Hinduism and Buddhism believe that the world is “Maya” or an illusion. In fact, all human actions are recorded for judgment as part of its concept of the afterlife. There are repercussions, good and bad, to all human behavior and the consequences will determine the path of the soul.
The question is “what is this illusion?” If you turn to the “Lila” of the Hindu Vedas, we come to see the nature of what we take for our reality. The term means divine acting/playing in the sense of “a grand play” and as such it is a metaphor for reality. It is used for the avatars of the gods. It has a relationship with the divine absolute, or brahman, and the contingent world. It is a religious metaphor as understood by the many generations that followed.
Each era uses the technology of its time to contemplate creation and since we are in a digital age, our computers are setting the tone. We actively participate in some kind of video game or alleged “movie” that is incredibly powerful in creating an illusion, perhaps the most powerful “stage play”. In essence, we do not just watch the “movie” but participate in the events portrayed.
While Buddhism recognizes that the world is illusory, as if we are in a dream, Simulation Theory coincides with its view of life as a simulation created by a supercomputer with extraordinary powers. Simulation Creationism, authored by world expert Nir Ziso, takes a similar stance, but with a twist. He suggests that reality and what we know of existence are all part of a simulation. There is a reason: to research and monitor events related to creation and human life. He founded the Global Architect Institute to disseminate information on this subject.
A divine deity likely formed the universe for this purpose. According to the model, everything humans detect through their five senses, plus their actions and thoughts are predetermined. In the end, they are transmitted to an observer whose reality is a “movie”. A relay station sends the data to the endpoint observer. The observer’s consciousness is a component of simulation creationism and is in charge of recording an emotional response to what is being transmitted.
Thus, for those adhering to Simulation Creationism and the Simulation Argument, the universe is indeed an illusion. It may be in line with the Tibetan concept of Dream Yoga, a practice that helps one accept dreams while asleep. It is one of the Six Yogas of Naropa.
Once on board with this dream world as an illusion, you can tackle the idea of living in a digital simulation, akin to a video game light years beyond Pong. While we think we are dreaming, but we are actually awake. Take a game like Minecraft or Second Life in which objects are just pixels, made to resemble material items. These pixels convey information using light. In effect, what seems to be part of reality as a permanent thing is visible under this light when the game server is running.
This leads to the idea of the “impermanence of all things”. What used to be a metaphor is a real-world theory and not a mirage. We live in a scientific era that is just beginning to explore whether reality is an illusion or not. The universe and all within it are a “projection” and an interactive synthetic experience. It is like a movie that is reminiscent of a dream. Simulation Theory knows that it is really a video game!
Buddhists want to reach enlightenment and “wake up” from their various reincarnations. In fact, Buddha itself means “one who is awake”. This is very telling for Simulation Theory. Think of Neo waking up after taking the red pill in the movie, The Matrix, one of the forerunners of the theory. Once awake, the illusion changes. It can happen through yoga and meditation as sages over time have shown. In short, the purpose of religion is to wake us up from our illusion of reality.
Buddha’s Endless Wheel
If we are all on Buddha’s Endless Wheel, we have to get off. The wheel represents the endless cycle of samsara, or rebirth, which can only be escaped by means of the Buddha’s teachings. Is this not akin to how we live in a video game per Simulation Theory? We are in an endless cycle as the player outside the game continues dropping quarters into the slot to keep the game going. Pong started the whole video game mania thanks to Atari, a company founded in the 1970s by Nolan Bushnell in the famed Silicon Valley of California.
It became a staple of the arcade games of its day. Now what of reincarnation? Perhaps we can keep it around and use it as a metaphor. The multiple lives from Eastern religious traditions can be compared to video games; the term has been used in conjunction with them. In fact, we take these avatars for granted.
Reincarnation is associated with the Eastern traditions as a fundamental tenet in many religions. Perhaps it should be renamed as the “transmigration of the soul from one body to the next.” This may be what is happening to us as we become avatars.
We can update game theory with the Buddhist idea of souls downloaded into a physical body. Think of the metaphor of the River of Forgetfulness in many traditions. In effect, we lose touch with our past lives. In Simulation Theory, we do not know we are in a simulation.
As Buddhists do, we “inhabit” a body and create a certain karma that follows our actions in life, as if we were in a play or dream. We pass through reincarnations of our souls to keep the wheel spinning. This is the nature of karma. It is a concept understood in the West as a kind of negative payback for some wrongdoing. Let’s just say it is the law of cause and effect.
Are Eastern religions describing something real and if so, how is it all to be implemented. We can make an analogy with the MMORPG gaming genre. We are players in a “rendered world” (a fancy name for a simulation). In effect we are characters that may have to keep playing until we die at the hand of the player of the video.
Karma is stored outside this rendered video world. It is probably in a cloud server. It is similar to a scorecard or a set of quests. When humans act in some manner, a new set of quests is created for the video player/observer to complete in this life or a future one. Each time the game is played, more quests are created…and on and on in a cause and effect relationship.
Why can’t we see Buddha’s Endless Wheel as a stream of quests in a series that are created to be fulfilled. “Little karmas” can be tackled more easily, perhaps when we are in a dream state (what Tibetans deem “karmic traces”). Then there is “big karma” that requires “big dreams” – otherwise known as waking reality or actual experience.
Someone must decide what the quests are? In metaphorical terms, the Lords of Karma access our past ones that are stored outside the real world. These Lords then force us to interact with other characters/players. Think of your Facebook friends list. Karma seems to be an impersonal force that should not require these Lords, nor the recording angels (who observe human actions and note them for future judgment) in the Islamic and Christian traditions. Somehow karma happens despite the lack of deities at watch over us, guiding us and making decisions on our behalf like guardian angels.
It comes down to individualized guests to be fulfilled by multiple players. After all, we expect there to be billions of souls floating around the planet earth. Each soul has its respective karma, something that a computer algorithm could track. Rizwan Virk, a game designer among other enterprises, sees karma as a tree-like structure. Each “branch” unlocks more quests. This is a common tactic in video games although a quest engine is yet to be implemented.
The larger system would dictate the individual quests and when they are to be filled. It would likely reflect what is going on in the player’s environment. For Virk, the players are souls who must use free will or choice to fulfill the quests. Interactions take place despite the fact that some invisible force is guiding the players toward certain actions with certain other characters. In short, humans have to fulfill their karmas.
Eastern and Western religious traditions do not agree on vital concepts such as the “immortal” soul. Hinduism believes in an indestructible soul in contrast to Buddhism that offers a more fundamental view. It is about the “think that reincarnates” and a “bag of karma” and not a separate soul. This bag of karma accompanies the weakened person from their dream state and it goes into their consciousness.
Now the Buddhist wheel can stop its endless turning as the last incarnation takes place. In Simulation Theory, this is when the game stops and the rendered world ceases to exist. It is like a cloud server in a game of Fortnite or Minecraft. Thus, interpretations of reincarnation vary. Any application to Simulation Theory implies a rather sophisticated mind-blowing video game. Humans live in an altered reality with full consciousness at birth. It disappears at death. Forget the Lords of Karma and Buddha’s Endless Wheel as we now have fantastic algorithms that run the grand play of life, called, lila. It becomes in Western terms the grand video game of Life.
Religion Meets Science
It is an interesting proposition to make such comparisons and to bandy words like “soul” around casually. Now we are interested in serious discussions of God, creation, and the functioning of the world. It is man’s search for meaning. Religion and science join hands for the answer despite being two very different fields of study and inquiry. After all, we haven’t been able to explain religion from a scientific perspective, or vice versa.
Simulation Theory comes to the rescue in solving the disparity. It can bridge both worlds and offer answers to those who want to believe in something, whether it be theology or the laws of physics. It has often been said that the new “God” is technology for the scientifically-oriented. The simulation argument appeals to philosophers and physicists. In the long run, however, it ends up re-enforcing religion, especially the concept of an illusion or dream world.
As Nir Ziso explains in Simulation Creationism, we are being “observed” for a purpose. His theory is a framework to bridge the old gap. We may be like Neo in The Matrix who wakes up from his simulated dream. Meanwhile we should contemplate what Einstein wisely said: “science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.”