Religion

Matt O writes about Fight Club and Buddhism:

Not many people have realised, but the story of 'Fight Club' is complimented by buddhist beliefs and other philosophical ideas related to the path to enlightenment. I truly believe that the writer of 'Fight Club' found inspiration through buddhism or perhaps some other form of philosophy or religion.

The ideas manifested by the story of Fight Club can be represented by buddhisim and other spiritual ideoligical beliefs. In general, (although amongst other things), the narrator is looking for spiritual enlightenment (Nirvana or Zenith) in his life and this can be shown through his journey in the movie. The orientation of the film shows the narrator 'suffering' due to the consumeristic values and the 'should' and 'shouldn't' values that society and his parents passed on to him. As a consequence the narrator's true 'self', the primal and instinctive 'self', is concealed by a thick veneer of social conditioning. To reach enlightenment and a sense of acceptance of his life, he creates Tyler Durden. In buddhism it is believed that the path to enlightenment involves a teacher to shake off the values that you have been led to believe and suffer under, and the ability to become independent from your teacher and finally reach happiness and acceptence. I believe that when the narrator begins to create Tyler Durden, he does it because he wishes to find salvation and happiness and Tyler is his teacher. This can be proven in many cases throughout the movie. Before I start I would like to give some background knowledge on Buddha.

Buddha was born a prince, wealthy and therefore full of posessions and materials. Around the age of 29 he decided he was not content with hs life and began his crusade for enlightenment by giving up his possesions and becoming a homeless and poor man. As you may already know, he found enlightenment and accepted his reality.

Just like Buddha's decision to seek enlightenment, the narrator in Fight Club gives up his possesion and materialistic needs when he blows up his condo. This is when his journey to happiness begins and the buddhist idea of the the teacher becomes incorporated into the movie. The narrator creates Tyler Durden, (his teacher), who's role is to destroy all of the narrator's social conditioned values to find out who he really is. In other words, Tyler destroy the narrator's societal veneer and allows him to see what is underneath.

At the end of the movie, the second idea of reaching enlightenment is introduced when the narrator reaches the point where he wants to get rid of Tyler, who is actually and illusion created by the narrator. He has to do this to accept responsibility and to become independent from those who he thinks he depends on. When the narrator realises that Tyler and himself share the same 'head' he puts a gun in his mouth and says "my eyes are open". This shows that he is aware of his actions and it could symbolise his illusion of his identity and and the world to have been destroyed. In other words, he says that he is ready to become enlightened and that he does not need Tyler, his teacher anymore.

To back my realtion of buddhism beliefs to Fight Club, the film can also be related to 'The Four Truths'. 'The Four Truths' are another buddhist idea about the path to enlightenment, and they are, suffering, realising your suffering, destroying your suffering and then to become enlightened. In 'Fight Club' the narrator suffers from insomnia and dicontent with his life. He realises this and attends groups to get rid of his insomnia. Finally, and underground boxing group gets rid of his suffering and when he goes through these stages and he reaches the end of the journey, Marla asks of his shot face, "Are you ok". He replies with sincerity, "I'm okay. Really, I'm okay". He reached enlightenment.

Aaron writes, "I really haven't studied Buddhism in great detail but I do know the big differences in some of the different countries. I know Zen is more individuality and attaining Nirvana through several years of meditations. Like I said why it may be Tibetan is because of the part at the Cancer portion when the Narrator confronts Marla on her "Tourism." I think I don't need to type it since you have seen it numerous times I am sure. It was the statement that "We are all dying" a Tibetan philosophical statement that everyday is a day of dying. To Tyler it was a different twist he thought to "hit bottom" we all must realize that we are dying whether you have ascending bowel cancer or just aging and living your life. To Tyler it didn't matter let it slide, that is how you attain Nirvana."

Tyler Durden (no, not that one... at least I don't think) also compares Fight Club to Buddhism: "Did anyone notice that there are eight rules of Fight Club. The basics of Buddist philosophy are defined in the eightfold path to enlightenment. I do not think this is a conincidence. The following I have taken from an internet resource on the teachings of buddism:

"Most people have heard of nirvana. It has become equated with a sort of eastern version of heaven. Actually, nirvana simply means cessation. It is the cessation of passion, aggression and ignorance; the cessation of the struggle to prove our existence to the world, to survive. One doesn't have to struggle to survive after all. One has already survived. One is surviving now, and the struggle was just an extra complication that one has added to one's life because one lost confidence in the way things are. One no longer needs to manipulate things as they are into things as one would like them to be.

I think the plot of Fight Club is rent with similar themes. That is why I think the 8 rules of Fight Club are an allusion to the eightfold path to enlightenment of Buddism."

Chris writes, "...on a recent flight, flipping through the magazines they provide to you, I found an article on zen [B]uddhism. It turns out that, as best as I can remember, in order to become a zen [B]uddhist you must wait outside the gates for [three] days with no food or water receiving what seems like indifference and neglect making it look like you'd never get in. After that if you pass they let you into their temple. Sound like a scene from [F]ight [C]lub? I thought so. It's [ties] to [B]uddhism are obvious. The [readings] I've done from spiritual [T]ibeten literatures make it apparent that some [of F]ight [C]lub's [metaphors] stem from traditional [B]uddhist philosophy -- redone into sort of an in your face [millennium] edition."

A. Grey adds, "I also feel the movie has many ties with Hinduism. It's a well known fact that Buddhism is used in the movie but Hinduism has extremely close relations to Buddhism. The whole aspect of shaving the head is a ver important component in Hinduism. Boys, around the age of 3 or 4 always get their heads shaved, which symbolizes the release from Karma that was accumulated from the life before. Tyler shaves his head near the end of the movie and gets members of Project Mayhem to do the same."


A. Grey went on to write a full essay on Fight Club and Hinduism. This essay was the winner of Slide's writing contest.

The movie Fight Club describes several themes through the dialogue and acting. The idea of Generation X and the idea of Male vs. Female is depicted quite well by both the narrator and Tyler. But the most prominent theme is religion and more specificallt Hinduism. Some may argue that the main religion that the movie focuses on is Buddhism, but they must remember that Buddhism originated from Hinduism. Buddha was in fact born a Hindu, and more specifically a Kashatriya (warrior class). Kashatriya is the second highest class behind Brahmin, which are priests and intelects. In the movie, Tyler seems vengeful towards the Brahmin class, which may include people with education and thus, higher paying jobs.

Hinduism is prevalent throughout the movie and is used to control the actions of Tyler. When Tyler begins Project Mayhem, he asks recruits to shave their heads, or cut it extremely short. In Hinduism, shaving your head is a sacred ceremony called Mundan that is carried out on very young boys, around the age of two or three. It represents a rebirth and the cutting of hair represents the release of karma accumulated in past lives. Throughout the movie, Tyler stresses the importance of letting go and letting things be. "You have to give up" is what Tyler tells the narrator and this desire causes the narrator to act the way he does. By cutting their air, the new recruits of Project Mayhem are becoming unattached to their lives before joing the terrorist group. They are beginning new lives and will attempt to remain unattached. For example, they have no names. This is because Tyler does not want the members to become attached. Notice also that Mundans are only carried ou t for men and that all members of Project Mayhem are men. Near the end of the movie, Tyler shows up in the narrator's room with a shaved head and dark glasses. The shaved head represents Tylers and the narrators rebirth as the truth has been realized and a "new" life has begun where the narrator fully understands what his dilemma is. The dark glasses, I should mention, represent darkness and illusion in Hinduism. The color black is associaed with fear and anger, as well as death, in Hinduism and by having Tyler look through the lens, he sees death.

The things that Tyler says and the quotes he recites are eerily similar to the sacred Hindu text, the Upanishads. In Hinduism, there are Vedas, which are texts that were written down by Rishis (sages) who recorded their encounters with God. There are a total of four Vedas and each Veda has four components: Brahmanas, Aranykas, Upanishads and Samhitas. The Upanishads is the most studied text by Hindu scholars and contains teachings and moral stories. It is interesting to note that Buddhists reject many components of Hindusim, including castes and rituals, but they do, however, believe in the Upanishads. The meaning of Upanishads is "sit near the teacher", which refers to the idea that a student must have close ties and respect for his teacher in order to gain the most knowledge. For the film, it is obvious that the teacher is Tyler while the narrator is the student. The narrator is obviously a bit unstable and is looking for someone to confide in him to gi ve him guidance, a la Tyler Durden. It is shown in the film that the narrator has a great deal of respect and admiration for Tyler and learns lots from him (how to create soap). The most interesting part about the quotes that Tyler used is that they are almost identical to the structure used in the Upanishads. In the Upanishads, the teacher tells the student when he is not in order to learn what he is: "You are not the tree that grows. You are not the roots of the tree. You are the life in the tree." (I should note that I have simplified the short text from the Upanishads to compare). In the movie Tyler reminds the narrator and the recriuts: You are not a unique and beautful snowflake....You are not your fucking khakis...We are all part of the same compost heap." As I mentioned earlier, the Upanishads is a Hindu text that has been included in Buddhism. The idea of karma, which I talked about earlier is also introduced in the Upanishads as well.

The ultimate goal for a devout Hindu is to achieve Moksha, which means liberation, from the world. Having attachments in the world binds a persons soul to the endless cycle of samsara (rebirth) thats is powered by a person's karma. We as humans should become attached to the material objects around us as it produces bad karma. In Fight Club, the narrator is seeking this release from his life as he finds that he is becoming too attached to the materials around him. An example is the Ikea catalogue scene where he describes his personal possessions in so much detail. The narrator even remembers the colors of his boss' ties and would know what day it is based on those observations: he used material objects to determine the events of his life. This is evidence that the narrator needed a major change in his life and he needed a teacher to help him. This teached, we know, is Tyler Durden. After destroying his possessions, he had a fresh start and a new life. "It i s only when you have lost everything, you are free to do anything." In the Bhagavadhgita, a Hindu epic, the main character is told, through an incarnation of Krishna (who is an incarnation of Vishnu), to fight a battle that he does not want to fight in order to preserve his kingdom. This main character is Arjuna, a prince, who feels that he can not fight because he is related to his enemies. Krishna tells him that to maintain the cosmic world, he must act without attachment. Krishna stresses that "If you act with no attachment, you are free to do anything without the worry of negative or positive karma....you must lose everything including attachments."

The movie Fight Club is my favorite movie and I enjoyed really analyzing the entire film, including all the themes involved. Hinduism is something that the director must have studied before making this film as many of the concepts portrayed are similar to the ideas of Hinduism. The ceremony of Mundan is reflected by Tyler as well as the Upanishads. These two concepts are extremely important in the film and are very important in Hinduism. The losing of attachments is shown in the film as something that is needed to achieve anything in life.