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Thread: Do outside forces have control over our path?

  1. #1

    Do outside forces have control over our path?

    Hello everyone,

    I recently read The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh. There is a section in the book that really interested me. He writes (I'm paraphrasing) that if we read a book or watch a program with a violent theme, that this can hinder our forward progress on the path. He includes video games in this section as well. This got me thinking. Do outside forces have control over our path? Does what I choose to read, play or watch have that much impact on my progress? Does someone that lives in a more stable nonviolent environment have more of a chance on this path than someone who is surrounded by chaos?

    I believe that we all have a level playing field when it comes this path that we're on. I still make the choice how to react to my environment. I just wanted others' opinions on this subject. Thanks for your time.



  2. #2

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    I don't think that violent video games can make a non-violent person violent.

    Taking Thich Nhat Hanh 'seed' analogies (as per the Nurturing Seeds practice*) I expect that it is more a case that violent video games (and other media for that matter) 'nurture' seeds of violence that are already present in a person.

    * viewtopic.php?f=1&t=1730

  3. #3

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam
    I still make the choice how to react to my environment.
    Free will rears it's ugly head again. Who is this "I" you speak of that makes the choice, and how does it make that choice? My "philosophy" on that (FWIW):

    "I" is the sum of all the material processes running in our brain. It is a combination of the genetic wiring handed to us by our parents and the life experiences that modify both that wiring as well as the memory store in our brains.

    "I" makes choices by running fixed algorithms based on the wiring, memory store, and current inputs. In this view, "free will" exists only in that your choices are determined by your heredity and life experiences, and (maybe) by random chance (both brain SNR and quantum effects have been posited to be sources of random effects in the brain.

    So, violent video games are an input. Your brain processes these, and may rewire itself based on these inputs, may reject these inputs as meaningless (based on the current state of the brain), and/or may put some of these inputs in long term storage.

    Not that I can pretend there is scientific consensus on the above statements. Just my brain processing the inputs it's been given in the way it has been structured/modified :shock:

    Where does awareness/consciousness fit into this picture? Beats me. Nobody understands consciousness. But I think the above philosophy is consistent with the Buddhism if you add awareness/Buddha Nature/big mind/consciousness as a second entity to the above description.

    I am ready to take my beating now,


  4. #4

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    Hello friends,

    It seems to me that what has been said is spot-on. The path is about choices, and if you choose to nurture the violent "seeds," they will grow. In my opinion and experience, one has to look deeper to see what is really going on; the mind is good at puppet shows to distract us. See the puppeteer!

    For my part, I believe that when one partakes in violent entertainment, one is tacitly approving of that sort of behavior and, at a deep level, learns that it is okay. I see it in much the same way as my eating habits--I am a vegetarian because, for me, it seems that when I eat meat, I am implying that the suffering and death of others is acceptable as long as it brings me enjoyment. I see buying meat as something akin to a "contract kill." So I don't do it. Perhaps virtual games could be seen as different, though, since nothing is actually "hurt." I do think that it would be very hard (for me, at least) to partake with a level of non-attachment sufficient to keep from nurturing the unskillful seeds.

    I am sure, though, that this is due to my lack of skill as a Buddhist, and that all of my friends here are much wiser and advanced than I.

    Much metta,


    I apologize if this makes no sense.

  5. #5

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    Everything is somewhat "food", what we eat, drink, read, watch, play ... everything influences us, forms the mind and body. We are this ...if i boil tea, drink it, the tea becomes my life. I wouldnt say that violent games influences us negative or positive, but for sure they have influence. For what I can say about myself, I dont think they have any good influence.


  6. #6

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    Quote Originally Posted by Adam
    I believe that we all have a level playing field when it comes this path that we're on. I still make the choice how to react to my environment. I just wanted others' opinions on this subject. Thanks for your time.
    I agree with this. We all experience things, which we cannot control, but we can control how we react. The way we react in fact, is always under our control. Whether we realize this or not, we do have a choice.

    Isn't that the choice we make to stop the endless cycle of birth and death, to get off the karmic wheel, for non-doing?

    Sure there is no self-existent "I", the emptiness of any form, but form is also precisely emptiness, and there is an "I" even if it is always changing and it's existence depends on the very existence of everything else.

    I know that is a rock because of its very distinction from everything else. It's very differentiation and existence (even if not really existing) is depending on everything else.

    And although you can say that rock doesn't exist in a way, it is very real if you stub your toe on it, which is part of a koan where a monk stubs his toe and realizes that things are his responsibility after all.

    This is my understanding thus far, and I'm waiting for my whacks. hahaahah

    But how we habitually respond is definitely comprised of everything in our life until this moment, however we can choose to step out of the ignorance and not respond habitually. If that were not the case I would never have quit smoking.

    Isn't that the point (or non-point) of this practice? Get this habitual idea of self out of the way so that non-doing can take place? Instead of me ( this idea of myself, this limited idea, that results in habitual responses that protect it) doing something the doing does the doing... ..
    Isn't this idea that I protect of myself, the root of greed, anger, and ignorance, and although there is a "me", when I realize that the "me" I really am (co-dependent with everything) then I let go of the me I think I am (separate), and things can just happen (non-doing, true compassion, etc)?.

  7. #7

    Re: Do outside forces have control over our path?

    I am generally in agreement with Craig, specifically if we are using the scientific model to describe things.

    This doesn't, in essence, contradict the Buddhist interbeing/cdo, non-self pointers. The video game is MY experience when I see it/play it. It doesn't influence me, except in the world of is me at that moment. What the effects are may be different for each person given the differences they come into that moment with (relatively speaking) but it is a manifestation of who I am at that moment. I used to enjoy such, through no deliberation I am aware of, I never play them and have no wish to. Looking back my mind would say "why would I even want to pretend to kill people?"

    We aren't all on a level playing field. That contradicts experience. Even the scriptures talk of people not being able to hear the dharma. It may well be a fact that we will all reach our own level with practice (relatively speaking again). This goes back, yet again, to my comment that the Buddha's problem with women (part of the sum total of who he was because of era and culture) may well have been inevitable- given that the situation for that view to have been quashed wasn't there. At the same time we have to take responsibility for what we can.

    Self-deception is so much more insidious and prevalent than most people know, although it is a natural part of what we are too. This is one of the reasons I have always argued when others were talking philosophically that being kind here and now, following the precepts as literal guidelines are all a necessary part of practice, because we need things that are beyond our small selves as part of our practice, even as we sit in shikantaza.

    Really the original question is meaningless in that outside and inside are not two. Conscious and unconscious are not two either. The question itself is one our ego asks presupposing itself separate from everything else- or presupposing itself full stop.


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