Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

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Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:09 pm

Cloud Atlas - epic film about karmic relationships and reincarnation spanning many lives

See the trailer of this promising new film made by the same directors as The Matrix which already had some Buddhist themes in it:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371111/

Cloud Atlas

'Souls cross ages like clouds cross skies ...'

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

It's a fantastic book. It tells six stories from six separate time-lines however, each story is mentioned in the story that follows it. Each story ends suddenly and then the author revisits each story to give us each it's closing.

http://cloudatlas.warnerbros.com

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog ... -inception

http://www.youtube.com/user/cloudatlasmovie


Mitchell having expressed an interest in Buddhism, and having stated that the protagonists of Cloud Atlas were intended to be the same soul reincarnated,
as signified by 'the motif of the comet-shaped birthmark'.

Mitchell has said of the book: "All of the [leading] characters are reincarnations of the same soul ... identified by a birthmark. ... The "cloud" refers to the ever-changing manifestations of the "atlas", which is the fixed human nature. ... The book's theme is predacity ... individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_Atlas_(novel)


On its simplest level, Cloud Atlas is a set of six sharply
contrasting stories, each one capable of standing alone
as a complete tale, but only revealing its full resonance
when viewed in the context of the total work. ...

Yet the concept of a
“cloud atlas” appears elsewhere—for example, as a
symbolic representation of the transmigration of souls
—or in a rare recording of Frobisher’s composition that
figures as a plot elements in a separate story. The
multivalent meaning of this one element is an example
of the many prefigurings and reverberations that give
depth and suchness to this ambitious novel.

As a result, the linkages between the six narratives are
difficult, perhaps impossible, to summarize. But let me
propose a (Philip K.) Dicksian way of approaching this
interconnectivity. Imagine that the defining stories of
our lives are not rooted in reality, as many critics
assume, but in other stories. ...

On top of this intriguing structure, Mitchell
superimposes echoes of Nietzsche’s theory of eternal
recurrence. You may recall that this odd and seemingly
implausible philosophical concept proposes a universe
that does not advance chronologically, but merely
repeats itself, over and over again. This cyclical concept
of history does not presuppose any theistic doctrines,
but can be made congruent with a belief in
reincarnation. Mitchell clearly draws on this
metaphysical angle, and sets in motion story elements
that imply that the characters in his six tales may be
reincarnations of each other.

Of course, none of this is presented in the blunt, point-
by-point way that I have just outlined it. Mitchell
works his changes subtly, and even at his most
philosophical, he “clouds” his points in a fog of
ambiguity. He is, after all, a storyteller and not a
theoretician, and the narrative is never dislodged by
the higher order meanings. They merely float above
the action.
http://www.conceptualfiction.com/cloud_atlas.html

What you can see when a reader is looking ahead like this is the appetite for a narrative structure: a plan. What the reader gets in Cloud Atlas are intimations of some large scheme of things. From comet-shaped birthmarks that distinguish characters in the different stories, to accidents of recurring names and dates, connections keep being sensed - even more on a second reading. But do the connections belong to the narrative structure? By his own account, Mitchell's method involved immersing himself in the different narratives one at a time, even keeping them in different "folders". He then dovetailed them together at a late stage in the novel's composition. He is not the only novelist to have worked like this. Most famously, Franz Kafka's The Trial is a novel put together, after the novelist's death, from chapters or episodes that were composed discretely and whose sequence is not self-evident.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2005/ap ... idmitchell



Drops in the ocean: Buddhist reflections on David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas”


Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is a ripping good read with plenty of action and suspense. It’s also a cautionary tale of karma-vipāka (how our actions set up complex results, short- and long-term) and how failing to choose is itself a choice just as much as a conscious decision is. ...
Though Cloud Atlas is not a Buddhist book, I found certain Dharmic themes reflected in the prose. The strongest of these is the Three Characteristics of Conditioned Existence (impermanence, non-substantiality and unsatisfactoriness), which seem woven throughout the narratives. Or maybe, like when I first fell in love with old Volvos, I just see them everywhere. In one brief scene, from a time maybe 200 years from now, a humanoid fabricant being, somni-451, is being shuttled from safe-house to safe-house, avoiding the corporate/government authorities. She is being hunted down as the (reluctant) figure-head in an emerging revolution of the have-nots against their ‘beloved masters’. She is taken to what had been, centuries before, a monastic complex with many temples and shrines somewhere in Korea, perhaps. Visible across the river gorge is a carved, serene, seated, cross-legged figure, the worse for wear and tear, in huge bas-relief. Somni-451 comes out just before dawn, and sees the elderly headwoman who is sitting, contemplating this figure. She is the abbess, who, as a young girl, had trained briefly as a nun and is the only survivor from the time of rehabilitation (or death) of those who practiced the old, now-banned, religions. She tells somni-451 about this Siddhartha and how he taught freedom from suffering. But she can’t really tell her the stories, because they have all been lost. Nonetheless, she abides, and helps those who come to this place seeking freedom.
http://www.wildmind.org/blogs/book-revi ... -the-ocean

:geek:
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Wed Aug 01, 2012 3:56 pm

“Inconceivable, bhikkhus, is the beginning of this samsara.
A first point is not known of beings roaming and wandering the round of rebirth,
hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.”

“Which do you think, bhikkhus, is more:
the stream of tears that you have shed as you roamed
and wandered on through this long course,
weeping and wailing because of being united with the
disagreeable and separated from the agreeable
– this or the water in the four great oceans?
The stream of tears that you have shed as you roamed and wandered
on through this long course
… this alone is greater than the water in the four great oceans …

For such a long time, bhikkhus,
you have experienced suffering, anguish, and disaster, and
swelled the cemeteries.”
(S.15.3 “Assu Sutta”)

...

Furthermore:

“There will come a time when the mighty ocean will
dry up, vanish and be no more.
There will come a time when the mighty earth will
be devoured by fire, perish and be no more.

But yet there will be no end to the suffering
of beings roaming and wandering this round of rebirth,
hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.”
(S.22.99 “Gaddulabaddha Sutta”)

...

“Through many a birth I wandered in samsara,
Seeking, but not finding the builder of this house.
Painful it is to be born again and again.”

“O house-builder! You are seen.
You shall build no house again.
All your rafters are broken.
Your ridgepole is shattered.”

“My mind has attained the unconditioned.
Achieved is the end of craving.”

[Builder: craving; House: body (the five aggregates);
Rafters: defilements; Ridgepole: ignorance]
(Dh.153-154 “Udana Vatthu”)


See also http://what-buddha-said.net/drops/V/Rei ... search.htm
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby waimengwan » Wed Aug 01, 2012 4:29 pm

Thank you for sharing this movie :) I look forward to watching this.
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby Vlcimba » Thu Aug 02, 2012 5:46 am

Looking forward to it so much :thumbsup:
Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form--- Heart sutra
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby SDC » Fri Aug 03, 2012 12:54 pm

Wow, that looks awesome. Thanks, Bhante!
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Thu Aug 16, 2012 5:56 pm

This video is the Cloud Atlas triangle faces from the website. This is one full cycle of all the faces.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAg6UaM2Qf4

The following is a description in the three director's own words (slightly paraphrased and yes three directors):

The film is: "massive in scope" but "relative to normal life, to human beings" while being "political" with "lots of action" set "in the past and the future" where the actors get to play different characters, ages, races and "different genders" and those characters represent the core concept of "an idea of connectedness and karma" where the characters inherit "the consequences" of their past lives.

:group:
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby whynotme » Thu Aug 16, 2012 7:22 pm

Dear bhikkhu gavesako,

At first I didn't notice your sign as you are a monk. But, sir, didn't the Buddha in Vinaya say a monk should not watch play and entertainments?

Sir, please forgive me and teach me if I made any mistake.
Regards.
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby James the Giant » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:38 pm

I'm reading the book Cloud Atlas at the moment, I'm almost finished the circle. The book goes like this:

(((((( ))))))

It's a good read, not fantastic, but definitely worthwhile. It is interesting trying to make the connections and links between characters and time periods. Like a mystery where you have to work out who the murderer is.
I look forward to the film.

whynotme wrote:But, sir, didn't the Buddha in Vinaya say a monk should not watch play and entertainments?

I believe it is a minor rule which merely requires confession. And apparently if the film is educational, then it's okay to watch it for the information value. (EDIT>>> A full and excellent explanation is given below)
Last edited by James the Giant on Fri Aug 17, 2012 9:33 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Thu Aug 16, 2012 8:50 pm

This film is based on a book of the same name, and Buddhist monks normally read books and it is not considered inappropriate. However, neither books nor films were available in the Buddha's time, so we have to see how to apply the Vinaya rules to the present circumstances. The passage below from Ven. Thanissaro's Buddhist Monastic Code goes into some detail on the topic of "Entertainment":


There is a dukkaṭa for going to see dancing, singing, or music. According to the Commentary, dancing includes going to see even peacocks dancing. It also includes dancing oneself and getting others to dance. (The Roṇa Sutta — AN III.103 — notes that, in the discipline of the noble ones, dancing counts as insanity.) Singing includes drama music as well as "sādhu music," which the Commentary to Bhikkhunī Pc 10 defines as songs sung "at the time of the total Unbinding of a noble one, connected with the virtues of the Triple Gem." The Sub-commentary to Cv.V.36 defines it as music dealing with Dhamma themes such as impermanence. Other religious music would come under this prohibition as well. The Commentary adds that singing also includes singing oneself and getting others to sing. The same holds true for "playing music." (The Roṇa Sutta also notes that, in the discipline of the noble ones, singing counts as wailing.) However, there is no offense in snapping one's fingers or clapping one's hands in irritation or exasperation. There is also no offense if, within the monastery, one happens to see/hear dancing, singing, or music, but if one goes from one dwelling to another with the intention to see/hear, one incurs a dukkaṭa. The same holds true for getting up from one's seat with the intention to see/hear; or if, while standing in a road, one turns one's neck to see.

DN 2's list of forbidden shows includes the following: dancing, singing, instrumental music, plays, legend recitations, hand-clapping, cymbals and drums, magic-lantern scenes, acrobatic and conjuring tricks; elephant fights, horse fights, buffalo fights, bull fights, goat fights, ram fights, cock fights, quail fights; fighting with staves, boxing, wrestling, war-games, roll calls, battle arrays, and regimental reviews (see Pc 50). Reasoning from this list, it would seem that a bhikkhu would be forbidden from watching athletic contests of any type. Movies and shadow-puppet plays would fit under the category of magic lantern scenes, and — given the Commentary's prohibition against "sādhu music," above — it would seem that fictional movies, plays, etc., dealing with Dhamma themes would be forbidden as well. Non-fictional documentary films would not seem to come under the rule, and the question of their appropriateness is thus an issue more of Dhamma than of Vinaya. Because many of even the most serious documentaries treat topics that come under "animal talk" (see Pc 85), a bhikkhu should be scrupulously honest with himself when judging whether watching such a documentary would be beneficial for his practice.

Arguing from the Great Standards, a bhikkhu at present would commit an offense if he were to turn on an electronic device such as a television, radio, VCR, computer, or CD/DVD player for the sake of entertainment, or if he were to insert a CD or a tape into such a device for the sake of entertainment. He would also commit an offense if he went out of his way to watch or listen to entertainment on such a device that was already turned on.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... .ch10.html



So usually in the Western monasteries there will be some allowance made for watching educational films, or films which contain Dhamma lessons. Although this particular film seems to be fictional, I would dare to guess that Ven. Thanissaro will want to watch it himself (or at least read the original book, he is a sci-fi fan and loves reading) because it is likely to become just as well-known as The Matrix in the near future. Certain films and books are very influential in our culture, they constitute a shared connection of meaning among individuals and even contribute to language that is used by people in society. If one is not familiar with them, one will in effect lose that connection with people and fail to communicate with them on the same level.

Some of the Suttas in the Digha Nikaya in particular, the Jataka stories, Peta and Vimana stories as well as the commentarial ones could be called "fictional", and yet they have been used for teaching purposes for centuries. Not to mention films like Little Buddha...

:geek:
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Aug 16, 2012 11:09 pm

James the Giant wrote:I'm reading the book Cloud Atlas at the moment, I'm almost finished the circle. The book goes like this:

(((((( ))))))

It's a good read, not fantastic, but definitely worthwhile. It is interesting trying to make the connections and links between characters and time periods. Like a mystery where you have to work out who the murderer is.
I look forward to the film.

The book was widely praised when it came out and I have tried (a couple of times) to read it, but got bogged down and gave up - mostly because of the style, I think. The movie should flow better and I will try to see it.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby whynotme » Fri Aug 17, 2012 4:45 am

gavesako wrote:So usually in the Western monasteries there will be some allowance made for watching educational films, or films which contain Dhamma lessons. Although this particular film seems to be fictional, I would dare to guess that Ven. Thanissaro will want to watch it himself (or at least read the original book, he is a sci-fi fan and loves reading) because it is likely to become just as well-known as The Matrix in the near future. Certain films and books are very influential in our culture, they constitute a shared connection of meaning among individuals and even contribute to language that is used by people in society. If one is not familiar with them, one will in effect lose that connection with people and fail to communicate with them on the same level.

Some of the Suttas in the Digha Nikaya in particular, the Jataka stories, Peta and Vimana stories as well as the commentarial ones could be called "fictional", and yet they have been used for teaching purposes for centuries. Not to mention films like Little Buddha...

:geek:

Sir, no matter what you do or even make mistakes, you monks have all my respect, coz you are human just like me. But sir, IMO, for the sake of the masses, for the longevity of dhamma, if each generation looses the definition, or the practicing of vinaya just a little by culture, by custom, or by each individual interests and needs, then dhamma will disappear sooner.

Ones like you chose the noble way, IMO, it will be superior if one ignores the social connection for dhamma. I.e one way you could chat about others about the book or the film, but sir, imagine if someone want to talk with you about the film and he suddenly realized that you know nothing about it. Sir, I think he may think, oh, amazingly, bhikkhu gavesako isn't interested in worldly things even with such a famous film. It may create faith in someone who doesn't have, and increase faith in someone who already have.

I think that the vinaya is also about the benefit for the blind masses, i.e some arahants did somethings not easily recognized by the massed and so the Buddha forbid it. A movie, the graphics and sound effect are very different kind for the masses than a book, and so the image of a monk buying ticket and go to the theater. Sir, IMO, it will make the crowd disbelieves dhamma.

Lastly, I don't know what you meant by saying suttas as fictional. IMO, suttas told about unseen things, but they are real (by our faith), while "fictional" is something totally created by the author. Sir, I'd love to see more about this "fictional" view from you

Regards
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Fri Aug 17, 2012 2:09 pm

First of all, as monks we would never go to see movies at a cinema: that would come under "going to see dancing, singing, or music" at a place which is associated with un-bhikkhu-like activities such as drinking late at night, etc.
:toast: :popcorn:

When monks do watch a film (and it might be just once or twice per year), it is usually while traveling, such as sitting on the bus in Thailand (they always put on a film at night and the monk's seat is right in front of the screen) or sitting on a plane (that is how I got to watch the Thai version of Angulimala which was rather well made, although the story was made even more dramatic). With music it is becoming more problematic nowadays, as most forest monasteries in Thailand are relatively close to some village, and they love to put on loud music at night which then disturbs the monks who wish to meditate or sleep. So ear-plugs are the only option...
:shrug:

"Cloud Atlas" is still being filmed, so I don't know if I ever get to see it, but I would still recommend it to all laypeople who are interested in Buddhism. It might be one of those important works that bring about a slow "paradigm shift" in the Western mentality, such as for example E. Arnold's "The Light of Asia" poem was a big hit in the Victorian times in England and influenced many generations afterwards. The idea of rebirth/reincarnation was described, only a hundred years ago, as "alien and repugnant" to the European mentality even by people who were interested in Eastern spiritual teachings. And I think this has not really changed that much until now, also in the Western Buddhist circles which often downplay this aspect of the Buddha's teachings and adopt a skeptical attitude focusing on one life only.

The story in "Cloud Atlas" follows the karmic connections between individuals across many lifetimes, and how actions performed in the past can still echo on into the distant future. This is strikingly similar to the stories which we find in Buddhist literature composed especially in the early centuries after the Buddha's parinibbana. The Jataka genre was particularly popular for the education (and spiritual entertainment) of the masses, and the stories have been embellished in order to draw people's attention and to communicate the moral lessons contained in them. Also in the commentaries there are many such stories, and the Dhammapada commentary has been the main source of popular preaching in Buddhist countries for centuries. The Vinaya also contains some incredible stories composed specifically for monks in order to drive some points home very clearly. The monks who composed them must have been skilled in story-telling, they might have been trained in the brahmanical arts as well. Of course, the traditionalists will claim that all these stories should be taken as literally true, and that the Buddha or his early disciples did not have a sense of humour when composing them, but I will not go into this discussion at this point (there are other threads devoted to it).

Although "Protestant Buddhists" do not approve of this, story-telling based on the Jatakas has been used in traditional Asian Buddhism for centuries, and similar new (apocryphal) Jataka stories have continued being written until the 18th century because this genre was more popular with the masses than merely reading the Suttas. For example, see the Vessantara Jataka performance at a Thai temple in London:

http://www.buddhapadipa.org/event-write ... 11-9-2011/
http://www.buddha-images.com/vessantara-jataka.asp

Some of the early monks, disciples of the Buddha, used to be artists before and they relied on their previous skills to compose new Dhamma verses. Consider the example of Talaputta:

http://theravadin.wordpress.com/2010/01 ... he-avatar/

*This text has been quoted frequently to show Buddha’s negative stance on entertainment. And that is true and makes sense once one is looking at the Buddha’s evaluation of sensual pleasure vs. devine happiness or any form of existence vs. Nibbana. In this context, however, the text itself shows that at the same time the only beneficial art form would be one were the artist strives to free himself from greed, hatred and delusion and tries to decrease greed, decrease hatred and decrease delusion in the audience. As we all know, this does not happen very often in the realm of entertainment but Venerable Talaputta, in this Theragatha (poem of the elders), gives a prime example how such an enlightening art work could look like.



The well-known Thai reformer monk Buddhadasa Bhikkhu has also suggested using art to illustrate Dhamma, and they built a Spiritual Theatre at Wat Suan Mokkh for this purpose. The new Buddhadasa Archives centre in Bangkok is also based on this idea of using art forms to bring Dhamma closer to people (they recently had a Buddhist Film Festival there).

So what is interesting for me in the story of "Cloud Atlas" is the whole idea behind it which can be communicated to a large audience, not the special effects or famous actors (who I don't know anyway). The directors say that when they approached the big movie-making companies in Hollywood, nobody was interested in financing such a strange film which did not fit the usual category of block-busters that bring a lot of profit to them. So the directors had to seek private funding in order to make the film (in Germany), which is already a recommendation I think.
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby sutira » Fri Aug 17, 2012 5:00 pm

Regarding the Vinaya involving issues not existed in the Buddha's time, one uses wisdom and applies the 'intention' of the Vinaya when dealing with modern-day innovations.
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby whynotme » Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:20 am

Dear bhikkhu Gavesako

Thank you for more of inside view, I found it is useful

Regards
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Aug 18, 2012 10:56 am

gavesako wrote:The directors say that when they approached the big movie-making companies in Hollywood, nobody was interested in financing such a strange film which did not fit the usual category of block-busters that bring a lot of profit to them. So the directors had to seek private funding in order to make the film (in Germany), which is already a recommendation I think.

As you say, bhante, Hollywood not being interested is a good sign. :smile:
Some good, worthwhile, interesting films do come out of Hollywood - The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338013/) was surprisingly subtle, for instance - but "big budget" equals "mass market" and "mass market" usually equals "dumbed down".

:namaste:
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby Vlcimba » Mon Aug 20, 2012 5:03 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
gavesako wrote:The directors say that when they approached the big movie-making companies in Hollywood, nobody was interested in financing such a strange film which did not fit the usual category of block-busters that bring a lot of profit to them. So the directors had to seek private funding in order to make the film (in Germany), which is already a recommendation I think.

As you say, bhante, Hollywood not being interested is a good sign. :smile:
Some good, worthwhile, interesting films do come out of Hollywood - The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338013/) was surprisingly subtle, for instance - but "big budget" equals "mass market" and "mass market" usually equals "dumbed down".

:namaste:
Kim


Your right babe. All the highest grossing stuff are crap . CGI and other crap. But titanic was nice though
Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form--- Heart sutra
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Tue Aug 28, 2012 6:39 am

Something about story-telling in Buddhist literature:

…the Ucchaṅga Jātaka tells the story of a woman who is asked to choose between saving her son, her husband and her brother, if two of the three were to be executed. She chooses to save her brother, on the grounds that "the two others were replaceable" (Malalasekera, q.v. Ucchaṅga). Let us be very clear: this was a story written primarily for the purposes of entertainment, and nobody in their right mind would surmise that the Buddha set down as a rule/principle that that you ought to save your siblings and let your spouse and husband die in such circumstances. Such an attribution to the Buddha (or even to "Buddhism" more generally) would be absurd; and such absurdities are now normal, partly because of the over-arching misunderstanding of what the structure of the canon is, and where we need to look for the answers to various types of questions.

http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.com/2012/ ... .html.html
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Aug 28, 2012 11:13 am

...such absurdities are now normal, partly because of the over-arching misunderstanding of what the structure of the canon is, and where we need to look for the answers to various types of questions.

I think that should be have been "such absurdities are now sadly normal" or something like that, :thinking: although the blogger wasn't quite so explicit.
It's not just a matter of not knowing the canon, though. It's also a matter of unthinking, uncritical, incurious acceptance of 'scripture' always being 'true.'
Most of us understand that the daily newspaper is 'true' in one way, Aesop's Fables or the Just So Stories are 'true' in another way, and the road rules are 'true' in yet another way. But many people seem not to think about which kind of 'true' anything religious might be - they just 'believe' every word, although how anyone can truly believe anything without understanding it, or even trying to understand it, baffles me.

:namaste:
Kim
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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:21 pm

BEYOND THE MATRIX
The Wachowskis travel to even more mind-bending realms.

“The rocket ship is falling apart,” Lana said afterward, shaking her head. “We’re sitting in this capsule, can’t get out, only one engine working—and we have to make it to the end.”
In the Wachowskis’ work, the forces of evil are often overwhelmingly powerful, inflicting misery on humans, who maintain their faith until they’re saved by an unexpected miracle. The story of the making of “Cloud Atlas” fits this narrative trajectory pretty well.

Mitchell’s book is not a simple read, with its interlocking stories and a multitude of characters, distributed across centuries and continents. Each story line has a different central character: Adam Ewing, a young American who sails home after a visit to an island in the South Pacific, in the mid-nineteenth century; Robert Frobisher, a feckless but talented Englishman, who becomes the amanuensis to a genius composer in Flanders, in the nineteen-thirties; Luisa Rey, a gossip-rag journalist who rakes the muck of the energy industry in nineteen-seventies California; Timothy Cavendish, a vanity-press publisher who finds himself held captive in a nursing home in present-day England; Sonmi~451, a genetically modified clone who gains her humanity in a futuristic Korea, ravaged by consumerism; and Zachry, a Pacific Islander who struggles to survive in the even more distant future, after “the Fall,” which seems to have endangered the planet and eradicated much of humankind. These characters are connected by an intricate network of leitmotifs—a comet–shaped birthmark crops up frequently, for instance—and by their ability to somehow escape the fate that has been prepared for them. The book’s dizzying plot twists are infused with lush linguistic imagination. For the Zachry sections, Mitchell constructed post-apocalyptic mutations of the English language, which effectively force readers to translate as they go.

http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012 ... fact_hemon


Mitchell told Hemon that even as he was composing the novel, he viewed it as essentially “unfilmable.” The Wachowskis struggled over how to portray the scale of the book’s ideas, and they eventually resolved to unify the distinct plot lines by having actors play transmigrating souls. Several New Yorker writers have written pieces on Mitchell and his virtuosic work over the last decade. In 2006, Daniel Zalewski wrote about the complex eclecticism of the author’s earlier novels. In his review, Zalewski compares the way separate narratives in “Cloud Atlas” are spliced together to the precise work of a film editor:
The Mitchell method reached a height of virtuosity in the entertainingly kinetic “Cloud Atlas,” in which six archly distinct narratives—each set in its own place and era, and each mimicking a different genre, from the nautical adventure to the conspiracy thriller—are spliced together, as if by a twitchy film editor. Five of the stories cut off, at a moment of high drama, like an old projector snapping the celluloid right in the middle of the big shoot-out; they resume, with equal abruptness, in the book’s second half. As the novel progresses, strange connections emerge: the text of the first chapter is discovered on a bookshelf in the second; the hero of the third section hears a bewitching recording of chamber music, the “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” which was composed by the protagonist of the second. Mitchell’s early books are elaborate games—Calvino-style curios, swollen to five hundred pages—and they are written in playful pastiche, with sly imitations of writers as various as Daniel Defoe, Haruki Murakami, and Philip K. Dick.
Mitchell’s early works, writes Zalewski, are “divided, with almost fetishistic care, into sections that resemble the movements of a musical composition.” Indeed, as Hemon notes, the biggest challenge for the Wachowskis and their collaborator, the German director Tom Tykwer, was parsing the novel’s convoluted structure.
“ ‘Cloud Atlas’ is a twenty-first century novel,” Lana [Wachowski] said. “It represents a midpoint between the future idea that everything is fragmented and the past idea that there is a beginning, a middle, and an end.” As she spoke, she was screwing and unscrewing two halves of some imaginary thing—its future and its past—in her hands. If the movie worked, she continued, it would allow the filmmakers to “reconnect to that feeling we had when we were younger, when we saw films that were complex and mysterious and ambiguous.”
Central to Mitchell’s novel, Hemon writes, is the idea of eternal recurrence.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/b ... ndant.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Cloud Atlas - epic film about karma and reincarnation

Postby gavesako » Mon Sep 03, 2012 3:29 pm

It’s not often that any fiction writer, much less a foreign one, ends up being chased down a Shanghai street by a gaggle of fans. Yet that’s just what happened British author David Mitchell on a recent afternoon in the city as local admirers battled to have him autograph copies of his novel “Cloud Atlas.”

One particularly determined man even blocked Mr. Mitchell’s path and, slapping a life-size portrait of the writer on the hood of a parked car, shouted in English: “Sign! Sign!”

A startled Mr. Mitchell sheepishly obliged, leaning over the car to scrawl his name in black marker across his own forehead.

“This has never happened before,” Mr. Mitchell said, picking up the pace again in attempt to keep ahead of the crowd. “I have no idea why the book is so popular. If you find out can you let me know?” he added before disappearing down Nanjing Road.

“Cloud Atlas,” first published in English eight years ago and recently translated into Chinese, is an intricate weaving of several separate stories that take place across time and place.

Now, in China, too, social media is fanning the flames of the “Cloud Atlas” craze, helping Mr. Mitchell’s feed on Sina Corp.’s Weibo microblogging website rack up 35,000 followers in its first week.

Why is the book so popular in China?

According to one fan, 32-year old designer Li Wei Gang, the appeal of “Cloud Atlas” lies in its melding of contemporary British literature with themes that resonate in China.

“The younger generation in China wants to understand better what young British people are seeking, what they care about, what they read,” says Li. “Then there is a kind of spirit of transmigration in the book, which is an Asian thing that is also in accordance with what Chinese believe.”

Hong Kong writer Xu Xi suggests the popularity of the book could simply come down to the economics of publishing.

“These days, what gets chosen for translation is so heavily dictated by the marketplace as opposed to by literary translators or scholars,” she said.

“This is especially true for fiction because a lot of the romance and crime fiction gets translated, whereas a winner of a good literary prize might not if the book is not commercially successful in its original language.”

A lot of contemporary books are “popular” in China simply because the market doesn’t have access to the real range of what constitutes contemporary literature in English, Ms. Xu says.

But the structure of China’s publishing industry likely isn’t the only explanation, she adds.

“It’s a very ‘constructed’ book which spans a ponderously long period of time, through a series of happy—or not so happy—coincidences or reversals of fortunes, ending on an apocalyptic note. This is how life might feel for a Chinese living in China today who reflects on her country’s recent and older history,” she says, noting the seemingly constant stream of stories about polluted rivers, tainted food, corruption and other problems flowing out of the country.

“Apocalypse is a satisfying revenge for life in ‘these here times’ of the muddled Middle Kingdom,” she says.

http://blogs.wsj.com/chinarealtime/2012 ... -shanghai/


-- it seems to be a true loka-dhamma book :reading:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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