5 Wisdom Lessons Learned from Yoda

Consciousness

Thursday, August 1, 2013, Visits: 265

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In a Narrative Theology class in college, my professor introduced me to the idea that Star Wars was more than an action movie. I hadn’t seen the movie since I was little, and I didn’t remember much about it. One weekend, our class left behind our rather stuffy but intense debates over each jot and tittle of the Bible in order to eat popcorn and watch the Star Wars trilogy together (these were pre-prequel days).

During that movie marathon, I learned Star Wars has great spiritual depth. I was particularly taken by Yoda’s wisdom and understanding of “the Force.”

We spent the next few sessions of class talking about religious and spiritual concepts as presented by Star Wars. What was the Force supposed to represent? The Holy Spirit (aka the Holy Ghost) from Christianity? Prana or chi from Eastern religions? Or something else altogether, unique to the world of Star Wars? What was the source of good and evil in Star Wars, and how do those concepts compare to the teachings of various religions? Did Darth Vader represent a Biblical fallen angel, like Lucifer? Did Yoda have a religious counterpart?

Long after that week, I continued to kick around questions about Yoda and the Jedis. How did Yoda become the embodiment of wisdom? Might Yoda’s path to enlightenment teach us how to become wiser beings?

Today, I saw a poster with a Yoda quote on it, and I remembered the questions I toyed with so long ago. So, once again, I sat down and thought about Yoda’s story. I distilled a few key nuggets that explain Yoda’s acquisition of wisdom. Though we are not fictional movie characters, I believe we stand to gain wisdom if we follow the path of Yoda.

HOW YOU CAN BECOME WISE LIKE YODA

1. Get old…or respect old. Yoda was ancient. After training Jedis for 800 years, he died at the ripe old age of 900. Presumably, George Lucas and others who may’ve shaped Yoda’s storyline associated long life with wisdom.

Age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom. We’ve all met people who’ve stagnated in the desire to cling the worldview they were handed at birth. Growing up in the Deep South, I remember a few people in my grandparents’ generation who were still opposed to racial integration.

Thus, gaining wisdom with age requires an open-minded willingness to entertain new ideas.

For those of us who aren’t yet “old”, we can learn from our wizened elders. When we honor our elders, we don’t just pay them respect; we also gain the benefit of their hard won wisdom.

2. Contemplate. Yoda spent his life contemplating the Force. Over his lifetime, he invested hard work in the quest to become wise. He thought about the Force, reflecting on its nature.

When we reflect, think and process, we search for wisdom.

Yoda quote about trying

Image from chetztogom.com

3. Meditate. Yoda also spent his life not thinking about the Force. Meditation gives us the opportunity to silence the brain’s white noise, the endless chatter that distracts us from focus and genuine awareness. It’s only when the lake of the mind becomes quiet and still that we can see straight through to the bottom. Meditation offered Yoda the calmness, peace and clarity he needed to be wise.

Though we don’t have to practice a particular style of meditation to become wise, I believe it aids the process!

Whereas contemplation engages the brain in the pursuit of wisdom, meditation engages the heart and spirit in this same pursuit. It allows us to disconnect from the logic and intellectualism of the left brain and connect to the wisdom of the heart and spirit. That’s why wisdom, unlike knowledge, is not the exclusive claim of the educated. What we know in terms of facts and figures has little to do with wisdom. Wise people can be found at all levels of the economic and educational spectrums.

When we fully engage our hearts and spirits, we find wisdom.

The Force Is My Ally
4. Explore. Yoda explored the whole galaxy, which allowed him to understand so much about other creatures, the Force and the nature of everything.

Whether we learn about other cultures and worldviews through global travel or through books, exploration of the world stretches our understanding and our awareness of our own minds. Why do we believe and behave in the ways that we do? How do these beliefs and behaviors compare to those held by others? What are the stories we tell in our home cities, and what are the stories that are universal to all?

Exploration doesn’t apply to the external world alone. Exploration includes awareness of our own internal universes, as well (which Yoda worked towards through meditation and contemplation).

5. Non-attachment. Jedis like Yoda weren’t allowed to be too emotionally attached to anyone. Why? Attachment leads to fear of loss, and this fear leads to the dark side.

When we are too attached to anyone or anything, including the desire to be right or the views we grew up with, we create fear-based justifications for our actions and beliefs. Our perspective narrows, and we lose the openness we need to be wise.

We see this same emphasis on non-attachment in Buddhist philosophy and in the vows Christian monks, nuns and priests take.

Yoda quote about fear

Image from quotes-lover.com

How else can we gain wisdom? Please tell us what you think in the comments section below!

27 Comments

1. Andrew

August 5, 2013 at 6:35 PM

I actually never thought of Star Wars this way before. Yoda's experience and longevity really contribute to the whole "master sage" persona Lucas was shooting for. That being said, I think wisdom can be achieved without an age requirement; many fools live to be old, and many wisemen/women are born every day.

2. MIke

August 5, 2013 at 6:49 PM

I have always seen the connection that Yoda and the Force has with religion especially Buddhism. In studying the 8 fold path, you get a lot of similarities with Yoda's quest for a complete understanding of the Force. Right View, Right Intent, Right Speech, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness, Right Livelihood, Right Action and Right Effort.

3. Sandra Dragon

August 5, 2013 at 7:19 PM

As I have grown older, I feel that I have become wiser, although that is not for me to judge. Common wisdom is that that as we age, we become more conventional, more conservative. Interestingly I don't believe that this is so in many cases. My political and cultural leaning are as liberal today as they were when I was in my 20s. In fact if anything, as times have changed, many of us have changed our beliefs. I feel I have become more open-minded, more accepting. Maybe we just perceive older people to be conservative based to an extent on outward appearances, i.e. hairstyles, clothing, etc. We should be judging them by on thoughts, ideas, the way they live their lives. In other words, we should listen before we judge just like we listened to Yoda.

4. GGP

August 5, 2013 at 7:49 PM

I may not perfectly agree with how some of the points are stated, but I agree with the general picture. More importantly, I know for a fact that story-tellers generally try to send a message and put meaning behind every story they share. Something well crafted like Star Wars is bound to have many of George Lucas' thoughts embedded in them. Unfortunately, the wisdom of a story is limited to the one who made the story. But luckily, the less-wise can still share that wisdom as long as they share the same story. In any case, I don't think the wisdom starts or stops at Yoda, but he does remind us to pay more attention to a story's teachings, doesn't he?

5. Cassadra

August 5, 2013 at 8:45 PM

A lot can be learned from Yoda. My son is only 5 and is completely obsessed with Star Wars. We have spent hours going over characters and the plots lines. My son has always thought of Yoda as the wise, old little green guy. I have had long discussions with my son about the truth that Yoda preaches to others. There are some great life lessons to be learned through these movies. For those of you that haven't watched Star Wars, it is so much more than a "fan boys" movie. It is a way of life for so many people.

6. ramon dyragos

August 5, 2013 at 9:59 PM

I was 7 when Star Wars first came out in 1977. I remember loving the story and scouring the fine print in the newspaper to find where it was still playing weeks after the initial release. When Empire Strikes Back came out and Yoda made his first appearance, the muppet like movements piqued the kid in me (I was still a kid) but the way he talked, kind of inverted and Zen like, made me listen to what he had to say. Now, several decades later, his wisdom seems even more poignant, kind of like how our parents seem to get smarter the older we get. This Top 5 list is a great distillation of Yoda's widsom and contains one of my favorites: Do. Or do not. There is no try.

7. Courtney

August 6, 2013 at 1:18 AM

I love the thoughts touching on wisdom through meditation and travel - I truly believe that by getting in touch with the power within ourselves (whether you call it the Force or Chi or the Holy Spirit), and by forcing yourself to experience things outside of your comfort zone (by traveling to places you've never been), huge spiritual growth is achieved.

8. Oryan Packs

August 6, 2013 at 10:49 PM

In all religions we are taught to be more self disciplined, more self reflective, and even at times more in touch with our spiritual creator. The points about Yoda and the Jedi's is like the Pope and Catholic Priests. Vader fell from grace, and yet we seen so many priest fall as well from scandals in the Church.
But yet, we also reminded about the teaching from Yoda is the same even for those who follows the Bible. Jesus told his followers not to hate their enemies but to love them and pray for them. We see Yoda saying hate and anger leads to the dark side.We are told to commune with our past relatives for guidance in the Star Wars movies we see Luke communing with Jedis who are long passed.
At the end, we as individuals need spiritual guidance to help us to grow but most of all survive the cruelty of the world.

9. Alyssa

August 7, 2013 at 12:50 AM

This is a very interesting spin on the Star Wars movies. I always liked the character of Yoda, but looking back and reflecting on his character after reading this post shows you that he is a very insightful character which you can really learn a lot from. It's broad advice as well which everyone can use, not just people who like the movies. It's nice to know that George Lucas was actually trying to get a message across to his fans. Since his fans are very into this movie series, perhaps he knew that some of them would take Yoda's wisdom to heart and become better people. Great article!

10. The Wanderer

August 7, 2013 at 6:41 AM

I love the article right down to the last punctuation mark. Although I'm not the biggest star wars fan, I will say that there a great many lessons to be learned, especially from Master Yoda. Meditation is something that I feel that EVERYONE should practice. It cuts down on stress, helps you gather your thoughts, not to mention the mental benefits of meditating for 30 or minutes day. Honestly, all of Star Wars is somewhat of a life lesson in one way or another.

11. Tim

August 7, 2013 at 5:04 PM

Much of Yoda's wisdom was also taken from Bushido, the way of warrior or Samurai in Japanese culture. What was true for Buddha and the Samurai still resonates with an open mind.

12. Kay

August 7, 2013 at 6:07 PM

I love that yoda is an accessible spiritual leader for the masses, non-intimdating unlike many other spiritual leaders. Despite the fact that he is fictional, there is so much to be learned from the Jedi master. Do or do not. There is no try. I live by these words!

13. Rik F

August 7, 2013 at 6:26 PM

So, in reading this article, there is an exception I feel compelled to comment on:

"Grave danger you are in. Impatient you are!"

Yoda's comment here summed it all up for me. Not only do we tend to seek our different versions of wisdom, but as a whole, we tend to want that wisdom right now, this minute, without the effort or the work that we need to do to attain it. I for one, seek wisdom in my own way, but I do not yet consider myself wise, nor will be for a long time to come! I firmly believe those of us that want to do good in the world are all the same way, to varying degrees. The proof in the pudding is how we choose to express it and convey it.

As the good master is fond of saying:

May the force be with you!

14. Jessica

August 7, 2013 at 9:50 PM

Your post touches on points I wish everyone knew. If they did, people would be able to be much more at peace with themselves and their lives. Meditation played a HUGE role in changing how I live my life. It seems everyone is always looking for an escape from reality outside of themselves through movies and television when all that does is avoids the problem that's bothering you. Meditation allows me to clear my mind of outside influences so I can draw conclusions that are straight from my own heart.

15. Caroline

August 8, 2013 at 2:08 AM

We all read books or see a movie and try to relate it to something in our real world. The battle of good and evil spans more than the idea of religion, whichever one you want to refer it to. I think even the most far fetched storyline has some human or natural element to it, and that is what draws us in. While its great to think Star Wars is some phenomenal piece of work that places our ability to be better humans into perspective, I think it's just a good story produced in a wonderful film. But yes, eat good, be good to people, and relaxing is helpful in life.

16. Alex H

August 8, 2013 at 4:28 AM

Interesting...I hadn't realized it until now, but Yoda's explanation of the force makes it seem a lot like what Taoists know as "Tao" (a ubiquitous life-force), and some of Yoda's lessons seem like they'd fit right into Buddhism too (like restraint, self-control, and deep reflection).

One thing to remember, though, was that Yoda was also a warrior. He honed his strength and skill through disciplined, regimented practice, and I think another one of his tenants would be tenacity or strength of will.

17. Ben

August 8, 2013 at 5:48 PM

It's interesting to consider that Star Wars has more depth than it appears to have on the surface. Joseph Campbell saw Luke as an archetypal hero, for example. I think Luke's story arch definitely follows that of a traditional hero. I think it is interesting to think about the philosophy of the Jedis. I think the author is correct in stating there is more than a hint of Buddhism. I definitely believe that non-attachment is part of the Jedis philosophy. I also like the point the author makes about age not necessarily equating to wisdom. I think wisdom stems from an open mind, and if you can never move passed prejudiced hangups, you will never achieve any semblance of wisdom even if you live to be 900 like Yoda.

18. Shannon

August 8, 2013 at 7:03 PM

I think it's interesting that even though the Jedi made great rebels, they really weren't fit to lead the planetary republic either. While they were more just than the authoritarian Empire, they weren't responding to many of the needs of the citizens. The Empire formed on the failings of the Jedi. I agree they were more wise than the alternative, but this doesn't mean they were more capable than the people running things without either faction. Even though the Jedi were wise, it is also clear that they were destroyed by their own arrogance.

19. Candace

August 9, 2013 at 12:19 AM

I've always loved Star Wars and still do. The whole story has an allure and intrigue about it, and as with most things I have put in context into my own life. Even as a child I was aware of the spiritual implications in these movies and others. I think a lot of movies incorporate these elements to make them more true to life, and to reach the audience. To some varying degree, we have all experienced or seen some form of good and evil. To me wisdom comes from experience. Wisdom is very much something that is learned, mostly through personal experience. People often associate wisdom with older people and young mindedness with younger people, but that is not always the case. Wisdom comes when you acquire knowledge from having an experience and choosing what to take from that experience. Some people will never become wise because they choose not to take anything away or learn something from the things they experience in life. Others, because they feel they are already knowledgeable in certain areas, refuse to keep an open mind. Consider that it was once common knowledge that the earth was flat. Because people can be so closed minded sometimes, and feel what they already "know" is absolute truth, they don't come into the knowledge of the real truth or gain wisdom. Conversely, I do like talking with individuals of an earlier generation as they seem to have had more morals resulting in a better society than what we have today. Somehow good has become an antiquated thing, and as a result we will most likely never get back to being able to leave our doors open, and buy several items for just one dollar. In short we need more Yodas of today.

20. Conner

August 14, 2013 at 11:07 PM

While I do think that this is all very good advice, I think it is a bit easy to read too far into it and assign more meaning than is necessary. After all, what movies do not try to appeal to reason by providing a narrative that is a good life lesson? Most kids shows and movies do this as well. I'm just playing devil's advocate though. This is all great advice!

21. Tammy

August 15, 2013 at 12:56 AM

"Age doesn’t automatically confer wisdom" is the best quote I've seen in a long time. Wisdom is the ability to properly gain and apply knowledge. Any one at any age has the ability to learn how to do this. I have seen old men with grey hairs with childish ways and children with the widsom of an old man. Great Article!

22. Robbi

August 16, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Yoda represents the innate wisdom that lies within each one of us, the Observer Self or the Higher Self. It is our connection to the greater consciousness that gives us life. We go about the busy-ness of living with such a determined focus on our physical needs and emotional reactions that we forget who we really are. Yoda reminds us that we are the children of God.

23. tracy

August 16, 2013 at 9:16 PM

We can gain wisdom by believing in ourselves. We have to take the time out of our business lives and realize that life is serious but not that serious. We have to be more knowledgable of what is important and what we value. We have to read, talk others, respect each and believe in something that respects good and not evil. Wisdom is important and priceless. With it your life has a different meaning. And you have to search for wisdom in everything that you do and pray that you find it.

24. Joshua Shapiro, a crystal skull explorer

August 22, 2013 at 1:55 PM

We may think of Yoda as a fictional character that was just made up in George Lucas' mind. But as a student of the spiritual and the paranormal, visionaries like Mr. Lucas are a door for us to experience other realities which such beings as a Yoda, a galactic Jedi Knight, whose size means nothing, is probably very real. Through movies, universal knowledge and wisdom is given to remind us of the potential in humanity and what we are capable of, every single one of us. So do not dismiss the messages given by fictional characters which are only a reflection of universal consciousness. 2013 is the time to work together for a win-win for humanity. - Joshua Shapiro

25. Mandy

August 29, 2013 at 5:15 AM

After getting over the shock that Yoda sounds exactly like Grover, I realized very quickly that he was a wise little green guy. I saw Star Wars for the first time in my teens when I was taking a religion class and Yoda reminded me a lot of Buddhism. I also felt that the way he was designed to look was like that of a monk. I think his philosophy of "There is no try" is a good way to live your life.

26. Melanie

October 2, 2013 at 9:47 PM

In one of my Movies and Religion classes at ASU we discussed how Star Wars was a Messiah allegory and the role of Yoda of wise Rabbi. When watching the original trilogy you can see the critical role that Yoda played in teaching young Luke the ways of the force. We also discussed how the "force" could be related to life and the teaching of any mentor. Yoda is a small but wise man whom we could all use a little of every day. May the force be with you young padawan.

27. David E

December 8, 2013 at 9:58 PM

Star Wars was what first got me into science fiction but as I've gotten older I notice serious moral problems in the Star Wars universe that have always bothered me. Why are sentient droids bought and sold as property (and even memory wiped!)? Why do most people never even notice this as a problem? Why should Yoda and the other Jedis concede to using genetically engineered 9-10 yr old child soldiers as cannon fodder? If the citizens of the Republic want to fight to keep planets from seceding (and why shouldn't they have that right?), let them volunteer for the army. And what's with raising 5 year olds as warrior-monks? Talk about lacking free choice. It's almost enough to make you want the Sith to win. They're barely worse than the Jedi.

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