Hi Sangha and Friends
Last night’s Buddha Café film, A Serious Man, stood out on the store rack as a simple story of a man’s loss of faith and his grappling with the events that challenge him. It was that at least, and more. It begins with almost a cartoonish version of events in the lives of Larry’s Eastern European Jewish ancestors whose own doubts generate a family curse. Jumping ahead to Larry and family in 1960's suburban America, it follows a few days in Larry’s life that unfold the curse. In true Coen Brothers’ style, the screen is populated with a combination of odd-ball, grotesquely-recognizable characters from Larry’s routine life. From there we witness splinters of crises of mid-life, puberty, sexual awakening, career, adultery, Jews in America, religious leadership and, yes, faith.
What began as a comic curse unfolds as the fulfilment of that curse in and as the lives of all those around Larry. The narrative is far too complex to encapsulate, in fact that may be the true message of the film. The usual dramatic arc of American cinema is the resolution of some simple moral issue which plays out on the stage of some elaborated setting. This film innocently drops you into the incomprehensible flow of karma. Rather than a simple cause-and-effect morality tale, this cross-section of Larry’s life becomes the playing out of the mystery of interdependence. This is not a maudlin story of how “underneath it all we are connected” or cheesy example of “what goes around...”. That simplistic version of karma and interconnection has no place in this tale. We see a broad landscape where lives criss-cross, good and evil interchange in a blink and the arc becomes a kind of Indra’s Net where all lives impact each other. No one story drives the drama, no one character is fully redeemed or condemned. The film has no happy or unhappy ending, and in fact , as with karma, implies no ending at all. As with the Japanese Buddhist teaching directs, we view “the whole universe in an instant”.
.... in the Dharma, Innen, doshu