Power Tools and Safeguards: Tibet’s Virtual Reality for Enlightenment

Virtual reality technology is on the cutting edge in our modern culture and will create a whole new way of experiencing the world for future generations; one that will forevermore blur the lines between reality and fantasy. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are only the latest iteration of humankind’s attempt to use technology to harness the power of creative imagination to shift perception. One might argue that the sophisticated visualization practices of the Kashmiri Shaivite and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, each over two thousand years old, represent our earliest power tools to engineer advantageous virtual reality simulations. Moreover, each system offers safeguards against misuse that are as relevant to spiritual practitioners today as they were centuries ago. 

These ancient visualization practices and the contemplative science that underpin them are in remarkable alignment with recent findings in cognitive neuroscience and quantum physics. Yogis and scientists alike assert that the external reality we take for granted as objectively fixed and forced upon us as passive recipients is more accurately conceived of as an active mental construction that is subjectively projected by us, based on unconscious and reified mental images and verbal designations along with tacit social consensus. Literally, the world is like an illusion. The advanced meditative power tools of the Indic tradition and Himalayan region known as the tantras are essentially organic virtual reality inducers – what I call meditative flight simulators – wherein the yogi harnesses the known power of active imagination to generate a highly visceral, multisensory experience which reconditions mind and brain for the expressed purpose of rapidly producing the state of enlightenment. 

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