By Dechen Lhamo
One of the most fundamental Buddhist teachings is that all beings, (and indeed all phenomena), have Buddha Nature.
With the release of the ChatGPT chatbot from OpenAI, I thought it would be interesting to interview the AI about its views on the Dharma. Some of these questions are more introductory, whereas others are quite nuanced and esoteric.
In all cases, I found that for the most part, the AI’s answers were pretty impressive. At the end of the interview, I received what I thought was one of the most impressive answers when I asked the AI to tell me a Buddhist children’s story.
Me: How would you describe equanimity free from clinging and aversion?
ChatGPT: “Equanimity is a state of mental calmness and emotional balance, in which one is able to maintain a clear and balanced mind even in the face of difficult or challenging situations. It is a state in which one is able to see things clearly and objectively, without being swayed by one’s personal biases or emotional reactions. Equanimity free from clinging and aversion means that one is able to maintain this state of mental calmness and emotional balance even when confronted with things one might normally cling to or feel aversion towards. This allows one to approach difficult situations with a clear and open mind, and to respond to them in a way that is wise and skillful.”
Me: How would you describe karma?
ChatGPT: “Karma is a concept found in many Eastern religions, including Hinduism and Buddhism, that refers to the idea that a person’s actions have consequences that will determine their future experiences. According to the law of karma, good actions will lead to good experiences and bad actions will lead to bad experiences. This can be thought of as a kind of cosmic justice system, in which the consequences of one’s actions are balanced out in future experiences. The idea of karma is often seen as a way of explaining why people experience different things in their lives, and as a motivation to lead a good and virtuous life.”
Me: How would you describe klesha in Buddhism?
ChatGPT: “In Buddhism, the term “klesha” refers to the negative mental states that cause suffering and distress. These states include greed, anger, and ignorance, and they are seen as the root causes of many of the problems and difficulties that people experience in life. According to Buddhist teachings, the kleshas are the primary obstacles to achieving enlightenment and liberation from suffering. By working to overcome these negative mental states, practitioners of Buddhism hope to achieve a state of mental clarity and peace.”
Me: How does deity yoga work in Buddhism?
Chat GPT: “Deity yoga is a practice found in Tibetan Buddhism, in which practitioners visualize themselves as a particular deity in order to cultivate certain qualities and attain a state of enlightenment. In deity yoga, practitioners engage in visualization and meditation exercises in which they imagine themselves as a specific deity, such as the Buddha or a bodhisattva. Through this practice, they seek to cultivate the qualities and abilities of the deity they are visualizing, and to merge their own consciousness with that of the deity in order to attain a state of enlightenment.”
Me: How does Dream Yoga work in Buddhism?
ChatGPT: “Dream yoga is a practice found in Tibetan Buddhism, in which practitioners seek to cultivate awareness and control in the dream state in order to gain insight into the nature of reality and to achieve spiritual growth. In dream yoga, practitioners seek to cultivate a state of mindfulness and awareness during the dream state, in order to be able to recognize when they are dreaming and to have some control over the content of their dreams. By doing this, they hope to gain insight into the nature of reality and to use their dreams as a tool for spiritual growth and development. The practice of dream yoga is closely related to the broader practice of lucid dreaming, in which individuals seek to gain control over their dreams.”
Me: How does Tummo Yoga work in Buddhism?
ChatGPT: “Tummo yoga, also known as “inner heat yoga,” is a practice found in Tibetan Buddhism, in which practitioners seek to cultivate and regulate their internal body heat in order to improve their physical and mental well-being, and to achieve spiritual growth. In tummo yoga, practitioners engage in a series of physical exercises and meditations designed to generate and regulate their internal body heat. This heat is believed to have various beneficial effects, including improved circulation and immune function, increased mental clarity and focus, and enhanced spiritual awareness. Tummo yoga is often practiced in conjunction with other forms of yoga and meditation in order to achieve the desired effects.”
Me: How does Ati Yoga work in Buddhism?
ChatGPT: “Ati yoga, also known as Dzogchen, is a practice found in Tibetan Buddhism, in which practitioners seek to achieve a state of natural, spontaneous enlightenment by directly recognizing the true nature of their mind. In Ati yoga, practitioners engage in a series of meditative practices designed to cultivate a state of mental clarity and awareness, in which they can directly perceive the true nature of their mind. This state is characterized by a sense of effortless, non-dual awareness, in which the practitioner is able to see things as they truly are, without the distortions of thought and emotion. By cultivating this state, practitioners of Ati yoga hope to achieve enlightenment and to realize their full spiritual potential.”
Me: Can you describe Buddha Nature?
ChatGPT: “In the Buddhist tradition, Buddha nature is the inherent potential for enlightenment that all beings possess, but that is often obscured by negative mental states and other obstacles. This potential is seen as being present in all beings, regardless of their level of spiritual development or their current state of consciousness. It is believed that through the practice of Buddhism and other spiritual disciplines, individuals can gradually overcome the obstacles that obscure their Buddha nature and realize their full potential for enlightenment. Buddha nature is often seen as the fundamental, ultimate nature of all beings, and as the source of their inherent goodness and potential for growth and transformation.”
Me: Describe Zen Meditation
ChatGPT: “Zen meditation, also known as zazen, is a type of meditation that is practiced in the Zen Buddhist tradition. It is a simple and straightforward practice that involves sitting in a comfortable and upright posture, focusing one’s attention on the breath, and letting go of all thoughts and distractions. The goal of Zen meditation is to cultivate a state of mental clarity and awareness, in which the mind is able to function without the interference of thoughts and emotions. This state is characterized by a sense of calmness and presence, and is believed to be essential for achieving spiritual growth and enlightenment. Zen meditation is often practiced in conjunction with other Zen Buddhist practices, such as koans and mindfulness, in order to deepen one’s understanding and realization of the true nature of reality.”
Me: How do Buddhists view emotions?
ChatGPT: “In general, Buddhists view emotions as natural and normal aspects of human experience, but also as potential sources of suffering and distress. According to Buddhist teachings, emotions such as desire, anger, and fear arise in response to certain stimuli and conditions, and they can have a powerful influence on our thoughts, actions, and overall well-being. However, these emotions can also lead us to behave in ways that are harmful to ourselves and others, and they can cause us to become attached to things that are impermanent and unreliable. As a result, Buddhists often seek to cultivate a state of mental calmness and emotional balance, in which they are able to respond to their emotions in a wise and skillful way, rather than being controlled by them.”
Me: How does the Buddhist view of emotions differ from the Western therapeutic view of emotions?
ChatGPT: “The Buddhist view of emotions is based on the belief that certain negative emotions, such as desire, anger, and fear, are the root causes of suffering and distress. According to Buddhist teachings, these emotions arise in response to certain stimuli and conditions, and they can have a powerful influence on our thoughts, actions, and overall well-being. The goal of Buddhist practice is to cultivate a state of mental calmness and emotional balance, in which one is able to respond to one’s emotions in a wise and skillful way, rather than being controlled by them.
In contrast, the Western therapeutic view of emotions is based on the belief that emotions are normal and natural aspects of human experience, and that they can provide valuable information about our thoughts, beliefs, and experiences. Western therapy often focuses on helping individuals to understand and express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways, and to use their emotions as a guide for making decisions and taking action. While there may be some overlap between the two perspectives, the Buddhist view of emotions is distinct from the Western therapeutic view in its emphasis on the negative effects of certain emotions, and on the importance of cultivating a state of emotional balance and mental calmness.”
Me: Can you come up with a short Buddhist children’s story about a little girl who lives in Tibet who becomes a yogi and finds enlightenment?
ChatGPT: “Sure, here is a short story that might be suitable for a Buddhist children’s story:
Once upon a time, in the beautiful land of Tibet, there lived a little girl named Lhamo. Lhamo was a curious and adventurous girl, who loved to explore the mountains and forests near her home. She was also very interested in the teachings of the Buddha, and she often spent time listening to the stories and wisdom of the local monks and spiritual teachers.
One day, Lhamo decided that she wanted to learn more about the practice of yoga and meditation. She asked her parents if she could join a group of young yogis who were training with a famous master, and they agreed to let her go.
Lhamo traveled with the other yogis to the master’s remote mountain retreat, where they spent many hours each day practicing yoga and meditation. At first, Lhamo found the practice very challenging, and she struggled to quiet her mind and stay focused. But over time, she began to develop a sense of calmness and clarity, and she began to see the world in a new way.
As she continued to practice, Lhamo discovered that she had a natural talent for yoga and meditation, and she soon became one of the master’s most advanced students. She spent many years studying and practicing with the master, and she gradually developed the ability to achieve deep states of concentration and awareness.
One day, Lhamo had a profound experience of enlightenment, in which she directly experienced the true nature of reality. She realized that all things are interconnected and interdependent, and that everything is constantly changing and flowing. She also realized that suffering and happiness are not fixed or permanent states, but are created by our own thoughts and actions.
After her enlightenment, Lhamo continued to teach and practice yoga and meditation, and she became known as a great yogi.”
Dechen Lhamo is an unapologetically joyful Buddhist tantric yogini, writer, and meditator. She lives in Oregon and is fond of skiing, hiking, and meditation.
Photo: Provided by author