|Buddha's Digital Dance
SOME THOUGHTS ON MANDALA AND COMPUTERS
| When a modern computer
programmer identifies separate programmable functions in a machine and
gives them a name, the programmer may simply want to manipulate them or
identify them so that they can be shared with colleagues. In the computer
"mind", individual data occupy two addresses: one address for the data
itself and the other for its name. This enables the data to be handled
and manipulated. Sooner or later, these names can achieve an illusionary
existence, almost taking on a "life" of their own, perhaps even seeing
you, the computer user, through the altar-like display of the monitor.
Long ago, long before our electronic era, the followers of the Buddha Shakyamuni (500-400 BCE) began cataloguing his teachings in order to preserve them. Naming, recording and remembering ensured that the data were preserved. In this way, Buddhists have created an enormous lexicon of specialised philosophical terms and tens-of-thousands of symbolic, graphically illuminated deities- both of these collections may be understood as "vocabularies." To avoid idolatry, Buddhists maintain a certain distance or perspective from these constructions. A philosophical term (a word or phrase) or a painted image (an icon or statue) is very different from the innate experiences that it represents. Much of Buddhist logic concerns itself with grasping the ineffable gist of life and not confusing it with names, addresses, or symbols.
Today we can observe this
process in an integrated mandala system. Mandalas are designed as aids
to ritually create and destroy existence, an operation that might be thought
of as birth and death. Mandala practice developed in ancient India because
of the exceptional religious imagination of ancient Indians; only later
did the technique travel to Tibet.