Groundhog Day and Buddhism

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Often times movies, along with entertaining us, set out to teach us lessons. This seems to be the case with the classic movie "Groundhog Day." With a quick glance it may seem as though this movie is nothing more than your typical romantic comedy. While on one level, Groundhog Day does fit that description, it also functions on a much deeper level. Throughout the strange and twisted events of the film, questions about God, life, death, kindness, and what it means to be human are frequently raised. These questions are also frequently raised by humans of all beliefs. It is this papers aim to examine how this movie deals with these questions of ultimate concern based on the teachings of Buddhism. In order to do that this paper will first examine how understanding one's self plays a role in Phil's never ending day. Then it will look at how Phil is able to reincarnate himself to become a better person and how this leads to his own nirvana.

Phil's ability to live the same day over and over opens lots of situations that one would not normally encounter in everyday life. In the beginning Phil uses these opportunities to his advantage by lying, stealing, and manipulating others. He thinks that his actions have no consequences. Eventually he realizes that his actions have had a consequence on himself, a concept recognized by Buddhists as karma. With every passing repeated day, he gets more and more depressed, eventually losing all concept of who he is. The key turn around for Phil is when after trying to commit suicide multiple times he exclaims "I've killed myself so many times, I don't even exist anymore." At this point, he has attained emptiness of self, the first step in Buddhism to enlightenment. As Edward Conze, a Buddhist writer explains, "…the self is an illusion born of the ego with no reality to base itself on." After realizing that he is nothing, Phil finds a new purpose for his life. He spends each day helping others. He tries to save the life of a...
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