Video games seem like no big deal to those of us who grew up gaming, and aside from the occasional parental or religious controversy over innappropriate content video games are a fairly innocent form of interactive entertainment.
But Buddhist monks in Thailand are having a hard time reconciling the tenets of their religion and the addictive joy of video gaming, and smartphones are at the center of the conflict.
VICE reporter Robert Rath photographed a poster at a Buddhist temple in Hanoi, that says people who "waste time in playing games" will be "hardly reborn into human life", meaning if you space out too much in this life you're doomed to be a spaced out zombie in the next.
Curious to discover more about how Buddhists feel about video games Robert headed to Thailand to speak with three monks at Wat Chedi Luang in Chiang Mai, Thailand and see how games interfere with a Buddhist life:
“Video games distract junior monks, [they] cause problems,” answered Veerayuth Pongsiri, a former monk who has continued serving the temple as a layman.
“This [period in the monkhood] is their time to practice meditation,” he says. “If the junior monk pays attention to a game two hours a day or five hours a day, that’s less time for learning Buddhist teaching. He cannot manage the time.”
However, Pongsiri also points out that it can also be a problem of personal conviction. In Thailand, the monkhood is not a lifetime commitment. In fact, most novices will eventually leave the monkhood. And a large number—particularly boys from the rural villages—join because it’s a chance at an education. For talented scholars, the monkhood can open a path to a master’s degree or a PhD, not just in Buddhist studies but also in English. These education-minded novices, he says, are more interested in the practical benefits of the temple life than any sort of religious journey.
“They study the Buddha a little bit. They use the Buddhist religion as a stairway to other education,” he says. “They do the chanting and the sitting meditation but do not understand.” Such novices, he claims, are more likely give into temptation and open Realm of Valor in between classes.
Read In Thailand, Buddhist Monks Grapple With The Meaning Of Video Games here