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Finding the Buddha's Light in Groundhog Day

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Finding the Buddha's Light in Groundhog Day “A good movie can take you out of your dull funk and the hopelessness that so often goes with slipping into a theatre; a good movie can make you feel alive again, in contact, not just lost in another city. Good movies make you care, make you believe in possibilities again” (Pauline Kael). What this American film critic said in her book illuminates a fact that a good movie does not just entertain people, but also let people learn some of life’s philosophies and enlightenments. It is easy to find philosophies and enlightenments in Groundhog Day, which caused a sensation in the early 1990s and is still popular today. Groundhog Day’s considerable success is about more than just the performance of the humorous and witty plot, but also demonstrates many of life’s philosophies to the audience. These philosophies shown in the film have an enormous resonance to the Buddhist concept that makes people glad to use this film to spread Buddhist philosophies. The key reason for Groundhog Day being a valuable instrument in the teaching of Buddhism is its relevance to the Buddhist philosophies of reincarnation, love, and self-salvation.
One key reason Groundhog Day is a valuable instrument in teaching Buddhism is its relevance to the Buddhist philosophy of reincarnation. One aspect of reincarnation in Buddhism is the endless cycle of life which is normally regarded as being reborn into a new existence after death, called Samsara in Buddhism. And Samsara is usually accompanied by Dhukka, which is the feeling of unsatisfactory and painfulness(Harvey). These abstract Buddhist concepts has been wondrously performed in the movie. Phil Connors, a self-centered weatherman who goes to the little town of Punxsutawney to report the Groundhog Day celebration, and is forced to relive the same day over and over. He can't escape or died, even after his numerous suicides. All that will happen is that Phil will be reborn into the same day, again and again. At the same time, in Phil’s endless rebirth, he experienced unsatisfactory and painful when he realized he cannot have Rita, as he received a slap on his face every day he tried. This caused him felt so depressed, he tried all the suicide methods he can think of. During all this, the movie muted the background music as a way to express Phil’s pain. But after he has done that, the day is still groundhog day, and Phil still has to face the same day again. Therefore, the film performed the Samsara and Dhukka parts in reincarnation. Another aspect of reincarnation of Buddhism can be viewed in the movie is that breaking the endless cycle to ones liberation. In Buddhist belief, people can free themselves from the endless cycle into nirvana. Just like CNN reporter David said: “Once ignorance and ego are destroyed by your actions and awareness, you awaken to the true, interconnected reality, which frees you from the cycle and into heavenly nirvana”(Allan). What David said means people can finally break out after they got enlightened. The same thing can found in the movie, after Phil repeated the same day countless times, he has awakened to the reality that he is not good enough for Rita as he is. Once Phil finally understood this, he set foot to improving himself and starts to eagerly greet each "new" day. A Buddhist teacher Robert explains Phil’s experiences in a way that people keep coming back until they get it right; when people get it right, then they will have a really great time. The great time people live with other beings in a really happy way, that is what Nirvana means (Wellman). What Phil gets, is actually Nirvana in Buddhist concept. He learns to accept his situation and finally gain his lover and breakthrough to his true self.
Groundhog Day being a valuable instrument in the teaching of Buddhism is also caused by its relevance to the Buddhist philosophy of love. Love has been divided into many aspects in Buddhist belief, and Groundhog Day performs two of them. One is self love, an important core teaching in Buddhism. Buddha taught people that they should love themselves before extending the love to others, that people must have the capacity to embrace themselves fully first (Evelyn). That means if one does not love oneself, it will be hard to love others. In the movie, Phil wants to seduce Rita , but has seen through by Rita, which then leads to an argument about love. In the argument, Phil confesses: “I don’t even like myself!” What Phil said reflects a fact that he cannot really love Rita because he does not even love himself. Phil’s change in attitude about self-love can also be found in the film. After he was enlightened by Rita when she first stay all night with him, he started to change. One way to love oneself is to enhance oneself. Phil begin to learn things he is interested in, like learn how to play the piano and ice sculpture. He forgives his past, and ceases to harms himself in an attempt to escape this loop. On the whole, Phil embodies the self-loving concept of Buddhism. The second type of love performed in Groundhogs day is loving the people around. In Buddhism, the most rewarding spiritual practice is to cultivate the ability to bring one’s love into all aspects of life and to all people one encountered. A person should learn how to include love's presence while speaking to others, and living with others (Fronsdal). This Buddhist Philosophy can be seen in the movie when Phil changed his attitude to the people around him. In his transformation, he begins to take coffee and breakfast to his workmates Larry and Rita, rather than the condescending way like before. He helped the old man by giving him money and takes him to a restaurant, not just turned a blind eye to him. He started changing from just trying to fulfill his own desires to doing things for other people. What Phil did just like the Buddhist philosophy that the more people one loves, the purer one’s love is, and the happier this person will be (Kadampa). Through his genuine caring and loving to the people around, Phil get people’s respect and feels gratified. Thus, the movie's express of love can be a valuable instrument to teach Buddhist love .
The most important reason for Groundhog Day being a valuable instrument in the teaching of Buddhism is its relevance to the Buddhist philosophy of self-salvation. First, the movie illustrates the self-salvation idea in Buddhism, in which the people can only rely on themselves for salvation. Buddhism believe that people should depend on themselves for their deliverance and emphasizing the importance of self-reliance and individual striving. Just like a Buddhist said: “To depend on others for salvation is negative, but to depend on oneself is positive" (Tassa). The same idea can be seen in Phil’s experience. Phil wants to find a way out of the loop by going to see a doctor and a psychologist first. After that failed, he turns to call transport agency and asked for a prerogative to send him back to his city. But that all ends in vain because relying on other people is useless, one's initial change is the key out. After Phil tried many methods to find the way out, he awakened to the fact that only thing he can do is to change himself, using his own power to save himself. Finally, he used his personal charm to get Rita’s love in one day and got the breakthrough he deserved. Secondly, the self-salvation in Buddhism can be found in the movie is redemption through suffering and unremitting efforts. Buddhism believes salvation is redemption through suffering. This redemption builds on one’s actions or doing, called Karma in Buddhism. So the first thing people going to face during the way to redemption is suffering. As the movie shows , the countless days Phil experienced can be considered as suffering, for it is hard to let a normal person stay in a situation like this and remain resolute. Director Harold Ramis estimated on the DVD that he had spent around 10 years in Punxsatawney, while a reporter in Metro estimated that Bill spent a whopping 12,395 days reliving that infamous February 2nd, or to put it in simpler terms, 33 years and 350 days(Westbrook). This amazing statistics shows the days Phil lived in Groundhog day. It looks easy to stay in a day for 10 more days, but for such a long time to stay in the same place, same event, it can be seen as suffering. The second thing people are going to face during the way to redemption is unremitting efforts. It is the Buddhism belief called Karma, to explains it with an analogy is what people reap today is what their have sown either in the present or in the past (Sayadaw). The same can be found in the movie that after Phil abandoned his arrogant, self-centered, and self-loathing, he try to save himself through changing his thought and actions. Then he gains all people’s love and is considered as a hero. He developed himself skills and rescued locals who are in trouble, over and over again. He used his actions to show his initial change, that reflected the Buddhism belief of Karma. In the same way like Karma, he gains his happy ending. As he becomes the best possible version of Phil Connors, Phil is released from his temporal prison, while simultaneously winning Rita’s love(Allan). That shows Phil finally get his redemption. Therefore, Groundhog Day full demonstrates the Buddhist philosophy of self-salvation.
The movie Groundhog Day shown its relevance to the Buddhism philosophies of reincarnation, love and self-salvation, thus making it a valuable instrument in the teaching of Buddhism. These performances can make someone learning Buddhism to have a deeper comprehension of the concepts of Buddhism through watching the movie. Also it provides a lively demonstration of the obstruct Buddhist philosophies to the audience who wants to understand Buddhism. Based on the meaning of the instruments, Groundhog Day can be not only a successful comedy film, but also a timeless classic for its value in inspiration to learning Buddhism.

Works cited

Kael, Pauline. The Age of Movies: Selected Writings of Pauline Kael. Ed. Sanford Schwartz. United States: Library of America, 2014. Print.
Harvey, Peter. An Introduction to Buddhism: Teachings, History and Practices. 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012. Print.
Wellman, Laurel. A Buddhist on good, evil and Gibson. SFGate, 17 Mar. 2004. Web. 24 July 2016.
Allan, David G. "'Groundhog Day,' the Buddhist Lifehacker Movie." CNN. Cable News Network, 30 Mar. 2016. Web. 18 July 2016.
Evelyn. "Self Love Series: Love Yourself Teachings By Buddha." Abundance Tapestry RSS. N.p., 17 May 2011. Web. 24 July 2016.
Fronsdal Gil, "The Buddha's Teachings on Love." Insight Meditation Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 July 2016.
Kadampa. “What is love? ”Kadampa Meditation Center. Buddhism & Meditation Classes in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.
Tassa, Namo. “Buddhism in a nutshell - the Buddha.” buddhanet. n.d. Web. 25 July 2016.
Westbrook, Caroline. “This Is How Many Days Bill Murray’s Character Actually Spent in Groundhog Day.” Entertainment. Metro.co.uk, 2 Feb. 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.
Sayadaw, Mahasi. “Basic Buddhism: The theory of Karma.” buddhanet. n.d. Web. 24 July 2016.
Filmography
Ramis, Harold (1993) Groundhog Day, USA.…...

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