Thought Piece: Comparing the Search for Horcruxes with the Lessons of Buddhism

By Sadman Ahmed Siam

The very foundation of Buddhism is acceptance of death and the fear that comes along with it. Repeatedly advised to embrace the impermanence of life, Buddha said that the source of unhappiness lies in false expectations of a life free of suffering, especially death.

Some of the readers probably are puzzled, and justifiably so. Possibly some are shaking their heads. How on earth does Buddha fit in Harry Potter? But it does, almost poetically so. I don’t know if J.K. Rowling even had this in her mind but interestingly, the ancient Eastern wisdom of Buddha finds its Western 21st-century rejuvenation through Voldemort’s Horcruxes.

“But how so?” Glad you asked.

From shaping Death as an entity to the Jesus-like resurrection of Harry to the pain and the suffering of death is quite explicit in Harry Potter. Unconsciously, we all share Voldemort’s boggart – the corpse of ourselves. The feeling of nothingness, sinking into the infinite darkness makes our stomach ache. We try to deny, we try to avoid death, and we try to run.

2500 years ago, Buddha, uninterested in the immortality of gods, reflected on this very suffering. Arguably, the greatest suffering for humankind is death, at least in our collective sense. It could be argued that human civilization went hand-in-hand with the lengths we went to avoid death. We try to create Horcruxes through wars, empires, monuments, buildings, artwork, and discoveries that bear our name for centuries to come all making us immortal. So what can make us any different from the Dark Lord, in the core interest?

Harry does.

Harry didn’t run after immortality. He became the master of death by acquiring The Deathly Hallows, but still left them of his own free will to die, to face Voldemort defenseless. He embraced death like a martyr, reminiscent of the saints and prophets. Paradoxically, by not fighting death, he conquered death. Voldemort was vividly shocked at his comeback, and so were we. All his life the Dark Lord, like us, ran to avoid death. But Harry became the true heir of Buddha through his unconditional acceptance of death.

So why fear the certain? The fear of death forbids us to live a truly fulfilling life, forcing us to create Horcruxes to avoid dying. But just like a Horcrux, it also forces us to kill the sweet joy of living. Coincidentally, a hint of this sentiment could be found in Dumbledore himself, when he says, “Do not pity the dead, Harry. Pity the living, and, above all those who live without love.” (DH 35.) Love for what exactly? It is the love of life itself. As Buddha argued many years ago, the love of life has to be greater than the fear of death to make life meaningful.  

It’s truly amazing and yet another success of Harry Potter to make the reader think about death in a new light spiritually, especially in the light of the ancient wisdom of Buddha. The metaphors of Horcruxes and Harry’s unconditional sacrifice of himself speak to the heart of Buddha’s teachings and inspire us to find the light even in the darkest of times. 

Artwork by SaBenerica 


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