promises us that if we go in the direction of spirituality, our lives will be doomed and there will be no prosperous future.
Hacking into Reality
The ego wants us to believe that the world, as it appears, is real and encourages us to follow the accepted rules of behavior, which limit our perspective of life. Like Agent Smith, the ego requires us to live within boundaries pursuing our normal profession, which, in Neo's case, is a computer software programmer. The ego does not want us to hack into the information about the real world of the soul. Hacking here is symbolic of inquiring into the nature of reality. Neo is hacking into the secrets of this universe, the mystery of his own existence. According to Agent Smith's rules this is illegal and has to be prevented.
Note that Agent Smith uses the name Anderson, not Neo. Anderson is the name for the Matrix world, Neo is the name of the seeker. In many spiritual traditions, it is a common practice that once a spiritual aspirant begins his journey, he is given a new name that more closely reflects his new spiritual identity. Neo means new.
~ ~ ~
from Chapter 2, The Matrix World
Morpheus places two pills in Neo's hand, one red and one blue. The blue one allows him to stay in the world of The Matrix, the red one allows him a chance to see Reality.
The Katho Upanishad says that, like Neo, everyone gets a choice in life. Either we take the path of Self-knowledge (Sreyas, the red pill) that leads us to the Truth, or we take the path of pleasure (that leads us to ignorance of our true nature. Those who choose the path of Sreyas will find happiness, while those who Preyas, the blue pill) choose deluded. Unfortunately, the majority usually opt for the blue pill (Preyas).
The red pill is a symbol of scriptural knowledge, Preyas are destined to be such as the Upanishads. It is through the guidance of the scriptures that we can easily get unplugged from our Matrix-like world. These scriptures are not belief programs. They give us direct knoweldge of our own true Self. Neo wisely chooses the red pill and begins his journey of Self-discovery that will eventually lead him to The Source. The red pill is the symbol of that knowledge which removes darkness and spreads light. Hence in the East, saints and monks wear red and saffron-colored robes. Blue is the color of illusion, or Maya. The "blueness" of the sky or ocean is not real but an illusion. In the Puranas, Vishnu, the maintainer of the creation, is known as a magician who casts illusion, and has blue skin. Only his outward appearance is blue, however. Inside, he is the manifestation of Truth (Pure Consciousness). This means that to know the Truth, one has to transcend the veil of illusion of body-awareness in order to know one's inner Self.
Neo chooses the red pill. As he picks up the pill, two Neos are seen in the reflection of Morpheus' sunglasses, representing the two lives that Neo is leading. In the left lens we see the blue pill and Thomas Anderson, and in the right lens we see the red pill and Neo.
Neo is taking the first step of Self-discovery. It is a journey he must ultimately make alone, but he needs a guide to help him. This is why learning scriptures from a teacher, who has many years of experience and reflection, allows us to tap into deeper meanings.
Morpheus explains to Neo that the pill is a trace program to pinpoint his location.
The Upanishads teach that the Truth will only dawn on us when we disrupt the flow of thoughts that we are the body-mind-sense complex. If we think carefully, we don't know how to pinpoint our exact "location." We don't know who we really are. The wisdom of the Upanishads is like a trace program to point each of us towards the real "Me." How many of us are able to pinpoint exactly, Who am I? and Where am I? Am I in my head, or my heart, or my hand? Who exactly is Me? disrupt the input and output of thoughts of the body-mind complex. This is one of the first exercises that the Upanishads In order to know this, we have to ask us to do. The discussion sessions between the master and the disciple are all about answering questions about the true nature of the Self. In the process they break the illusion of who we are that is created by the mind.
~ ~ ~
from Chapter 3, The Real World
Neo is angry and frustrated confronting this reality.
The knowledge that one gains on a spiritual path initially shatters the foundations of our lives and all of the concepts we have lived with. Some of you reading this book may feel the same. We are unable to accept reality. This is what Neo is experiencing.
Morpheus asks Neo to breathe deeply and relax.
Breathing techniques, called Pranayama, are common practices given out by spiritual teachers to calm and control the mind and improve concentration.
When Neo asks to go back to The Matrix, Morpheus explains how the mind fears the truth.
The mind does not want us to know the truth. It fears losing control and invents all kinds of reasons for us to back off. As in Alice in Wonderland, Alice stops following the white rabbit and cries to go back home because she sees everything as scary.
There is a saying: "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing." Partial or half-baked spiritual knowledge can be poisonous. A person who only half-learns a scripture and doesn't fully realize the Self not only confuses himself but also any others he may talk to. Confusion arises when knowledge is incomplete. So it is essential to have an enlightened teacher to make sure a student learns the teaching completely.
Morpheus describes how the first person freed himself from The Matrix and tells Neo about The Oracle's prediction that this person would be reborn to rescue all humans.
Enlightened spiritual masters reincarnate from time to time to help mankind see the light and free themselves from bondage. Great prophecies often foretell their coming. Mostly, they are not believed. Morpheus has spent his life searching for The One destined to free mankind as predicted by The Oracle. He believes Neo is The One.
Morpheus allows Neo to rest in preparation for his training.
A spiritual teacher first imparts theoretical teaching to a student and then gives him practical training so that the student can validate the truth himself. The reason why the teachings of the Upanishads have stood the test of time is that they follow this time-honored principle of imparting the Truth.
~ ~ ~
from Chapter 4, Neo's Training
Neo meets Mouse, one of the crew members who wrote the computer training program with the distracting woman. Mouse considers that there is no harm in enjoying the beauty of the illusory woman.
The teachings of the Upanishads do not seek to deny natural human impulses. The Upanishads caution about two things: first, one should be aware that these are only sensual excitation, and, second, no sensual enjoyment should harm anyone else. In other words, we should not be controlled by sensory experiences, nor should we allow them go so far that they do damage to any other person or thing.
All the characters in the films are symbols of various aspects of the mind. Both Mouse and Cypher indicate those parts of our minds that get overshadowed by the world of senses. Mouse represents our fantasizing mind. We all weave fantasies in our mind and derive pleasure from them even though we know them to be unreal. Mouse scampers after his fantasies like the animal of the same name. In the Puranas, the elephant god Ganesha, who symbolizes wisdom and is the remover of obstacles, rides on the back of a mouse. The mouse can go everywhere without anyone noticing it as, just like the mind, it is small. The mind has a tendency to dart about everywhere, chasing fickle fantasies and devious desires along the way. Ganesha, representing wisdom, is much bigger and able to rein in the mouse (the errant mind). Mastering one's mind is thus the ultimate sign of wisdom. The Bhagavad Gita ("Song of Life") describes a stable state of mind, which does not jump around chasing ephemeral and base desires, but remains in a state of placidity and eventually attains bliss.
~ ~ ~
Note from Highlights editor:
I've tried to give a good idea about how this book treats The Matrix Trilogy and introduces basic spiritual teachings. If you would like to find out more about Journey to the Source: Decoding Matrix Trilogy, and to order it, please visit http://www.matrixjourney.com/.
If you or someone you know is a Matrix fan, this book will clearly explain its alignment with spiritual texts, mainly the Upanishads, the Vedas and the Puranas. By way of demonstrating and perhaps celebrating the universality of the teaching, the author quotes diverse sources, from the Torah to Meister Eckhart to Ray Kurzweil, from Francis Lucille to Cervantes to Kahlil Gibran. This is a useful, informative, and clearly written contribution to Matrix literature. The book is structured in such a way that allows the reader to re-live the movies and to probe certain scenes in order to understand how they bear on spiritual teachings and on one's spiritual inquiry. The scene explications can even be understood by a reader who has never seen the Matrix films.
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