It’s just one of the rage-inducing phrases heard in Overwatch alongside “It’s High Noon” and “Nerf This!”. The beloved omnic Tekhartha Zenyatta has come a long way in both his effectiveness and his lore in the Overwatch world. A personal favorite of mine, he is able to heal his teammates, make enemies vulnerable and deal a good amount of damage at the same time. However, his lore shows us his more compassionate side.
We have seen Zenyatta come into Genji’s lore before as the teacher who was able to mend the rift between his robotic and human side. However, Zenyatta was also part of a group of omnic “monks” called the Shambali.
The Shambali formed after the Omnic Crisis, with the purpose of healing the relationship between omnics and humans. Another notable person from the Shambali was Tekhartha Mondatta. As leader of the Shambali, Mondatta sought to heal the rift between humans and omnics that had been brought about by the Omnic Crisis. Mondatta’s dogmatic way of teaching, or teaching by using lessons and words more than actions, was the reason for Zenyatta leaving. He can be seen in this video which features a brawl between Lena Oxton (call sign: Tracer) and the Talon agent Amelie LaCroix (call sign: Widowmaker), who ends up assassinating Mondatta at the end of the cinematic.
Zenyatta believed that the way to live in harmony with humans was by forming interpersonal relationships and relying on actions more than words. Though we do not know whether he left the Shambali on good or bad terms; we do know he left of his own accord to do some soul-searching. During this journey, Zenyatta came across the better half of the Shimada brothers, Genji.
Side Note: A bit of an easter egg: if Genji and Zenyatta play together in a game, Zenyatta may say, “It’s so nice to be working with my old pupil again.”
One interesting point of Zenyatta’s lore is that we don’t know how his relationship with the Shambali is, and apparently neither does he. When entering Nepal maps (home of the Shambali,) some possible voice lines for Zenyatta are “I have not returned here in many years, I wonder if my brothers and sisters will be glad to see me,” or more notably “It’s good to return, but I wonder if I’m still welcome here”.
Parallels to Buddhism
Throughout his story we can see some parallels being drawn between Zenyatta and the philosophy of the Buddhist religion in real life. From his use of phrases such as “We are in harmony” to his relationship with the Shambali and Mondatta, we can see the evidence everywhere. The Shambali closely mimic the behavior of Buddhists, in that they are a like-minded group following their leader, and trying to find a way to live in harmony.
Mondatta can be seen as a symbol of the Dalai Lama. He led a group of followers and sought to show the general population the best way to live a peaceful life, accepting their circumstances and doing what they could with the choices they were given. While not the exact founder of the ideology, he is seen as a great teacher and is followed by many who agree with his teachings.
Then there’s the name Tekhartha. For those unfamiliar with Buddhism, the basic story is there was a person named Siddhartha Gautama who went on a spiritual journey and became known as Buddha after reaching enlightenment. Siddartha and Tekhartha are similar in sound, and the main difference is of course the “Tek” part, which could be a play on the word technology or “tech”. Some people have theorized that this could be a nod to the head of the Buddhist religion.
As far as we know, all omnics have the first name Tekhartha, but to be fair we only know of two omnics at this point; Zenyatta and the now deceased Mondatta. Another theory is that after Zenyatta’s joining on the forefront of battle against the omnics, he was given the title of Tekhartha in honor of their deceased leader. In the Buddhist context, we can see Zenyatta as a sort of rebel, accepting the basic principles but disagreeing on the way Mondatta taught.
Finally, another voice line of Zenyatta’s during his ultimate is “pass into the Iris.” We know basically nothing about the Iris at this point, but since the rest of his story relates to Buddhism, here’s what we found.
In one school of Buddhism, there is something called “The Dhamma Eye,” which is a sort of graphic representation used to show the path one must take to reach tranquility. Of course, as is the case in any physical eye the iris is the center, consisting of the colored part and the pupil. In this instance, the Iris could be a parallel to reaching tranquility in the Buddhist religion. The fact that “pass into the Iris” and “experience tranquility” are used interchangeably in game is another big clue that attributes credit to this theory. Another voice line of Zenyatta’s includes “the Iris embraces you”.
The Iris could also be a representative token of Buddha himself. The Iris is said to see humans and omnics as equals. This is similar to the ideology of buddhism in that we are all equal and we are all on a journey to spiritual enlightenment.
Hopefully, we will learn more about the Iris and what will happen with the Shambali after Mondatta’s assassination in coming videos and comics from Blizzard. The information we do know has given us a good understanding of not only Zenyatta but the entire Omnic population that seeks to gain harmony with the human race.
Stay on the lookout for more lore articles from us in the future!
Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism
Access To Insight – http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/study/into_the_stream.html#arising
Blizzard Entertainment – https://playoverwatch.com/en-us/heroes/zenyatta/
Overwatch Wiki – http://overwatch.wikia.com/wiki/Shambali
Gamepedia – http://overwatch.gamepedia.com/Shambali