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Old 11-28-2004, 04:02 PM   #1
THE Ka
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Pipe Tolkien spiritualty... A hint of Buddhism?

As we all know, weither it came to Arda's languages or mythological structures, Tolkien strived to make a connection with that of Finnish mythology anf language.

This is somewhat true with his basic layout of arda's spirituality, the consept of Fëa and hröa (Spirit and matter(body) ). But, as i was looking at these consepts again, i found something that gave me the notion that the idea of basic buddhist principles were relative with the Fëa. For example, elvish Fea, is different from mannish Fea because, elves cannot die of old age or disease but, they can die if they are "killed" (Battle, shot, stabed, ect...) or of grief. When this happens, their soul (fea) leaves their hroa (Body) then the soul is reincarnated into a new-born body that is identical to the previous hröa. This is proably the most noticed element of Buddhism and older Teutonic (European) spirituality. Also is the consept of the "wait" in the Halls of mandos. If a fea performs many acts of evil, they are refused reincarnation. Also, men were quiet luckly because they could skip all of this and leave arda completely after death. in a way, this is a connection with the ideal of Nirvana, or Nibbana The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. In this way, men get the easy way out.

As for elves, many in the lord of the rings discussed the idea of leaving "Arda" forever, instead of returning. This is an almost direct link with buddhism. In the story of Buddha, it explains how Buddha (originally prince Siddhãrtha Gautama) Sought a way to 'break free' from this cycle or reincarnation. An example of this in Arda might be the actions of Lúthien, who like buddha was left with the choice between two different paths.


What do you think of this connection?

If you would like to learn more about Buddha's life click on this link to use as a reference...
http://www.ancientindia.co.uk/buddha/story/sto_set.html
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Old 11-28-2004, 06:10 PM   #2
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I'm pretty sure Tolkien wasn't a Buddhist.
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Old 11-28-2004, 06:21 PM   #3
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Question Read it again...

Quote:
Originally Posted by burrahobbit
I'm pretty sure Tolkien wasn't a Buddhist.
The point of my thread is not to be so narrow-minded and say, "Tolkien is a buddhist!" but, to make connections and comparisions... I am not refering to idea that Tolkien wanted to make a direct link to "Buddhist" spirituality for his books, but that there are comparisions to the ideals and events of his works to the ideals of Buddhism...


Respectfully,

THE Ka
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Old 11-28-2004, 06:24 PM   #4
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I think burra's point is that any connection Tolkien's ideas had to Buddhist philosophy is coincidental, and therefore irrelevant.
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Old 11-28-2004, 06:27 PM   #5
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blablablabla

Ok. In Buddhism you aren't reincarnated in an identical infant body, sometimes you are a butterfly. In Buddhism Men reincarnate, in Middle-earth Men do not reincarnate. Etc etc completely different.
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Old 11-28-2004, 06:42 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by burrahobbit
Ok. In Buddhism you aren't reincarnated in an identical infant body, sometimes you are a butterfly. In Buddhism Men reincarnate, in Middle-earth Men do not reincarnate. Etc etc completely different.
I know, but the fact that there is the belief of reincarnation is similar to the fate of elves, i found a connection. I wasn't trying to say that men reincarnate (Arda), only that there is a connection betwix that ideal and the fate of elves. I used Buddhism because, it is more wildly known among readers compared to an example of New Age spirituality. Also, not all types of Buddhism believe in trans-reincarnation...

~Ka~
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Old 11-28-2004, 07:16 PM   #7
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Question Not blablabla.....

Burra, Son of Numenor,

I think we have to be careful in this context in judging what is and is not relevent. On the one hand, I think we can all concur that Tolkien was not Buddhist. To what extent the author was or was not familiar with Buddhist ideas and legends, I unfortunately do not know.

However, I remember that, for many days, dozens of posters engaged in debate on the canonicity thread concerning the degree to which the reader can bring his own ideas and backgrounds to the text versus the need to ferret out the intentions of the author. I am an historian and a curmudgeon and, because of that, I lean more to the latter camp. But it does seem to me there are points to be made in favor of the former approach.

All these folk with academic backgrounds in English actually "drove" me to search out the viewpoints of critics like Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes, especially the latter who advocates the "death of the author". In this situation, the reader has wide latitude in how he or she approaches the text without regard to a particular author's background or ideas. While I don't believe anyone here would advocate the "death" of Tolkien in this extreme sense, I do think there is something to be said about examining the text through our own experiences and viewpoints. The search for Buddhist or Jewish or explicitly environmental motifs would certainly fall under such a rubric.

Let me say that there are other scholars who have at least read LotR while searching for similar ideas. In the Lord of the Rings and Philosophy there is one chapter entitled "Talking Trees and Walking Mountains: Budhist and Taoist Themes in the Lord of the Rings" by Jennifer McMahon and B. Steve Csaki. I have not read it yet but it does seem to be a fairly serious philosophical treatment.

While I can contribute little that is substantive to this particular topic, I think we should be careful before we dismiss the idea overall. To talk in an abstract sense about the "freedom of the reader" in the canonicity thread is not enough. If that concept of freedom has real merit, we have to be willing to consider the possibility that some readers may find elements of Buddhism or another philosophy when they read LotR. As long as the viewpoint brought forward is not explicitly rejected by the text in question, I have no trouble living with that.

Anyone else have any opinions on this, or see elements of eastern thought as they read through LotR?
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Old 11-28-2004, 08:07 PM   #8
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But what could one hope to gain from The Lord of the Rings if one looked at it in light of, say, Buddhist principles? It seems that if one chooses to view something in such a way, one will at best merely reaffirm his or her own beliefs. Taking away Buddhist ideas from The Lord of the Rings may be relevant to the reader's spiritual life, but it is certainly not relevant to share such ideas in this forum.

Example:

Poster: I saw many similarities between The Lord of the Rings and the canon of the Latvian Orthodox Church. So-and-so aspects of LotR are reminiscent of so-and-so beliefs officially held by the LOC.

Us: Yes, those do indeed appear to be similarities (or don't). So what?
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:29 PM   #9
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Son of Numenor -

I am wholly unqualified to evaluate the ideas regarding reincarnation that The Ka has brought forward on this thread. I simply do not know enough about Buddhist thought to be able to judge her suggestion one way or another. What I am concerned about is that such questioning should not necessarily be dismissed out of hand.

Quote:
Taking away Buddhist ideas from The Lord of the Rings may be relevant to the reader's spiritual life, but it is certainly not relevant to share such ideas in this forum.
I would respectfully disagree. It's not a question of religious belief but of the diverse thoughts and ideals that various human beings bring to the text as we read. Because we bring different backgrounds, we may see different things in the story. That raises another critical question. Just where do we draw the line in saying one idea merits consideration and another does not? Let me cite a few examples to illustrate my point.

Many, many Christian authors have written evaluations of LotR in recent years. A few of these critics, such as Joseph Pearce, are Catholic. Many more, however, are not. Professor Ralph Wood, for example, professor of theology at Baptist Baylor, explicitly acknowledges that he often approaches the text from a biblical vantage far different from Tolkien's. Another example is Robert Ellwood, professor emeritus of religion at the University of Southern California, who wrote Frodo's Quest from a theosophical viewpoint. Both of these men hold personal beliefs quite different from Tolkien (and from my own). It is their ideas that interest me.

We don't have to limit ourselves to questions of religion. There are many other examples of readers bringing ideas to the text that were different than Tolkien's own. Patrick Curry, for example, was a Greenpeace supporter in the 1980s. These ideas heavily influenced his own assessment of the environmental themes in Tolkien ( Defending Middle-earth: Tolkien - Myth and Modernity ). This viewpoint influenced the questions he raised and the ideas he put forward. While Tolkien was a "lover of trees", he was not involved with an organized ecological movement and his own views were expressed in a very different way. Just look at all the academic philosophers in Lord of the Rings and Philosophy who found reflections of many different individuals and schools in LotR ranging from Aristotle and Plato to the existentialists or Nietzsche.

It's interesting to note that the best studies not only suggest how certain ideas that interest a critic may be reflected in LotR, but also point out major differences as well. If I have a reservation about this thread, it is a practical one: I don't think we have any current Books posters who have enough background in eastern thought to speak knowledgeably to this question. (I could be mistaken here and, if so, I apologize for my own lack of knowledge.) And I would never claim that a topic such as this should take center stage in our discussions. But I don't see such questions as irrelevent.

It's possible we hold different views on this and may have to acknowledge that with a polite nod.

****************

Whoops! Where is Fordim or Bb when I need them? This is what happens when you listen to English professors and get curious enough to read modern criticism. (I spent a chunk of the afternoon reading Barthes.)
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Old 11-28-2004, 09:50 PM   #10
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I think there should be some implication underlying any viewpoint expressed here on the Downs. There is no underlying implication that I can see in The Ka's post: is it that LotR has influenced, or was influenced by, Buddhism? Is it that Buddhists can find spiritual guidance in LotR?
Quote:
This viewpoint influenced the questions he raised and the ideas he put forward. While Tolkien was a "lover of trees", he was not involved with an organized ecomogical movement and his own views were expressed in a very different way.
But Tolkien's views on the subject were expressed nonetheless -- unlike whatever views he may have had on Buddhism. Curry's book seems to have been written with a clear agenda of promoting ecological awareness. That is very different from merely stating similarities between The Lord of the Rings and a religion when the similarity is obviously coincidental, and when there is no supportable assertion or hypothesis drawn from the revelation of the similarities. A post about Tolkien's views about the environment, supported with evidence, from an environmentalist's point of view, might add to my understanding of Middle-earth (which is, I think we can all agree, the purpose of the Downs). I fail to see how a post about rough similarities between Buddhism and the 'mythological structures' of Middle-earth can do that.
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Old 11-28-2004, 10:15 PM   #11
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Silmaril

Perhaps, then, this thread should be shifted to Novices and Newcomers where people have more freedom to discuss how they view these books that were written for our pleasure and personal insight, as opposed to how the books "should" be viewed. I believe there is currently a comparison there between Lord of the Rings and Peter Pan, although I don't remember Peter ever flying through Middle Earth.

I rather think this to be an interesting topic to look into, and an enlightening one at that, and I only regret that I am not knowledgable enough on the subject to add more.

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Old 11-28-2004, 10:27 PM   #12
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Boots yes, you may shift it over...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Feanor of the Peredhil
Perhaps, then, this thread should be shifted to Novices and Newcomers where people have more freedom to discuss how they view these books that were written for our pleasure and personal insight, as opposed to how the books "should" be viewed. I believe there is currently a comparison there between Lord of the Rings and Peter Pan, although I don't remember Peter ever flying through Middle Earth.

I rather think this to be an interesting topic to look into, and an enlightening one at that, and I only regret that I am not knowledgable enough on the subject to add more.

Fea
I don't mind. you may if you wish to. It might appeal to others in that part of the forum.

Respectfully,

The Ka
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Old 11-29-2004, 02:05 AM   #13
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Silmaril Moderator's note

It seems that a majority of posts on this thread are discussing the validity of this discussion rather than contributing to it. As this forum's moderator, I would like to speak out. We have a policy of friendly openness on the Barrow-Downs; our restrictions are that topics be Tolkien-related and that posts should be polite and respectful. Child has already shown that various viewpoints can be discussed in relation to LotR; those of you who remember Maril... will recall that she wrote about the Buddhist point of view on religion threads a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, she's not been around lately, or she would certainly be able to contribute to this discussion.

I am leaving this thread here on the Books forum and I am leaving it open for discussion. However, like all touchy themes, I will keep a close eye on the posting and will delete off-topic, impolite posts without warning. If you have nothing substantial to add to the topic, do not post. If it does not interest you, you need not read it. But variety is the spice of forum life, and as long as members post their opinions in an appropriate manner, the discussion can enrich this forum. Thank you! [/end of moderator's note]


Now for my personal thoughts on the topic:

Your thoughts on the topic are interesting, THE Ka; though we all know from Tolkien's own words that he wrote the story in a specifically Christian context, some of his concepts could be compared to Buddhist teaching. Everyone recognizes that there are also many elements of pagan religions included, especially the concept of "gods".

I would see the reincarnation theme in a more Christian than Buddhist context, for the reason mentioned above; the Elf is reincarnated in a body that is basically the same as his previous one. It is my understanding that in Buddhist teaching, what little I know about it, reincarnation serves the purpose of betterment, so that the individual takes on a different form in each life. The concept of a new, same body is closer to Christian resurrection, where persons will be recognizable in the afterlife.

As to the fate of Men, Tolkien does not say that they will "dissolve" into nothingness after death, just that the Elves do not know what humans' fate will be. I see no element of Nirvana there.
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Old 11-29-2004, 02:29 AM   #14
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As the thread is 'still open' for discussion, and as Bb and Fordim haven't shown up yet, and, having burra's famous close-fistedness with regards to long discourses (in the light of verily true maxim of Nothing is more false than to say that all mockery is hostile), let me help you out if I can.

Leaving aside what Tolkien as author said (C-thread, c-thread, you take my breath away...), and relying mainly on what is inside his works, let me bring forth the judgement that there is no buddhist flavour to Tolkien whatsoever

The ground is simple:

Buddha's search for Nirvana (release from reincarnation circle) is based on the idea that body is, in a way, not what there should be, that soul/spirit living in a body is like to prisoner in a cell, that release is good, and living in a body is bad.

Now elves held an opinion that their hroar (generally, if not precisely may be translated as 'body') were made to perfectly fit their fëar (generally, if not precisely, may be translated as 'spirit'. I personally prefer translation 'will')
That they were not fitting each other perfectly was attributed to Melkor who 'tainted' all matter of Arda. But in case Arda were not Marred, such an union should have been perfect mode of being, bringing about incessant joy of existence. Fading of the elves, which can be reversed in Aman only, is due to imperfections of hroa brought about by Melkor, and the death is not release of reincarnation cycle - quite the opposite - it is proper for a fëa to seek reincarnation if it died. (Still more reincarnate takes up the same body as before - built out of its memories of it)

Men (or wise among men, Andreth as their spokeswoman) likewise, held an opinion that in the beginning of things, before Fall of Man took place, similar arrangement was provided for men, and that forcible parting of fëa with hroa known since as 'human death' was simultanesouly, a punishment for the Fall and means of redeeming it. I.e. - here too, perfect and only natural condition of created Children of Eru is viewed not as spirit on its own, but union of fëa and hroa as a whole. If such a 'divorce' ever takes place, is mainly 'thanks to' Melkor

I can imagine few things least like Buddhism in such philosophy, to be honest

I'm unable to provide quotes to back me up at the moment. If you are ready to take me on my word, great, if you're not satisfied, I'll try to dig citations up shortly

cheers

PS. Nothingness was already addressed by Estelyn, so I haven't elaborated the point. But 'dissoving into Nothingness' is a negative term. Positively, it should be 'being one with the whole Existence'. But even such 'positive' dissovling is not taking place with Tolkien - all fëar are not only to retain their hroar - they are, firstly, to have their hroar completely remade - as the Arda and whole the matter of Arda is to be Remade, and they are not only to retain their individuality, but have it enriched - not sameness, but multitude of perfect creaters, in correct relation to their Creator, sharing same love but conducting it in an unique way each.
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Old 11-29-2004, 02:59 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by The Ka
This is proably the most noticed element of Buddhism and older Teutonic (European) spirituality
This is perhaps the relevant part as regards the legendarium. But it doesn't simply apply to Teutonic spirituality. The Celts certainly believed in the transmigration of souls - Caesar mentions it as a central aspect of Druidic teaching.

Where this concept does come in to an understanding of Tolkien is that his motivation (at least in the begining) was mot to create a brand new myth cycle, but to re-create what had originally existed. So, if the North-Western peoples (Celts, Teutons, Finns) had this belief, it must have had some origin. Tolkien was attempting to discover what those peoples had believed, why they believed it, & offer an account of it.

Now, obviously, he didn't leave it at that stage, & went on to develop the idea of Elvish reincarnation in various later works (tying himself in knots to a great extent) from a 'theological' perspective.

What we must keep in mind though, is that original intention - to provide an re creation of what had been. Where did the belief in reincarnation/transmigration of souls come from - why did our ancestors believe that happened? The Bible told Tolkien that humans do not reincarnate, but the idea of reincarnation was accepted by our ancestors.

There is a further issue - Tolkien was wishing to explore the question of mortality vs immortality, the ultimate question of why we die & how that affects our relationship to the world. He chose to do that by having two major races, one mortal, one immortal, one destined to inevitably pass from the world, one destined never to do so. Now, logically, no incarnate being can be physically indestructible - any physical object can be destroyed by a powerful enough force. But if the body of an 'immortal' being could be destroyed then some mechanism had to be found to keep that being in the world - otherwise it would not serve the purpose Tolkien needed it to serve - to be bound within the circles of the world for all eternity. Reincarnation in some form was probably the best he could come up with. It wouldn't be enough for them to simply hang around as ghosts (though his eventual idea of their fea burning away their hroa does seem to offer that destiny). They would have to be fully, physically, present within the world because this would emphasise their 'boundenedness' to the world, that they cannot leave it. Also, their nature expresses itself in art, in creativity, so that would require physicality.

And finally, we could bring in the Christian idea of incarnation - created beings are physically incarnate incarnate in a physical world. Body & soul are bound - for men temporarily, for Elves permanently - & this is the primary difference (for Tolkien's philosophical needs) between them.

I think Buddhism is the wrong way to go in this, as reincarnation is merely one aspect of that system, & is believed in for different reasons.
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Old 11-29-2004, 08:50 AM   #16
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(A minor aside: Memory may be lacking but I thought elves were supposed to last as long as Middle-Earth, as Arda, and then after that nobody knew? Or does somebody eventually know within the legendarium?)
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Old 11-29-2004, 09:05 AM   #17
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Quote:
Or does somebody eventually know within the legendarium?)
Not certain knowledge, but supposition (backed up by 'joy of the heart' on Finrod's part, which is considered a sign of recognition of truth) by Finrod (in converse with Andreth) that in Arda Remade elves would be given the role of annalist-poets - to remember things that were before

That bodies should be remade is my own supposition, not groundless I believe, as it is stated that all matter is to be destroyed and than remade and, as bodies are made out of matter, and as hroar are stated to be essential for fëar and both's well-being, it is logical to suppose that to be probable too.

I discuss the passage in the Evil Things post #90 The citation as follows:

Quote:
'But this is strange to me, and even as did your heart when I spoke of your unrest, so now mine leaps up as at the hearing of good news.

'This then, I propound, was the errand of Men, not the followers, but the heirs and fulfillers of all: to heal the Marring of Arda, already foreshadowed before their devising; and to do more, as agents of the magnificence of Eru: to enlarge the Music and surpass the Vision of the World!

'For that Arda Healed shall not be Arda Unmarred, but a third thing and a greater, and yet the same. I have conversed with the Valar who were present at the making of the Music ere the being of the World began. And now I wonder: Did they hear the end of the Music? Was there not something in or beyond the final chords of Eru which, being overwhelmed thereby, they did got perceive?
'Or again, since Eru is for ever free, maybe he made no Music and showed no Vision beyond a certain point. Beyond that point we cannot see or know, until by our own roads we come there, Valar or Eldar or Men.

'As may a master in the telling of tales keep hidden the greatest moment until it comes in due course. It may be guessed at indeed, in some measure, by those of us who have listened with full heart and mind; but so the teller would wish. In no wise is the surprise and wonder of his art thus diminished, for thus we share, as it were, in his authorship. But not so, if all were told us in a preface before we entered in!'

'What then would you say is the supreme moment that Eru has reserved?' Andreth asked.

'Ah, wise lady!' said Finrod. 'I am an Elda, and again I was thinking of my own people. But nay, of all the Children of Eru. I was thinking that by the Second Children we might have been delivered from death. For ever as we spoke of death being a division of the united, I thought in my heart of a death that is not so: but the ending together of both. For that is what lies before us, so far as our reason could see: the completion of Arda and its end, and therefore also of us children of Arda; the end when all the long lives of the Elves shall be wholly in the past.

'And then suddenly I beheld as a vision Arda Remade; and there the Eldar completed but not ended could abide in the present for ever, and there walk, maybe, with the Children of Men, their deliverers, and sing to them such songs as, even in the Bliss beyond bliss, should make the green valleys ring and the everlasting mountain-tops to throb like harps.'
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Old 11-29-2004, 03:27 PM   #18
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As a Buddhist, I feel more than qualified to tackle this topic.

First, it my obligation to say that any connection between the metaphysical life cycle of the Elves and Buddhist principles is purely coincidental, as there are too many differences for it to be relevant. For instance, Elves who did some not too nice things, such as Feanor, have to spend a deal of time waiting around in the Halls of Mandos to think about what they've done and so on before ever being considered for their "new" body. There is no such thing in Buddhism - one dies and gets reborn, end of story. Past crimes are paid for in the current life... many people know this as Karma. Now, the astute may point out the similarities between the Elves' longing to stay in middle-earth and the concept of Dharma, but such things are purely coincidental. To my knowledge, Tolkien did not nearly have enough knowledge of Buddhist theorem to draw such a subtle metaphor.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about, I'll elaborate (though in a simplistic manner, as I don't want to get too involved with these concepts). Dharma is the struggle that people face from living their lives with too many cravings, more or less, hence anyone wishing to become Buddha must relinquish many of these desires and strive for the Middle Path. Now, one could say that the Elves undergo a form of dharma by not reliquishing their desire to stay in Middle-earth and keep things the way they are, and must ultimately relinquish this desire and pass onto the West to achieve some form of enlightenment, but I personally feel this is a bit too sophisticated for Tolkien's intent, and too loosely based to draw a real comparison. After all, one could also argue that the elves are leaving for Valinor just because things will not change there, and that their desires will be fulfilled - not that they will not have any more desires.

Furthermore, as has already been pointed out, the Elves simply reinhabit the bodies they previously possessed. As devem eloquently pointed out, this is merely a facet of Christian incarnation - not Buddhist reincarnation. Also, the relationship between the Elves and the Ainur obliterates any hint of Buddhism. Even in Mahayana Buddhism, gods are largely seen as spirits who have already attained enlightenment, but forsake that state of pure existence to aid their brethren on earth who have no yet experienced Buddhahood. Now, I personally think the Valar are a little less than enlightened with their dealings with the Elves.

Regardless, while it is interesting to note some very elementary comparisons between the Elves and Buddhism, it is far too undeveloped to think that there is anything there. Especially when there are far more examples of these things in the mythologies that Tolkien based the Elves off of. I agree with davem - these are interesting things you are pointing out, but Buddhism is not the path to explore them with.

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Old 11-29-2004, 05:04 PM   #19
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Ahh, the voice of the knowing. Thank you Suldaledhel.

Though I agree that Buddhism might be too different to be wholly comparable to the Elves death cycles, I have a different side thought. When I think of the story of the elves, it seems very Japanese to me. And when I say Japanese it means that I've made my way through a lot of Japanese manga (comics) and many stories. All these fantasy stories are directly influenced by the Buddhist natures in Japanese culture. The story of the elves, though much more developed than most manga, is roughly similar. What I mean to say is that though I don't know the intricasies of the Buddhist religion, I can see where the Ka is coming from. The idea of reincarnation, though it is a Christian idea, when you think of it physically, it feels very foreign and exotic, and I'm a devote Roman Catholic. So, yes, it is probably coincidence that the elves resemble Buddhism, but it is still an interesting approach to the idea.
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Old 11-29-2004, 05:50 PM   #20
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Elvish reincarnation is more similar to Roman Catholic & Christian resurrection than you might at first suppose. You might look into the concept of resurrection a bit more, and then Tolkien's development of it might make sense.
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Old 11-29-2004, 06:10 PM   #21
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Silmaril A thank you to all who have participated...

Wow... All I can really say is , that I am amazed... I never expected so many would turn out for this! Be their opinions more of a positive or negative form. I really do not care in what you might call "defending" my post, instead I see this as more than a wonderful way to learn, as many others here may agree. I would first like to thank those who have more knowledge than I in this area, thank you for your insight. I am really thankful for you. Another act of thanks I would like to give to those who have found resources or direct quotes to better improve this thread. Thank you, for your hard work also. And, I would also like to thank all and everyone who has taken the time to check this thread out, and give your opinions and or views.

As many have asked, or posted they do not know my knowledge in Buddhism or they were wondering. Well, i never intended to "show off" in this thread, actually i was hopeing to recieve more experienced knowledge in this area. I do have some knowledge but, not extencively. Once again, I thank those who do have knowledge in this area and were nice enough to share. I myself am not Buddhist, I am Eclectic Wiccan. But, I do have relatives who are Buddhist, this religion have always fasinated me on any of its levels. Though I have not had teachings from them specifically, they have shaped my life as a whole.

I hope this has helped or allowed everyone willing to discuss on this topic, some form of learning or expansion or allowed them to see a new view and or further develop an older one.

Again, I would like to thank all who have posted. You really have made me happy and I feel that whatever becomes of this thread is still handeled with as much compassion, attension and knowledge as you all have shown.

Thank you

Respectfully,

The Ka

P.S. Remember, Carpe Diem...
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Old 01-14-2005, 08:42 PM   #22
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I consider myself a follower of Lord Buddhas teaching, and I've read much of Tolkiens work. I've never drawn any parallels beetween Buddhism and Tolkiens books, rather I've found Tolkien to oppose with much of Lord Buddhas teaching. More of that later.

First I want to point out that the whole idea of a persons soul passing on to another body when he dies is a harsh simplification and common misunderstanding of Lord Buddhas teaching. In Buddhis the consept of an eternal, everlasting soul does not exist. Everything is momentary and impermanent. The human mind (soul) is purely a product of the body and the perception of the sense organs. There no mind without body, like there is no fire without air or firewood. This is quite complicated matters wich I am not even close to comprehend, and trying to interpret what little i know is a task far beyond my school-taught English. To get to the point, the kind of re-incarnation the elves are going trough clearly is influated by the Christian (or any other major religion) view of soul. The soul (fear) of the dead elf passes on to another "host"body (hroar). Still it is certainly possible for readers of the book to find a connection beetween their knowledge of Lord Buddhas teaching and LOTR, and there is nothing wrong with that. But I would guess that they would not find the same connection if they had some more knowledge of Buddhism.

When I wrote that I find Tolkien's writing to oppose with much of Lord Buddhas teaching, I meant the escapist-aspect of it. I really like the books, but the concept of making a kind of parallel world disaccords with the Buddhist attempt to live in the present. That goes of course for all kinds of escapism, like tv-shows and entertainment flicks. The thing with LOTR is that it's so well-written that through the books you can almost move to M-E on a permanent basis. I am a big consumer of popular culture, but I believe that loosing yourselfe totaly in a book like LOTR might not be good for you. But that a different discussion, fit for its own thread.
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Old 01-15-2005, 07:11 PM   #23
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Baran -

Thanks for that interesting explanation. I do not have your knowledge of Buddhism, but I have heard similar reservations expressed by others who do have such a background.

My only question would be your characterization of Tolkien's writings as "escapist":

Quote:
When I wrote that I find Tolkien's writing to oppose with much of Lord Buddhas teaching, I meant the escapist-aspect of it. I really like the books, but the concept of making a kind of parallel world disaccords with the Buddhist attempt to live in the present. That goes of course for all kinds of escapism, like tv-shows and entertainment flicks. The thing with LOTR is that it's so well-written that through the books you can almost move to M-E on a permanent basis. I am a big consumer of popular culture, but I believe that loosing yourselfe totaly in a book like LOTR might not be good for you. But that a different discussion, fit for its own thread.
My own reading experience has been different. While Tolkien tells a whopping good story in the context of a different "age", I also find myself drawn face to face with some themes that stand at the heart of who we are: the nature of courage, the importance of mercy, the price that sometimes has to be paid for "goodness" to prevail. This list could go on at length. From my perspective then, the book is not escapist.

That is not to say a person couldn't "abuse" the book by focusing so completely on it that other essential things are lost in their life. This could happen not only with Tolkien, but with many good things. Food, family, friends, literature/art, and work all have a place in our life, but even good things may get "out of balance" if we lose a sense of perspective. And, in this limited sense, Tolkien's writings are as capable of abuse as many other things.

One last question.....are you (or is anyone else out there) familiar with the book The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons, Buddhist Themes in Modern Fantasy by David Loy and Linda Goodhew? The book is not widely known but has gotten strong reviews in both general publications and those written within the Buddhist community (at least the reviews I bumped into on the internet). Among the author's examined are Tolkien, Pullman, Ursula K. LeGuin and the anime movie Princess Mononoke.

Loy and Goodhew apparently make the argument that Dharma is found in all good and complex tales, and that it is therefore possible to see certain aspects of Budddhism's teachings reflected in stories such as those of Tolkien and LeGuin. In terms of LotR, they specifically focus on two things: those portions of the book that stress non-violence, including the repeated sparing of Gollum's life, and the idea of Frodo's quest as one of renunciation, virtually a lesson in detachment.

This might be interesting to read, if only because the authors take such a different perspective than the one I personally bring to the text. But nowhere, in any of the reviews, is there any mention of "reincarnation"...
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Old 01-15-2005, 09:54 PM   #24
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Dharma

Quote:
Dharma is the struggle that people face from living their lives with too many cravings, more or less, hence anyone wishing to become Buddha must relinquish many of these desires and strive for the Middle Path.
Hmmm. This is, at the least, an odd explanation of Dharma. Perhaps it differs greatly from the Hindu version I'm more familiar with. I'm afraid I'm not very knowledgeable about Buddhism...
But anyway, to my understanding Dharma is right action, action taken to further the cause of one's soul. This runs the gamut from action which gets you enlightened (I suppose Suldaledhel's definition could fit in there) to stuff you've got to do to get rid of karma. There's a lot of this. By this definition, Child's quote;
Quote:
Loy and Goodhew apparently make the argument that Dharma is found in all good and complex tales, and that it is therefore possible to see certain aspects of Budddhism's teachings reflected in stories such as those of Tolkien and LeGuin.
makes perfect sense. Dharma is neccessarily present in all tales that deal with greater themes. (although poor Túrin seems to work hard to be an exception...)
But I don't really see any significant link between Dharma and Tolkien, or at least any more so than Dharma and Harry Potter, or any other book you'd care to name.
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Old 01-16-2005, 10:43 AM   #25
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Quote:
That is not to say a person couldn't "abuse" the book by focusing so completely on it that other essential things are lost in their life. This could happen not only with Tolkien, but with many good things. Food, family, friends, literature/art, and work all have a place in our life, but even good things may get "out of balance" if we lose a sense of perspective. And, in this limited sense, Tolkien's writings are as capable of abuse as many other things.
Of course it is possible to read LotR and enjoy it for what it is, a highly enertaining book. I don't think Tolkien tried to make a statement or to preach anything, he wanted to write a great story. And he did, he created a vaste world you can "dwell" in, and many people define their identity from it. Who of you didn't find it sad to put LotR down after finishing reading it, because you were going to miss all the characters and places in the book? i know I did. And some people might distance themselves from their own world, replacing it with the fictional world of M-E. As Child of the 7th age wrote, this is of course not only a phenomen of Tolkiens work, humans do this all the time, with drugs, movies, star-wars, fassion, stamp-collections...
I personaly can't compare the work of Tolkien with other great books I've read. I don't feel I learned much from reading it, I was just highly entertained. Where really good books invites you to take a look at yourself and the world around you from a different perspective, for me LotR just was a good story.

Earlier i wrote that people define their identity from LotR. Imo this is one of the basic needs people have. Thats where everything from religions to fan-clubs steam from, and that's how you create yourself and the sense of a soul. The goal of Buddhism is to rid yourself of this "illusion" of self and soul. This is my opinion of the books from a personal Buddhist-infuenced perpective, and I won't argue that what I'm saying applies to other people. You might read the books and get to know yourself better, I just didn't.
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Old 01-25-2005, 05:55 PM   #26
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Tolkien

Tolkien was a Creationist, not a Buddhist.
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Old 01-26-2005, 01:50 PM   #27
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Quote:
Tolkien was a Creationist, not a Buddhist.
Yes, I think we can all agree that he was not a Buddhist. And we can also agree that Tolkien's writings primarily reflect the ideas he had garnered from his study of northern myth, his own vast knowledge of languages, and his commitment to his Catholic faith.

Yet, a piece of writing has a life of its own: it is more than what an author puts into it. The readers who come to Lord of the Rings bring their own knowledge and background, and these are certainly not identical to Tolkien. When an individual looks at the stories and filter them through his minds, his response to the text will be unique, different than that of any other reader. This is what makes literature so exciting. If it was just a set piece that could be understood in only one way, things could get boring very fast.

Sometimes, our response to the text is a personal one. We see something that's happened to one of the characters, and we can see how it's similar to something that's occurred in our own life. It's as if a light goes on, and a door opens up. A passage that we'd read a dozen times before suddenly has new meaning. Tolkien didn't necessarily put that meaning there intentionally, but we see it through the prism of our own experience.

This one-on-one encounter applies not just to personal experiences but also to the more general set of knowledge each reader brings to the text. If someone is familiar with a particular religion, historical period, or philosophy they may look at the book and see echoes that remind them of related themes or examples. That doesn't mean that Tolkien was an adherent of that particular religion or movement, or that he put something in intentionally for that reason. What it does mean is that, despite all our differences, there are underlying, universal themes that find expression in many different mythological, religious and historical forms.

Tolkien, for example, may have presented war and non-violence as an early twentieth century man who was influenced by his own Christian beliefs and by examples from his beloved northern myths. Yet there are other myths and religions. even other historical epochs, that also have something to teach us about these same universal themes. In my opinion, it is legitimate for a reader to point out such similarities and differences. Whether you would agree with a particular interpretation or not, whether you see a similarity or difference, is something else. Like any reader, you have the right to agree or disagree.

Child, newly converted proponent of the reader's right to interpret the text
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Old 01-26-2005, 06:15 PM   #28
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Assassin:

Quote:
Tolkien was a Creationist, not a Buddhist.
Tolkien was a creationist? That's news.
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Old 01-26-2005, 06:26 PM   #29
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White-Hand

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Child, newly converted proponent of the reader's right to interpret the text.
Welcome to the club!
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Old 01-26-2005, 09:40 PM   #30
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Pipe Just to add . . .

A good story takes you where you never had been before. A great story takes you back to the places you knew, points at something, and makes you say, "Oh, something I missed!"
I made the quote up (just yestre day, really!) For you, Baran, LR is just a good story, because you've never been in the same "place" (i.e., the same mindset, for lack of better words) as Tolkien have. For me, Tolkien's pacifism and distaste for machinery is a place I've never been in. But from my Christian point of view, LR (and the Silm) takes me to places I know--my thoughts, my experiences--and it show it to me in a new light. So for me, LR is more than a good story.

Kinda like how you rep people, eh. The ones that make you slap your head and say "Why didn't I think of that?!"

Well, mostly: except davem's. I know I could never think like that.

You're just rambling here now . . .
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Old 02-08-2005, 12:28 AM   #31
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I ran across an article on the net entitled A Buddhist Reading of J. R. R. Tolkien: Middle Earth and Middle Path.

While I know nothing of the author or his background, it seems carefully written and pertinent to this thread so I am posting the link here.
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Old 02-08-2005, 04:00 AM   #32
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Thanks for the link, Child

It is indeed pertinent, though I have one (at least and hasty) but, and the but consists of the following:

Quote:
Originally Posted by author of the article
Another angle is to see the three characters who make the final journey, Frodo, Sam and the tragic Gollum, as aspects of one personality. If for example, Gollum is seen as a personification of the defilements, hopelessly addicted to sangsaric becoming ("my precious!") then the climatic scene at the Crack of Doom takes on a profound significance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
...on a symbolic plane, I daresay, the trio somehow forms itself into one and the same person. Frodo being eternal and Sam and Gollum temporal parts of the personality.
Quote:
Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
... when Frodo (eternal part) gives in (rendered as claim and than fight with Gollum, mortal and evil part, as contrasted to Sam, mortal and good part), direct Divine Intervention occurs, and Gollum falls down (or, mortal/evil part of the Personality is mortified). And what with Sam representing mortal/good part of FSG, he is also left behind once Frodo goes West.
Quoted from Tolkien, for the love of Eowyn thread.

My point being – it occurs without Buddhist connotations – I was not thinking about sangsara when contriving the analogy. In fact, it is a Christian idea – nothing and noone can be reborn to New Life unless going through Death first. And nothing can go to Heaven unless the mortal parts are mortified. (Straigth Road – explicit – no mortal flash can walk it etc etc) So, in a complex symbol FSG (what an ugly abbreviation! ) is purified when ‘berid’ of its mortal ‘anchors’.
But, on the whole, let me repeat after the author:

Quote:
The fact that a Christian with pagan sensibilities could write a book of such profound spiritual meaning for non-Christians is a real tribute to Tolkien's spiritual depth. His religious vision was not a narrow one. He seems to have tapped into some of the deep layers of truth that underlie all the great religious traditions. And, not least, it is a profound and deeply moving story
And some archetypes are universal, after all
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Old 02-08-2005, 12:26 PM   #33
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Alot of great posts. Most everyone seems to have agreed that there is no direct Buddhist influence in the Legendarium and any resmeblances are due to the universality of many of the facets of Truth.

Several times folks have made statements to the effect of Buddhism believes _______.

But a crucial point is I think being missed. No religion has changed so much from it's inception [with the likely exception of Protestant Chrtistianity]. As 2 of the branches or Vehicles as they are often translated, of Buddhism has. At least from my studies and talks w/ Buddhists. The Buddha originally refused to speak to re-incarnation, existence or permanence of the soul and several other points that Mahayana [incuding Zen] and Vajrayana [primarily TIbetan B.] have dogmatized.

So to speak of Buddhism as monolithic makes it difficult to discuss specifics in Tolkien [or Buddhism for that matter ]

My readings on Buddhism are a decade or so old, so I may be off...

One does find many sources for Tolkien's writings, he never to my mind tried to hide them.

He digested virtually the entirety of Northern European Mythology and Roman Catholic CHristianity and gave it back to the world both new and improved and, an "Older Testament" if you will.

But I see no more hint of Buddhism than of Zorastrianism or Shintoism.
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Old 02-08-2005, 03:55 PM   #34
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You make a very good point, Lindil. The history of Buddhism is a very long and complex one; many ideas that are central to Mahayana Buddhism did not exist at all in the original teachings of Siddhartha (which probably more closely resemble modern Therevada Buddhism). Even within any one major branch there is considerable variety, both historically and at present. Zen/Chan Buddhism, for example, bears little resemblance to Pure Land Buddhism in practice, despite the fact that both are Mahayana. And in practice Buddhist traditions often merge with or incorporate elements of folk religion.

Still, I think that one can identify some fundamental Buddhist concepts that at least make it sensible to talk about Buddhism simpliciter:

Life is suffering.

Suffering is caused by attachments.

By eliminating these attachments one can transcend this existence and achieve a higher state of being.

I must say that I don't see any of these concepts embodied in Tolkien's work.
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Old 01-20-2007, 05:44 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aiwendil
Life is suffering.

Suffering is caused by attachments.

By eliminating these attachments one can transcend this existence and achieve a higher state of being.

I must say that I don't see any of these concepts embodied in Tolkien's work.
Melkor to me represesents the human personality, which cannot conceive of the fact that it is a transient illusion. Melkor cannot exist separate from Eru: Melkor is Eru.

There is no coming or going in Tolkien's world. Every character accomplishes the task that we all know he will accomplish. The only exception to this is the relationship between Frodo and Smeagol. We do not think Smeagol will destroy the Ring; we do not think Frodo will end up lonely and unfulfilled. The fact is that their fates are the same: both will cease to exist, unless Eru and Melkor exist as separate entities after the Final Battle.

The teachings of Tolkien are not the teachings of Tolkien.

As an addendum, I should say I have no idea what I'm talking about.

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Old 01-20-2007, 09:36 PM   #36
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Originally Posted by Son of Númenor
I disagree. I think The Lord of the Rings is quintessentially Buddhist. Tolkien understood the Divine Conceit: Time and Godhead cannot both exist. This is the central tenet of Buddhism. Melkor represesents the human personality, which cannot conceive of the fact that it is a transient illusion. Melkor cannot exist separate from Eru: Melkor is Eru.

There is no coming or going in Tolkien's world. Every character accomplishes the task that we all know he will accomplish. The only exception to this is the relationship between Frodo and Smeagol. We do not think Smeagol will destroy the Ring; we do not think Frodo will end up lonely and unfulfilled. The fact is that their fates are the same: both will cease to exist, unless Eru and Melkor exist as separate entities after the Final Battle.

Eucatastrophe is a Rational Orgasm. It cannot exist unless it exists right now.

The teachings of Tolkien are not the teachings of Tolkien.

As an addendum, I should say I have no idea what I'm talking about.
Can not agree less (there, you lured me out....)

Or, to put it otherwise, I would agree with three statements, but with some provisos:

1. Melkor cannot exist separate from Eru

I daresay. But does it logically follow that they are one and the same? No and no. I can not exist without eating or breathing – does it mean that I and the air I breathe, I and the food I eat, are one and the same? The Melkor/Eru relationship may be imagined to be similar to that – all things that make existence of Melkor possible are good and come from Eru. His mind, his might, his fëa, his very existence come from Eru, and is a gift of Eru, and in that sense, Melkor, to find a better word than separate, can not be without Eru.

2. Every character accomplishes the task that we all know he will accomplish

Maybe. But if I recollect correctly, I did not know per se, I could just make educated guesses, given the data I already had and given the fact I was outside the story and could see more patterns than any given character knew of.

But does it mean my knowing somehow affected their doing? I think not.

Suppose I have some data about you – like, that you have eaten hot burrito an hour ago, and haven’t had a chance to water it down with any kind of drink, and I see you standing near the pub. I’m almost sure you are going to go over there and buy yourself a drink. Did my knowledge affect your action? I think not

Besides, do the characters know it? They don’t.

3. Eucatastrophe is a Rational Orgasm. It cannot exist unless it exists right now

Rational from the point of view of God, but again, 1) If I, being outside the story and seeing the patterns, can predict Eucatastrophe, thus making it in some way Rational (rational for me, that is, as it was rational all way through for God who planned it), does it make it less joyful or less needed or less welcome? 2) Character inside the story can’t perceive the patterns the way I do, for them Eucatastrophe may seem unperceived, unexpected, something that happened all of a sudden

Hence follows the reasoning:

Time and Godhead cannot both exist – why, they can. To say it simpler – knowing or seeing how somebody does something, does not mean forcing them to do it

It cannot exist unless it exists right now May I be so bold as to extend it and say that nothing can exist unless it exists right now – verily, the past is frozen, the future did not happen yet? Being is either in present, or in eternity, the present being the very spot time shares with eternity. So to say, it is always now for us, but it maybe so that it’s always now for God too, making coexistence of Time and Godhead, Providence and Free Will possible.

[I believe] He did not listen to my prayer yesterday to think about it today and than change something in the universe tomorrow to grant it – he sees me praying/acting/not acting now and sees the effect I have/will have on the whole creation now (= eternally). And again – refer to the above – seeing someone doing something is not making them do it.

PS I imagine, if you set out to deliberately find Buddhism in there, you may give me loud yes to all my questions (such as me and my food being the same), but there is such a thing as Occam’s Razor to shave reasoning with in this case here – with more plausibility and less strain Christian philosophy may be used to explain this, so why seek beyond and try to fit round screws into square holes? )
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Old 01-21-2007, 09:01 AM   #37
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I daresay. But does it logically follow that they are one and the same? No and no. I can not exist without eating or breathing – does it mean that I and the air I breathe, I and the food I eat, are one and the same? The Melkor/Eru relationship may be imagined to be similar to that – all things that make existence of Melkor possible are good and come from Eru. His mind, his might, his fëa, his very existence come from Eru, and is a gift of Eru, and in that sense, Melkor, to find a better word than separate, can not be without Eru.
First of all, I should clarify this by saying that I am not talking about Buddhism as an ideology. I am talking about Buddhism as what is. This is haughty and presumptuous on my part, but bare with me.

Tolkien's book is not about duality (Good vs Evil), but triality. Three examples are

Eru, Melkor, and the Ainur
Flame Imperishable, Void, and Ea (That Which Is)
Aragorn, Arwen, and Elrond

In the Tolkienian cosmology, each of the individuals in these trialities is both a free agent and divinely attached to the other two

Eru is Supreme One
Melkor is one who desire to be All
the Ainur are Many in the service of the One
The emergent conflict is Ea

Now, if Eru has a plan for Ea, there can be no conflict. Yet we all know that the stories in the Silm, LotR and TH are conflict narratives.

Life is suffering.

Suffering is caused by attachments.

By eliminating these attachments one can transcend this existence and achieve a higher state of being.


The Illusion in Buddhism is the separateness of life and death. We suffer because we feel we have to act according to whatever moral code we inherited from our parents and our parent-culture in this life - death is our only adviser on how to live life. Tolkien saw through the parent-culture: he recognized that industrialization is a Yang force, the God separated from the Goddess. The Lord of the Rings is his linguistic-alchemical attempt to unite God and Goddess.

What he overlooked is the illusion that birth and death exist.

There can be no divine will in a free agent.

The body is a musical note: it is born, dances, and dies.

Frodo is attached to saving the Shire. He suffers for the Shire, is unfulfilled, and then dies. It doesn't get more Buddhist than that: it doesn't get more real than that.

How could 'Frodo' possibly retain his body-mind form after death? How can Eru create an Eternal body which did not exist when Eru began?

Realizing that there is no difference between Divine Will and Free Agency, that every act Frodo carried out was both fully manifested in himself and in Eru at all times throughout the novel, is not Paradox: it is Liberation, Gnosis, Eucatastrophe to simultaneously know and feel that God has no plan for you, that you and you alone are that which you seek.

Buddhism offers rational practice to the individual to realize this in the Here & Now.

I propose that one could achieve eucatastrophe solely by combining Mahayana Buddhist practice with the Eru-Arda cosmology: but then, on what plane would the two meet?

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Old 01-21-2007, 09:17 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by HerenIstarion
PS I imagine, if you set out to deliberately find Buddhism in there, you may give me loud yes to all my questions (such as me and my food being the same), but there is such a thing as Occam’s Razor to shave reasoning with in this case here – with more plausibility and less strain Christian philosophy may be used to explain this, so why seek beyond and try to fit round screws into square holes? )
Yes, but we have to talk about which Christian philosophy - there are many.

The Eru-Arda cosmology, I propose, is Tolkien's inner Ekklesia - outward-ecclesiastical Catholicism was not the outward manifestation of this self-Gnosis: it was his Prison, his banishment from Eden. He saw the destruction of the natural world in temporal-spatial reality and understood it transcendentally: his writing, like all writing, was a reflection of his knowledge of the dialectic movement in our world toward God-Goddess Unity. What he was unable to do was accept the fact that he suffered because he was attached to the outcomes of events in his life like the deaths of his parents, the Great Wars, etc. (All presumptuous, I still readily admit - I do not Know J.R.R. Tolkien.)

In my opinion, Occam's Razor is a blade that was dulled before it was forged, some 2,500 years ago; the interplay of the three Illusion-forming gunas in the Mahabharata, when compared with the relationship of the Three Elven Rings to the One Ring of Power, is a decent metaphor for my purposes:

Narya, the kindler of passion -- Rajas, activity; the myth that something is happening -- is sacrificed by Gandalf to rid Ea of the One Ring, the Burden. Through this act Gandalf becomes Formless again.

Nenya, the earth-preserver -- Sattva, kindness -- is sacrificed by Galadriel in order to rid Ea of the One Ring. Through this act Galadriel is allowed to return to the West from her exile, though the earth with which she has associated her existence ceases to be beautiful.

Vilya -- Tamas, ancestor-worship -- is not Elrond's real sacrifice. The real sacrifice he makes is not to Ea, but to his own desires: Vilya means nothing to him, Arwen everything. He sacrifices her to mortality, and in doing so passes into the West -- alive but not really whole.

Through these three forces the power of the Ring is undone.

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Old 01-22-2007, 05:06 AM   #39
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As we all know, weither it came to Arda's languages or mythological structures, Tolkien strived to make a connection with that of Finnish mythology anf language.

This is somewhat true with his basic layout of arda's spirituality, the consept of Fëa and hröa (Spirit and matter(body) ). But, as i was looking at these consepts again, i found something that gave me the notion that the idea of basic buddhist principles were relative with the Fëa. For example, elvish Fea, is different from mannish Fea because, elves cannot die of old age or disease but, they can die if they are "killed" (Battle, shot, stabed, ect...) or of grief. When this happens, their soul (fea) leaves their hroa (Body) then the soul is reincarnated into a new-born body that is identical to the previous hröa. This is proably the most noticed element of Buddhism and older Teutonic (European) spirituality. Also is the consept of the "wait" in the Halls of mandos. If a fea performs many acts of evil, they are refused reincarnation. Also, men were quiet luckly because they could skip all of this and leave arda completely after death. in a way, this is a connection with the ideal of Nirvana, or Nibbana The mind experiences complete freedom, liberation and non-attachment. It lets go of any desire or craving. In this way, men get the easy way out.

As for elves, many in the lord of the rings discussed the idea of leaving "Arda" forever, instead of returning. This is an almost direct link with buddhism. In the story of Buddha, it explains how Buddha (originally prince Siddhãrtha Gautama) Sought a way to 'break free' from this cycle or reincarnation. An example of this in Arda might be the actions of Lúthien, who like buddha was left with the choice between two different paths.


What do you think of this connection?

If you would like to learn more about Buddha's life click on this link to use as a reference...
http://www.ancientindia.co.uk/buddha/story/sto_set.html
Tolkein drew much of his inspiration from the ancient myths of European tribes and in so much as there is a tenuous connection between them and the Aryan peoples who settled in Northern India we may expect to see some elements of commonality.

As far as I recall there was some belief in reincarnation amongst the Celts, although whether this was as systematic as the Buddhist view I do not know. There are strong elements of Celtic mythology underpinning the elven cosmos and thus, in my opinion, we see a form of reincarnation within this context.

This common Indo-Germanic heritage also contains Wyrd (or fate) / Karma and some *gods (Thor / Indra) which are similar, but do not feature in LOTR (see below).

As to the religious ‘tone’ of Tolkein’s LOTR, I would say it is monotheist, if not explicitly Christian, although any Christian reading it will find much material that accords with Christianity and I think would be able to make a fair claim that the work was essentially underpinned by a Christian, theological framework.

The “One” is hardly mentioned, but there are plenty of hints. The fallen Valar, Morgoth, is certainly Lucifer-like. As I read the book I could not help but equate Strider with Jesus; healing hands and all. *There are no other “Gods” mentioned, which is unusual for a fantasy work. The baddies all follow evil beings but they are never equated with gods, nor do the various tribes and races of Middle Earth have their own gods. Odd, if you think about it, but it makes sense within an implied monotheist context.

The work is a product of its times. C.S.Lewis delivers a similar ‘feel’ in his Chronicles of Narnia, for which he has been recently criticized (unfairly I feel).

Therefore, in my opinion, if there are any parallels between tLOTR and Buddhism it is thanks to the common heritage of the Indo-Germanic tribes. The subject is quite vast and interesting and this commonality manifests throughout the folklore, cosmology and native religions of East and West and will have, thus, seeped into tLOTR by default.

My knowledge of things Tolkein is poor, so I may be mistaken on a few points. Please feel free to correct me here.
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Old 01-22-2007, 09:34 PM   #40
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Insofar as Buddhism is a philosophy that aims to explain life as we live it, and insofar as the Lord of the Rings goes to great lengths to seem "real", it is no wonder that one can make correlations... but I think you read too much into it, Master of Númenor. After all... a tripart harmony is fine, but explain how there are FOUR hobbits in the Fellowship, and whatever PJ may think of Merry and Pippin, there is no redundant, extra hobbit.
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