Understanding Vedanta through Films (A Pedagogical Model) – A Case Study of Matrix

In S. Varkhedi & G. Mahulikar (eds.), New Frontiers in Sanskrit and Indic Knowledge. New Delhi: New Bharatiya Book Corporation. pp. 106-121 (2019)
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Indian Philosophy has reached across the globe. It is popular for its practical way towards life. Study of Indian philosophy should be part of all streams of education. Film is effective tool of communication. It attracts all generations and makes strong impression in the mind. Film is always considered as an effective tool in Pedagogy. Philosophy deals with abstract concepts, their correlation and logical reasoning. It deals with the complex problem of reality. People have notion that philosophy is a dry and theoretical subject. Students can understand complex philosophical ideas if they are demonstrated through films. There are films based on biographies of philosophers, life picture of great people, incidences in life of philosophers. But it can attract only limited number of audience. Some popular Hollywood films have amalgamation of science fiction, super natural elements, fantastic story guided by some philosophical principles. Such films attract audience from different strata. Viewer is totally captivated by extra ordinary super natural and fictional elements in the film. As a result, certain philosophical principles are taught to audience without their conscious effort. (Kantāsammita upadeśa) Teaching philosophy with the means of such films can be definitely effective tool in Pedagogy. Such practise will not only create liking for Indian Philosophy but will result in effective understanding of complex ideas. It can create awareness that Indian Philosophy is embraced across the globe, there are no boundaries for philosophical deliberations and there are certain common threads in different philosophical schools. Paper will take example of popular movie ‘Matrix’ to explain the principles of Advaita Vedānta. The Matrix is a 1999 science fiction film written and directed by The Wachowskis, starring Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, and Joe Pantoliano. It states the journey of hero of the film ‘Neo’ who is aspiring for reality. He is struggling between illusory world and the real world which is presented through the means of science fiction. This paper will analyse Matrix from the perspective of Advaita Vedānta. Māyā projects the illusory world (vikṣepa) in place of Brahman (āvaraṇa). Film portrays digital world as illusory world. One sees this world as real due to limitations of body, mind and intellect. Neo goes to the real world and realises his true nature. True reality is beyond senses and sense objects (atindrīya). Concepts of Advaita Vedānta can be explained with this film. Such movies can be shown to students along with Vedanta discourses. Paper will explore ‘Film and Philosophy’ as an effective pedagogical model.

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Shakuntala Gawde
University of Mumbai


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