The ingenious film Cloud Atlas adapted from the well-crafted book written by David Mitchell asks the audience to reflect on actions both kind and unkind. Cloud Atlas was released on October 26, 2012 and is currently playing in theaters. With the inventive directing of Lana and Alan Wachowski and Ted Tykwer, the audience is led through a maze of lives that intertwine throughout centuries of the past, present and future. Through the ebbs and flows of the film, there seems to be a not so subtle hint to rebirth, reincarnation and karma.
According to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, “We are born and reborn countless number of times, and it is possible that each being has been our parent at one time or another. Therefore, it is likely that all beings in this universe have familial connections.”
We watch as Tom Hanks weaves his many varied lives as a bullish writer, scientist, and futuristic wise man while also relish in his magnetic connections with Halle Berry! During the film Halle Berry’s life as a reporter reflects, “I keep trying to understand why we keep making the same mistakes.”
At times, karma and reincarnation may seem like a vicious cycle that never lets us off the wheel of Samsara. Why do we continue to be reborn? What is being asked of our minds? Our consciousness? Our souls? Or whatever one may call the everpresent energy that travels with us after death.
For some people, the concept of repeating lifetimes of suffering, love, pain, and circumstances seems overwhelming and/or repulsive! However, in the book turned movie Cloud Atlas, Dan Mitchell’s ability to create characters that represent both the details of a life as well as the overarching impact of a life on others is exquisite and daunting!
One theme that runs throughout the movie is the cause and effect of master and slave or master and servant in many variations. In words of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, from ‘Kindness, Clarity and Insight’, “Countless rebirths lie ahead, both good and bad. The effects of karma (actions) are inevitable, and in previous lifetimes we have accumulated negative karma which will inevitably have its fruition in this or future lives. Just as someone witnessed by police in a criminal act will eventually be caught and punished, so we too must face the consequences of faulty actions we have committed in the past, there is no way to be at ease; those actions are irreversible; we must eventually undergo their effects.”
Tom Hank’s wise man of the future reflects,“These forces begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.”
Whether a person follows Buddhist teachings, has a meditation practice, or dives into the ocean of samsara head on, we are all in this together! Those of us who have generated seeds over several lifetimes that allow us to have practices that quiet the mind, bring peace to the heart and harmony to the body are fortunate indeed.
Cloud Atlas is an intense, harrowing and beautiful example of the tapestry of human experience navigating the mystery in the web of Cosmic and Earthly sentient existences.