When an avatar is not an Avatar and Zen makes a musical noise

Anyone that is familiar with Eastern philosophy or religion and has just entered into the world of digital phenomena (read as: the arena of ever changing technology that some people pretend they can keep up with) will have noticed a few borrowed age old words.  The one that I had a bit of difficulty coming to grips with was ‘AVATAR’, I’d heard the word a number of times over the years in conversation and while scanning books about supposedly enightened beings and Godmen/Godwomen.  A simple summary of it without getting too complex would be when ‘the all inclusive formless absolute Being’ sees the world is in trouble and He/She/It takes on the form of some either human look-alike (think Krishna) or animal creature (a turtle in one case)….the closest equivalent in the West would be a bit like Jesus’s Father arriving, taking on some physical form and the mere Presence would pull the world out of strife (and please note: there is absolutely no disrespect intended in any way to anyone’s faith on my part).  So when I saw that in WordPress I could upload my own avatar, I was a little humoured by the option.  And without getting over-techie I guess we could say that an avatar in computerland speak is a graphical representation of ourselves.  So what’s happened here is we have something that is revered by some people across the globe turned into virtual bling.

I guess I’m having one of those you know what I don’t like moments, ….I wish that the use of famous songs in TV commercials would be banned.  There are so many beautiful songs that many of us hold close to our hearts being used to promote products, it ruins the song for ever.  And as a new generation comes through, they end up associating somebody’s favourite song with toilet paper, dog food or insurance.   So how do we keep things precious and safe from marketers?

I’ll return to the topic.  There are lots of versions of Zen, in the same way as there are lots of streams of Christianity. But the latest one, a line of products by Creative called Zen is what caught my eye, it is an unfamiliar stream of Zen .  The Zen I had become familiar with was relating to Zen Koans.  Unfortunately, many people have turned Koans into a bit of a circus, in fact nonsense; but really, Koans are a type of parable to contemplate.  Often a student of Zen would be given a Koan  by a teacher and would have to come up with an answer, but really the real answer to any Koan is outside the framework of thought , it’s like a bit, a 1 or a 0, true or false, and the only real answer is a transformation of the person and has little to do with a verbal, well thought out intellectual response.   But the Creative type of Zen is the 21st centuries version of an ongoing  dynamic tradition that changes face regulary, and an attempt by a manufacturer to flood the market with compressed but very transportable audio, and yes of course you can run certain applications from  them like Outlook but we’re no wiser after using them, only more trinkets to amuse ourself with.

Which leads me to RAM, another notable computer glossary term, as you’d probably know, stands for Random Access Memory.  Anyone that hung around market places in the 70’s would be familiar with RAM (often was preceeded by the word HARE) the hero of the Ramayana story .  So which one of the Religions / Spiritual terms or names is next to make it into the wonderful digital Leela that we are experiencing?


4 comments so far

  1. GarryP on

    Dr Nerdy,

    Re your misinterpretation of the Hare Krisna mantra. The full form is
    Hare Krishna Hare Krishna,
    Krishna Krishna Hare Hare,
    Hare Rama Hare Rama,
    Rama Rama Hare Hare.
    So where do those of us that remember the 70’s get this associated with RAM?

    Please note the source for this quote was http://www.krishna.com/ if you want to double check.

  2. plantrubber on

    Thanks GarryP for mentioning this point.
    At a glance it does look very much like a misinterpretation. But to many Hindus Ram = Rama, here’s one link to a very simple article that refers to RAM as the hero of the Ramayana story http://www.sanatansociety.org/indian_epics_and_stories/ramayana_ram.htm and this is the very same RAMA that is chanted in the Mantra that both you and I are talking about.

    In my original post I could have probably mentioned RAM as one of the Indian names of the formless God but I felt RAM the formless was a bit obscure and that most readers would be more familiar with the RAM which in truth is another version of RAMA from the Hare Krishna Mantra. And yes regarding the Mantra, that’s correct, that is the ISCKON version of it, which a lot of people in the 70’s are familiar with. So really for me, without being disrespectful to those that enjoy that version of the Truth, it’s a bit like John and Johno, Gaz and Garry, Bob and Bobby.


  3. kat on

    Yes, I have been aware of the avatar and RAM origins. Symbols are fascinating to me and I have found that such usage is deliberate. This is a topic for a totally different post, however. Thanks for this post. It is worth thinking about because nothing is by chance.

  4. plantrubber on


    That’s interesting…symbols are deliberate


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