Good The Matrix And Philosophy Article Review Example

Type of paper: Article Review

Topic: Theory, Belief, Buddhism, Religion, Philosophy, Cinema, Mirror, The Matrix

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/11/04

[Class Title]

In his article, ‘There Is No Spoon: A Buddhist Mirror,’ author Michael Brannigan critically asserts that ‘The Matrix,’ a film written and produced by Larry and Andy Wachowski, have Buddhist influences. Brannigan relates the ‘mirror-mind’ philosophy of the Buddhist’s as the basis of The Matrix philosophical grounds. Accordingly, Buddhist teachings urge people to “to be like a mirror, to have a clear mind, a “mirror-mind,” one that is uncluttered, free, and therefore empty”. There were several instances wherein the mirror philosophy was reflected in The Matrix. As Brannigan observed, scenes in the film illustrated the Buddhist mirror philosophy numerous times; examples of which are when Mr. Rhineheart reprimands Neo and dripping suds in mirror-like windows are cleared away and when mirror reflections in the movies are being highlighted. Perhaps the most vivid reflection of the mirror doctrine in The Matrix was when a boy that was garbed as a Buddhist monk was seen bending spoons in the movie. And as the boy instructs Neo, he exclaimed that ‘there was no spoon’; that the spoon is only an illusion.
Aside from the reflection of the mirror doctrine on this scene, the obvious Buddhist influence on the character portrayed by the boy may have strongly influenced the author’s assumption as well, which led him to believe that The Matrix is strongly influenced by teachings of Buddhism. The main argument of the mirror doctrine is that images can be deceiving. As observed by Brannigan, “because there is no spoon, the mirror-reflection reminds us that we need to be careful not to place too much importance on the images that are reflected”. For Brannigan, the mirror doctrine emphasizes that images reflected in mirrors are simply images and are just illusions. In Buddhism, the Buddha teaches that people should recognize that everything in the physical world is just an illusion or ‘maya’. It is also emphasized in Buddhism that in order to achieve enlightenment, one has to overcome and see through these illusions. Evidently, this same principle is reflected in The Matrix, which somehow justifies the Buddhist influence on the film. Several Buddhist doctrines that are related to the ‘mirror reflection’ have been incorporated by the author in his article. Examples of such are the ‘anatman’ or the ‘no self’ doctrine, which suggests that since there is no spoon, there is also no Neo and consequently no self. The doctrine of ‘pratityasamutpada’ or dependent origination to illustrate the interconnectedness of all things, while the doctrine of ‘anicca,’ meaning ‘all things change’ and ‘dukkha’ or suffering as consequences of people’s actions are also mentioned and used to prove the Buddhist influence on The Matrix.

Reflection on the Article

One could not deny Brannagan’s assumption that the philosophy behind The Matrix film has been borrowed from the doctrines of Buddhism. As he clearly illustrated, there was indeed a strong relationship between the doctrines of Buddhism and the themes of the movie. However, he was also keen to suggest that not all of the movies’ themes are strictly based on Buddhist doctrines. Among the incongruences of The Matrix to Buddhism is the film’s violent characteristic. In Buddhism, violence is very much discouraged while in the film, Neo and other film characters can be observed to consistently and violently fight against each other. The existence of good and evil is clearly evident in the film, which according to Brannagan, is not Buddhist influenced but rather a Zoroastrian doctrine. In Buddhism, an enlightened person does not resort to violence but rather chooses to act out of compassion for others. Based on its doctrines, Buddhism can be easily considered as the one of the world’s most compassionate religion and peaceful religions because it does not resort to physical actions rather it is more on mental and spiritual actions such as freeing the mind and meditations. By presenting several points of views and philosophical influences, Brannigan provides an unbiased approach in his critical analysis of The Matrix. In presenting his arguments, Brannigan did not rely solely on a particular ideology, in this case, Buddhism, but also entertained other philosophical influences that may have influenced the makers of The Matrix. Although Buddhism is the quite the obvious philosophical background, several inconsistencies with Buddhism’s doctrines have been cited by the author, which would otherwise create confusion to the reader if the essay was not presented in an unbiased manner. These inconsistencies, however, were clearly reflected in Brannigan’s work most especially when he discussed the contradiction between the doctrines of ‘no self’ and ‘self-reflection.’ If the ‘no self’ doctrine is to be strictly adhered, it suggests that people should stop worrying and therefore stop reflecting or meditating. On the other hand, Buddhism also encourages ‘self-reflection’ in order to attain enlightenment. Evidently, there is a contradiction between these Buddhist doctrines that the author has presented. Unfortunately, no detailed explanation has been provided as to how these contradicting doctrines can be harmonized.
So far, Brannigan’s critical analysis of The Matrix based on Buddhism can be considered as satisfactory as he was able to prove a direct connection between Buddhist doctrines with scenes in the movie. Knowing these philosophical backgrounds, the viewers will see the film in a different perspective, which is more on philosophy rather than just plain entertainment. Since the Matrix trilogy has been filmed and viewed by the public, several interpretations and critical analysis on its philosophical basis have been attempted. Some authors believe that it was a retrospect of Rene Descartes’ ‘Meditation on first philosophy’ where the duality or the separateness of the body and the mind is discussed while some people, including Brannigan, believe that the film has been highly influenced by the doctrines of Buddhism. While Descartes’ philosophy may have its merits, connecting The Matrix with Buddhism takes back the philosophy behind the film to its primitive roots where the doctrine of mind over body was first revealed. Choosing Buddhism as his theoretical framework in his essay is therefore a logical choice.

Works Cited

Brannigan, M. There Is No Spoon: A Buddhist Mirror. 1992. February 2015.
Descartes’ Meditations on First Philosophy – Cartesian Skepticism. 2012. December 2014 <>.
The Matrix. Dir. W., & Wachowski, L. Wachowski. 1999.

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