Wednesday, April 29, 2009

King of the Hill and Buddhism

When I took Buddhist Philosophy at Rutgers, my professor played for us an episode of King of the Hill: Won't You Pimai Neighbor?

It's a great episode and a lot of interesting Buddhist philosophy can be found in it, but really it's the ending that does it. Bobby finds out that he's the reincarnation of a lama after a few monks come to visit his girlfriend, Connie's parents. Things go well for a time, while they wait for another monk to come and confirm the finding. That is, until Connie and Bobby find out that lama's are celibate monks and cannot have relationships. Bobby worries a lot and even considers trying to throw the test, but realizes he can't when Connie explains her feelings about her religion and tells him what would happen if he purposely failed.

It's a heartwarming episode. At the end, he's supposed to choose among the effects of the old lama. He chooses Connie, by pointing to her reflection in the mirror. After everyone leaves, one of the monks talks to the newly arrived head monk, pointing out:

MONK # 1: But that was Sanglug's mirror.
HEAD MONK: I know, but he didn't pick it.
MONK # 1: But he used it.
HEAD MONK: Tough call. But it's mine, and I made it.

One of the ideas behind this exchange is that Bobby passed the test, but did not choose to be a monk. His relationship with Connie in this life was more important to him, and to take him away from that would be unacceptable.

While this is not exclusively Buddhist in ideology, and while it's neither highly detailed nor completely (in)accurate, it is notable for the fact that it provides a tangible argument in an appealing way, and that it's set in modern times. It's a great episode and I highly recommend it. That kind of television is something else entirely.

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