I watched “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” the other day. I’ve seen it before, but this was the first time I watched it with a critical eye. I’ve always enjoyed Star Wars, although I admit that I’m more of a Lord of the Rings nerd. I’ve always preferred fantasy to sci-fi, although the two have a great deal in common. I say this only to point out that I’m only marginally familiar with Star Wars and its characters.

During my latest viewing, I noticed a lot of neat things that I’ve never seen before. One of the most interesting (to me) was that Yoda’s words often bore a striking resemblance to Buddhist philosophy. I looked it up briefly and I found this article on the Buddhist Channel that explains Yoda’s Buddhist inspiration.

As an example, I’d like to share this one snippet with you. When Anakin Skywalker (who eventually becomes Darth Vader) visits Yoda for advice, Anakin is troubled by visions of his wife’s death. Here’s how the conversation progresses:

YODA: Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.

ANAKIN: I won’t let my visions come true, Master Yoda.

YODA: Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy. The shadow of greed, that is.

ANAKIN: What must I do, Master?

YODA: Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.

Take another look at the first line quoted above. If we think of the “dark side” as something a little less sinister, we could easily translate this as Buddhists have done for thousands of years. The fear of loss — or any fear — is a sure path to suffering. The only way to free yourself from the fear of loss is to detatch yourself from whatever it is you fear to lose. It may be friends, family, your job, your health, or even your life.

Yoda was exactly correct when he said that Anakin must train himself to let go. Letting go is not something we decide to do, it’s something that requires a great deal of practice, discipline, and courage. Many people think that detatching oneself leads to apathy, but this is not the case. When I first started studying Buddhism, I was worried that I would undermine myself and others by trying to “let go” of everything. On the contrary, letting go taught me to love more deeply, to anger more slowly, to appreciate more, and to want less.

Another Buddhist teaching that Yoda echoes is on the nature of death itself. Yoda says “Rejoice for those around you who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not.” There’s no “Force” in Buddhism, but I suppose one could call it that. From the Buddhist perspective, we do not die because all of life exists on a continuum. Without getting into details of the philosophy, it’s important to note that one’s perspective on death is critical to how one chooses to live. If you believe that death is unnatural and to be avoided, you will live in fear of it. Yet, if you know that this is untrue, and that death is necessary for life, then it becomes easier to cope with.

Yet, with all things Buddhist, nothing comes by belief or knowledge. There is nothing to believe, no gods to embrace, and no dogma to adhere to. Instead, we must all look deeply within ourselves and find that the truths we seek are much closer than we realize. After all, you can’t change reality to fit your preferred vision of it. The only thing you can do is change your perspective to fit reality. It’s the only path to achieve freedom from suffering.