Sanskrit and The Matrix


neodammerungscreens.jpg

Recording the Sanskrit choral piece for the film Matrix Revolutions

One of my blog visitors, after reading ‘Would the Pope ever speak Sanskrit’ wrote to tell me that the choral music in the final battle scene in The Matrix Revolutions is in Sanskrit.

I’m quite happy to hear that because Sanskrit, of course, is the lingua franca of Vaishnavism and there are many words and expressions in that language which will help people in general to understand the philosophical basis of our life.

I thought that Crispian Mills, the singer from Kulashaker, was very brave to incorporate Sanskrit into his songs. Who could imagine that he would find popularity from a song entitled “Acintya Bheda Bheda Tattva?” I saw Crispian at a function recently. He is back on the road with Kulashaker with a song about the mind called “Second Sight

As far as films go, previously I had only noticed Sanskrit in the beautiful score to “A Little Princess” a rather nice film with many visual links to The Ramayana. Very popular with my two daughters when they were younger. The choral score features om namo bhagavate vasudevaya interwoven with the poetry of William Blake.

On the Matrix Revolutions film, the final fight scene between Neo and Agent Smith is scored with a Germanic opera piece called Neodammerung except its not in German, its Sanskrit. And very philosophical Sanskrit too. All from the Upanishads.

The Upanishads are corollary literature to the four Vedas and deal with helping the reader distinguish between matter and spirit, between the true self and the vehicle of the self – the body. Don Davis and his directors, Larry and Andy Machowski, felt that the ideas expressed in the Upanishads perfectly expressed the themes within the Matrix trilogy.

Their first selection from the Upanishads was from the Brihad Aranyaka (1.3.28) and is a very common prayer uttered at religious ceremonies: “From delusion lead me to Truth, from darkness lead me to Light, from death lead me to Immortality”

The other quotes, sung with full Wagnerian force by a choir accompanied by a large brass section, were from the Isha, Mundaka, and Katha Upanishads.

All these books are well worth a read. However, for an Upanishad with a commentary that you will understand and find very helpful, may I suggest Sri Isopanisad by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada? He translated this book very early on in his mission to bring the Vedas to the English-speaking world and as his followers we used to regularly recite the verses from this book – and still do – at important ceremonies.

Advertisements

7 Comments

Filed under Journal, Sanskrit

7 responses to “Sanskrit and The Matrix

  1. Star Wars has sanskrit and vedic elements .

    Queen Padme which is sanskrit for lotus and a common Indian name for women.

    King Veruna who was Padme’s predecessor as ruler of Naboo. Varuna, whose place in the Vedic pantheon is “the supreme keeper of order and god of the law,” as well as god of rivers and wind.

    The Gungans were the underwater race that lives on Naboo, Gunga is how the river Ganges is pronounced in sanskrit (Ganga)

    Shaak Ti – The name of a female Jedi master, from the sanskrit shakti which is a feminine word for power or force and energy.

    Depa Billaba – The name of another female Jedi master (played by an actress of Indian origin), who served on the “Jedi Council” in the prequel trilogy. Another transliteration of these two words would be “Deepa Ballabha”, which means “the master of the light”

    The Rishi Maze – This is a part of space which is directly adjacent to the planet “Kamino”, as Obi-Wan Kenobi is told. A “Rishi” is a very powerful sage of Vedic times.

    Padawan – This is a combination of two sanskrit words. “Pada” means foot, and “wan”, actually spelled “van”, means forest, in this case, it’s related to the spiritual world. This is perceived to mean “a footstep in the forest”. In other words, in the words of Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars Episode IV “You’ve taken your first step into a larger world”

    Veda pearls were precious stones favored by Queen Padmé Amidala of Naboo. She wore them on her White Coruscant Dress. “Veda” means knowledge in sanskrit.

    “Skywalker” is the English translation of the sanskrit word “Daikini”, which is the name of Elora Danan’s species in the film. Both Anakin Skywalker and Elora Danan are individuals who are the subject of a prophecy to overthrow an evil enemy. Whether this similarity in naming was intentional by Lucas is unknown.

    Sanskrit songs of Star Wars

    Funeral Theme (Episode I and III). Another setting of poetry in Sanskrit. Heard briefly during Qui-Gon’s funeral in Episode I, and in Episode III during the death of Padmé and the “rebirth” of Darth Vader in his suit. A softer version without a choir is played Padmé’s funeral procession, and blended with Imperial March during the shot of skeletal Death Star.

    “Qui-Gon’s Funeral” or “Funeral Theme” (“Death’s Long Sweet Sleep”)

    Madhurah swehpna, go rahdomah swehpna.
    Madhurah swehpna, go rahdomah swehpna,
    morittioo, madhurah, swehpna.

    the lyrics mean:
    Madhura = sweet Svapnya = sleep, dream
    Go = go Ra = acquire
    Dama = self-control Mari = death
    Tu = overcome

    “Duel of the Fates” another sanskrit song played in episodes one, two, and three. For lyrics see

    http://starwars.wikia.com/wiki/Duel_of_the_Fates

  2. Thanks for this Shiva, you’ve given lots of good research here. Is there any truth, as far as you know, that the resemblance between Luke Skywalker’s search for Princess Leia assisted by the small, furry Ewoks is not by coincidence reminiscent of the Ramayana?

  3. Haribol deshika, the research is not my own. I first became aware of the influence of vedic thought on Star Wars many years ago, in fact when I first saw Star Wars I was in my last year of high school (grade 12 in america, the last year before going to college) and had been studying yoga for a while and immediately noticed similarities between the concept of “The Force” and Brahman, and the training of Luke by Yoda with the guru disciple relationship and the teaching of mystic yoga. Many years later I came across some research by others who also pointed out the vedic elements of the series. When the new prequels came out many people noticed the various sanskrit names and songs and they have written about that extensively on the internet.

    As far as the Ramayana connection, Satyaraja Dasa has written an article for beliefnet where he explores that idea: http://www.beliefnet.com/story/166/story_16672_1.html

    It’s possible Lucas was inspired by the Ramayana since he clearly was inspired to use various vedic themes and language throughout the series.

  4. Hi Shiva
    Good to know these things. I was just browsing for some rock songs with sanskrit shlokas and found this amazing post of yours.

  5. Jedi Ari

    Hi,
    I am from India and huge fan of Star Wars (especially the original trilogy) and though I knew some of Sanskrit connections in the movies, Shiva’s post with specific points gives insight to much more links like meaning of ‘padawan’.
    I would like to add that meditation practices of Jedi masters appear similar to ‘Yogasanas’ (Yoga) for example during the fight sequence in Episode I between Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan and Darth Maul – Qui-Gon meditates to calm himself and focus on the force.
    Thanks to all contributors and of course the original author.

  6. Hi,
    I have been posting a series of articles on the Matrix and the Sanskrit texts. And by chance today, April 2012, I found this article of yours, so posted it on the 14th page. I thought you might be interested. Thank you.

    Susan
    New Zealand

    http://forum.davidicke.com/showthread.php?t=205182

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s