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'Avatar: The Way Of Water' Is Western Cinema's Rare Acknowledgement Of The Cosmic Mother

Avatar: The Way of the Water is the sequel to the highly successive movie that came almost thirteen years ago.

The movie is quite a visual experience. It delights in using the power of the latest graphics technology to create a complete new planetary system with all its intricate interconnections.

The other-worldly beauty is a deep reflection of the mostly-taken-for-granted beauty of that intriguing phenomenon called life.

What David Attenborough reveals from every corner of the planet and what Jacques Cousteau brought to our television screens from under the sea, those worlds come back to us in the larger three-dimensional vision in an other-worldly drama.

Apart from the visual feast the movie is also a feast of concepts.

I: Clan Relations - Outcastes, Aliens and Aggressive Invaders The magnificent visuals that mesmerise, excite and thrill also deliver a strong vision – the vision of the strength and fraility of the interconnections that are at once physical, ecological and spiritual. The diversity of the sapient species which evolve along with their relations to their own ecological niche is brought out in the form of the difference between the coastal and forest clans.

There is a fine balance between accepting an alien who seeks asylum-refugee and an aggressive intruder who invades. The resistance to the invader need not necessarily mean xenophobia.

The movie shows the sea people Metkayina and the forest based Omaticaya clan with their differences which too contain prejudices and pathways to conflict, yet allows for porous clan borders and a space to build harmony.

Thus, despite their physical differences there exists unity in diversity. There is a gradual acceptance. But the predatory aggressors, despite being physically similar now, are fought against. Beyond the outer physical it is the inner values, which determine your belonging.

II: Sacred Animals as Civilisational Soul Fraternity Then there is the relation between the coastal Metkayina and the extremely pacifist whale-like Tulkun. The relation is spiritual. Their bonds are sacred. There is inter-species communication. But their extreme pacifism and non-violence also leads to a lone member becoming an outcaste. The invaders hunt and kill Tulkun – for the secretion from their brain. That liquid having anti-ageing properties is sold back on earth as 'Amrit'.

Then an additional motive arises – to humiliate and draw into battle the sea people with whom the Tulkun have sacred bonding. Killing the sacred animal, transgressing the sacred taboos is always a preferred method.

In the movie an innocent observer remarks horrified that just for extracting a small amount of brain fluid they would torture and kill such a magnificent life form.

This has a root in facts.

One is that the Western civilisation hunted with ferocity the whales – for extracting the blubber from the whale called 'right whale'. From this blubber was made the wax with which candles were made.

The right whales are three species of baleen whales and they usually weigh about 90 tons and have a length of 50 to 55 feet. The right whales were named right whales for no other reason but that they were right for the harpoon. Such is the human arrogance.

Later they moved onto sperm whales. Spermaceti is a fat found in the head of the sperm whales. The candles made from this spermaceti gave brighter light (physical light of course but compounded the inner darkness through the violence towards the whales.)

Fortunately the discovery of electric lights stopped the hunting that otherwise would have driven to extinction these great creatures of our own planet. So what happens in 3-D in a futuristic fantasy is actually also our not so ancient ecological past.

Regarding the wastage of the entire animal and its cruel killing for the sake of some fluid extraction, one just has to read the classic ecological paper on 'The Tragedy of Commons' by Garrett Hardin wherein the ecologist does not consider the frontier white colonisers killing a bison just for the sake of its tongue and leaving the rest of the body of the sacred animal to the native Americans to rot.

This act was okay for him in the frontier conditions but not now when bisons were endangered.

Reductionist ecology cannot go beyond the numbers and human-centrism into bio-centric bonds of the sacred and the ecological. The movie plays on these facts and brings some important value lessons.

The movie also attempts to poke at modern reductionist approach to spiritual experiences – trying to reduce what are called 'Absolute Unitary Experiences' to their neural correlates. But the movie does not dwell into that much.

The film also shows the sea people practice breathing exercises which are not just exercises for holding the breath under the water but which also have a spiritual significance.

III- And the Goddess in Forms Infinite Now to the most relevant part of the movie for a Hindu.

Just like the 'Tree of Souls' in the forest for the forest clan, the sea people have under the sea in a very different appearance their own 'Tree of Souls'. And yet, the forest people too can bond to this tree and its connections and bath in Her energy .

This is an important Hindu insight and is quite unnerving that a Western movie maker could bring it out.

Despite the differences in the external appearance, a Hindu can always feel the essential spiritual oneness of various forms and connect to it.

Thus a Hindu, when he or she sees a sacred stone in the forest, whose name may not be known to him, whose sacred lore may be foreign to her, would still bow before that sacred stone - understanding and realising that it is the great unknown omnipresent Divine that is getting worshiped there.

And this realisation makes him or her connect to that Divine. Names do not matter - realising the Divine does.

The movie visually brings this out, making it easier for the Hindu parents to make their youngsters understand their own spirituality in understandable modern terms.

There are cliché dialogues like the sayings on the water where you can almost predict the next coming sentence.

But then there are dialogues about the Goddess which touch spiritual depths. The movie shows a girl – actually a hybrid, as being specially receptive to the presence of the Goddess.

That girl-child hears what she calls the heartbeat of the Goddess and when asked how it was, she answers 'mighty'. The presence of the Goddess she says is the unspoken word. She is indeed for us Hindus, Paraa, Pasyanthi, Madhyama before she becomes Vaikari - the whole process of the unspoken word formed from infinite nebulous possibilities arising from the deepest silence.

The Goddess is under the water as She is above the ground. Everywhere she connects with the networks – root like networks. She speaks and guides through these root-like connections – tendrils and neuronic connections.


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