Eddie Murphy, of all people, made a movie with a serious message. It’s called “A Thousand Words”, and even if he spoiled it with his acting and mannerisms it still “makes you think”.
His character – ostentatious, self-absorbed businessman accidentally meets a popular New Age guru and triggers a kind of a curse – he gets his life intertwined with that of a “bodhi” tree. Now for every word he says a leaf falls off the tree and the guru helps him figure out that as soon as all the leaves fall off both the tree and Eddie Murphy himself would die.
They estimate that there are about a thousand words left for him to say, hence the name of the movie.
From the Krishna consciousness point of view it’s a perfect setup to realize the importance of chanting the Holy Name but the movie doesn’t go that far despite the guru being an Indian teaching people mantras and meditation. Actually he was a native American Indian, from Bolivia.
Eddie Murphy then goes through various stages of realization of his situation and the tree doesn’t fool around. He tried using his words for good, he tried giving charity, he tried praying – nothing works, leaves continue to fall. Unable to explain himself he loses his wife and his son, he loses his job, and at one point he decides to give up, get drunk and run his mouth off until he dies but luckily someone stepped in and stopped him.
Finally, with the help of his guru, he realizes the gravity of the situation and the value of speaking absolutely honestly, from the bottom of his heart and not wasting any words on frivolous subjects. Again, a perfect setup for taking up chanting and a perfect reminder to us that Holy Name is really, really important.
We might not have a limit on the number of words we say but we do have a limit on our bodies shelf-life, whether measured in years or in the number of breaths. Every word spoken without seeing its connection to Krishna is a waste, but the movie actually gives another, perhaps even more important lesson – even when Eddie Murphy took to the right path with full dedication, leaves still continued to fall.
I’ve caught myself a number of times where I realize that I hope chanting will give me a long and wholesome life filled with all kinds of happiness. The script writers, however, cut down this illusion at its root – even if we do everything that we need to do perfectly our lives are still going to be as miserable as usual and, perhaps, even worse.
Chanting is not supposed to make us happy, in fact it should be quite the opposite, just like Queen Kunti prayed for more calamities. I was very surprised that some comedy producers realized that, too, and ahead of me.
Eddie Murphy’s last three words were “I forgive you”, which was the ceiling of his spiritual realization in that movie’s context, and after saying that the remaining leaves and his body fell to the ground and expired.
The movie should have just ended there but, of course, it’s impossible in entertainment, so both the tree and Eddie Murphy were reborn and lived happily ever after. In a way this is what is supposed to happen to us, too, except being reborn here in the same body and in the same situation would be a bit of a disappointment.
Anyway, two lessons from this movie stood out for me – the importance of chanting and the futility of high expectations. Sometimes I feel ready to make sacrifices to achieve progress in developing my Krishna consciousness but I still don’t have the guts to give up the desire for rewards and as long as this desire is there I will not become a devotee, just a generic enjoyer who thinks he struck gold by getting the Supreme Lord to attend to his needs and wishes.
That attitude needs to go away.
Oh, and it’s also interesting to note that even in a movie a meeting with a saintly person, even if it hastens you demise, is ultimately beneficial.