Take the 2-minute tour ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In Star Wars Episode 3, Revenge of the Sith, there's a scene where Anakin and Yoda are sitting in that little meditation room (with the horizontal shades over the windows) and discussing the meaning of Anakin's recent premonitions of "someone" (Padme) dying. Yoda gives Anakin a piece of advice that starts out quite wise, but then, for me, skews off into nonsense.

Yoda: "These visions you have ..."

Anakin: "They are of pain, suffering ... death."

...

Yoda: "Careful you must be when sensing the future, Anakin! The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side."

Anakin: "I won't let my visions come true, Master Yoda."

Yoda: "Rejoice for those around us who transform into the Force. Mourn them, do not. Miss them, do not. Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is."

Anakin: "What must I do, Master Yoda?"

Yoda: "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."

The bold words are the parts that I find to make little sense or have little relevance to the problem Anakin is trying to seek help for.

Now, I understand that certain George-Lucas-isms have been injected into this speech, but maybe I'm the one who just fails to understand the meaning?

First of all, how is fearing for a loved one a path to evil? Isn't that precisely what makes a tragic hero tragic? It may be harkening back to the Phantom Menace's "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering" line, but even that is gibberish.

My biggest problem is the "attachment leads to jealousy" line. Now, I've put a LOT of thought into trying to understand this, but I've come up empty each time. According to Lucas, the Jedi are similar to Buddhist monks, so I looked up "attachment in Buddhism" and discovered that it means something very different to the Western world's definition of attachment.

We Westerners see 'attachment' as synonymous to a bond, a relationship or even love. Buddhism defines it as ... well, something confusing to me. One definition is that it is "clinging", another, that it is "craving" and then another that says something about "becoming" ... I have no good idea what any of this means or how it relates to Anakin Skywalker, or greed, or jealousy.

Then there's the "letting go of what you fear to lose" part. This sounds, a lot, like Yoda is saying, "Well, Anakin, to spare yourself the pain of grief, you should just cut this person out of your life and forget them. Let them go before he/she dies!" I would assume that he means to learn to let Padme go after she dies, but the wording of "train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose" is so darn vague and sounds like Yoda is talking about "letting go" while Padme is still alive. Isn't that a little cold?

Does anyone know what is going on in this scene? :P

share|improve this question

4 Answers 4

Yoda is talking about avarice and greed. Attachment, in this case, means a desire to hold onto or own something, which can lead to jealousy when someone else has what we want. It's a "shadow of greed", the root of those feelings of attachment and jealousy.

"The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side" refers to being afraid of losing something dear, which could possibly lead you to go to extreme lengths to retain it. Yoda here is warning specifically about a Jedi's prescience - knowing that a loss is coming might prompt you to take more extreme measures using the justification that the ends justify the means.

In order to mitigate this potential area of influence, Yoda is essentially telling Anakin to let go of desires to hold onto things that might be taken from him (like his mother), accepting that all things pass away eventually.

Don't forget that he shouldn't be with Padme at all - the Jedi actually do believe that they should forswear all attachments, including familial and interpersonal attachments. His role as a protector would have him do his best to keep her safe, but his close personal attachment could lead him to a rage-induced act - something we have already seen when he slaughtered the Tuskin tribe responsible for his Mother's death.

share|improve this answer
    
I like this answer, but the truth is, I've thought of most of it. I understand that attachment in this case is referring to "clinging" to Padme, but how does that make him greedy or jealous? It seems very muddled and ill-worded. A fear of loss ... That could have been explained better in the film, too. One thing about your answer, though, is that you've referenced two definitions of 'attachment' in it. The first one is Buddhist, the second is Western. Do the Jedi foreswear relationships, or clinging? Buddhists don't discourage relationships. –  Arachno-Sapien Feb 3 at 3:24
    
This is about the level of emotional attachment to anything: person, item, or feeling. Jedi forswear all relationships. The clinging to Padme doesn't make him greedy or jealous in itself, but attachment can be a symptom of greed. His emotional attachment to Padme is strong enough to cause him to hold onto her, and even marry her, even though it's forbidden to do so. THAT is a sign of greed - a desire for something so strongly that you alter your ethical stance to obtain and keep it. The fact that we may sympathize with him doesn't make it less greedy. –  DuckPuppy Feb 3 at 3:38
    
Again, well explained, but I think there's a definite difference between selfish, greedy, leeching desire and, as sappy as I'm about to sound, true romantic love. He loved Padme, right? This isn't about greed, but prioritization. It's Anakin wanting the best of both worlds, but this isn't attachment at all. He wants to be with his loved one. If we were shown that Anakin was a delusional maniac who believed that death was beneath him and surmountable, then I'd agree with the greed/jealousy part. To be afraid of her death makes him human, not unethical. What was he supposed to do, not care? –  Arachno-Sapien Feb 3 at 3:59
2  
I'm just going to conclude, myself, that this scene is utter schlock. –  Arachno-Sapien Feb 3 at 4:01
1  
Don't forget that the moral definitions and beliefs we are arguing do not necessarily have to reflect our own. What you see as beautiful and good may in fact be seen as dangerous by someone else in different circumstances. They provide a vector for influence that the Jedi wish to remove. Remember that Anakin was too old to train. They take infants from their families and train them from birth to have no emotional attachments to anything or anyone. In this they may be as monstrous as the Sith. –  DuckPuppy Feb 3 at 13:02

how is fearing for a loved one a path to evil?

This was answered with the ultimate canon example: the main reason Anakin succumbed to Sidious' pull to the Dark Side was his fear of losing Padme, and his belief that Dark Side and Sidious held the only way to save her life.

As an extra benefit, the reason he rejected the person most likely to be able to pull him back (Obi-Wan) was at least in part being jealous of Padme.

"attachment leads to jealousy" line.

OK, this one is harder.

There's a philosophical line of thought that when you have a romantic attachment to someone, you - consciously or not - view them as your "property" (this was deconstructed pretty well in Stranger in a Strange Land). This is partially backed up by biology, specifically, sexual selection - generally, an individual will sacrifice and invest in finding a mate. That easily leads to the perception that the mate was "purchased".

This of course naturally leads to jealousy, where you are worried that your "property" isn't going to stay "yours", the way The One Ring abandoned Gollum.

Then there's the "letting go of what you fear to lose" part. This sounds, a lot, like Yoda is saying, "Well, Anakin, to spare yourself the pain of grief, you should just cut this person out of your life and forget them. Let them go before he/she dies!" I would assume that he means to learn to let Padme go after she dies, but the wording of "train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose" is so darn vague and sounds like Yoda is talking about "letting go" while Padme is still alive. Isn't that a little cold?

It's a combination of what I discussed above (learning to NOT view Padme as something belonging to Anakin), and overall - as you yourself noted - Buddhist view. I'm not a Buddhist so can't really do it justice, but this page has a very good and understandable write-up: http://www.sgi.org/buddhism/buddhist-concepts/attachments-and-liberation.html

Buddhism is a teaching of liberation, aimed at freeing people from the inevitable sufferings of life. To this end, early Buddhist teachings focused on the impermanence of all things. The Buddha realized that nothing in this world stays the same; everything is in a constant state of change. Pleasurable conditions, favorable circumstances, our relationships with those we hold dear, our health and well-being--any sense of comfort and security we derive from these things is continually threatened by life's flux and uncertainty, and ultimately by death, the most profound change of all.

The Buddha saw that people's ignorance of the nature of change was the cause of suffering. We desire to hold on to what we value, and we suffer when life's inevitable process of change separates us from those things. Liberation from suffering comes, he taught, when we are able to sever our attachments to the transient things of this world.

Buddhist practice, in this perspective, is oriented away from the world: life is suffering, the world is a place of uncertainty; liberation lies in freeing oneself from attachment to worldly things and concerns, attaining a transcendent enlightenment.

share|improve this answer
    
Hi, DVK. To go in the order of your answer: The fear of loss leading to the Dark Side in Anakin's case is very plot-specific, and doesn't apply to a general philosophy about why fearing loss is bad. The part about owning loved ones: I think that depends on each individual. Sexual selection is about biological instincts and mate competition, not the much more complex concept of love. That attachment part, in Buddhism: Great quote, but accepting death can't happen prior to the death - not really. Schlock of a movie, IMO :P –  Arachno-Sapien Feb 3 at 5:00

Anakin's fear for the dead of Padme is selfish, because he wishes to keep her. He cannot see that her death is a natural process and is one which should be celebrated, for one with the force she will become. In a way this is true for love and attachement in general. If you choose for love and attachment you should also take into account that this will lead to suffering, when the thing you hold dear will eventually go away (as all things are passing). Happiness is a very unstable thing for everyone who chooses love as a thing that you get attached to (and think you can control). One who claims different is untrue to himself (or herself). Love and compassion are essential to a Jedi. But in a way much different than the way other people practice this. They love a thing for what it is, at that moment. And do not grow attached to it so that when it changes, they are still able to love it.

The Jedi teachings are true beyond the fictional realm of Star Wars if you ask me :)

Cheers!

share|improve this answer

I am not a "Star Wars Expert" but this is what I have concluded:

"The fear of loss is a path to the Dark Side.": When you are afraid of losing something, you cannot think logically. Your mind is filled with threatening ghosts, you perceive threats on things that are no threats at all and you think those that promise to help you against the phantom threats as allies, becoming easy to manipulation. It did happen to Anakin(and some people I know).

"Attachment leads to jealousy, the shadow of greed, that is": When you get attached to something, you do not want to let go, no matter the reason. This is the definition of greed. Wanting something just for the possession, regardless of usefulness or need. When it comes to people, it shows by disregarding their own feelings and free will, so that you can maintain their presence.

"let go of everything you fear to lose": Just the fear to lose something or someone is an indication that you are down the wrong road. "Letting go" however, does not strictly imply separation, in my opinion. Just letting go of the fear, should have the same effect. However, if this is not possible, then separation is required, because if you do not do it, you will end up hurting yourself and those you say you love. Love is not proven by possession but by respect and understanding.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.