Are Robots And VR The Future Of Buddhism?

Are Robots And VR The Future Of Buddhism?
March 3, 2019
Kodaiji temple's Kannon bodhisattva robot. | Screenshot of KyodoNews via YouTube


Nothing is permanent, so everything is precious. Here’s a selection of some happenings—fleeting or otherwise—in the Buddhist world this week.



The robot apocalypse just got a lot more compassionate. A Zen temple in Japan debuted a robot version of Kannon (Chi. Guanyin, Skt.  Avalokitesvara), the bodhisattva of compassion, on February 23, the Japan Times reported. The automaton, named Mindar, delivered a speech about the Heart Sutra during the media event at Kodaiji temple in Kyoto. The temple hopes that Mindar’s explanations of Buddhist teachings in plain terms will make them more accessible to visitors. Kodaiji’s chief stewart, Tensho Goto, said, “We want many people to come to see [the robot] to think about the essence of Buddhism.”



The Calm meditation app is now available in virtual reality. The relaxation company valued at $1 billion on February 22 released versions of their program for the Oculus Go VR headset, according to a press release. “You can now transport yourself to a beautiful mountain lake, a tranquil redwood forest, or a white sand beach,” the app boasts of its 180-degree views. Some Buddhist thinkers have argued that VR can help us challenge our common understanding of reality, but the applications they described were not pleasant scenes.

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