Here's a question: Is it alright for Buddhists to watch horror movies?

In the United States, at least, there has been conservative hysteria over things like Satanism, extreme or violent music, violent video games, horror movies, Halloween, etc. It is quite silly, imo. None of the above ever made me more likely to be violent in real life.

Consider the article @sujato already linked to, consider this article about “angry” music, and this article about violent video games.

If you want to advance in your meditation then you will need to withdraw from the sensory realm, so to speak. So to the extent that horror movies are a form of entertainment they have the potential to make it more difficult to abandon the hindrance of sensuality. A lot of people nowadays are addicted to consuming TV (I have been there myself), but I don’t believe there is good reason to single out the horror genre as being a worse form of entertainment than others. In fact, based on some of the ideas linked in the above studies/articles (and there are other studies centered around this theme, if you wish to research more), you could argue that there are some benefits of the horror genre.

Most Buddhists are lay Buddhists who do not meditate, and the injunctions given to lay people by the Buddha were primarily concerned with ethics. In fact, the Buddha even encouraged his lay followers to make sure they spent their money on the five strings of sensuality in such a way as to bring satisfaction to themselves and others. He encouraged people not to be misers, after all, you do not get to keep your money with you after you die!

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Can you please name the suttas where Buddha does so?
I do not doubt your words, I just want to read the suttas, because I’ve never heard about this.

Here is AN4.61

To start with, with his legitimate wealth he makes himself happy and pleased, keeping himself properly happy.
He makes his mother and father happy …
He makes his children, partners, bondservants, workers, and staff happy …
He makes his friends and colleagues happy …
This is his first expenditure in an appropriate sphere on a deserved and fitting cause.


In gathering wealth like this, a householder does enough for their family. And they’d hold on to friends by dividing their wealth in four.

One portion is to enjoy. Two parts invest in work. And the fourth should be kept for times of trouble.”

There is also another Sutta which warns against both spending too much and being a miser, but I am having difficulty finding it.

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Thank you so much!
With Metta. :heart:

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According to media theory, generally, the problem with “media” (as in mass media designed for consumption) is that it encourages subjective identification through various means, which is too complex to go into here, rather than any type of challenge to or contemplation of media’s (as in any type of media’s) effect upon the senses (which are media themselves). And moreover, this is especially true with what’s called the classic Hollywood film (although advertising with its reliance upon demographic and psychographic target audience research, as well as all the other techniques available to it, mostly rhetoric, is generally regarded as the worst culprit, which is why there are strict laws around factual content and claims in advertising).
How media shapes things like world view is a perennial and much disputed topic, and there has been some extensive research done, both longitudinal in a chronological sense, and vast in a discursive, archaeological or genealogical sense done on media effects.

I’m interested in samples of North American film that can help to evaluate whether or not horror as art (or aspects of horror applied to art) can be (or has been) used in expressing Buddhist philosophy, and then, if so how, and what of a Buddhist “worldview” might that be trying to get across. So, that would be from an aesthetic approach, which necessarily involves the senses. The body and our reactions to it is a preoccupation in horror, so it just seems to me that bringing across corpse meditation is a preliminary and relatively easy fit. I think Brakhage already did that, and I doubt I am alone in my assessment, so I think he can be taken as a stable point of departure. It also opens up the question of along what precise sensory-perceptual path does corpse meditation lead to what precise attainments and wisdom gathered. Handing out doctrine can be done by anyone, how it is taken up and worked out in demonstrably visible expressive thought for others to see and contemplate is a much more difficult task.

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Have you read Arnika Fuhrmann’s Ghostly Desires: Queer Sexuality and Vernacular Buddhism in Contemporary Thai Cinema? The second half of Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s 2004 film Tropical Malady comes to mind when you mention the Buddhist horror aesthetic.

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Well thanks.

I don’t recall reading it, but I know Apichatpong Weerasethakul. I was asked to develop a seminar course on “sensory cinema” (for simple purpose here) grounded in Deleuzian theory for Emily Carr - under very strenuous circumstances, I must say - and spent an afternoon hashing out basic concepts with the Associate Dean, who asked me to develop it. What a curse, my background in East Asian studies, my hoighty toighty SSHRC funded research and reputation for having coherently applied Deleuze to film when almost no one can. (They just chew you up and spit you out, let me tell you).

We came up with this title (he more than me, because … I don’t know whatever … caught his eye), Space, Sensation and Asian Film. So that in itself was quite a thing for me to deal with. I selected oh about seven films and one of them was Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee, because it fit in within the broad requirements for my own research and there was secondary material on it. It was as much a learning experience for me as it was for the students I had to teach.
Very cool film. He’s extremely well respected. I think he’s also a conceptual artist. He’s got his fingers in a lot of pots. I don’t look into him, because I already have three objects of study that keep me scratchiny my head over things, and he’s big and got a lot of coverage in academia. So I don’t know much except for Uncle Boonmee. People really should watch it if they haven’t seen it. It’s definitely got all sorts of Buddhist stuff in it.
I also chose Travellers and Magicians by Khyentse Norbu, which uses horror elements, as well, in a very interesting way. It’s a gripping film. Leaves you with a strange feeling. I was pleased with that selection, because I was not sure about it after so much hype over his The Cup.

Actually I think I have at least skimmed it. I think she talks about cultural resistances in connection to rebirth somehow.

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Hmm … here’s something scholarly on the topic of body horror that could be brought productively into thinking about meritorious objects and comprehension of them through corpse meditation and such.

I retrieved it from Edinburgh U’s open access files.

Terrors of the Flesh Body Horror in Film.pdf (42.2 KB)