*Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#1
I’m posting this thread in the latest episode discussion, but hopefully with the help of the moderators it can be moved to an appropriate place afterward, or be moved into subsequent episode threads along with the “Tony’s Potential Change” thread.

The primary reason I’m creating this thread is that I feel this season’s Eastern influence – which I feel is of key importance to both the show’s philosophy and the season’s plot – has not been discussed nearly enough. Hopefully this will provide an opportunity to revisit the Seven Souls, the Finnerty sequence and the overarching Buddhist and other philosophical Eastern themes and concepts, all of which have continued relevance as this story progresses.

Below I’ve pasted the Burroughs text (along with the characters I believe are associated with each “soul”; feel free to discuss, dispute or correct these connections) and outside information on the seven souls of Egyptian mythology, as well as online material on Buddhist concepts that I feel are important to this season: the Four Noble Truths, Anatman, Karma, Samsara, Nirvana, and the Noble Eight-Fold Path. Aside from the monks, their lawsuit (pure karma), and several other Buddhist references, something that has tipped me off to Chase’s possible intention is the odd numbers of this season and the “bonus” episodes – 12 and 8. I think this season as a whole may be a meditation on samsara and its Twelve Links of Dependent Origination, while the final 8 could represent the Noble Eight-Fold Path or its inverse. See the section on Samsara below, the stages of which may be linked to themes or events in the episodes we’ve seen thus far.

I doubt Chase fully subscribes or is adhering strictly to any of these concepts, but I think it’s fair to say that in the wake of Tony’s NDE, we are seeing him moving from ignorance toward enlightenment, evolving (or attempting to evolve) from selfishness and evil deeds into a larger recognition of the universe, his place in it and his duty toward others. Whether he ever gets there or returns to a cycle of ignorance and serial karmic disturbance will determine the fate of his body and soul.

I think the “Seven Souls” idea ties into the deliberate contrasts to Tony that have defined each episode thus far (in order: Eugene, Finnerty, Silvio, Paulie, Johnny Sac, Vito, Artie, and A.J.), each character potentially representing a part of Tony’s personality, a fragment of his soul, a potential path for his character, or all of the above. In this way, even the less “Tony-centric” episodes actually ARE about Tony, who according to the religious beliefs of the monks and the metaphysical principles of Hal Holbrook’s scientist is defined equally by what he was, is not and will be. This is all open to interpretation, and I sincerely hope people offer their own. More to follow.


</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#2
Burroughs – Seven Souls

The ancient Egyptians postulated seven souls: (the “subject” is TONY SOPRANO)

-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in. (No direct character association, but I assume it’s CHASE himself, or perhaps KEVIN FINNERTY)
-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons. (EUGENE PONTECORVO)
-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she, or it is third man out . . . depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense – but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go beck to Heaven for another vessel. (MEADOW)

The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the Land of the Dead (for our purposes, THE MAFIA).

-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Number four is Ba, the heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk's body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba. (RAYMOND CURTO, or possibly VITO)
-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Number five is Ka, the Double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands. (A.J.)
-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives. (ADRIANNA)
-&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains. (JUNIOR, or possibly CARMELA)


The following is what follows in Burroughs’ book; it’s a mixture of nonsense with potentially helpful information bolded. Particularly noteworthy are some of the concepts (cancer, AIDS, rats, the mafia itself) which have been referenced by characters implicitly or directly:


Ren, the Director, the Secret Name, is your life story, your destiny – in one word or one sentence, what was your life about? Nixon: Watergate. Billy the Kid: Quien es? And what is the Ren of the Director? Actors frantically packing in thousands of furnished rooms and theatrical hotels: "Don't bother with all that junk, John. The Director is on stage! And you know what that means in show biz: every man for himself."

Sekem corresponds to my Technician: Lights. Action. Camera. ' "Look, boss, we don't got enough Sek to fry an elderly woman in a fleabag hotel fire. And you want a hurricane?" "Well, Joe, we'll just have to start faking it" "Fucking moguls don't even know what buttons to push or what happens when you push them. Sure; start faking it and leave the details to Joe." Look, from a real disaster you get a pig of Sek: sacrifice, tears, heartbreak, heroism and violent death. Always remember, one case of VD yields more Sek than a cancer ward. And you get the lowest acts of which humans are capable – remember the Italian steward who put on women's clothes and so filched a seat in a lifeboat? "A cur in human shape, certainly he was born and saved to set a new standard by which to judge infamy and shame." With a Sek surplus you can underwrite the next one, but if the first one's a fake you can't underwrite a shithouse. Sekem is second man out: “No power left in this set.” He drinks a bicarbonate of soda and disappears in a belch.

Lots of people don't have a Khu these days. No Khu would work for them. Mafioso Don: "Get offa me, Khu crumb! Worka for a living!" Ba, the Heart: that's sex. Always treacherous. Suck all the Sek out of a man. Many Bas, have poison juices. The Ka is about the only soul a man can trust. If you don't make it, he don't make it. But it is very difficult to contact your real Ka. Sekhu is the physical body, and the planet is mostly populated with walking Sekhus, just enough Sek to keep them moving. The Venusian invasion is a takeover of the souls. Ren is degraded by Hollywood down to John Wayne levels. Sekem works for the Company. The Khus are all transparent fakes. The Bas is rotten with AIDS. The Ka is paralyzed. Khaibit sits on yon like a nagging wife. Sekhu is poisoned with radiation and contaminants and cancer.

There is intrigue among the souls, and treachery. No worse fate can befall a man than to be surrounded by traitor souls. And what about Mr. Eight-Ball, who has these souls? They don't exist without him, and he gets the dirty end of every stick. Eights of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your dirty rotten vampires: A hundred years ago there were rat-killing dogs known as "Fancies." A man bet on his "Fancy," how many rats he would kill. The rats were confined in a circular arena too high for a rat to jump over. But they formed pyramids, so that the top rats could escape. Sekhu is bottom rat in the pyramid. Like the vital bottom integer in a serial, when that goes, the whole serial universe gone up in smoke. It never existed. Angelic boys who walk on water, sweet inhuman voices from a distant star. The Khu, sweet -bird of night, with luminous wings and a head of light, flies across the full moon . . . a born-again redneck raise's his shotgun. . . . "Stinkin' Khu!"

The Egyptians recognized many degrees of immortality. The Ren and the Sekem and the Khu are relatively immortal, but still subject to injury. The other souls who survive physical death are much more precariously situated. Can any soul survive the searing fireball of an atomic blast? If humans and animal souls are seen as electromagnetic force fields, such fields could be totally disrupted by a nuclear explosion. The mummy's nightmare: disintegration of souls, and this is precisely the ultrasecret and supersensitive function of the atom bomb: a Soul Killer, to alleviate an escalating soul glut.

</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#3
Four Noble Truths

At the core of the Buddha’s enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths:

1)&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Buddha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth.
2)&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance.
3)&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment.
4)&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.

Anatman

Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of five aggregates or “bundles” (skandhas): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary combination of these aggregates, which are subject to continual change. No one remains the same for any two consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul (atman). Indeed, they regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the elements that constitute an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent soul. He felt that all existence is characterized by the three marks of anatman (no soul), anitya (impermanence), and dukkha (suffering). The doctrine of anatman made it necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to life—in effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration.



</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#4
Dependent Origination

One way to understand the suffering nature of samsara is to meditate on the gradual evolution of the twelve links of dependent origination, (Skt: pratitya samutpada; Tib: ten-drel. chu-nyi) as Guru Shakyamuni showed. This is represented by the symbolic drawing of the wheel of life, (Skt: samsaracakra; Tib: sib-pe-k’or-lo) also called the circle of the twelve dependent originations. It is held in the mouth of the Lord of Death, showing how all beings who live in the six realms of samsara are controlled by impermanence and death. The wheel is also supported by his hands and feet, symbolizing how these beings are trapped by true suffering and the true cause of suffering—delusion and karma.

Most sentient beings are suffering in this circle of interdependent origination. Its root is ignorance, which is the complete opposite of the Dharma wisdom that perceives the absolute reality. The twelve links are:
(1) ignorance or unawareness, which imagines self and the world to have intrinsic existence;
(2) conditioning, the karmic forces that ripen in the ground of ignorance from seeds sown in previous lives and form the conditioning factors of the next life;
(3) consciousness, arising from conditioning, which carries the sense of self and operates through the mind and senses;
(4) name and form, the totality of an individual’s mental and physical constituents;
(5) the six senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mental faculty;
(6) contact, the meeting of the senses with their objects;
(7) feeling, the positive or negative sensations aroused by contact;
(<img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/glasses.gif ALT="8)"> thirst, the desire to possess or avoid these sensations;
(9) grasping, the physical, verbal or mental action that follows thirst;
(10) existence or becoming, the coming into existence that results from grasping;
(11) birth, manifesting in one of the six realms;
(12) decay and death, the process of aging and passing away that inevitably follows birth.

The circle of the twelvefold chain is continuous, a self-contained system without beginning or end. At death we fall back into ignorance and start all over again. The whole cycle can be contemplated in reverse order, starting with death and tracing its causes back to ignorance. Although the links appear sequentially, they may also be seen as interconnected, simultaneous, and mutually dependent. The wheel is a schematic picture, designed to demonstrate the conditioned and relative nature of apparent existence, while exposing sentient beings’ intense attachment and habituation to the causes of suffering.

For significant as life and death may seem, genuine as suffering is, and seriously as we must regard the law of karma, as long as we remain within samsara, nothing produced by interdependent origination has ultimate reality. It is an illusion appearing from ignorance, whose nature is the error of belief in self. Since it has never existed it cannot be destroyed. It is dispelled only by the wisdom of non-self. Transcending both existence and nonexistence, it is self-liberated into emptiness, the vast openness of space beyond conceptual thought.


</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#6
<blockquote>Quote:<hr>- Top soul, and the first to leave at the moment of death, is Ren, the Secret Name. This corresponds to my Director. He directs the film of your life from conception to death. The Secret Name is the title of your film. When you die, that's where Ren came in. (No direct character association, but I assume it’s CHASE himself, or perhaps KEVIN FINNERTY)
- Second soul, and second one off the sinking ship, is Sekem: Energy, Power, Light. The Director gives the orders, Sekem presses the right buttons. (EUGENE PONTECORVO)
- Number three is Khu, the Guardian Angel. He, she, or it is third man out . . . depicted as flying away across a full moon, a bird with luminous wings and head of light. The Khu is responsible for the subject and can be injured in his defense – but not permanently, since the first three souls are eternal. They go beck to Heaven for another vessel. (MEADOW)

The four remaining souls must take their chances with the subject in the Land of the Dead (for our purposes, THE MAFIA).

- Number four is Ba, the heart, often treacherous. This is a hawk's body with your face on it, shrunk down to the size of a fist. Many a hero has been brought down, like Samson, by a perfidious Ba. (RAYMOND CURTO, or possibly VITO)
- Number five is Ka, the Double, most closely associated with the subject. The Ka, which usually reaches adolescence at the time of bodily death, is the only reliable guide through the Land of the Dead to the Western Lands. (A.J.)
- Number six is Khaibit, the Shadow, Memory, your whole past conditioning from this and other lives. (ADRIANNA)
- Number seven is Sekhu, the Remains. (JUNIOR, or possibly CARMELA)<hr></blockquote>


My take on the seven souls/character association were:
1 - Ren - Kevin Finnerty
2 - Sekem - Christopher
3 - Khu - Meadow

4 - Ba - Junior or Livia
5 - Ka - AJ
6 - Khaibit - Junior or Livia
7 - Sekhu - Carmela

Any thoughts? Obviously Livia is the only one here who doesnt appear in this season, which I thought tied in quite nicely with the "conditioning from this and other lives". But on the other hand would tie in with the treachery that almost destroyed 'our subject'. Similarly both Ba and Khaibit could apply to Junior, for similar reasons, the hit and the shooting as the "treachery", but also his position in Tony's life as a sort of surrogate father (esp in childhood) - and at least before the onset of his alzeimhers/dementia - as the "heart" and "past conditioning". I'm split on these two.

</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#7
I am sorry, but I will have to wait for the movie version of this thread.

Carry on.

This response offers absolutely nothing to the discussion started in this thread. Please do not feel the need to add a sarcastic response towards anothers hard work. Consider this a warning.<img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/smile.gif ALT=":)">

</p>Edited by: <A HREF=http://p098.ezboard.com/bthechaselounge.showUserPublicProfile?gid=detectivehunt>Detective Hunt</A> at: 5/2/06 12:06 pm

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#8
This is fascinating stuff, De Novo, and thank you for starting this thread. I was taken by your suggestion that the numbers 12 and 8 were more meaningful than say, what HBO was able to get out of Chase.<img src=http://www.ezboard.com/images/emoticons/wink.gif ALT=";)"> And when looking at the listing of the 12 parts of dependent origination, it becomes clear that each are at least partly being used as a premise for each episode. You listed:

<blockquote>Quote:<hr>Most sentient beings are suffering in this circle of interdependent origination. Its root is ignorance, which is the complete opposite of the Dharma wisdom that perceives the absolute reality. The twelve links are:
(1) ignorance or unawareness, which imagines self and the world to have intrinsic existence;
(2) conditioning, the karmic forces that ripen in the ground of ignorance from seeds sown in previous lives and form the conditioning factors of the next life;
(3) consciousness, arising from conditioning, which carries the sense of self and operates through the mind and senses;
(4) name and form, the totality of an individual’s mental and physical constituents;
(5) the six senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mental faculty;
(6) contact, the meeting of the senses with their objects;
(7) feeling, the positive or negative sensations aroused by contact;
(8 ) thirst, the desire to possess or avoid these sensations;
(9) grasping, the physical, verbal or mental action that follows thirst;
(10) existence or becoming, the coming into existence that results from grasping;
(11) birth, manifesting in one of the six realms;
(12) decay and death, the process of aging and passing away that inevitably follows birth.<hr></blockquote>

And we have seen:

(1) ignorance or unawareness, which imagines self and the world to have intrinsic existence - Member's Only where Tony seemingly has regressed or returned to some form of ignorance regarding his life.

(2) conditioning, the karmic forces that ripen in the ground of ignorance from seeds sown in previous lives and form the conditioning factors of the next life - Join the Club in which Tony sees himself as Finnerty and his early NDE begins to perhaps "condition" him for possible awareness.

(3) consciousness, arising from conditioning, which carries the sense of self and operates through the mind and senses - Mayham in which Tony regains consciousness literally while also becoming more aware of his Finnerty self.

(4) name and form, the totality of an individual’s mental and physical constituents - The Fleshy Part of the Thigh in which Paulie learns he is not who he is, which doubles somewhat with Tony's own past mother issues (I'm sure there is more to be culled from this episode).

(5) the six senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and mental faculty - Mr. and Mrs. Johnny Sacrimoni Request in which we see, hear, etc. much at the wedding of JS's daughter, and then end on a note of sure physical sensation - the puking after Tony attempts to maintain his place as strong. (This one is tenuous, I admit).

(6) contact, the meeting of the senses with their objects - Live Free or Die in which Vito certainly makes contact with that which he desires, though how it was manifested in Tony himself, I cannot yet see.

(7) feeling, the positive or negative sensations aroused by contact - Luxery Lounge in which Chris must once again come to terms with his life outside of the movie business (and certainly has much contact with that very same) as well as Artie reconnecting with the feeling of his true self as chef at the end. This one seems quite clear.

(8 ) thirst, the desire to possess or avoid these sensations - Johnny Cakes in which we see Tony certainly have a thirst, but in the end deny himself that and in doing so cause much frustration as he surely does not yet understand what he may be going through.

Now, there is no doubt that this could be stretching, and I have tried very hard not to look too deeply into certain aspects of the show, because often times we start looking with a premise at hand and then only make the information fit around that premise, leaving other inconvenient information aside.

But with that said, I think there is defintely something here to continue looking at. It will be interesting to see if the final four episodes of this portion of the season lend themselves to the last four parts of the above. I'll certainly be looking for signs of that now.

</p>

Re: *Eastern Religion/Philosophy Thread*

#10
Great post DH! I was hoping someone would draw those connections and let me off the hook.

It's important to note that the end of the cycle is not literal death, but a return to ignorance. So I think that's what we could be seeing here, if and when Tony's "decompensation" occurs. If this template holds, I fully expect him to return to his old self, either by killing Junior or some other major character himself, sleeping with Julianna or some other readily available woman, fully returning to the throes selfishness and greed, or all of the above. Or, he could hold together and move on to awareness and greater peace with himself, in which case his inner peace will cost him his outer life as hostile forces close in around him. We'll see.

</p>
Post Reply

Return to “Sopranos Symbolism and Subtext”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest