Home » Movies » Some Dharma Depths In ‘The Shallows’?

A driver brings a girl (Nancy) to a beautiful beach but refuses to divulge its name. There, she meets two surfers, who also refuse to tell it. This was to prevent crowds from flocking there, with it being like a tempting secret paradise known only by a few. However, a false paradise it turned out to be when she is attacked and trapped by a vicious shark on a rock formation in the sea while surfing. Even with means to communicate a video message cast back to shore, there was no way to name the place to call for help. Perhaps that is why the beach is deserted, because it proved too treacherous? Short-lived highs, including seductive high waves can prove most dangerous. Indulgent play can turn out fatal if complacent of its hazardous potential. Note though, that most sharks do not threaten unless they feel threatened, or mistaken humans as their usual food. The featured ‘shark’ was hurt by humans too.

Nancy was in the midst of contemplating quitting of medical school, while still grieving from her Mother’s death. She had fought hard to survive due to sickness, but still succumbed to death. This made Nancy conclude that not all can be helped. Well, not all can be healed all the time because death is eventual (unless enlightenment is realised in this life). This is where she seems to had forgotten about spiritual healing’s importance over physical healing. It is possible to do what is reasonable to live, but to surrender graciously to impermanence when needed too, with a sense of healing instead of defeat, by ensuring a good rebirth.  

Once, there was a doctor, who had to stick close to battling soldiers, to tend to their wounds. It seemed that each time he patched up one, he would return to battle and return wounded again, or never make it back. One day, the exasperated doctor thought – ‘If a soldier is destined to die, why save him? If saving him was worth it, why does he get killed?’ Confused, he went into the mountains to learn from a Zen master. Months later, he resolved his dilemma and returned to his job – simply because he is a doctor! The doctor realised that his job was simply to do his best to heal, just as a soldier should do his best to defend, while there is no fixed fate! Striving to survive, Nancy experienced the worth of mindful struggle, which changed her mind about quitting school.

With rise of the tide, the rock was short-lived refuge. What needed was solid shore. This brings to mind the use of the sea as a metaphor for Samsara – where we bob up and down restlessly in the cycle of birth of and death. The ‘other shore’ of liberation is what we seek. It represents safety and rest. Unfortunately, Nancy had a violent confrontation with the shark that ended in his death. How should peace-seeking Buddhists respond in her situation? Sincere mindfulness of a Buddha via his name, such as that of Amitabha Buddha (‘Amituofo’) is the simplest, yet very effective! This will connect to him for help via his vows, which are likened to a great ship, which travels via this immeasurable sea of light that shines everywhere, always on standby to assist in rescue and ferrying to the true paradise, his Pure Land Of Ultimate Bliss! There! I just shared its name with you, and the key name to assess it!

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