Buddhist Novice in Today's World: Can a Buddhist Play Video Games?

- through Henry Oudin

Published on

This chronicle recounts the tribulations of a neophyte Buddhist. In full practical discovery, many questions emerge. How to adapt one's spiritual aspirations to life in society, on a daily basis? Our novice goes in search of concrete answers. Or not…The lotus and the joystick (understand for the uninitiated, the famous joystick that controls video games)… And if this was a Buddhist parable of modern times? Or how to disentangle the true from the false, the absolute truth and the more relative one that we experience, moment after moment, as long as our minds are clouded by ignorance? How can we be wary, in these 3D universes as in our daily lives, of the greatest illusionist that has ever existed: the mind? The very one that gamers seem to put on pause mode when they compulsively tease their controllers.

To decide, the novice that I am prefers to rely cautiously on the teachings so as not to lose his Sanskrit. Headphones on, I wonder: can we reconcile the wisdom of two-thousand-year-old Buddhism and the heroic-fantasy aesthetic of games of the digital age? The answer fuses (years of meditation facilitate the synthesis): attention, danger! these sumptuous pixelated universes unequivocally recall the torments of the different worlds of the samsara, because they open the Pandora's box of the mind without restraint. In virtual worlds as in samsara, rebirths (or "level of life" in the jargon of video games) testify to this. But, the novice knows, for a Buddhist, to be reborn is a form of failure, and means that he still has work to do to become an Awakened.

At this point in my thoughts, I remember a passage from the famous Lotus Sutra, which tells the story of a group of children trapped in a burning house, but who do not realize the danger until they are absorbed in their games. The anti-Nintendo or anti-Playstation collectives could not have said it better than what was said a long time ago, the Prajnaparamita-sutra “All objects are imaginary fabrications”. So why be alarmed at the possible dangers that would strike our dear toddlers and adolescents, even young adults?

Also, can I decently blame the players for spending hours glued to their screen when I have just spent ten years meditating in the forest? To each his own cave.

I prefer to congratulate myself that the PlayStations, Nintendos and other manufacturers of parallel universes have perfectly understood the principle of impermanence, interdependence, the law of causality and how rebirths work, and distill this reality to their geek. The avatars – our doubles online, perfect illustrations of the concept of Non-Self – are in fact constantly evolving and change outfits over the levels of play. Roughly speaking, according to their karma. Without forgetting that the players demonstrate that they have perfectly assimilated the Buddhist concept of conditioned co-production, since with them too, everything is interconnected: this is what we call network games.

photo of author

Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

Leave comments