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Religions 2018, 9(7), 206; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9070206

Killing the Buddha: Ritualized Violence in Fight Club through the Lens of Rinzai Zen Buddhist Practice

Department of Religion, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA
Received: 11 June 2018 / Revised: 26 June 2018 / Accepted: 27 June 2018 / Published: 2 July 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Practicing Buddhism through Film)
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Abstract

David Fincher may not be an expert in Buddhism. But his description of Fight Club—as reprising the figurative admonishment to “kill the buddha” by Lin-ji Yi-xuan (9th cent.), the founder of the Rinzai Zen Buddhist school—illuminates the way that Fincher’s own directorial choices mirror the ritualized practices of Rinzai Zen aimed at producing insights into the imaginary and subjective nature of reality. Other articles have already looked from the perspective of film criticism at the many Buddhist (and non-Buddhist) diegetic elements in Fight Club’s story, plot, and dialogue. In contrast, this article analyzes the non-diegetic elements of Fincher’s mise-en-scène in Fight Club from the perspective of film theory in order to demonstrate the way they draw inspiration from certain Zen Buddhist pedagogical methods for breaking through to a “glimpse of awakening” (kenshō). By reading David Fincher’s directorial choices in light of Zen soteriology and the lived experience of Rinzai Zen informants, the article sheds light not only on the film’s potentially revelatory effects on its viewers, but also on esoteric aspects of Rinzai Zen pedagogy as encapsulated in Lin-ji’s “Three Mysterious Gates” and Hakuin’s three essentials of practice. View Full-Text
Keywords: Buddhism; Zen; Rinzai Zen; film; film theory; violence; Fight Club; ritual Buddhism; Zen; Rinzai Zen; film; film theory; violence; Fight Club; ritual
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Seton, G.M. Killing the Buddha: Ritualized Violence in Fight Club through the Lens of Rinzai Zen Buddhist Practice. Religions 2018, 9, 206.

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