The saga has already had components of the religion-philosophy. Now, Disney’s Lucasfilm personnel has been extremely proactive in saying that Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi will be different from any other Star Wars film.
Are they getting that squarely in the public’s mind so viewers will be ready for heavy doses of Buddhism?
From its supposed origins to its practices and beliefs, Buddhism seems to be expressed throughout Star Wars: The Last Jedi and related properties.
Possible spoilers below.
In Buddhism, the Buddha became enlightened while meditating under a tree (the Bodhi Tree).
In Star Wars, a tree with Anakin Skywalker and Yoda, who is wise like Buddha in the mythology, will be a main feature of the Disney Star Wars theme park “Galaxy’s Edge,” according to prominent YouTuber Mike Zeroh.
In The Last Jedi, the origins of the Force will be centralized, with “the Force tree” at the center of that tale.
(This was part of the overall leak of almost the entire plot from reddit user LouEvilOne. That came from Stormtrooper Larry, who Comic Book Movie reported has previously leaked set photos from the film.)
‘It’s so much bigger’
In Buddhism’s teachings on evil, it is a fallacy to put humanity into categories of “good” and “evil.” Instead, at the end of the day, there is cause and effect, action and reaction, or “karma.”
In a The Last Jedi trailer, after Luke tells Rey to breathe, he tells her that the Force is bigger than what she claimed, of “a balance” of “light and darkness.”
Breathing & meditation
In Buddhism, it is central in practice to meditate.
In The Last Jedi, it’s clear that a focus of Luke Skywalker’s training of Rey is on breathing, even going by a trailer. And that seems to be even more prominent than Buddhist practices already seen in Star Wars, of being reflective and calm as Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda instructed Luke to do in A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back, respectively.
This would build on meditation hinted in other Star Wars films being key to Jedi practice.
In Buddhism, reincarnation is the process of an existing being manifesting itself in a new form.
In The Last Jedi, a person claiming to be a fired Lucasfilm employee says that Rey is the reincarnation of the first Force user (after that person’s interaction with the tree). Others (see examples here and here) say it will be the reincarnation of Anakin Skywalker.
What they’ve said
At the very least, it will have heavy metaphysical elements to it.
“It has a real spiritual depth to it,” said Gwendoline Christie, one of the actresses in The Last Jedi.
It’s been made clear in a behind-the-scenes trailer and national media interviews with Luke and Rey actors Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley that Johnson has made an entirely different film compared to other Star Wars productions.
In the behind-the-scenes trailer, Hamill said, “They throw things at me story-wise I never could have imagined.” Ridley said, “Rian has written a story that is unexpected but right.” Johnson said, “I’m hoping it will feel shocking, but I’m hoping it will feel real and honest.”
The film being even different in spiritual themes is something hinted at in the most recent trailer. It features a clip from Luke saying, “This is not going to go the way you think.”
Could that be at least largely because beliefs of an Eastern religion are going to be expressed in overwhelmingly Judeo-Christian parts of the world like the United States?