Review: The Dharma of Star Wars

The Dharma of Star Wars: Revised and Expanded Edition
By Matthew Bortolin
Published by Wisdom Publications
Pages: 176

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Disclaimer: I received this book for free as an ARC to review. This has no impact on my review whatsoever.

This expanded edition according to the author: “It’s a thorough examination of what the Force can teach us about Buddhism, and what Buddhism can teach us about the Force”. The Dharma of Star Wars is a Buddhist take on the philosophies of the Jedi and Sith orders. It skillfully uses Buddhism to clarify what it means to be a Knight in the Jedi order or a Sith Lord. 

It doesn’t focus on any one movie; it focuses on all six movies prior to the newly released The Force Awakens. The book takes a deep look into what a Jedi is supposed to be versus what they became in the prequels. It also helps explains Anakin Skywalker’s actions throughout the prequel and how Luke was able to bring him back in the final leg of A New Hope. Also why the Jedi Order itself is to blame for his and their own downfall.

A little about the author: Matthew Bortolin camped out for tickets to all the Star Wars movies, has a set of Jedi robes hangs in his closet, is an ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, and has lived in Buddhist monasteries of both in the United States and abroad. He explains the principles and practices of Buddhism through the words and actions of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Yoda and others in the Star Wars Universe. The Dharma is the Buddhist teachings that point to the true nature of reality. As described by Matthew, It helps us sort through the ideology & religion that may appear before us and guides us to what is actually in front of us which is the truth of reality. The teachings act as guide to examine what is in front of you as a Jedi and how your emotions and actions affect that course in your life. He uses Star Wars as his base to show to truly help in understanding both principles of Dharma and the Jedi/Sith Orders. With titles like Jedi Mindfulness and Concentration, The Shroud of the Dark Side, and Make friends with Jar Jar, it’s almost like reading a guide book to become a Jedi or even a Jedi self-help book for those times when your Master has been cut down by a Sith.

“Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn reminds Obi-Wan, his Padawan, to be present and to keep his focus on the here and now. Qui-Gon’s advice is good. It sounds like something you might hear at your local Zen monastery or Buddhist center. Being attentive to the present moment, rather than centering on what might happen later, is as important to Buddhists as using the Force is to Jedi. Mindfulness and concentration are the basis of Buddhism – and the foundation of the Jedi Arts”.
-Ch 1, pg 1 The Dharma of Star Wars

That opening paragraph in the first page of chapter one truly helps with the connections he is trying to make and will be making throughout the book. Of course because a lot of what is being used in this book is based on actual Buddhist teachings you can feel free to apply a lot of what you read in it to your own life minus the actual Force powers. The book is a great read for any Star Wars fan that has seen every single movie. But for fans who have only seen the prequels or just the original trilogy this may prove a bit difficult in understanding references because the author does jump between both movies a lot throughout the book. And for someone who has not seen the movies or doesn’t know what Star Wars is, the book is just a nice read in itself. You’ll understand what the author is trying to say because he doesn’t just use movie quotes. He actually takes the time to explain what the quote meant and how it is applied.

I give this book 5 stars because as a Star Wars fan who has seen all the movies, I feel the book does help dive into movies a lot deeper. It really helped with understanding a lot about the motivations behind certain characters. So while you may have hated Anakin in the prequels you will actually understand him and his motivations a lot better through this book. You will also see how Luke is the epitome of what it means to be a Jedi and not a soldier like the Jedi became in the prequels.

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