Train Yourself to Let Go of Everything You Fear to Lose
To learn about how fear and attachment lead to suffering and how clearing your mind leads to peace, you could study the ancient teachings of Buddha—or you could watch the modern Star Wars movies, paying particular attention to Yoda’s advice to Anakin and Luke Skywalker.
The elflike Yoda is a hermit Jedi Master whose simple handcrafted home is made from all-natural materials. He communes with nature and tunes into the Force, a powerful energy source, through meditation. Yoda teaches Luke Skywalker how to focus his concentration on the Force and to commit to his efforts. When Luke says he will try his best, Yoda commands, “No! Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try.” And when Luke is confused about how to distinguish good from evil, Yoda assures him, “You will know, when you are calm, at peace.” Doubt is Luke’s main obstacle to overcome on the road to Jedi mastery. After he finally understands Yoda’s advice to “unlearn what you have learned,” Luke is able to change his way of thinking and become successful.
Luke’s father, Anakin, on the other hand, is confident in his abilities but faces the challenge of overcoming fear. Anakin’s slave mother successfully taught him as a child to believe in himself and develop his talents, but the strength of the Force within him is hindered by his fear of losing her. When Yoda meets Anakin, he immediately senses the boy’s fear and does not approve of training him. Yoda warns: “Fear is the path to the Dark Side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” Despite Yoda’s disapproval, Anakin is accepted into the Jedi training program.
Attachment and Anger
When Anakin is a teenager, Yoda advises: “Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin. The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side… Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” But to Anakin this advice seems absurd. Not only does he remain attached to his fear of losing his mother, but his fear grows to be the driving force in Anakin’s life. Yoda’s compassion enables him to sense when Anakin’s worst fear becomes reality when his mother dies. “Pain. Suffering. Death, I feel. Something terrible has happened. Young Skywalker is in pain. Terrible pain.”
Both Buddha and Yoda teach that death is a natural part of life and should not be feared, but Anakin’s refusal to accept this mother’s murderous death pushes him to extreme anger and hate, as Yoda had predicted, and lands him instead on the Dark Side, where the Sith lords gladly feed his hunger for power and revenge and christen him Darth Vader.
The rest is movie history. Despite being classified as science fiction, the Star Wars series endures as the real-life story of humanity as we continue to struggle with fear, anger, or doubt and turn to wise teachers for guidance—even the elflike ones, because, after all, in the words of Yoda: “Size matters not… Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the Force around you.”