“The Life of Pi” and the True Self (For Discussion After You’ve Seen the Movie)

by Aranyakananda

For those of you following this blog, I know this is the third movie I have commented on in a dharma context. But I have been extremely fortunate lately in my theater-going choices, and have felt they deserved comment. If it’s any consolation, I think the next movie I’ve agreed to go and see with my wife is “Les Miserables” and don’t plan on commenting on it.

Let me first announced the 0bligatory SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now, then. “The Life of Pi.” I have not read the novel but plan to now. The film, according to reviews seems to have given a bit different impression as to what the point of the story was. I try not to read too many of them and just go with what I myself got out of the film. But I need to see it again, for sure.

I immediately latched on to the idea that Pi was a practitioner of Sanatana Dharma, that he respected and appreciated that all spiritual paths were equally relevant. I think this is a unique characteristic of India, as Hindus, Muslims and Christians walk so much side by side. That should be the case in the U.S. but it doesn’t seem that way. Pi even said “Thank you Lord Vishnu for introducing me to Christ”! To me that is the epitome of Sanatana Dharma.

But I also saw that Pi was at his core, a Vaisnav, referring to Lord Vishnu as the “source of all.” And when he finally caught a fish to feed to the tiger so that Pi himself would not become the tiger’s next meal, he thanked Lord Vishnu for turning himself into a fish and coming to them to save them both. I thought of course of Matsaya, the first avatar of Vishnu.

I did not fully realize the allegorical nature of what was going on until the end of the film when Pi’s story to the reporters changed. On message boards there is discussion of whether the tiger in the story was Pi’s “other self”. His untamed nature. During his time on the boat with the tiger, Pi realized that it “could not be tamed, but maybe could be trained.” To me this line immediately spoke of yoga. He was talking of taming his own instinctual, animal nature. This may be why the tiger walked away without looking back. Once you shed your lower tendencies, you let them go forever in deference to your higher, true Self.

The tiger is also theorized to be the cook from the ship, so this confuses things a bit. Because certain events lead one to believe the hyena is the cook. But then again maybe the hyena and the tiger are the two sides of the cook’s nature. Either way we have a duality, a lower and higher -, an outer and an inner self portrayed.

After Pi tells the seemingly-allegorical tale of himself and the tiger and the hyena and the zebra and the orangutan, he tells another story which he was apparently forced by the reporters to tell because they wanted something that people would believe.

“Not something that has never happened before, then?” he asked. Something like that.

Indeed that was what the reporters wanted. I think that is why so many stories attached to religions are not believed. Because they often involve occurrences which have indeed, never happened before to our own eyes. Therefore they must be pure fantasy? Sure the Mahabharata and the Old Testament and other holy books may be allegories to teach us a higher truth, but if they are the accounts of actual events doesn’t that prove to us their connection to a higher power and an “other” world?

But I am not here to argue that this or that did or did not actually occur. Pi makes a stunning point at the end though, saying that neither the story of him and the animals (religion) nor the other story he told at the end (science) really explains how the ship he was on sank (why we are here?) or how he made it back to land (where we are going?) but isn’t the one of him with the animals at least more interesting? I would tend to agree that it is, though I maintain that both science and religion can and WILL one day walk together.

What are your thoughts on the film and it’s connection to dharma, yoga, etc?

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8 Responses to “The Life of Pi” and the True Self (For Discussion After You’ve Seen the Movie)

  1. pooja says:

    what i understand is , it was his(Pie’s) continuous efforts to know him (GOD) more and very nearly.. he himself found that the form or presence of god is not limited to only some religion (like he began his search to find the meaning of God through Hinduism,Christianity, Islam ) it is right now, its here….. its the same which is present in him as well as in tiger itself. and of course one’s dharma theory is narrated very beautifully.
    At some point its lacking in making understand his (pie) search of God, his concrete belief in God .

  2. V says:

    I think the bengal tiger was actually Vishnu helping him get through it. When he catches the fish it turns grey and he thanks Vishnu. When the tiger leaves into the jungle in the very last scene, it goes grey too.

  3. Sharm says:

    Absurd, this is a colonial abrahamic attempt to convert through Vishnu accepting christ. But NEVER the other way around. Christ follows an abrahamic middle eastern ideology of a 6000year old earth, made in six days, created adam and eve and world was populated by noahs three sons, called shem, japeth, and ham. The first two are european christians and arab muslims, the third son was cursed to be a slave to the first two , and from these three sons, the rest of the world was populated. It led to the slave trade of africans, north americans, south americans, indians, chinese and australians, the plunder of each nation, culture and race over the last 1200years, all underpinned by Abrahamic Christian ideology. That their god of the Isrealites, is the only ONE GOD that must be worshippped and all others must be erased, conquered and converted, 70% of the world was converted through mass war, genocide and famine. Christ and allah ABSOLUTELY do not accept ANYONE ELSE, especially a heathen faith, culture such as sanatan dharma, of which it cannot accept by the core ideology it has. That only their ONE GOD is true. So to even suggest that its all great that vishnu promotes christ, your lack of a true education, shows in the sheer ignorance of such statement. The one god in christianity and islam is the one god of the abrahamic isrealites.

    Its VERY WORRYING, how India was forced to accept a christianised educatedion system, distorting, erasing, corrupting history, to suit them, and then from those distortions to create a secluded soceity from the past to the present, a secular soceity.,

    To every one who has will (Believers) more be given: but from him who has not will (unbeliever) even what he has will be taken away. But those mine enemies (unbelievers), bring hither and slay before me.’ – Christ
    Luke19:11-27 Bible.

    o you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! -Christ
    Luke 12:51 Bible.

    ‘If a man abide not in me (Unbeliever), he is caste forth as a branch, and is withered: and men gather them, and case them into the fire and they are Burned”- Christ
    – John 15.6 Bible,

    Romanus Pontifex, issued by Pope Nicholas declared war against all non-Christians throughout the world, and specifically sanctioned and promoted the conquest, colonization, and exploitation of non-Christian nations and their territories.” This document also declares: the subjugation of the native peoples of the New World was legally sanctioned.

  4. India says:

    I’m late in seeing this movie, but hopefully I can add to the conversation. Could the cook actually be a Vishnu avatar? Vishnu in the person who works beneath his status and who brings a new age, who insists on the acceptance of the “new”? And when Pi kills the fish, perhaps Pi has accepted the dawn of the new age, thanking Vishnu for giving his life (Christ imagery) for his new life? And it seems obvious to me in his solitude, Pi becomes Shiva in the form of the tiger and emerges a person who has learned to can “let go”. So awesome!

  5. Xtream says:

    I agree. Xianity, Islam and Judaism have destroyed India, keeping India from it’s glorious past into the depth of misery of this nonsense Xianity cult.

    They hate Heathens and hate Heathen cult. I seriously hate Xianity and can’t disagree with any points you’ve said.


  6. Xtream says:

    I seriously hate this jesus christ, many of the xians don’t realise that xiantiy is itself anti-life and anti-gentiles:
    jesus is just a fictitious character, you know: “christ” is made out of KRISHna, a deity of Sanatana Dharma.


    Quotes from bible:
    “we are jews by birth not GENTILE SINNERS”
    “All the Gods of Gentiles are DEMONs”

    bible says the man-animal Avatars of Hinduism are that of the demons.

    It’s Demons are actually the Gods of Hinduism, this cult is so nonsense, it says Re-incarnation is a lie, yet it maintains that jesus, the jew will be born-again. Pure BS.

    The DEVIl is derived from the word “DEVI”, which relates to the feminine side of the soul which when united with the masculine aspect results perfection of the soul.

    There’s no logic in saying that jesus was an avatar of Lord Vishnu, bible has serious hatred towards idolatry, Gods of Sanatana Dharma and Gentiles.

    • treadmarkz says:

      Xtream, the fact that your hate speech comes along with so much valid and pertinent information goes to support the notion that there is no absolute “bad” or absolute “good”. So thank you for that.

  7. treadmarkz says:

    And I agree: “Hail Lord Vishnu”, “Hail Lord Shiva”

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