Zen and the art of virtual reality maintenance
At the heart of much Buddhist practice is the notion that meeting with other people and practicing together in real life are the most beneficial approaches. However, individually art can be used for mindfulness and meditation. Indeed, paintings and sculptures have helped individuals and in the modern era digital media and technology can offer something to practitioners too.
Writing in the International Journal of Arts and Technology, a team from Silpakorn University, Thailand discuss how virtual reality might be a useful and innovative tool in Buddhist teaching. Gomesh Karnchanapayap and Atithep Chaetnalao explain how they have developed what they refer to as a ground-breaking tool by bringing together artworks and virtual reality. They suggest that this approach to teaching enables a multi-level learning experience for students.
The team explains that the experience within a virtual reality environment can encourage better memory in students. Moreover, it allows the user to "experience" an environment in safety allowing them to "know" events indirectly but with greater authenticity than is possible with conventional photographs or movies. They add that by purposefully creating an appropriate virtual world it might be possible to imbue a better understanding of the core philosophy of the given artworks.
"This learning innovation is not only an effective learning tool but also suitable for new generations as a new medium to pass on the faith of Buddhism," the team writes. Indeed, the researchers have evaluated their new VR tool with student evaluation of their learning undertaken with the system and found it to provide a positive experience in terms of test scores. Test results before students were offered the VR experience were commonly around 50 percent but rose to almost 80 percent in some cases after training with the VR system.
Of course, it is important to recognize that virtual reality is, like any other technology or indeed more traditional teaching approaches that rely on imagery, simply a tool. It should form part of a broader learning experience in this context for the students just as it would in any other realm. It is the teaching and the learning, not the technology that is the important part of the process.
More information: Gomesh Karnchanapayap et al, Virtual reality art as an innovative Buddhist learning tool, International Journal of Arts and Technology (2022). DOI: 10.1504/IJART.2021.120763