It is often said in spiritual teachings that the world is an
illusion, suffering is unreal, and that Good and Evil are
dualistic fantasies. Doubtless, this is all well and good. Yet,
how do we reconcile this with the fact that all of this seems
very real indeed to the vast majority of us?
As I pondered this one day, an interesting metaphor came to my
mind that might well go some way towards illustrating this…
Imagine a boy playing a computer game (I am using a boy as an
example because it IS mostly boys who play these games.) This is
not just any old computer game. This is one of those huge
“virtual reality” fantasy role-playing environments that have
been created on the internet. In this strange virtual landscape,
our hero wanders around exploring mountains and caves, fighting
dragons and trolls, and meeting and talking to other players.
The latter are, of course, also all costumed up in their
respective roles. Hence, although in real life, our lad may be
still at school or working on a building site, in this world he
can be Sir Galahad, Luke Skywalker (from Star Wars), or anyone
else he chooses. Indeed, he could even take on a female persona,
if he chose to do so.
As our friend plays in this virtual world, we begin to observe a
change occurring. It begins to get a grip on him. He really
begins to “get into it”. Now, he’s spending hours every night
wandering around in this fantasy. It’s so fascinating, and
there’s so much to do and see. As we watch, he begins to spend
less and less time away from the computer screen. Finally, it
gets to the point where he is there 24 hours a day. His mum comes
by to give him food and drink, but he gulps them down without
even noticing, so immersed is he in his interactive fantasy.
Now, we may imagine that he begins to develop a moral framework
about this game. When he sees other fantasy characters getting
“killed” in the game, he judges this as wrong and evil, and
grieves over the suffering that they underwent. In a sense, they
DID suffer since they are just as hooked on this fantasy world as
he is. However, in reality, the other players are all just
sitting alive and well in their bedrooms, also glued to their
computer screens. Hence, there was no suffering in actuality;
only to the fantasy character they had identified totally with.
The boy regards his own fantasy body as real, and hence when he
is attacked by another player, he even “suffers” as his “body”
dies in the game. However, nothing has really been destroyed:
only something that never really existed in the first place
outside the virtual realm. We all know he can just reincarnate
right back into the game, and WILL do so, such is his desire to
get back into play. Maybe he lost a few points, or some of the
weapons he gained last time round have disappeared, but he can
just carry right on from where he left off.
Do you see how this relates to the dilemma of the world, of
suffering, and of Good and Evil? We believe in all of these
things so totally because of our total identification with our
physical bodies and the world which we inhabit. It is only
because we identify so completely with the material world, and
believe this is all there is, that we are haunted by all these
notions. Yet, if we could awaken to the fact that reality is far
more than this, and WE are far more than the limited beings we
mistake ourselves for, then our notions will become to us as
absurd as the boy trapped in the game.
A funny thing sometimes happens (extremely rarely) in this game
world. Once in a while, a player “wakes up” to who he/she really
is. She realizes she is NOT the role she has been playing
lifetime after lifetime in the game. Rather, she is a person in a
whole other universe, staring at a computer screen and wrestling
frantically with a joystick.
She also realizes that she is NOT bound by the limited rules of
the game at all. She can simply walk away, and those rules hold
no power over her whatsoever. And she does walk away, never to
return to the illusory trap of that fantasy world again. She
knows now that none of it was real; the fantasy dramas, the wars,
the killing, and all the mental anguish. It was just a game,
although it seemed so real at the time. Although she died a
million painful deaths (or so it seemed at the time), none of it
touched her true essence. She didn’t really kill anyone, and
nobody really killed her. It just seemed that way at the time.
To those who remain, it seems as if she just “vanished”. Some say
she attained what they call “Nirvana”, and ceased to exist. But
that isn’t really true: she just found out who she REALLY is, and
disappeared into realms beyond the game that they, still bound to
it, can never conceive or imagine.
Sometimes, such a person chooses to re-enter the game, but this
time remaining fully aware, undeceived by the illusions of the
fantasy world. She does so unselfishly, with the motive of
rescuing others still trapped within the illusion. She tells them
that this world that seems so real is nothing more than an
illusion, that what they perceive as suffering is not real at
all, and that what they perceive to be Good and Evil is likewise
nonsensical, when viewed from a higher perspective.
Most of the players laugh at her. These ideas are so ridiculous.
They ask her to describe this “Enlightenment” she claims to have.
But she cannot, because THEY cannot conceive of anything outside
of the game world in which their senses are totally immersed. So,
because she cannot relate it to the world they know and
understand, they conclude it is extinction or non-existence. Some
of them ask her to give them this enlightenment, by touching them
on the shoulder, or by physically taking them there. But she says
she cannot do that. Each person has to realize it for him or
herself. Each person must awaken from the illusion alone. She
cannot do it for them, although she can show them the quickest
way to do it.
Hopefully, this metaphor will have helped you to gain some
insight into why spiritual teachings say the things they do about
our everyday experience. It can help you to think of this world
as a sort of virtual reality game. In essence, that is what it
is! It would be false to say that it does not exist in ANY sense,
but it IS true to say that it is nothing like the way it seems,
and it is definitely not all that there is. If you can visualize
the physical world as only the very tip of a vast iceberg that
constitutes reality, you will be far less inclined to take it all
so seriously: least of all your “bit part” in it.
Oh, by the way, in the game metaphor, we were assuming that these
were all separate individuals playing the game in different
locations. That is only partly true. You see, at a still higher
level, there is actually only ONE player who is role-playing all
THOSE people sitting at their computer screens, immersed in their
own fantasy world.
But that is a whole other game!…
Copyright 2002, Asoka Selvarajah. All Rights Reserved.
Asoka Selvarajah is a writer on personal growth and spirituality, and the author of “The 7 Golden Secrets To Knowing Your Higher Self”. His work helps people achieve their full potential, deepen their understanding of mystical truth, and discover their soul’s purpose. You can subscribe to his FREE ezine, and get his FREE ebook “Inner Light Outer Wealth” at:
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