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Buddhist monks on the value of video games

posted by Tim Carmody   Feb 09, 2018

In Thailand, Buddhist monks, and students studying to be monks, play video games sometimes like everyone else. But many of them are ambivalent about the games’ value.

The danger in playing a game is not the game itself, but the desire it may cause—since in Buddhist thought, desire is the cause of suffering. “If you lose or win, you want to do it again and again. You’re always thinking about the game. If you cling to that mindset, it causes mental suffering or physical suffering.”

This danger of competition and desire are why monks are generally not allowed to play sports. (Though, to be honest, I’ve seen more than a few novices playing covert soccer games.) Sports offer many benefits, both men agree, but if they become too much about winning or lead to bad feelings it can damage attempts to attain enlightenment.

Robert Rath, the author, tries to get the monks to dive deep on the connection between spawning, dying, and respawning in video games and an idea of a cycle of life and rebirth, but for the most part, the monks aren’t buying it. Games are fun, they’re challenging, they’re big distractions from study and meditation — and that’s about it. Not a lot of deeper meaning there.

Which to me, is refreshing, and very Buddhist (as I understand it). Why does everything have to mean anything? Most things are just nonsense. Let them be what they are, and be wary of the power you give them.