BOOK REVIEW: The Dharma of Star Wars

BOOK REVIEW: The Dharma of Star Wars


The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin

The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin


By Matthew Bortolin


A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … Yoda was a Zen Master?

The Dharma is the Buddhist tutelage that guides you throughout the truisms of life’s realisms. Basically, it’s a compass that directs you along the path towards the truth of reality, in other words, real life.

Now combine that belief with George Lucas’s stories of the Hero’s Journey from Star Wars and ascend, all over again, across the stars of a galaxy far, far away in a whole new light. An enriching and enlightening take on the holy saga, from A New Hope and through the darkness of Revenge of the Sith; a periscope view from a spiritual standpoint.

This is a newly revised edition, a closer inspection of The Dharma of Star Wars through a more critical lens or scope – in preparation for the highly anticipated sequel, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. As an ordained member of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Order of Interbeing, Matthew Bortolin incorporates coaching on: “The Jedi Art of Mindfulness and Concentration” and “The Padawan Handbook: Zen Spiritual Reflections for the Would-Be Jedi.


When offered the opportunity to review, The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin, I honestly had no expectations of what I’d be getting into and how it would compare to the many other ‘book reviews’ I have done, thus far. That said, I must have left my lightsaber at home because my Jedi preparations weren’t nearly up to snuff. When you read this book, or if you already have, you’ll understand the reference. Ok, moving along …

“Your focus determines your reality.”– Qui-Gon Jinn

This is a lesson that came up a multitude of times throughout the duration of the book, reference after reference, and with, example after example – so in-depth, that I literally felt as if he was talking directly to me. As if, making sure I was paying attention. The conceptual focus of staying on target or in the spiritual sense of Buddhism, being attentive to the present moment, is a lot harder than it sounds. Sadly, my personal attention span is similar to that of our favorite gungan, Jar Jar Binks. Ok, let me clarify that a little. It’s not that I go about my daily activities with a frivolous manner of goofiness, not at all, but my mind has a tendency to drift-off in a nagging way. Reminding me, of everything else that needs tending to and all the other things that could be done, instead of what I’m already working on. In other words, my brain doesn’t seem to be equipped with a shutdown mode.


I am a slow learner. Probably why I find Anakin Skywalker to be the most relatable character in the Star Wars saga. No, not because he sarcastically referred to himself as such when dueling with Count Dooku, but because of who he is and where his life experiences led him. After all, he is the most human and makes the most mistakes throughout his self-suffering lifetime.

“He’s more machine now than man, twisted and evil.”-Obi-Wan Kenobi

Matthew Bortolin explains that Anakin, or Darth Vader is, more or less, a victim of his own demise. His thoughts dwelled upon all that he held dear, in which developed into attachments and, like a disease, ate away at his psyche – ultimately leading him to fear any impending loss. But like life itself, death is a natural part of it and that is the way of things … the way of the Force.

“You must feel the Force around you. Here, between you… me… the tree… the rock… everywhere!”-Yoda

Yoda, the all-knowing and all teaching of the living, breathing Force, tries to educate Luke on the continuum of its existence. Meaning, the Force never ends, therefore we always exist. Obviously not in the physical sense, luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. Basically everything has an extension of itself; a symbiotic relationship that enables us or the tree, for example, to live on, in some sense of a forever ever after. This is how Anakin was able to return to the light side and become one with the Force and in the afterlife. He witnessed an extension of himself, Luke, make a choice that he himself, could never do. That opened up his eyes and cracked the hardened exterior of that more machine now than man. Finally he allowed himself to let go of the fear, to accept it, to own it, and then vulnerably, sacrificing his own life for that of his son’s. His soul finds redemption and through that redemption, finds freedom; nirvana.

We all walk a different path in life and those experiences forge who we are now and who will eventually become. What this book teaches us is that we all have value and that value, or self-worth, reflects onto all of us, even if we do not cross paths. Every decision we make, every corner we turn, how we think, react, what we say, in the end, our choices affect one another. What happens to one of you will affect the other. You must understand this. –Obi-Wan Kenobi

Live, laugh, love, and most importantly, respect one another. If Darth Vader can find freedom than each of us can too. –Matthew Bortolin

The Dharma of Star Wars by Matthew Bortolin, published by Wisdom Publications MA and Distributed to the trade by Simon & Schuster – was released on November 11th, 2015 and is now available.

You can purchase your copy of The Dharma of Star Wars here.

Thank you to Wisdom Publications for providing a copy of this book for review.

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1 Comment

  1. Melinda
    November 17, 2015 at 11:45 Reply

    Becca, what a wonderful review!

    Did you read the original at some point before reading this newer version? The reason I ask is I have read the original book (and enjoyed it 🙂 ), and am wondering, quite frankly, if it’s worth it to pick up this new version. Just how much “new” is there in this? A rehashing of the original? Mostly new and improved? … So much to read, so little time. (you get where I’m going, n’est-ce pas? 😉 )

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. Happy Reading! 🙂

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