Actual reality, virtual reality, and spacetimes. A Zen perspective.
It is 8 pm. Imagine yourself sitting in a movie theater and watching an exciting movie.
In this setting there are 2 space-times:
– Your space-time is your immediate surrounding (Space) at 8pm (Time) also called the present
– What is going on on the screen, represents many “movie space-times.”
Your space-time defines actual and concrete reality.
The movie-space time defines virtual reality because people, actions, surroundings, and various time
periods are just 2D projections on the screen.
So, here is a fundamental question:
What are the differences between actual and virtual realities?
This question is not academic. It has significant implications as far as Zen practice is concerned.
1) Actual reality:
Is what we are experiencing concretely and mindfully i.e. 1- what our body is doing,
2- what our 5 senses are perceiving, 3- our surroundings with their contents, events, and actions.
All of these are in the single present moment.
Here, obviously, space-time is a single entity since one cannot be at 2 different places and times at the same time.
2) Virtual reality:
This is our mind-made reality. It is virtual since it does have any of the components of the actual
reality. Thoughts, feelings do exist but are virtual by definition. When our mind is wandering,
many successive space-times, contents, and events occur in which you may or not be present.
So, our mind is producing a self-made on-going inner movie somewhat equivalent to the movie
on the screen of the movie theater.
The analogy with you, in the movie theater, and you, outside it, stop right there because there is a fundamental difference.
In the theater, we are actively observing the virtual reality on the screen made of events, people, actions in many different space-times.
If your favorite movie is online, you can even stop it, go backward or forward.
But, during the day, are we actively observing our mind-made movie as much as in the theater?
Apart from its cognitive activities requiring attention, our mind is wandering no-stop, producing
zillion of thoughts, feelings in many different space-times: over 90,000/ day from neuroimaging.
Rather than being the active observers of the movie like in a theater, we are the opposite, sort of
victimized recipient of our permanent inner mind-made virtual world even w/o being fully aware of it.
Our inner little voice is pure self-talking.
Our wandering mind is never where our body is and what it is doing. Its powerful grasp is such that we identify ourselves with our thoughts and feelings non-stop
to the point where we behave during the day in auto-pilot under the control of our mind.
What Zen teaching is telling us?
Zen is telling us that we are “day sleepwalkers”. We are constantly in a dreaming state.
We identify ourselves with our ego-driven movie.
Being in this fictional world is a great source of suffering from desires, hatred, and delusions.
Like in the movie theater, Zen is telling us to be the observer of our fictional world and its content, to be the awareness of our thoughts and emotions. By doing so, you are not the thinker but the one who watches the thinker. This watcher is your True self.
We become the controller of your mind rather than being under its control.
Serenity cannot be achieved if you cannot dissociate yourself from your mind-made ego-driven fictional world maybe not permanently but as much as possible. Thank you