Star Wars is many things, but subtle is not among them. The Creator, and subsequent creators, lay things out pretty plainly, and usually in layers. Luke and Anakin’s clothes get progressively darker. The bad buys blow up planets. Heck, Vader even tells Luke he has saved him, just to make sure everyone who missed him throwing the evil guy down the reactor shaft can catch on.
Planets, likewise, lay things out nicely. Tatooine is barren and lifeless because Luke has little hope of escaping. Mustafar burns like Anakin’s soul. Dagobah is full of life, but it is not always easy to understand. The Force, anyone?
Well, it seems JJ Abrams has decided to add to this list with one of the planets in The Rise of Skywalker, Pasaana. The name comes Vipassana, a form of meditation in the Buddhist practice. This form of meditation is “mental training that will teach you to experience the world in a whole new way.” The goal is to “learn for the first time what is truly happening to you.” In a trilogy all centered around identity, this seems apropos.
Vipassana is about the process of self-discovery, which is just fancy for figuring out who you are. Vipassana’s goal is not about labels, but rather for you to experience life as both a participant and an observer. Such is the way of the Jedi, and where the Jedi went wrong in the prequels. The were participant, but not observing through the Force. With Pasaana being a destination for our heroes, this could mean that Rey is going there to find texts or teachers who could show her how to do so. In some way, shape, or form, Pasaana seems to connect to the Force.
Another facet of Vipassana is to forget what you have been taught, to “forget about theories and prejudices and stereotypes.” In doing so, the participant is able to “understand the true nature of life.” In the first teaser for Episode IX, Luke says, “A thousand generations live in you now. But this is your fight.” That’s basically a 1:1 with Vipassana, and his words being spoken over images of Pasaana would support such. In fact, his words come right before Rey jumps onto or over Kylo Ren’s TIE Silencer. While it is unlikely that the two happen simultaneously in the actual film, this could be a clue to the direction of these two characters.
Both Rey and Kylo are trying to figure out who they are. Kylo is basing his present on his past, while Rey is trying to not let her past define her present. It is a tension that the two are going to be working through in their “complicated” relationship, as TROS writer Chris’s Terri’s has defined it. This discovery of true identity is the core of Vipassana, as it lets the participant see things in a “new way.” Rey and Kylo are going to have to see things in a new way as well, going beyond the simply duality of light and dark. That was the story of the first six films, and the galaxy was found wanting. In order to bring the eternal conflict to a conclusion, they must find the “new way.”
This new way will almost certainly include the redemption of Kylo Ren. Going back to the identity conflict, Vipassana calls the participant to not “just accept someone else’s explanation” of who he or she is. This is quite literally what Ben Solo has been doing his entire life. In doing so, he is separating himself not only from his family, but from what the Force is truly calling him to be. In The Force Awakens, Kylo talks to the helmet of his grandfather, Darth Vader, because he feels “the call to the light.” The light is trying to show him his identity, and he is denying it. Yet, Vipassana is about chipping away the “illusion that separates from the light.” If Rey is going to Pasaana in search of her identity, Ben Solo most likely will as well. Notably, JJ Abrams, speaking to Vanity Fair, said there is “something about the way the sand interacts with the light” when speaking on what they chose that location for Pasaana.
The final step, and ultimate goal, of Vipassana is called Liberation.This happens when the “meditator chisels through that wall and tumbles into the presence of light.” However, “routes to attainment of that end are quite diverse.” If Vipassana and Pasaana are indeed connected, and it is hard to deny there link, Liberation then becomes Bendemption. Ben Solo, returning to the light, though possibly in a way we could never have fathomed.
Special thanks to Michelle Wittlich