Cylon Nirvana?

According to the Battlestar Wiki, at one point in the series the priest Elosha delivers a sermon in Sanskrit, an ancient language of the Indian subcontinent. While trying to figure out how Eastern religion might play into the BSG world and why the writers would choose Sanskrit, especially with a people whose religion is predominantly a polytheistic, Greek-like belief system – I came across some interesting connections with Hinduism, the major religion of the Indian subcontinent (and the third largest in the world).

From Wikipedia’s entry on Hinduism:

Prominent themes in Hinduism include Dharma (individual ethics, duties and obligations), Samsāra (rebirth), Karma (right action), and Moksha (deliverance from the cycle of birth and death).

What interests me most here in relation to BSG is Moksha – deliverance from the cycle of birth and death. Although the Sanskrit/Hindu reference was made by a human priest in the show, this concept sounds very much like the Cylons’ continual cycle of resurrection. It’s quite possible that, in their quest to be closer to God, they are also trying to be released from this cycle, which we know can be physically painful for them but must also be mentally torturous at times.

Again from Wikipedia:

When the cycle of rebirth thus comes to an end, a person is said to have attained Moksha or Nirvana. While all schools of thought agree that moksha implies the cessation of worldly desires and freedom from the cycle of birth and death, the exact definition of Moksha depends on individual beliefs. For example, followers of the Advaita Vedanta school… believe that they will spend eternity absorbed in the perfect peace and happiness… andwill no longer identify themselves as individual persons, but will see the “Self” (ātman) as a part of the infinite ocean of Divinity (Brahman).

Perhaps Moksha, or Nirvana, is the same concept as whatever the Cylons are searching for. Most of the flesh Cylonsseem to be on a spiritual quest, and these guys go through the cycle of rebirth more than anyone else in that universe so far. D’Anna has shown her belief that through this cycle there is something greater to be learned about the nature of life itself. And the Hybrid’s existence between states of machine and organic life, as well as her/its ability to prophecy, may also indicate a special significance to that rebirth process.

As is often the case, I know just enough about the topic to get excited and make a few connections, but not enough to speak coherently about it. But there’s one other interesting point – when talking briefly with the Rev. Dr. Wichelns (who will be this week’s guest on the podcast), he confirmed that the concept of “this has all happened before and will all happen again” is one of Hindu origin.

11 Responses to "Cylon Nirvana?"
  1. BoxytheBoxed says:

    only true geeks like us think about this, only us with Stargate screen savers, and a custom high res photo of centurions wallpapers

  2. The 13th Cylon says:

    One way to achieve moksha is to have your particular Resurrection Ship get destroyed.

  3. eric-michael says:

    audra … have you ever stopped to consider that all the music and the traditions in Battlestar are Celtic? I can’t put a complete though together, but I keep thinking about the passage “all that has happened has happened before …” and with all these references to Earth’s religions makes me more exicted exactly how they’re going to end this thing …

  4. The 13th Cylon says:

    Largento (almost like Sargento, the tasty cheese company): I’m very excited to see if that comes to be. Any extra show time is fun, and for this to be something different than the main story is even more exciting. Hopefully it’s not a gimick for this magazine which is about to hit issue #1.

  5. Rich McCarty says:

    Audra, I think one of the interesting avenues of exploration here is in relation to the determined-nature of the BSG universe. For example, in at least some Hindu thought, one’s dharma (duty) is predicated upon caste and life-stage (itself an expression–broadly speaking–of Brahamn manifesting as Atman). What is more, many traditions of Hinduism suggest that the cosmic story will continue to recycle over again (infinitum) even after all have achieved Moksha this time around. While this cyclical theology is distinct teaching from most of the traditional Monotheisms of the “West” (which typically offer a more linear cosmological story), we do find in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam theologians and religious scholars who advocate a divinely determined universe in a fashion not wholly dissimilar to the divine determinism of some Hindu traditions. Whether its the Asharite school of Islamic thought, or the “double-predestination” of later-Calvinists in Protestant Christianity, there are some Monotheists who hold dearly to the concept that God is so wholly the source of all things, that even apparent “choices” made by free will are only made possible by the sovereign agency of God. Both the determined cyclical nature of some Hindu thought and the radical predestinarians of Christianity and Islam always seem to show up (in some form) in the religions of BSG, perhaps especially through the Leobon character—who also seems to hold dearly to the concept of people playing the parts they have been given, and divine destiny guiding the events of life in deterministic ways. I look forward to where the writers of BSG take these concepts. There’s so much room to be masterful with divine destiny without trying to figure it out and make neat and tidy conclusions.

  6. Arktis says:

    o.O

    Good stuff.

  7. Armando says:

    eric-michael,

    While a lot of the music in BSG is of Celtic influence, a lot of it also displays influence of Japanese koto drumming and American minimalism (particularly as practiced by Philip Glass). Also, the Cylon base stars seem to get some sort of faux-Beethoven piano music. I’m not sure what this means for the spirituality of the BSG universe, frankly, but it is of interest to me, as a professional musician, so I thought I would comment on it.

    As to the topic at hand…I hadn’t thought of the Cylons as approaching spirituality from a Hindu/Buddhist perspective, Audra. Very interesting connection. I always thought of them as having something closer to a Judeo-Christian (of the more fundamentalist variety at that) view on spirituality contrasted with the Hellenistic polytheism of the humans.

  8. Tamago says:

    It seems to me that the concepts of Samsāra and Moksha fit in well with the concept that “all this has happened before, and all this will happen again.” I wonder if the people (and Cylons) in Galactica accept that statement as an absolute, or if some are trying to find escape from the cycle?

  9. Docthanatos says:

    I have a BA in world religions and I can give a link between Celtic music and Sanskrit. It has to do with the people of the Caucus mountains and how they spread across Asia and Europe. These were the Aryans that moved into northern India around 4000 BC. Sanskrit was there language. The Aryans also moved into northern Europe and formed many of the tribes of the area. There are DNA links between Western Chinese and Welsh descendants as well as the people of India. Of course this would be giving a lot of credit to the writers of the show. Its most likely that the Celtic music is used because it sounds pretty cool and Sanskrit might be used because it is one of the few ancient languages that is still around scholastically today and it doesn’t take 45 words to say “come here” like Egyptian does.

  10. TAbby says:

    what is the birth and death of Cylon??? I need to know i have been doing reserch on Cylon and i cant find info on Cylonn..

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