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Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Yoga of Avatar

I was finally able to see Avatar in 3D last week. After all the hype, I was interested to see if it would live up to what everyone’s been saying, and boy did it ever! I LOVED it, especially its implication. There was such a yogic presence to the storyline. It’s comforting to see a movie do this well with such a beautiful message!

Here’s a breakdown of the yogic elements of Avatar:

Interconnectedness of all beings – the Na’vi link to other beings on the planet through neural-chemical connections. One of the characters, Grace, the biologist played by Sigourney Weaver, calls it a network. And indeed, the whole planet is an organic neural network. The Na’vi practice and believe in an interconnection of all life in balance with nature. Because of this, everything is viewed as sacred.

Unity – when they get attacked, Jake and the Na’vi realize pretty quickly that they’re going to need allies. They rally up the other clans, and together they fight the humans. Even their former predators, the wild animals of the jungle, unite in the battle against the humans and their corporate agenda.

Goddess worshipping – the Na’vi worship Eywa, and believe that all consciousness is infused with her energy. In yoga, this goddess consciousness is known as Shakti, while yoga isn’t exactly a goddess worshiping tradition, there are strong threads of the divine feminine throughout and sects which are devoted to her worship.

Hindu origins - the word “avatar” itself is Sanskrit and is rooted in Hindu mythology (as is yoga). Presently, the word avatar evokes the graphical representation of a computer user, but it’s original meaning is “descent” and it can be “an incarnation or human appearance of a deity, particularly Vishnu.” These incarnations, including one of the most famous, Krishna, have blue skin, and the blue Na’vi beings are themselves meant to evoke Hindu deities.

Rajan Zed, the Hindu statesman who has appointed himself watchdog of American pop culture, has not overlooked these elements. He expressed his initial concerns about the film last spring, and urged James Cameron to “be careful when handling Hindu concepts and terminology.” But he’s been awfully quiet since the film has been on the screens, so perhaps Cameron did a better job than expected.

Despite the strong yogic components of the film, it has managed to become the most popular movie in years and it has captured the collective imagination. It’s fascinating, really, things like the divine feminine and interconnectedness (while not particularly new or radical) aren’t exactly mainstream thinking, but rather yogic! All I can wonder is if the spiritual ideas in the film might just sink in to the viewers, and affect some kind of change in consciousness, somewhere down the line. Let's all hope.

Keep it fresh!
- Lauren

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