The Buddhist Wheel of Life in Western Idiom
This paper is a report on a class project organized around the confluence of two significant streams of change. The first is the long-term historical process in which a system of thought originating in one culture adapts itself to the visual and verbal discourses of another culture. In the case of Buddhism, this raises difficult questions concerning the development of Buddhist discourses appropriate to the West. The second stream of change is the development of new technology and the ways in which that technology participates in, indeed becomes a part of, the new discourse. The class, organized around its central project of translating the Wheel of Life into a Western idiom, looked to explore the ways in which computer technology of various sorts can contribute to the development of a Buddhist discourse appropriate to the 21st century and to the West while still holding true to the fundamental insights that constitute Buddhism. There are implications here for instruction about Buddhism in Western-style academic institutions as well as for more general issues in religious studies. What became particularly fascinating in this classroom exploration was the degree to which computer-based media (which could make possible the introduction of motion, process, sound, etc.) allows for entirely new visual representations of Buddhist philosophy.
Keywords: Buddhism, Religion, New Media
Dr. Greg Watkins