Not "Dan in Real Life"?

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, Jan 24, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review:

Singapore -- In "Dan in Real Life", Dan (played by Steve Carell) faced the worldly "koan-like" dilemma of deciding between loyalty to family and love - when he realised he had fallen in love with Marie (played by Juliette Binoche), who is the new girlfriend of his brother Mitch (played by Dan Cook).

His "falling" happened without prior knowledge of a potential love triangle, which made him even more confused - as it implied the genuineness of his feelings. It is said that there are broadly three kinds of "love" - the love in friendship, in kinship and in the lovey-dovey sense of the word....

In Buddhism, there is another kind of love - the friendly love of all beings as if they are kin. Having been reborn countless times already, we are surely kin, or have been kin to one another, at one point or another. This is universal loving-kindness (wish for happiness of others) - which can extend to include compassion (action to remove suffering for others), appreciative joy (rejoice in happiness of others) and equanimity (seeing of all as equally deserving of unconditional love).

Struggling with the opposite alternatives of pursuing or renouncing his new-found love, Dan's pressure builds up to become mild aversion, before becoming spiteful jealousy. This is understandably human.

Like most of us, the love we have for another, which we think is true, is simply not true enough - yet. If one's love is true, it would never ever mutate to become hate - not even in the slightest sense for the slightest instance. Dan would even rejoice in Marie's happiness with Mitch - without a tinge of bitterness or disappointment. How noble would that be!
The challenge then, is to transform our limited worldly love for a few to be immeasurable spiritual love for all. Why should physical connection (and thus sexual contact) be "crucial" in love? Why must love be "to have and to hold"? Is it due to lust and attachment? Isn't that conditional love? Worldly love offers but temporal refuge, while spiritual love offers lasting refuge. In fact, the four sublime states of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity are collectively called the "divine abodes" (Brahma Viharas) - they are truly timeless sanctuaries - virtues to be rested within.
A special one-liner was uttered in the film - "Love is not a feeling - it's an ability." As Buddhist teacher Sharon Salzberg comments (from her blog at, "If we see love as a feeling, it is almost like a commodity – and [it is] likely we will judge it all the time – 'I don’t have enough, it's not the right feeling, it's not intense enough, it's too intense…'

But if love is an ability, there is nothing to judge. As an ability, love isn’t destroyed in the ravages of time and loss, insecurity or disappointment. As an ability, love is always there, ready to flourish and help our lives flourish. As conditions come together for anything to come into existence, always within there is the ability of love, recognised or not, given life or not."

Despite being a columnist who shares advice for relationship problems, Dan realised he failed to practise what he preached. As Stonepeace put it, "The giver of advice to others is not always the taker of one's own advice." Good advice is still good advice though, even if not taken - by others or oneself! The story ends a little too abruptly and conveniently - when Mitch discovers the love triangle and falls out with Dan, who follows his heart to pursue Marie, who accepts his love, while the fickle Mitch falls in love with another girl shortly after.

Is "real life" so simple? What happened to the need for an open honest discussion of the problem? Falling in and out of love so easily, Mitch probably did not really know what was true love either? His relationship with Marie could have been mere infatuation? The fact that we fall in and out of love both within this life, and life after life, also hints that our love with(in) Samsara is mere infatuation. Who do we really love? Is it ultimately ourselves? If so, it is probably the reason why we are still in Samsara - because we have yet to master the art of selfless and boundless true love.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: