Of Gods, Demi-Gods & Humans In ‘Wonder Woman’

Where Wonder Woman was created by Zeus (the absent god), Themyscira is a Greek mythological Paradise Island with only Amazon women. Somewhat feminist, perhaps sexist, yet true, it also represents how there might be safety and peace without the war-mongering ways of males. No men meant no sexual tension and battle of the sexes too. (These issues set aside, the Amazons later fought with men for the greater good of each other.) Of course, for dramatic storytelling purposes, their sanctuary cannot last forever. After all, it was no Pure Land created and sustained by a Buddha! It too was part of the Defiled Land we are in, as corrupted by the defilements of greed, hatred and delusion, albeit to a lesser extent.

The Amazons anticipated eventual chaos though, which is why they trained for armed and armoured combat. In this sense, like an actual Pure Land, it is not idyllically paradisaical; it is purposeful, with a clear mission. Unlike a Pure Land though, the Amazons lived in some fear. Purelanders, however, live in total ease, while training in the Dharma. They become equipped with the armour of great compassionate personal vows, as enhanced by Amitabha Buddha’s (Amituofo) protective vows, for re-entry as Bodhisattvas into Samsara for guiding beings to be liberated from suffering. While the Amazons’ good karma ran out with the invasion of human war, Pure Land is a lasting sanctuary due to the immeasurable meritorious blessings of Amituofo.

Common in Greek mythology, many of its gods are more like demigods capable of war, than peace-loving ones. There is Ares, who specifically personifies violence, the god of war. If we are to understand mythology from the psychological point of view, he would represent the potential asuras in us, who wish to dominate the gods, those who are karmically faring better. He is like the Mara-nature in us, though not substantial like our Buddha-nature, which is our true nature. Ares is pro-hate and greed out of strong delusion, posing the greatest threat to all by suggesting these defilements to grow and cloud our pure Buddha-nature. It would be so easy to demonise and ‘rid’ one single being, but Mara already has his minions among us as our defilements!

Echoing the Buddha’s beloved message that ‘hatred cannot be ceased by hatred; hatred can only be ceased by love’, Wonder Woman says, ‘… I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world… I will fight, for those who can not fight for themselves.’ Lovely! Literally and figuratively! Like a Bodhisattva, she reminds the Amazons, ‘It is our sacred duty to defend the world. And it is what I am going to do.’ Realistically, we will need an ‘army’ of spiritually well-trained Bodhisattvas to save this world. Seeking birth in Pure Land to train well first is how this can be most efficiently done. Training well on Themyscira first was what Wonder Woman did too!

Instead of the cliched one great hero(ine) versus and winning one great villain theme, towards the end of the movie, Wonder Woman does a reality check and expresses understanding of her ongoing quest – ‘I used to want to save the world, to end war and bring peace to mankind. But then I glimpsed the darkness that lives within their light. I learnt that inside every one of them there will always be both. The choice each must make for themselves… And now I know… that only love can truly save the world, so now I stay, I fight, and I give – for the world… This is my mission now, forever.’ Sounds like an inexhaustible Bodhisattva vow!

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