Richard G. Epstein
TEACHING THE DHARMA
USING VIRTUAL REALITY
Tibetan Teacher Uses Technology to
Special to the Sentinel-Observer
Human Features Reporter
As you all probably know by now, I am a great champion of traditional cultures. One of my favorite traditions is Buddhism, whether Zen or Tibetan. When Tibet beat China in the war game a few years back I got so drunk that I couldn't stand up for an entire week. I guess I over did it. After all, intoxicants are strictly forbidden in Buddhism.
In any event, I was excited to hear that Senwat Rinpoche, the famous Tibetan spiritual teacher, was using the latest technology to teach the Dharma. Rinpoche is not his last name. Rinpoche is a title, like roshi in Zen, or rebbe in Hassidic Judaism.
The Dharma refers to the spiritual law that governs the universe. Causality is an important part of the Dharma, but there is much more to it than that. But, the bottom line is that ye shall reap what ye sow.
I visited Senwat Rinpoche at his teaching center just outside of San Jose, CA. I was struck by the elegant simplicity of the campus, and the cheerful colors and flowers all around. Senwat greeted me and led me into his computer laboratory. He knew that my main interest was in his use of virtual reality to teach the Dharma.
Senwat explained that he had started a company, DharmaScape, whose purpose was to develop virtual reality software that would teach people the spiritual laws that govern the evolution of sentient beings in the universe. He had recruited some talented virtual reality artists and he was learning from them and they were learning from him.
Senwat started out with a statement that seemed mysterious at first. "Virtual reality is part of the Dharma, so it's not like I am trying to short-circuit the Dharma. It is part of your karma that you live in an age in which knowledge of the Dharma can be distributed in such an efficient manner."
I asked Senwat to elaborate upon that.
"There are some unfortunate human beings who have to transmigrate through dozens of reincarnations before they learn even the simplest of spiritual laws, that good begets good and evil begets evil. They find themselves in that situation because of their bad karma. Today, in 2028, people can learn about the spiritual laws in an accelerated manner using virtual reality. We can use virtual reality to show how the Dharma actually works at great speed. Thus, we can help people to avoid endless reincarnations and needless suffering. Do you see what I mean?"
I nodded yes.
"We in 2028 can use virtual reality to learn the Dharma because of our good karma. It is part of the Dharma that we can teach the Dharma in this way."
"I got it," I told him.
I then asked Senwat if he could explain how a virtual reality simulation could be used to teach the Dharma.
"The key to the power of virtual reality in teaching spiritual truths is that the feedback comes so fast. For example, suppose that you murder someone. Using the ordinary Dharma it may only be two or three lifetimes later that your karma ripens and you get murdered as a consequence of the cosmic law. By the time you get murdered, you have already forgotten that you had murdered someone several lifetimes ago. Thus, even the karmic retribution that occurs is not a learning experience. Using virtual reality, we can cause people to see how their actions and thoughts lead to karmic consequences on a greatly accelerated scale. Thus, we can condition the consciousness to accept responsibility for its actions. Thus, we can teach people to live with love, compassion and kindness for all lives. That's what I'm trying to accomplish here."
Senwat explained that DhamaScape's first venture into the virtual reality market was a program called KARMA. "KARMA instructs the user to commit several virtual sins. Then the user sees in a transparent manner how those sins generate the karmic retribution that is inevitable."
I asked Senwat to explain how the user could see these things in a "transparent manner".
Senwat gave this explanation: "When you commit a sin in the KARMA environment, we always show you the evolution of that karma as a visualization, almost like a demon, which follows you, and then ripens into an actual event, which is the retribution for the evil that you have done. But, things are not as gruesome as they seem. The KARMA program also teaches meditation. When the user meditates and prays, the karmic seeds are lessened and even disappear. Thus, the user learns that the Dharma does not just work like a blind machine. We can clean up our karma and we can even escape from the cycle of birth and death."
Senwat showed me the latest catalog of DharmaScape virtual reality products. These included virtual reality systems that could help a person free himself or herself from all sorts of psychological problems and obsessions.
"We have just taken traditional Tibetan meditation and visualization techniques and we've placed them into a virtual reality format. For example, suppose a person has an obsessive lust for power. Our virtual reality lesson, PowerLust, will allow that person to realize his or her dream, becoming a person of great power. Then, the person will begin to experience the consequences of that lust. This can actually cure a person of the delusional need for power and influence."
Senwat explained several of the other virtual reality experiences in the DharmaScape catalogue. I was especially intrigued by one that was called "Caravan of Dreams".
"What is this one about?" I asked.
"'Caravan of Dreams' is one of our most successful titles," Senwat replied. "It shows a person how their innermost dreams drive their lives, generating experience. It teaches a person that evil dreams will ripen into evil consequences, and beautiful dreams will ripen into beautiful experiences. This is how human destiny works. The structure of the universe is so complex. People think that everyone shares the same destiny, but this isn't true. Beautiful dreams ripen into beautiful experiences. Evil dreams ripen into horrible consequences."
Senwat allowed me to try out 'Caravan of Dreams'. It was a top-notch virtual reality experience. The system asked me to verbalize a beautiful dream and I described a world without poverty, without racism, a world of beauty, justice and love. The program then showed me how the intention to realize this dream would generate my own salvation, my own evolution into my own dream. I also watched as people who had opposing dreams, dreams of violence, oppression and racism, disappeared into nothingness. By the time I came to the end of 'Caravan of Dreams' tears of joy were running down my cheeks. I realized that I was creating my own destiny and that by developing wisdom and compassion, I would assure myself a destiny that was filled with joy and happiness.
Senwat laughed with joy when he saw my tears. "People think the universe is an inflexible, objective reality. Maybe our Dharma teaching programs will teach people that human destiny is in human hands."
I thanked Senwat profusely and ordered two more of DharmaScape's virtual reality programs for my home library.
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