Top Ten Movies for Buddhists

Finally I’ve finished my movie reviews!  I’ve been wanting to post this for awhile.  There are so many movies that demonstrate correct view and other spiritual principles in a fun way.  Here are some of my favorites.  Click on the links to see my full description!

Groundhog Day – spiritual concepts:  samsara and cyclic life

Matrix – spiritual concepts:  we create our reality, the world is a projection of our mind

Inception – spiritual concept:  the world is a projection of our mind

Ushpizin – spiritual concepts: prayer changes things, we create our own reality, consider the uses of adversity

Milarepa – spiritual concepts: overcoming obstacles, purification of negativities, anyone can become enlightened

What the Bleep Do We Know – spiritual concepts: conditioned responses and the physiology behind them, deceptive reality

The Truman Show – spiritual concept: deceptive reality

Kumare – spiritual concepts: intention is the most important aspect of spiritual growth. belief in the teacher is powerful, we all have the answers within us

Seven Pounds – spiritual concept:  bodhichitta

V for Vendetta – spiritual concepts: destruction of self, Kali/Ekajati, cessation of fear


The standard dictionary definition of renunciation (the formal rejection of something, typically a belief, claim, or course of action) does not adequately describe the process of a spiritual renunciant.  In fact, as we shall see, it actually is contrary to true renunciation in one subtle way.

The actual state of renunciation is better expressed in positive terms, because this is how a spiritual renunciant experiences it.  A renunciant has decided that the only thing they want is liberation or enlightenment.  They spend every moment of their day focused on that and carry in their heart a sweet wish for their goal.  They are centered on the goal of spiritual fruition and from that place they often experience a peace that comes with surety.

We can also describe renunciation from the negative point of view.  I used to call it “disgust with the world” but that seemed offensive to many people.  Another way of talking about it is that it is having no interest in worldly things.  This is less harsh.

Renunciation is a natural outcome of investigating the things of the world and finding they are less than satisfactory.  I know my job, my garden, and even my great friendships do not completely satisfy me, so I have turned to a path that offers me and end to dissatisfaction.  Renunciation is simply shifting ones attention to the one thing that promises satisfaction, peace, and bliss.

I, perhaps like most people, originally thought renunciation was about giving up things in the material world.  The idea was that one had to renounce or reject worldly things in order to gain spiritual attainments.  This is an old school belief that is not true.  While the spiritual renunciant has no real interest in worldly things, they also do not consider them evil.  You do not have to clear out your house (although this actually does benefit your practice).  Disengaging your energy from material objects is a natural outcome of engaging in spiritual practice.

When I first came upon the teachings of enlightenment I was extremely excited.  I was so ready to get out of here and began to work wholeheartedly for liberation.  I was driven by severe childhood trauma and did not want to take a chance that anything like that would happen again.  Since it seems cyclic life (samsara) is unpredictable, my only option was freedom from cyclic life.  I was rejecting cyclic life, and since that is the only life I know, I was rejecting life.

Rejection is the part of the dictionary definition that I believe may be inaccurate.  While I believe I did have renunciation when I was rejecting the world, I now believe that my renunciation has matured.  Or perhaps my world view has matured.  With enlightenment comes an abiding in non-duality.  If I am rejecting anything I am reenforcing duality.

With my mature renunciation I have the same preoccupation with enlightenment (I think about it day and night) but I no longer have the same drive to reject or escape life.  Perhaps my calming down is due to a shift from wanting enlightenment and knowing it is imminent.



What does it mean for something to be spiritual? For me spiritual involves the practices that I do internally to clear away misbeliefs and obstacles to a deeper connection with All that Is. My concept of spiritual does not include outside things or worldly things, although I may use such things as catalysts for my internal practice.

For instance some people would consider contact with angels or spirit guides spiritual experiences. I consider such things mundane and worldly. On one hand, if such contact is dedicated to deepening my awakening to ultimate reality then it would be spiritual to me. However, if my contact is meant to cure an illness, find insight into my career path or a relationship, or perhaps help me locate a desired person or job I would not consider the contact with heavenly beings to be spiritual. Such contact is no more “spiritual” to me than talking with a friend or counselor about such worldly things. And talking with a friend of counselor could be deeply spiritual if my intention was to remove obstacles to awakening.

lake Merritt

View of Lake Merritt in Oakland from the window of the Harmony Center for the Joyful Spirit

Yesterday, I gave my talk on unveiling. The audio is available here. And the video is here. The Harmony Center for the Joyful Spirit is made up of an amazing group of people and I enjoyed the discussion that continued for hours after the talk. If you are living or traveling through the Bay Area and are looking for simple and profound people, this is the group for you. Check them out!

One of the things that came up after the talk is the idea that “we are spirits having a human experience”.   Many people pick up this identity after they discard the one where they thought they were stupid, flawed, and not enough. This is a step in the right direction, and while there is some truth to it, it is not ultimate truth. We are not beings of light because ultimately we are not beings.

Angels, and beings that have not reached enlightenment, are just as trapped in the “world” (or perhaps we should say “realm”) as regular ole’ humans. Sure, it is a more pleasant existence, but it is not permanent and is subject to change and ending. When such an “existence” ends the next phase will either be more pleasant or less pleasant. What I’m interested in, is making sure everyone knows that there is a permanent freedom from the ups and downs of this realm. That solution is called enlightenment and it is the permanent experience of no-self – which is the unending experience of non-duality and permanent cessation of mental afflictions.

Jewell, a member of the Harmony Center, and I spent a great amount of time discussing spirituality after the talk. Jewell is a talented author and song writer. I recommend you read her book.  She holds a broader view of spirituality than I do, but most people do, as my view is quite limited.

We talked about the creative process. She explained how she would suddenly be humming a song that she had never heard before. Then the words would follow. The final creation didn’t seem to come from her. She would just marvel at it. That is how it is with my art. When I am creating a picture, I set the pen down from time to time to sit back and marvel at how lovely it is. Then I get a sense of what color to pick up next and the picture changes again. For her this is a spiritual process. For me it is a marvelous, but worldly process. She feels that the divine is expressing through her. I guess I just think that I am the divine and this is the way it works on the physical plane. Many things people are doing are amazing and creative. I have found the more present I am to my process, the more enjoyable it is. And the more present I am, the more I can feel the flow of energy.

I think the key thing is not what we call spiritual and what we don’t, but that we don’t get attached to any one experience.  As I said in the talk, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,” meaning don’t get stuck on any idea or ideal.  Stay open and dwell in the mystery of what the divine is –  the mystery that is unknowable but that we can evolve to be.  And keep on reveling in the amazing and miraculous mundane world of phenomena.