Buddhism isn’t the only game. Most -isms are games. Games are bundles of rules and their consequences. Follow the rules, and win; break them and lose. All of these games have the same goal: fulfillment. We take a gaming approach to a lot of things—even relationships. It’s impossible to not do it, it’s going to happen unconsciously, so don’t waste time fighting it. Our nervous systems are designed to game. But we get to choose our own -isms.

 

By Johnathon Lee

Most video games follow the same formula: You beat challenges to gain levels and win the game.

When you win, that’s it—the game’s over. You beat the last boss, pump your fist, and then do the dishes or something. This is your reminder to do the dishes, by the way. Also, be sure to drink some water. ABH: Always Be Hydrating.

Is Buddhism like a video game?

Most of it is based on the same concepts. From a Buddhist’s perspective, we are (re)born ignorant and full of suffering. The goal is to overcome suffering and not be born again. So, we cultivate morality, concentration and wisdom to do that. If we enter nirvana, we’ve basically won at life.

If we don’t, then when the game ends, we have to start all over at the beginning. Our character doesn’t reboot. The things we’ve unlocked pass from life to life, for better or worse.

There are even different stages, or classes, of attainment in Buddhism. Stream-enterers have overcome wrong views about the self, doubt in the Buddha, and attachment to rites and rituals.

Once-returners have also weakened ill-will and sensual desire, and they’re reborn once more. Non-returners have severed ill-will and desire altogether, and they’re reborn once more too, but in heaven.

Arhats aren’t reborn. They’ve let go the desire for rebirth, and they’ve overcome pride, worry, and ignorance. They won the game.

Then we’ve got the Bodhisattvas. Instead of entering Nirvana like Arhats do, they decide to keep playing so that they can help other gamers. There are 10 stages of Bodhisattvahood. When someone complete them all, they enter Nirvana and become a Buddha.

From a Mahayana standpoint, you can either part the veil of affliction and become an Arhat, or part the view of ignorance and become a Bodhisattva. Then you can overcome affliction after that and be a Buddha—which is basically Arhat 2.0.

Apparently you can talk to angels, read minds and teleport when you’re a Buddha. Buddhas also know everything. They’ve basically become one with the game, like Neo in the Matrix. I’m not making this up.

A lot of Western Buddhists gloss over this stuff. We do the privileged, Western thing and bake a pie with the cherry-picked parts  we like. I’m not saying that’s bad, or that Buddhism couldn’t benefit from some skillful syncretism, but we should be mindful of this.

Cherry-picking can be harmful because we have no way of knowing whether we’re losing essential parts of the Path or not. Also, it’s kind of a dick move. Kinda like a super white person doing a rain dance in Native garb. Colonialism is alive and well. We just ran out of land, so now we hijack ideas.

The fact is that Buddhism is a game. Grokking that can help us get over some attachment to it.

Also, Buddhism isn’t the only game. Most -isms are games. Games are bundles of rules and their consequences. Follow the rules, and win; break them and lose. All of these games have the same goal: fulfillment. We take a gaming approach to a lot of things—even relationships. It’s impossible to not do it, it’s going to happen unconsciously, so don’t waste time fighting it. Our nervous systems are designed to game.

But we get to choose our own -isms. We get to decide which rules can help us win.

I practice Chan, so I chose none. Chan is Buddhist, but basically in name only. Chan, Zen, Seon and Thien use Buddhist lingo, but if you swapped the words, they’d barely look Buddhist at all.

From a Chan perspective, life isn’t a game—we make it into one. There aren’t really any winners or lovers, and there aren’t any levels or stages of attainment. There’s Just This. Rain falls without you telling it to. The sun rises and sets unbidden, and without truly rising or setting at all.

When it’s always, “Five o’clock somewhere,” then it’s always five o’clock. I can’t believe I just referenced a Country song. I’m gonna have to blast some Metallica now to clean my ears out.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this article and that you can use it to not be swindled by any wiley teachers.

 

Photo: Pixabay

 

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