"Stark" Dharma from "Iron Man"?

by Shen Shi'an, The Buddhist Channel, May 12, 2008

Dharma-Inspired Movie Review: http://ironmanmovie.marvel.com

Singapore -- Near the opening of the film, weapons inventor Tony Stark (played by Robert Downey Jr.) comments that "Peace means having a bigger stick than the other guy." Nope - he is not anti-peace; though that train of thought wasn't very pro-peace either! This is obvious as he made big bucks from selling some of these "big sticks" - of missiles and such - innovative but lethal "peace-keeping" weapons... of mass destruction!

However, as the story advances, his arrogance fades away - when he is attacked and kidnapped by terrorists, who use the very same but black-marketed weapons he made. A karmic case in point - of reaping results of carelessly sown seeds of violence. Weapons, like knives, cut both ways - depending on whose hands they fall upon. But the hateful would always seek underhand means to procure weapons for furthering their ill intentions.

Probably as such, the Buddha considered trade in weaponry as an unskilful livelihood. What about for defense instead of offense? Well, it gets vague when a "good" offense is argued to be the "best" defense. It is thus kinder and wiser for the world to persuade nations to disarm themselves, than to create needless tension by making increasingly powerful weapons that point at one another. Are the best weapons those never fired? I prefer no weapons at all.    

Stark was saved by a man who asked him not to waste his life. He extends this wish by saving others' lives. From his nationalistic and capitalistic ideal of "ensuring freedom and protecting American interests" in the movie, Stark's conscience in the comics awakened to the greater need of protecting the entire planet's common interests when he takes on the persona of Iron Man. This was inevitable, perhaps due to the interconnected international chaos that arose from weapon trade - be it his or others'!

Stark's creation of Iron Man, which is essentially a super-mobile armour armed to the teeth with cutting age technology, was made for inspiring both fear and respect. As he earlier quipped, "Is it better to be feared or respected? And I'd say, 'Is it too much to ask for both?'" Even fear is useful at times, as a skilful means to deter the intensely evil from doing more evil. Think the wrathful manifestation of Bodhisattvas!

Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of Iron Man is how he is portrayed to use swift violence - to fight fire with fire, which "terrorises" terrorists in return. Can they learn or repent by being killed? Unlikely. Another problem with weapon technology is not just the race to advance it, but that it can be replicated - by enemies - as in the case of the Iron Monger, who became his prime enemy. Reason again - for the world to renounce weaponry, difficult as it might be!
Badly injured, Stark became physically weak without his original armour - which helped to sustain his life. It was his personal protection, his shield from external and internal harm. But this protection was so strong, so powerful, that he further developed it to protect others from harm too. Without his altruism, his armour would merely be something that kept others out, instead of being an instrument for connecting positively with them.

Iron Man's armour reminds us of this teaching by Shantideva - "One can never remove all thorns from the world, nor cover the entire world with leather to make it seem less thorny. However, by covering one's own foot with a leather sandal, it is as though all the world has been covered with soft leather, and all thorns removed." (That's just an analogy - it's kinder to use faux leather to reduce animal exploitation!) The ultimate protective "leather" or armour of the mind is of course compassion and wisdom - not just for oneself, but for all.

Sleek and shiny, menacing yet elegant, the solemn unchanging "expression" on the mask of Iron Man is surprisingly "versatile". With the appropriate bodily gestures, it can speak volumes - ranging from cool calmness to fiery rage. Just as it is the mind that operates the suit which determines what it truly expresses, the mind of the audience decides what it implies too. What do you see in Iron Man? Part of yourself perhaps?

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

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 and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

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: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. 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: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. 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: editor@buddhistchannel.tv