The 1999 movie film The Matrix directedby the Wachowski’s is a dystopian future themed movie where the world has beendestroyed due to the arrival of Artificial intelligence. Artificialintelligence has taken over the minds of humanity making them believe theyexist in 1999 instead of the present.
The Matrix is famous for its symbolismand references of a variety of religions such as Christianity, Hinduism,Buddhism, and Gnosticism. The main point that will be analyzed will be focusedon Buddhism symbolism in the film.In the beginning of the film, have beenintroduced to Neo a computer hacker who has fallen asleep in front hiscomputer.
Neo struggles with feeling imprisoned in a world that is in factcomputer stimulated created by Artificial Intelligence. This is where the firstBuddhist symbolism can be seen because the materialistic world Neo is living isseen as misleading. Eventually, Morpheus explains that the real world where heassociated with his senses are just simply electrical signals of the brain(Haris 2003). The life Neo knows is only as part of a brain simulation that iscalled the matrix. This illusion can be translated into Buddhist terms,”‘The world is empty.’ And what is empty of self and what belongs to self?The eye, material shapes, visual consciousness, impression on the eye — allthese are empty of self and of what belongs to self,” (Conze 1945).
Theconnection between Buddhism and The Matrix draws is from the illusion humanitylives, based on sensory experience, ignorance, and desire which keeps it aliveand diminishes identity. Similarly,to this concept Buddhism teaches this cycle seen in the matrix as samsara.Samsara is the entrapment of human life in a cycle of illusion and theignorance that keeps human in it.
The concept of samsara can be seen in a scenewere Cypher no longer tolerates the reality and begs to be reinserted to thematrix. Cypher in a scene states:”Youknow; I know this steak doesn’t exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth,the matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nineyears, you know what I realize? Ignorance is bliss.” Cypherfully accepts that everything is an illusion but he wants samsara the ignorancein Cypher’s eyes it’s more important than ever reaching enlightenment.
Enlightenment is the goal for Buddhist and as well in the movie. Neo must reachenlightenment to free his mind from the matrix/ illusions and save the humanrace to the be in the real world. This process Neo must do on his own becauseMorpheus explains that he himself must see the matrix. This is similar toTheravada Buddhist as well where they state, “man’s emancipation dependson his own realization of the truth.” Also, this concept is found in theDhammapada which tells Buddhist followers that Buddha can only teach hisfollowers but they must make an effort. This is similar to Morpheus role in thefilm as the guide to the path of enlightenment which only Neo can recognize thetruth.
This brings me to my final point of how Neocan be representative of the Buddha. Neo responsibility was to destroy thematrix, end the war, and bring freedom to the enslaved humanity. Similarly, theBuddha had powers to help all civilization reach enlightenment. Both Buddha andNeo goal is to free the people from the illusion/matrix and teach others how toreach the awakening. In the film, Neo reawakens and has the ability to seereality just like the enlightenment within Buddha. Overall, Neo learns he, infact, has no weakness which is the exact experience of enlightenment inBuddhist traditions. The underlying themes of Buddhism werepurposely chosen by the Wachowski’s siblings.
When asked during an interview byfans If the Buddhist ideas influence the production the siblings both said yes(Wagner 2001). In the end, the matrix can be Samsara where the hero Neo can beseen as Buddha. Then in order to save the world, they must awaken in otherwords reach Enlightenment. The Matrix has several underlying religious themesthat are expressed and can be interpreted differently. Resources Javed,RLG233- Haris. “Buddhist Symbolism in The Matrix – RLG233- Haris Javed –Medium.” Medium, Medium, 19 Dec. 2016, medium.
com/@Rlg233HarisJaved/buddhist-symbolism-in-the-matrix-b116339ade13. Wachowski,Lana and Lilly Wachowski, directors. The Matrix. Flannery-Dailey,F., & Wagner, R. (2001).
Wake Up! Gnosticism and Buddhism in the Matrix. Journalof Religion and Film.Samyutta-nikaya IV, 54. In Edward Conze, ed.Buddhist Texts Through the Ages (New York: Philosophical Library, 1954)