Featured Articles

Interdependence and the Dharma of Harry Potter

by Patrick Groneman

There is a lot of hype the past few weeks around the final cinematic installment of the Harry Potter series.  Geeks are in tears about the end of an era, and muggles (I mean…ummmm….folks who haven't read the books…) are content in shrugging their shoulders at it all.

But beyond the glitz, glamour and merchandising that comes part in parcel with our art in the 21st century is a story that reflects how we, as humans, struggle to relate with love and fear and find a place in the world.  Harry Potter is a story of the heart.

So, guffaws aside about how seriously one should be taking a story about wizards, I wanted to highlight how the Harry Potter series reflects the truth of Interdependence on two levels.

The first is the social level, which shows the relationship between two dueling individuals as well as the relationship between individuals and institutions.  The epic scale of the series allows us to see how courageous actions spreads among friends and down through generations.   At the heart of Harry's activity is bravery and a willingness to love, traits which are reflected in descriptions of his mother and father, and later displayed by his closest friends who emulate his bravery.

Lord Voldemort, the main villain in the story, is a wizard who wants to live forever and control the world around him. He surrounds himself with people who respond to fear mongering, and through them, his individual fear is amplified into the institutions that make up the Wizarding World -- The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry (Education), The Ministry of Magic (the political establishment), The Daily Prophet (Media Outlets), and Gringots (The Banking System). 

The state of the institutions in the Harry Potter series directly reflect the mindstate of the majority of individuals who make it up.  As Voldemort's influence in the wizarding world grows throughout the series, these institutions reflect his controlling, fearful mentality.

The second level of Interdependence reflected in the series is a little more subtle, which is "Existential" Interdependence.   This goes a bit deeper in expressing the utter dependence that all phenomena have upon each other just to come into existence.   Thich Nhat Hanh,
a teacher in the Vietnamese Zen traidition state Interdependence as such:

"When we look into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it. Without clouds, there could be no rain, and there would be no flower. Without time, the flower could not bloom. In fact, the flower is made entirely of non-flower elements; it has no independent, individual existence. It ‘inter-is’ with everything else in the universe." - Link

Harry, as the story's hero, must understand his adversary on a deep level in order to overcome his negative influence.   By going into the past, Harry learns that "Voldemort",  was once a young boy named Tom Riddle who, like himself, struggled to make sense of his place in the world.  He discovers that Tom was an orphan who experienced tremendous pain as a very young boy, and never knew a way to respond to the pain than to try to obliterate it or cause harm to others.

By following Harry's path of discovering Tom's past we are able to see the complex causes that led to his desiring so much power and control in the world.   There is no faceless evil force in the Harry Potter story; the reader/viewer is always given an opportunity to witness the Interdependent causes and conditions that create "The Villain".  By having a more dynamic understanding of this relationship, we see that the villain in the Harry Potter series is made up of entirely "non-villain" elements.

 (***spoiler alert below this line****)

To compound that relationship further, it is discovered later in the series that Harry himself has a piece of Voldemort inside of him.  A spell that backfired on Harry when he was very young has linked the hero and the villain for all of Harry's life, allowing each of them to see the thoughts and dreams occurring in the others' mind -- an emotional and strategic challenge for both.   So not only is the villain made up of entirely non-villain parts in this story, but Harry's definition as a hero in the world of wizards and witches is utterly dependent on the existence of the villain who he attempts to overcome.

(***end spoiler alert***)

When you remove the lens of magic spells and enchanted castles, you can still see Interdependence at work in our world of air conditioners and a warming global climate, or in how two leaders define each others' approach to a national crisis.


Follow Patrick on twitter


Vote for this article to appear in the Recommended list.


this sums it up for me

"Tell me one last thing," said Harry. "Is this real, or has it all been happening inside my head."
Dumbledore beamed at him. ...
"Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean it is not real?"

nice piece, patrick

I like how the scope of seven books/eight movies and all the history shows that we do start from the same place but make choices in response to conditions that water certain karmic seeds and bring them to fruition.

“It is our choices, harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.” Dumbledore


and how about Snape's Basic Goodness!

I shed a tear for Severus, I must admit. Great piece Patrick.


My heart goes out to Severus...deep wisdom, big heart in a much less prideful way.

what did Harry say to his son at the end?

"You were named for the bravest man I ever knew?" Something like that.

I haven't seen the movie yet

but in the book he says, "Albus Severin, you were named for two headmasters of Hogwarts. One of them was a Slytherin, and he was probably the bravest man I ever knew."

book ends with "All was well."

Site developed by the IDP and Genalo Designs.