Second Life from the Advaita perspective.

Posted on behalf of Hamlet Graves, a sometime spiritual seeker, and general traveller on SL.

I should perhaps say something about Advaita before launching into a dialogue about its relation to Second Life. So, deep breath, I will attempt to summarise Advaita Vedanta and perhaps dispel some false notions about it. Advaita is a Sanskrit term meaning ‘not two’. It is a means of knowledge, and some would argue, a science, rooted in the tenet of unitary consciousness. Whilst the manifest world consists of multifarious forms and objects each with varying levels of awareness, relevance and particular qualities, Advaita asks us to step back and consider the nature of these manifestations, a pursuit known as self-enquiry. Conventionally we seek happiness from externalities such as possession of certain objects, relationships, and experiences. But when we look closely we find that these externalities are not in themselves sources of happiness, but rather the interaction with them, temporarily at least, causes desire to subside, and in so doing allows the bliss that is in fact there all the time, to prevail. Let us take a simple example; you desire a car, you need this car for whatever reason, whilst you do not have this transportational object desire gnaws at you like a hungry rat. One day you get the car, the desire is satisfied, you drive away feeling ten feet tall. However, the car itself did not contain the happiness; it was the fact that desire was alleviated that allowed the pervading happiness within to be revealed. One experiences bliss in deep meditation, not because the meditation put it there, but because the habitual mental activities which obscure the light are attenuated. Relationships have a similar paradigm, although there is not room in this essay to discuss them here.

In order to resolve the conundrum of the seeming plurality of existence, Advaita expounds the science of mind and its role in perception and experience in order to disabuse us of the illusion of subject-object predicated universe. These teachings are known collectively as the Upanishads and consist of many texts, some dating back thousands of years. There are however a core of a dozen or so ‘Sruti’, or ‘revealed truths’ which contain the essence of Advaita. Put simply: you are consciousness. Self-realisation is the understanding of this fact. Whilst it may seem glib to phrase it thus, let me first say that enlightenment will not dawn simply on hearing the words ‘you are consciousnesses’. The reason being that mind needs to be prepared first. This is what has brought Adavita into disrepute because certain pundits have sold the Advaita ticket without the attendant work that needs to be done. When you work towards enlightenment, certain experiences and epiphanies can occur which ‘point the way’ as it were. These are useful, but not a goal in themselves, because they exist in time and always end. Enlightenment dawns when the knowledge of one’s true nature is comprehended. At this point there is a shift in mental view and the appreciation that all existence is a manifestation of one’s self prevails.

How does this all relate to second life? SL ‘works’ because reality is non-dual. All experience is mediated through the mind. So whether you are in ‘RL’ or ‘SL’ it makes no difference, mind is the gatekeeper. It is all real in as much as whatever is perceived is simply forms of you, consciousness, manifesting via the senses with mind resolving the inputs into a composite whole. SL acts as a catalyst so that people with non-dualistic tendencies pick up vibrational energies, which are themsleves subtle emanations which sustain the illusion. If you stubbornly adhere to the view that you are an individuated entity with your own consciousness you will probably wonder what all the fuss is about with SL. However because reality IS non-dual, even those with dualistic notions start to appreciate that different areas in SL have certain ‘energies’, even though, ‘rationally speaking’, the scene is nothing but a projection of a digital landscape from a server a long way away. So what we find is the spiritually astute SL user picks up resonances straight away, how did they arrive so quickly? Because … because … you are non dual consciousness, time and distance are you, but you are not time and distance and you are not limited by them. The only limitation is the idea of yourself.

The final manifestation is a world in which, people come together and play or work whilst apparently separated by great distance. From the mind-view, by which I mean the SL user’s point of view, it is potentially immediate. Yes, there is a large body of users whose interaction in SL is, shall we say, superficial. If you explore the spiritual side of SL, however, you will be amazed at what you pick up. Meditations, healings, channelings, tantra will all relay an experience which is at odds with the supposed ‘reality’. One should perhaps voice a caveat here. Care is needed in selecting with whom one associates. Just as interaction with elevated souls will provide a positive experience, associating with beings with a crudifying or perverted nature, can, if one is not vigilant, cloud the mind. The wise acknowledge that there is no difference between ‘real life’ and ‘second life’. The fact that it is generally called real life, rather than first life points to a common misunderstanding. You cannot walk away from a second life experience without it affecting first life. And what you do in first life governs what you bring to second life. Once again, non duality causes us to take stock. The unity of all things and the apparent plurality are brought into sharp focus in SL. It is unregulated by internal physical laws, and as such, does not have their attendant latency. Mind is free, free to enjoy the pains, pleasures and experiences of the subtle world. How far are you from your mind?

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