ヨーダの教えに窺える東洋思想 Eastern Thought Underlying Yoda’s Teachings



“And well you should not, for my ally is the Force. And a powerful ally it is. Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock—everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship.”



These famous lines are uttered by the Jedi master Yoda, and whether or not you’re a Star Wars fan, I’m sure many of you have heard this dialogue at some point. In the film, Yoda utters these words to Luke in attempt to get him to recognize the Force in all things and embrace its power. It’d be no exaggeration to say that this lesson Yoda imparts to Luke has taken on a Biblical status in Western countries today. Speaking through Yoda, this scene pretty much lays out the philosophy underlying the doctrine of the Force in Star Wars. I never really contemplated the origins of this philosophy before I came to Japan. However, as I studied the religious thought and worldview that is vividly reflected within Japanese culture and art, I came to realize the profound undertones of Eastern intellectual thought within the Force doctrine.




The main religion of ancient Japan is referred to as “Old Shinto”, a system of beliefs centered around nature worship that formed the basis of present day “Shrine-based Shinto”. The 6-7th centuries saw the introduction of Buddhism and other religions from the continent via torai-jin, the Japanese term used to refer to immigrants from mainly the Korean peninsula. Naturally the introduction of these foreign-born religions gave rise to friction with Shinto, but Japan ultimately elected the path of accommodation and fusion rather than outright rejection and exclusion. This casserole of religions that came to coexist in Japan not only included Shinto and Buddhism, but also Taoism. I believe the quote by Master Yoda at the beginning of this post reflects elements of all three of these religions. Here I will take a look at each and how they relate to the doctrine of the Force in Star Wars.



まず、日本にて一番長い歴史を持つ神道から検証します。神道には「依代・憑代 (よりしろ)」という考え方があります。それは、あらゆる物に精霊などのマナ(外来魂)が宿ると考える自然崇拝の宗教観の表れです。多くの神社の境内に見られる大きな神木がその考え方を象徴します。この神木は、榊や梛木(なぎ)のような革厚で光沢のある葉を持つ常緑の広葉樹であり、そこに神が降臨して依り憑くと信じられています。要するに、神聖かつ神秘的な力が宿るものを意味します。これはヨーダがいう自然なものに存在する(宿る)フォースのことと連想するではないかと思います。また、ジェダイ寺院の中庭に立派に聳え立つ「フォースの樹」のイメージも思い浮かべます。その名称の意味通りに、その樹にはフォースが宿り、まさに神道における依代との考え方に重ねます。

The first we have is Shinto, which is the oldest religion in Japan. One concept that is present in Shinto is the idea of yori-shiro. This concept is rooted in nature worship, and expresses the belief that supernatural power in the form of gods, spirits, or souls (collectively known as mana) can inhabit all things. The large sacred trees seen on the grounds of many shrines are a representation of this idea. Divinities are believed to descend and inhabit these trees, which are usually a type of flowering evergreen or Asian bayberry tree with thick bark and glossy leaves. That’s basically what yori-shiro is all about; the idea of a sacred and mystical power that dwells within things. This is seemingly reflected within what Master Yoda says when he describes how the Force exists (resides) within natural objects. Another image that comes to mind is the stately “Force Tree” that stood in the inner garden of the Jedi Temple. Just as the name implies, the Force was said to dwell within this tree, which coincides nicely with the Shinto concept of yori-shiro.




The vestiges of Daoism also become apparent when we apply the filter of Eastern philosophy to this famous quote of Yoda. This point is discussed to great length on a blog post that I have previously read. One thing the article points out is the striking resemblance between the notion of Ki within Daoism and the Force. Daoism supposedly emerged from the thought of Laozi, a philosopher in ancient China. However, much of Laozi’s life is enveloped by legend and mystery, and the truth is not much is known about him. Bearing that in mind, the article contains the following quote attributed to Laozi:



“The way gives rise to Ki, virtue causes it to accumulate, objects give it form, and momentum generates it. Given this, all things under Heaven cherish virtue, with none forsaking the way. The respect for the way and loftiness of virtue are not preordained. They simply exist because they are naturally occurring. This is why the way gives rise to Ki, why virtue nourishes it, causes it to grow, nurtures it, encompasses it, refines it, cultivates it, and enshrouds it. Though virtue also emanates from within us, it is not ours to possess. While it underscores our deeds, we are not to boast of them. This virtue continually matures, yet never reaches full fruition. This is what we consider to be pure virtue.”




When I read this passage to attributed to Laozi, the first thing that came to mind was the relationship between the Living Force and the Cosmic Force. Serenity, one of the Force Priestesses, described the nature of the Force in the following manner to Yoda when he came to the home world of the midichlorians: “Life passes from the Living Force into the Cosmic Force and becomes one with it. One powers the other. One is renewed by the other." These words resemble what Laozi says in the passage above in describing the origins of Ki: “The way gives rise to Ki, virtue causes it to accumulate, objects give it form, and momentum generates it.” Here Laozi mentions both the way and virtue, but they are essentially referring to the same thing and can be interpreted as thus. Even more interesting is that the two kanji used to create the word “virtue” in Japanese, “道徳 (do-toku)” are the same as the characters used to refer to the way (道, do) and virtue (徳, toku). Now when we compare what Master Yoda says to a despondent Luke on Dagobah to the words of Laozi, we find a striking parallel. “Life creates it, makes it grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us” seemingly echoes the interrelationship to which Laozi alludes: “the way gives rise to Ki… virtue nourishes it, causes it to grow… encompasses it… cultivates it, and enshrouds it.”



最後は仏教の面影です。あの名シーンの邦訳は非常に興味深い言葉が用いられて、その言葉は仏教に基づいた世界観を仄めかします。その言葉はヨーダがルークにいうセリフの最後に登場します:「ここにも、お前と儂のにも、あの木にも、岩にも。どこにもある。そう、陸地とあの船のにもじゃ。 」ここに注目が惹きつけるのは「間(あいだ)」というたった一文字で成り立つ言葉です。「間(あいだ)」を英語にしますと「space」や 「space between」という意味になりますが、その意味を成す別の読み方「ま」もあります。日本の歴史・文化・思想史を長年に渡って研究してきた松岡正剛はこの「間(ま)」という言葉の意味は歴史の流れに伴って変遷してきたと指摘します。“上代および古代初期においては、「間」は最初のうちは「あいだ」を指す言葉ではなかった。もともと「ま」という言葉は「真」という字があてられていた。「真」という言葉は、真剣とか真理とか真相とかというふうに使われるように、究極的な真なるものをさしていたのです。”

Finally we come to the visages of Buddhism within Yoda’s thoughts. The Japanese translation of that scene employs a pretty profound word that evokes a world view rooted in Buddhist thought. This word comes up in the final part of what Yoda says to Luke: “Koko ni mo, omae to washi no aida () ni mo, ano ki ni mo, iwa ni mo. Doko ni mo aru. Sou, rikuchi to ano fune no aida () ni mo ja (Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock—everywhere. Yes, even between the land and the ship).” The Japanese word that caught my attention consists of the single character read as aida (間). The word aida can be translated into English as “space” or “the space (between)”, but that same character can also be read as ma. Seigo Matsuoka—a scholar that has devoted his entire career to the study of Japanese history, culture, and intellectual thought—points out how the meaning of ma has changed over the course of history. “In ancient times and early antiquity the word ma (間) did not imply the meaning of aida (space, space between). Instead, the kanji character originally used for ma was 真. This character implies the meaning expressed in words such as 真剣 (“shinken”, or “earnest, solemn, sincere”), 真理 (“shinri”, or “(a) truth), and 真相 (“shinso”, or “(the) truth''). In short, the word ma conveyed the idea of some ultimate truth.”



仏教においてその究極的な真なるものを挙げますと般若心経が唱える「色即是空」という真理です。つまり、この世界は「空(くう)」であるとのことです。この「空(くう)」を直訳しますと「empty」や「void」となりますが、なんかいまいちの訳になり、それで空が指す意味がなかなか訳出されないと拙僧が思います。この文脈において空が指すのは「概念」であり、その概念がないことを理解しますと見方が180度転換します。つまり、我が見るすべてが実態を持たない「概念」に過ぎず、その概念から解かれるとこの世界は常に移ろいでいることに気づきます。これはまさにヨーダがいう「You must unlearn what you have learned (今まで学んできたことを念頭から払う必要がある)」のことです。陸地とX-wingの間は「空」でもありますが、そこにフォースが常に移ろいでいて、流れています。その流れには形は無い、だからそのフォースに対して概念に囚われて見てはいけないとヨーダがルークに諭そうとしています。遂にルークがその真理に悟りますと、繰り広げる空(そら)の如くフォースの無限さを理解できて、その時まで足枷となっていた概念から解放されます。

The ultimate truth within Buddhism is expressed by the four kanji construct in the Heart Sutra: “色即是空 (shiki soku ze kuu, or “all form is emptiness”). The last character of this construct, 空 (kuu), implies that all things in this world are without form. This is a tricky character to translate into English, for a literal translation churns out words like “empty” and “void”, both of which fail to fully convey the idea of kuu. The word kuu in this context is used in reference to “concepts” or “ideas”, and the fact that we must realize they do not exist. Once we understand this, we can see the world in an entirely different light. In short, everything that we see is nothing more than “concepts” that have no substance or entity. When we break free from these concepts, we come to see that the world is transitory, in a state of constant change. This liberation from concepts is what Yoda means when he tells Luke that “you must unlearn what you have learned.” The space between the X-wing and the shore may be just that… nothing but open space. However, therein flows the Force, and it is transitory in nature. That flow has no form, which is what Yoda admonishes Luke to realize. One must not look at the Force while still held captive to concepts. Luke eventually arrives at this truth and comes to understand that much like the sky that spreads overhead, the Force is equally expansive and unbound. This realization frees him from the shackles of concepts that had previously stifled his understanding.



Admittedly, it is difficult to ascertain whether Lucas himself infused this depth of meaning within this cosmic saga that he created. That said, new discoveries await those who change their vantage point when examining Star Wars. I believe this is a testament to the universality inherent within the Star Wars saga, and what makes repeat viewings of the films all the more worthwhile.