16 July 2007

Jedi Knights

Jedi knights are Yogis. Or to be more precise, they are the American pop-culture version of Yogis.

George Lucas's Star Wars movies are set in "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away". In this universe the Jedi knights are the keepers of peace and justice. They wear robes and wield light sabers. Their power comes from their mastery of "the Force" - an energy field that permeates all living beings and all creation.

Star Wars was inspired by Akira Kurosawa's Samurai films (especially The Hidden Fortress). So it's easy to see where the inspiration for the Jedi knights came from - the Samurai, who were the hereditary military class in medieval Japan. The similarities are unmistakable: the robes, the swords, the code (courage, honour, duty), the ascetic lifestyle and the spirituality.

The Samurai's life and outlook were heavily influenced by their religion, Zen Buddhism. Zen is the mystical school of Buddhism which emphasises meditation as a means for finding the Truth. It came to Japan from China, where it was known as 'Chan'. Now 'Chan' is the corruption of the word Dhyana, which means meditation. And the concept of Dhyana was borrowed by Mahayana Buddhism from Yoga.

Thus we have Yoga --> Dhyana --> Chan --> Zen --> Samurai --> Jedi knight. Get it?

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