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Publisher's Summary

Movie fans and spiritual seekers, unite! In Cinema Nirvana, veteran meditation teacher and film critic Dean Sluyter illuminates the hidden enlightenment teachings of Casablanca, Jaws, The Graduate, The Godfather, Memento, Easy Rider, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Big Sleep, Fistful of Dollars, and half a dozen more classic films, revealing spiritual wisdom in everything from 007's secret weapons to the colors of the Seven Dwarfs' eyes.

So grab your popcorn, sit back, and prepare to have your mind opened. Cinema Nirvana is a funny but wise, practical but wildly entertaining guide to finding enlightenment...one movie at a time.

©2005 Dean Sluyter (P)2014 Dean Sluyter

Critic Reviews

"Equal parts inspiring, quirky, fascinating, and fun. Cinema Nirvana will make you look at film and faith in a new light." (Dallas Morning News)
"If you spliced together DNA from Quentin Tarantino and the Dalai Lama, you'd get Dean Sluyter and he'd write this amazing book." (Michael Gelb, author of How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci)
"Sluyter is the movie guru I have longed for. He mines deep spiritual wisdom from classic films with tremendous humor and grace. Virtually every page contains jaw-dropping insights and laugh-out-loud surprises." (Lama John Makransky, Prof. of Buddhism and Comparative Theology, Boston College)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Scott
  • LOS ANGELES, CA, United States
  • 02-20-14

Highly recommended

Would you listen to Cinema Nirvana again? Why?

Terrific, articulate talks by the author himself, probing into deeper meaning in many well known films. There is much depth and richness of detail, like many films. Upon repeat viewings, or in this case listening, one picks up additional nuance which was missed the first time around.

What about Dean Sluyter’s performance did you like?

The tone, the pace and the very clear pronunciation.

Any additional comments?

I've attended some of the author's talks over the years. They are always interesting, enriching amd thought provoking. He has a very broad and experiential understanding of many religious and spiritual traditions, which he brings to this collection of intriguing essays.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Eye opening listen!!

Any additional comments?

Great listen! Gave me wise & witty insight into the connection between my favorite cinema classics and Buddhist philosophy. Provided a new lens to view the characters and themes I've loved, allowing me to see beyond the images to the gems of wisdom hidden in these films. Roll over Elvis -- I'll never look at Jailhouse Rock the same way again !!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • April
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • 02-17-14

You won't watch movies the same way again!

Would you listen to Cinema Nirvana again? Why?

I've read the book multiple times now for personal enjoyment and for it's usefulness in the high school class I teach. So yes, I and my students will be listening to the audio version to hear Dean's POV on these films. I think that this will help the students to understand these enlightenment lessons more by hearing his voice rather than just reading the words on the page. It will give the lessons life.

What other book might you compare Cinema Nirvana to and why?

I've not read another book that compares to Cinema Nirvana -- that is why I picked it up for the first time to read it! This book adds to my understanding of different teachings from various religious traditions, some of which only come from textbooks, professors, and the news.

Which character – as performed by Dean Sluyter – was your favorite?

The shark as he is moving through the water to John Williams' theme of Jaws.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

My favorite chapter is Independence Day -- sometimes you have to have experiences of dumbness to allow for the wisdom to come in. Rather than keep waiting for an experience of "enlightenment" to happen, in which case one may keep on waiting, realize -- this is it, this is it, this is it. Recognize that this moment is it and be fully content with it. How useful this is when we are bombarded with messages of instant gratification on a regular basis.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Magic in the Mundane

What did you love best about Cinema Nirvana?

I loved the premise of the whole book, that through popular media such as movies, we can find guidance to forge our own paths towards personal freedom and true happiness. It makes us value the magical potential of everyday life.

What other book might you compare Cinema Nirvana to and why?

The "Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert Persig jumps to mind. It also used a very mundane activity (servicing motorcycles) to extract pearls of wisdom. "Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories that Heal" by Rachel Naomi Remen is another volume written towards this end.

What about Dean Sluyter’s performance did you like?

Dean's performance gave me a sense of calm centeredness even in the midst of the turmoil of our times. His voice is resonant, soothing, and carries a sense of authority. It made me trust what I was being told.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, throughout, I found myself percolating with delight. The stories are well-chosen and provocative not only for the drama of the tale––everybody loves a good yarn––but also in the depth of substance that fed my soul.

Any additional comments?

I greatly appreciated the author's broad reach from high to popular culture. He is as comfortable quoting from the "Godfather" as from the Buddha, from Jimmy Cliff to Trungpa.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • jodi
  • CRANFORD, NJ, United States
  • 02-14-14

A must listen!

Any additional comments?

Outstanding audiobook. The enlightenment lessons that Dean shares with his audience are fun, simple, and profound. The clarity of his words are brought to life by the warmth and wit in his voice. I have spent long commutes to and from work listening, laughing, remembering, and waking up. Many thanks, Dean.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Or: How to Ruin Films with Buddhist Woo

I bought this audiobook for a few reasons. First, after several very deep, sometimes depressing non-fiction titles, I was in the mood for something lighter. Secondly, I love movies, so I was intrigued by the idea of a book about film, even if it was through the lens of buddhism. I was wary of the woo, but I dove in anyway. In fairness, if you're the kind of person that claims to be spiritual but not religious, you may very well like this. I'm neither religious, nor spiritual, but nevertheless have a great appreciation for beauty and the (for lack of a better term) transcendent. This book gave nothing in those terms to recommend it.

That being said, I wanted to like it. I wanted there to be interesting points to consider. But there just wasn't. Just more of the same self-perpetuating contradictions which buddhists claim are their own answers. Buddhism is the one religion (and creator or no, I have no qualm regarding it as religion) that is best practiced in a cafeteria style. Take a bit here, and a bit there, but it's best to ignore the overbearing philosophy. Death of self is not actually death of self, claims the author and every other buddhist devotee, except when it is.

Of more disappointment was the fact that the films take a backseat to the author's dogma, though of course buddhism has no dogma, except when it does. There's a split between films that may have had some buddhist influence in their creation, and one's that are retrofit by the author, at times ridiculously.

I think the point where I started to check out was when the author manufactures a vision of the future of Ben and Elaine in The Graduate which is at odds with virtually EVERYONE whose seen the film, in addition to director Mike Nichols. Yes, according to the author, buddhism trumps the director of the film as authority. And it gets worse. The Godfather chapter was particularly laughable, specious and stretching for meaning at times, marrying christianity and buddhism, and never very convincingly. The Easy Rider chapter is chock full of humble brags about his wild hippie days with LSD, and incredulous at how pompous they all were. The drugs may be gone, but he doesn't seem to recognize his pomposity remains.

A lot of pop culture references pepper the book, as well. Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, great. Jay-Z and Where's Waldo, not so great. I did enjoy hearing about the films, particularly the ones I liked, which helped me at least get through the book.

I only found this book deep into a search of the entire Audiobooks catalog, and I can understand why now. I thought *Find your own mental fork*, may have been the most ridiculous line of the book, but it pales in comparison to a line in the Casablanca chapter. The letters of transit had to be put in Sam's piano to *incubate in that wisdom womb to attain their full liberative potency*. Oh, brother. That's chapter 17 out of 18, the last film chapter. I would have saved a lot of time if he'd put that in an earlier chapter. With 3 stars, very kindly, I'm letting go of this experience.

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Popcorn for the Soul

What did you love best about Cinema Nirvana?

You don't have to be a hardcore cinephile or a devout Buddhist to enjoy "Cinema Nirvana." In fact, I think it's best appreciated as an entry point to both disciplines. <br/><br/>Sluyter has gift for distilling complicated ideas into a clear and refreshing message, a thirst-quenching elixir for the spiritually parched. If you are already familiar with other Buddhist and eastern philosophy texts, his interpretations of classic films offer a unique alternative way into those teachings. And if you're a the kind of movie buff who doesn't mind a double header, but isn't quite so sure about all that spirituality jazz, this book does a marvelous job of relating the heady matters of faith to something a little more familiar. <br/><br/>The fact that the author reads his own book—with clear and enthusiastic enunciations— gives the text added life that is missing from many other audiobooks I have tried. <br/><br/>All in all, highly recommended, whether for your morning commute, a stroll through town, or your next airline flight. Give it a whirl.