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Manart

Pillars of Eternity and Buddhism

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Ok. With so many people deriving the plot for being too predictable or impossible to follow, I think it's past time we start talking about the themes at large instead of nitpicking the story to death. Let's start with one of the most overriding motif of the game.

 

While going through the game you might notice that there is a lot of Buddhist influence. You can see it in the obvious with the cycle of death and rebirth, past lives and superpowers that deride from the chi. There are also subtle nuances like the way some cultures deal with past souls reincarnating in new forms (the Dalai Lama is the most famous example) and the mystical "Jade"-like substance that props up everywhere.

 

One of the core tenets of Buddhisms is the inability to let things go and how it keeps us from ascending to a greater existence. You can see this in the journey of the Watcher and how his past life literally drive his current journey.

 

This is also reflected in the companions' personal quests. For example, you get the chance to tell them to keep pursuing their objective or let it go: Edér can let go of his past or continue to follow his faith (or both), Durance can accept that he no longer is one of Magran's faithful or pursue a vendetta against her perceived betrayal and Sagani can focus on her duty to her village or the family that she left behind...

 

All in all, props to Josh Sawyer and his team for capturing an Eastern philosophy without making it feel too "Far East Oriental". As someone who is a bit of a "lapsed Buddhist", I found their overall commitment to the underlying themes in play a refreshing change from the sea of "Kung-fu Eastern" depictions that try to single-mindedly capture the visuals without the teachings underneath.

Edited by Manart

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I think you're letting your religion color your glasses a bit. I thought it was more a hyper take on Tolkein mixed with various creation myths.

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The best argument against interpreting PoE through a Buddhist lens is that Buddhism has a very clear answer to what is the meaning of life - to end the personal cycle of reincarnation. That said, PoE has been very in-your-face about being inspired by Buddhism, especially seeing how their original logo had a wheel in the background.

 

The PoE universe incorporates reincarnation (which is far from unique to Buddhism) but the main point of the game is that the characters are very unsure of the big answers. So metaphysically speaking they are living in is similar to ours. The attitude you can adopt towards the world range from optimistic existentialism ("It is for every individual to create his/her own meaning of life" - as formulated by Sartre, Kierkegaard and others) to Buddhism ("Only in ending the cycle can there be true peace") to some sort of pessimistic existentialism which I guess is meant to represent organized religion ("We can't allow people to ask themselves existential questions or there will be hell") where you are supposed to dodge the existential questions to keep order. A fourth path is hinted at ("What if the questions are more important than the answers") but the formulation is a bit lacking in the game, so I'll avoid to comment on that.

 

Thaos is essentially a Buddha/Jesus/Mohammed/Moses figure who not only invented a religious creed to unite and pacify people, but also physically created the gods. Who turn out to be more unruly than he thought. First Eothas opts to incarnate as a physical being, establishing a totalitarian state (Readceras), trying to foil Thaos'/Woedica's plan of stealing the souls of the unborn to bolster her power and forever keep humanity in the dark about the secrets of animancy. Eothas is presumed killed with Magran's assistance, but eventually Magran and the other gods (except possibly Skaen who argues Woedica's case in the end...) agree to help the PC against Thaos/Woedica.

 

IMO St. Waidwen also mirrors how in the 19th century onwards totalitarian ideologies has taken the place of organized religion. I'm looking forward to a prequel/expansion where St. Waidwen is contrasted to Vladimir Lenin and Adolph Hitler. :brows:

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"Well, overkill is my middle name. And my last name. And all of my other names as well!"

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(reserved for future posts)

 

*grins mischievously*

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"Some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them." -- attributed to George Orwell

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Sorry. Can't help but quote Fish Called Wanda here.  :biggrin:

 

Otto West: Apes don't read philosophy. 

Wanda: Yes they do, Otto. They just don't understand it. Now let me correct you on a couple of things, OK? Aristotle was not Belgian. The central message of Buddhism is not "Every man for himself." And the London Underground is not a political movement. Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up.

 

It is interesting that the Engwithan gods are similar to what the Tibetans called tulpas

 

Tulpa (Tibetan: སྤྲུལ་པ, Wylie: sprul-pa; Sanskrit: निर्मित nirmita[1] and निर्माण nirmāṇa;[2] "to build" or "to construct") also translated as "magical emanation",[3] "conjured thing" [4] and "phantom" [5] is a concept in mysticism of a being or object which is created through sheer spiritual or mental discipline alone. It is defined in Indian Buddhist texts as any unreal, illusory or mind created apparition.

According to Alexandra David-Néel, tulpas are "magic formations generated by a powerful concentration of thought." It is a materialized thought that has taken physical form and is usually regarded as synonymous to a thoughtform.[6]

 

It does seem to me that Wael seems more Eastern than Western; as a deity, he's more a mix of Zen & Taoism than like a typical western pantheonic deity. 

Edited by CybAnt1

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I don´t really understand the point of this thread....are you trying to say that PoE was influenced by existing religion?

 

Well that should be given considering people wrote that. :D

 

There are also elements of a christian theme and mostly Polytheismus going on. Sooo? I think you are makeing a far stretch here. The religious aspect in this game is VERY open to interpretation. Thats pretty much the last part of the whole game: "what is a god, are they even gods etc".

 

As for the character choices, it´s just a lazy point i could critize, there are no multiple ways how they can turn out, it´s mostly just yes/no. You picked that answer they are going that way..you picked the other, they are the other way.

 

I think it´s neat that they managed a game where people can see themselves/their religion reflected. But don´t project it onto things that don´t exist.


"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, the man who never reads lives one."

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No, I don't agree. There's no theme of impermanence, no concept of the world as illusion, and no concept even resembling the Middle Way. Even the cosmology really doesn't match up at all, insofar as PoE's cosmology is distinctly physicalist and has no emphasis on consciousness.

 

Frankly, the greatest similarity is the falsity of the gods - but since they're not personally subject to reincarnation, even that's a pretty superficial comparison. Certainly the writers were aware of Buddhism, but the game bears few marks of its influence.

 

You can see it in the obvious with the cycle of death and rebirth, past lives and superpowers that deride from the chi.

Neither of these things indicate Buddhism. Reincarnation features in a lot of belief systems, and PoE's reincarnation isn't portrayed as Hindu/Buddhist in nature (there's no Atman, no dharma, no karma, and no Hell Realms).

 

Chi isn't even a Buddhist concept. It features in Chinese Buddhism, but it significantly predates the arrival of Buddhism to China. It can be mapped to the Hindu/Southern Buddhist idea of prana, but that's by no means a clear analog, and prana is not the source of supernatural power in Hindu/Buddhist systems - concentration is.

 

... the mystical "Jade"-like substance that props up everywhere.

Jade has no special properties in Buddhism. In fact, the spread of Buddhist funerary practices caused jade's value to decline in some parts of the world.

 

One of the core tenets of Buddhisms is the inability to let things go and how it keeps us from ascending to a greater existence. You can see this in the journey of the Watcher and how his past life literally drive his current journey.

Except that it doesn't. The Watcher's past life connects them to Thaos personally, but the plot revolves around reasserting the normal cycle of life and death - where Buddhism's ultimate goal is sometimes stated as "killing death." Edited by gkathellar

If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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It's fair to say there are touches of Buddhism in there.

 

Surprised no mention of the monk and his affinity to accept pain.  Yes it goes beyond just noticing pain and not suffering it, exaggerating it into "pain makes me stronger".  Though, still yet I suppose it could be argued that even that's not too bad of a stretch if you think of pain as a tool towards development.  Either way, definitely more "Buddhist" than the "I have lightning reflexes" monk of older games.

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It's fair to say there are touches of Buddhism in there.

 

Surprised no mention of the monk and his affinity to accept pain.  Yes it goes beyond just noticing pain and not suffering it, exaggerating it into "pain makes me stronger".  Though, still yet I suppose it could be argued that even that's not too bad of a stretch if you think of pain as a tool towards development.  Either way, definitely more "Buddhist" than the "I have lightning reflexes" monk of older games.

 

You could also argue that the monk is Nietzschean.

 

friedrich-nietzsche-1.jpg


"Well, overkill is my middle name. And my last name. And all of my other names as well!"

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It's fair to say there are touches of Buddhism in there.

 

Surprised no mention of the monk and his affinity to accept pain.  Yes it goes beyond just noticing pain and not suffering it, exaggerating it into "pain makes me stronger".  Though, still yet I suppose it could be argued that even that's not too bad of a stretch if you think of pain as a tool towards development.  Either way, definitely more "Buddhist" than the "I have lightning reflexes" monk of older games.

 

I'm pretty sure that the monk is meant to echo Christian traditions of mortification of the flesh. Or non-Christian traditions of mortification of the flesh - this is something that's been around. But not really in Buddhist tradition, to the best of my knowledge. Suffering is generally held to be bad, there.

 

Also, considering the whole "I have lightning reflexes" monk of older games is based mostly on Shaolin, a Buddhist order that actually existed, I'm pretty sure that you're talking nonsense.

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If I'm typing in red, it means I'm being sarcastic. But not this time.

Dark green, on the other hand, is for jokes and irony in general.

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