The Dharma Of ‘Doctor Strange In The Multiverse Of Madness’

The movie suggests that dreams, instead of being mere delusions, are alternate realities with parallel worlds that we might ‘dreamwalk’ in. If so, this is not just one universe, but a multiverse — one world with multiple versions of worlds. Technically, even if physically plausible, there is no need to worry about this, since those worlds running in parallel will not truly collide to interfere with one another, by so-called ‘incursion’. Unless of course, there is the wild card of ‘magic’ thrown in, with whatever fictitious powers storytellers empower their characters with.

Even if parallel worlds (which are not Pure Lands here) are alternate realities, none is more real than another. According to the Buddha’s teachings on the Three Universal Characteristics (三法印) of impermanence (无常), suffering (苦) and non-self (无我), no matter where you go in the universe (or multiverse), with these characteristics being universal, worlds are essentially the same, even if appearing to be different with their complex manifestations. Interestingly, the characteristics apply to dreams too – which do not last due to change, thus being dissatisfactory and unsubstantial.

The mission then, is to awaken (觉悟) from this great dream of life and death (生死大梦), by realising their essential characteristics. Even a nice dream is but a dream. Even a horrific nightmare is just a nightmare. All will come to pass, at most leaving a bitter/sweet aftertaste, with no true takeaway, other than lessons learnt. What happens when one gets too caught up in a beautiful dream? There will be futile craving to control that world, to make it last, to create ‘happily ever after’, to fill one’s existential void ‘forever’. When this one dream is dashed, and if there are parallel worlds accessible, this craving might spill over to the next — with equal futility.

When Scarlet Witch realises that ‘her children’ she deludedly ‘conjured and lost’ exist in some parallel worlds, she struggles to enter these worlds to ‘reunite’ with ‘them’. However, upon discovery that she is a possessive doppelganger in one of these worlds, where there is already a version of ‘her’ as a loving mother, knowing they are doing well, she seemingly gave rose to sympathetic joy, while repenting for her wrathful intrusion. Knowing that there are better versions of ‘her’ with ‘her children’, this was enough to urge her to let go. Such is the power of practising rejoice in the happiness of others, instead of nursing jealousy that offers no peace of mind.

In the Buddhist perspective, the closest equivalent to the multiverse idea is that since there are countless worlds, there are naturally some (or even many) karmically similar world systems with similar yet also different settings, (that can be visited with supernormal powers), even with Buddhas and Bodhisattvas having the same names. This is not always due to them manifesting in multiple worlds, but with distinct enlightened ones having similar spiritual and physical attributes, similar causes and conditions of arising, thus named similarly. Examples can be found in Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter’s Verses《普贤菩萨行愿品偈颂》.

The Bodhisattva sometimes speaks of Universal Virtue Bodhisattva as himself, as an ideal Bodhisattva practitioner, and sometimes as another perfect Bodhisattva, whose qualities he strives to attain. As there is but one state of perfection of all virtues, as represented by Universal Virtue Bodhisattva, there is only one timeless archetypal Universal Virtue Bodhisattva, as a perfect Bodhisattva. As there are many striving to reach this one state, there are many other ‘Universal Virtue Bodhisattvas’ too, as practitioner Bodhisattvas, who eventually become equal to the ‘one’ Universal Virtue Bodhisattva, thus becoming ‘one’ with the Bodhisattva.

Related Teachings:

Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Verses’ Three Perspectives

Universal Virtue Bodhisattva’s Practices’ And Vows’ Chapter

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