Monday, February 2, 2009

groundhog day, a buddhist meditation?

From "Groundhog Day: Breakthrough to the True Self":
"When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the of warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter."

In other words, having accepted the conditions of life and learned the pleasures afforded by human companionship, he is no longer like all those people who fear life's travails, and try to use the weather forecast, by human or groundhog, to control events. He accepts "winter" as an opportunity.

[. . .]

In telling this story, the movie hits on a message that is commonly found elsewhere and that appears to express an essential truth. When we get beyond denial and resentment over the conditions of life and death, and accept our situation, it tells us, then life ceases to be a problem and we can become authentic and compassionate. Murray's character makes two such breakthroughs: first he accepts being condemned to being stuck in the same day, then he accepts the fact that everyone else is condemned to die.
From "Groundhog's Day Everyday, Every Life":
In many ways this story resembles the plight of all sentient beings. Because of our attachment to greed, hatred and ignorance we are unable to live perfect days, much less perfect lives. As a result we cling even more to our attachments and to our vexations. The resulting conduct of body, speech and mind sends us through a myriad of lifetimes. In these uncountable lifetimes we play out each life clinging to attachments. It does not matter whether we are in heaven, hell or earth - our minds continue to cling to these false notions of the self.

Indeed, from the example of the life of the reporter, one can see that one does not have to travel to heaven or hell to be in such places. These are products of the illusory mind. To the reporter, when dispair and boredom set in he felt as if he was trapped in hell and sought to take his life to alleviate his suffering. Rather than alleviating his suffering he returned again for a new lifetime, as there was no lesson learned.

Equally, when he became deluded by the notion that he was an invincible god. His delusions of grandeur effected those around him. He was still caught up in thinking of the I, the me, and the mine. Once again, no lesson learned.

It was not until he abandoned all concepts of the individual self and began to live his life harmoniously among those around him that he was able to break the bondage of his own mind.
From "A Buddhist Interpretation of Groundhog Day":

The cycle in which Phil finds himself is comparable to the cycle of death and rebirth in which Buddhists believe. The Buddha taught that one must work lifetime after lifetime to achieve liberation; an individual who followed a path of morality, wisdom and practiced meditation was likely to achieve liberation more quickly than one who lived a life based on selfishness and greed.

While Phil initially struggles with the idea that he must endure the same day over and over he gradually learns to accept it. This epitomizes the Buddhist belief in accepting reality and suffering known as Dukkha, an unavoidable part of life. By accepting his situation, Phil grows in compassion and understanding and starts to change his reactions.

The movie also epitomizes the Buddhist belief that individuals are responsible for their own liberation. The Buddha preached that blind belief in a god or guru would not lead to personal salvation. Bill Murray's character in Groundhog Day slowly begins to realise that by changing his own reactions to seemingly inevitable events in the day, he can become responsible for his own peace and happiness.

Phil's process of rebirth is closely related to the idea of karma. Buddhism holds that an individual must spend lifetime after lifetime generating good karma, helping others to achieve Nirvana. In the movie Phil learns to use his knowledge of what will happen throughout the day to help people. Knowing that a child falls out of a tree at the same time every day, Phil makes sure he is there to catch the child.

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