Home » Movies » Review Of Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha 1 & 2’

Recently, I watched Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha 2’ in a Buddhist film festival (‘THIS’ or ‘Thus Have I Seen’). Like its predecessor ‘Buddha 1’, ‘Buddha 2’ is more or less adapted from the comics series by Osamu Tezuka. The first film dealt with the theme of suffering which led to the renunciation of Prince Siddhartha to become a wandering spiritual practitioner. The films introduced a variety of fictional characters not found in the traditional telling of the Buddha’s life story, such as Tatta, Migaila and Dhepa. With a new character called Assaji, a name similar to one of the first actual five disciples of the Buddha, his story is completely different. With so many new characters, you know that this telling is not strictly historically accurate, taking much creative liberties.

The direction of the story helps the audience to better able to connect with Siddhartha as a kind-hearted human, instead of as a super well-trained up Bodhisattva biding his time towards enlightenment. He even showed attachment to those he helped. (But does this not depict him to be overly sentimental in the worldly sense?) There is some accuracy in that Prince Virudhaka from Kosala did have a slave as a mother due to the Sakyan’s fault, and he did invade the Sakyans, although in the film, they made the invasion earlier than in the historical records.

As another fictional story, it was amazing watching Virudhaka confront Siddhartha but unable to slay Siddhartha despite having the intention to. Instead, he was ‘pitied’ by Siddhartha for all the suffering that he inflicted upon himself and the Sakyans. In Buddhist terminology, ‘pity’ is the near enemy of compassion, as it suggests holding the person far away, whereas compassion has the effect of holding others near, and really doing what is possible to reduce or rid the person’s suffering. It might be due to lack of understanding of Buddhist terminology on the part of the subtitler, or the comic itself. Regardless, it shows certain ignorance of the Dharma from the producer.

What comes next that really makes this film really more for amusement rather than education. Towards the end of ‘Buddha 2’, the Buddha gave a nice ‘Dharma talk’ to Yatala, another fictional character, after which the Buddha wondered where his wisdom came from? It took an old man in the sky to tell him that he had become enlightened, and is now a Buddha. Without reading the comics, you will not know that the old man was supposed to be Brahma, an unenlightened god! (How then is he qualified to ‘enlighten’ the fully enlightened Buddha about him being enlightened? The Buddha is a ‘Teacher of humans and gods’; not the other way round, with any god being his teacher instead.)

What is also funny to the average Buddhist who knows the story of how Siddhartha became the Buddha was that there was no emphasis on the enlightenment during that one especially eventful night. Also not depicted was what he became enlightened to. Perhaps the most deviant (and demeaning) of all is that he needed someone to awaken him to the fact that he had awakened! The theatre laughed at this point, as many knew the story was totally off in this regard.

On the serious side, because of these deviations, it is dangerous for Buddhists who are not that familiar with the Buddha’s life story to bring friends who are totally new to Buddhism to the movie. Even if they know that it is not the traditional way the story is usually told, it will be hard for them to distinguish which parts are fictional, and which traditional, thus being unable to clarify to their friends. Of course, studying the Dharma properly would clarify matters, but how many in the audience of these movies would actually do so? Thus, these movies are not for educational purposes.

If I were to tell the life story of the Buddha, I would never compromise on the accuracy of the Dharma. To compromise the Dharma is like spreading false teachings, and this creates pretty serious unwholesome karma. If you are a Buddhist who wish to introduce your friends to Buddhism, please avoid the Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha’ comics and animation trilogy, and watch this instead: http://media.kmspks.org/channel/cdsdvds/the-buddha-animated-film.

– Ng Xin Zhao

Related Reviews:

How Not To Portray The ‘Buddha’
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/how-not-to-portray-the-buddha
Why Tezuka’s ‘Buddha’ Is No Buddha
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/why-tezukas-buddha-is-no-buddha
This ‘Buddha’ Should Be Forgotten
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/this-buddha-should-be-forgotten

Related Articles:

Was The Buddha Reluctant To Teach?
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/07/was-the-buddha-reluctant-to-teach
The Buddha’s Victory Over A God And Demon
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2012/03/the-buddhas-victory-over-a-god-demon
Was The Buddha Just A Man? (How The Buddha Called Himself ‘Buddha’)
http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/09/is-the-buddha-just-a-man

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8 Responses to “Review Of Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha 1 & 2’”

  1. Joan Ang December 2, 2014

    I do not know the intention of Osama Tesuka but to depict a historical religious figure in such a distorted way is disrespectful. The organisers of the Buddhist film fest should also check their intention of bring in such movie. Are you promoting Buddhism or doing it a disfavour? This is one thing other religions would not do to their religious figures, knowing how they are ridiculously portrayed.

  2. Indeed Joan. Fully agree!

    (Y)

  3. CircleOfFrens December 2, 2014

    Dear Editor/s, we would like to submit the following as a movie review for TDE. Thank you for considering it…

    From https://www.facebook.com/BuddhistConfessions/photos/a.154408518055124.1073741825.142490989246877/374973645998609 :

    Confession #192: There was an animated film titled ‘Buddha 2’ promoted and featured by a supposedly ‘Buddhist’ film festival in September 2014. Its script follows Osamu Tezuka’s ‘Buddha’ comics series, which is already known for its grossly inaccurate portrayal of the Buddha’s life story. As such, it is already known that ‘Buddha 1’ was a flop, which probably made its makers more zealously promote ‘Buddha 2’, with a trailer composing of many scenes from the first film, which is thus deceitful, as this creates false expectations. It also sells the trilogy as ‘no myth’ – when it is incredibly deviant from scriptural records. Yes, unfortunately, there is ‘Buddha 3’ coming up. To the utmost horror of many concerned Buddhist friends, despite some having raised the alarm on ‘Buddha 2’s problematic nature upon knowing it was selected for the festival, there was no response of cancelling or changing the film. Our confession is that we probably should had further raised the public alarm.

    As expected, when the film was screened, it caused an uproar among Buddhists who could see its glaring mistakes. As an example, a review can be seen at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/review-of-osamu-tezukas-buddha-1-2 (This review inspired us to share this confession.) The gravest and most unforgivably disrespectful part showed the Buddha to be a confused coward, even upon attaining Buddhahood, to be commanded by a god on what to do. This totally distorts the supreme status of the Buddha, as he surpasses all humans and gods with his perfect compassion and wisdom. This is downright blasphemous slander of the Buddha and the Dharma he realised. If even the true status of the Buddha and the worth of Buddhahood are warped, what good can such a film do for Buddhism? It can only do harm. As responsible Buddhists who care about how our fundamental teacher and his teachings are portrayed, we have to highlight this here.

    Imagine impressionable non-Buddhists and Buddhist newbies, from young children to adults, who leave the cinema thinking the Buddha is spiritually weak and subservient to a higher power, thus losing interest in learning the Dharma. We cannot imagine the amount of harm and possibly hellish negative karma created from facilitating this diminishing and interrupting of hundeds of sentient beings’ otherwise progressive Buddhist spiritual life.

    Aren’t all films featured supposed to promote and not destroy the Buddhadharma? It is hard to understand how the festival committee approved this film. Were the members ignorant about such basic Dharma above, or did not care much about propagating the true Dharma? Selection of the film seems to show their lack of qualifications for running a festival in the literal name of the ‘Buddha’ and Buddhism? Please do not think that ‘It is just a cartoon!’ Because the festival itself IS for promoting Buddhism through films. It is a ‘Buddhist film festival’. Even if the organisers do not take the films seriously enough, the audience members are likely to.

    Was the film selected carelessly, for making easy entertainment money despite potential spiritual confusion of the audience? It cannot be for education for sure – because the film definitely does a tremendously poor job in this aspect. To further horror, the festival did receive funding from some major Buddhist organisations. What an utter waste of money from the Buddhist community it is then, in selecting this film. Surely, the sponsoring organisations trusted the committee to only promote the Dharma, and not distort it. We hope these organsations’ names are not tarnished, along with the proper Dharma they represent.

    Resolution: Our resolution is to, as above and below, speak up on these issues, while they are still fresh on our minds, so as to protect the Buddhadharma and to caution all from making similar mistakes in the future. We are thoroughly disappointed at the choice of this film, and hope the committee will more stringently scrutinise all future films before selection, seeking and listening to the advice of multiple more knowledgeable Buddhists along the way. If there is no public apology from the committee expressing repentance, to rectify the doctrinal mistakes in the film systematically in circulated writing, we should all be wary of the sincerity and Dharma integrity of their future projects.

    As Buddhist film festival organisers and festival audience members, may we all be very mindful of what we promote and watch. Public media is perhaps the easiest means to make or break Buddhism. Buddhism’s downfall easily begins from uninformed, unmindful and/or insincere Buddhists’ in/actions. As taught by our fundamental teacher Sakyamuni Buddha, the true Dharma can only be destroyed inside out, by those who are supposed to be Buddhists. Please share this confession with all you know, who had watched the film, read the comics, or plan to. Even if the festival committee is not going to do anything to undo their mistakes best they can, at least, we can. Thank you for your compassion in upholding the true Dharma. (This article will also be submitted to http://www.TheDailyEnlightenment.com as a movie ‘review’, and to the festival sponsors later.) – A Circle Of Deeply Disappointed Dharma Friends

    Submit your fully anonymous confession-resolution at
    http://buddhistconfess.questionform.com/public/confessnresolve

    #BuddhistConfessions

  4. Thank you, CircleOfFrens. Your review is now up at http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/how-not-to-portray-the-buddha , also added to the ‘Related Reviews’ above.

  5. Movies like the above mentioned slander the Buddha and his teachings. I’m surprised it was showed on a Buddhist film fest. If the organizer has no capable person to differentiate right dharma from the wrong, perhaps they shouldn’t use the label – “Buddhist” on their event.

    Do not be the worm on the lion.

  6. Ng Xin Zhao December 2, 2014

    I don’t think it’s too bad a distortion. There are good merit points for the movie as well on its entertainment value and the more realistic portrayal of the motivation of Prince Siddhartha to train 6 years of asceticism.

    I would assume that this movie is a good entertainment and creative study rather than for educational purposes to learn the Dhamma. It’s not bad too, because the criticism and exposure to the usage or misuse of art to promote Buddhism would only serve to improve our experience and make us better equipped to do a better job.

  7. Entertainment value should not be given higher priority than educational value. It is a Buddhist film festival for Dharma propagation after all; not merely for secular entertainment, what more to the extent of misrepresenting the very supreme spiritual identity of the Buddha, with his absolute fearlessness and confidence. The Buddhist community that sponsored for this festival surely does not expect their beloved teacher (the Buddha) to be shown as being so ‘lame’!

    Portrayal of extreme asceticism was also not any better or more accurate than as mentioned in the scriptures.

  8. This just up, a detailed anaylsis of one of the most problematic scenes mentioned above, from the perspective of the comics version: http://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/12/why-tezukas-buddha-is-no-buddha/

    :-O

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