> I am not familiar with vedic conception of the universe but I
> am concerned about the way one could interpret such a concept
> of taking this world
> like a "virtual reality". Is there not a risk of
> deshumanization in this process ?
> I see a great danger especially for the young generation to
> lose touch with reality and think that it is ok to do whatever
> they please without concern for others.
Thank you for your question and for pointing out a possible danger in the language used to express the Vedic concept of the universe.
Of course, in using the term virtual reality, I am simply taking a modern vogue term, with the hope that it will give people a quick metaphor by which to grasp the essential concept of the Vedic material universe. (My Forbidden Archeology coauthor came out with a book not long ago in which he uses the term in the title--Maya: Universe as Virtual Reality. )
But I do get your point. What I should also point out is that the Vedic universe, although illusory, is not unreal. Although it may be described as a virtual reality, it is still a reality. There is an energy that manifests the Vedic universe. The mistake is to think that it is the real reality. In this sense, the virtual reality metaphor may be helpful. It is true, that as you point out, some people, young or old, become overly absorbed in the virtual reality of internet and web life, or computer games, to the extent that they lose touch with the "real" reality. In other words, lets imagine that some group of people become lost in some web based game, to the extent that they never detach themselves from it. So if some compassionate boddhisattva type would inject his presence into the game from some higher level and start explaining how it is a virtual reality, just a reflection of some higher and more substantial reality, that is how I see what I am doing, or trying to do. So in this sense there might be some ethical justification in using the virtual reality metaphor.
But although the world we experience is a virtual reality system, or reflection of some more substantial reality, it still is a reality, and while we are in it, we are held responsible for our actions. There is a law of karma, by which we experience the results of our positive and negative actions, and there is also the principle of dharma, or right action, by which we are encouraged to always do the right and proper thing in each circumstance. And furthermore, we are encouraged, ultimately, to get out of the virtual reality, and back into the real reality. An enlightened soul understands how both realities work, and enters, or remains, in the virtual reality with the sole purpose of gradually leading others to see it for what it is, and bring them back to the real reality.
There could perhaps be other metaphors that might do the job of signifying what the situation of this material universe really is. Plato used the cave metaphor to good effect. And there might be others, like the reflection metaphor.
In Vedic philosophy, the point you raise comes up with the question of illusion. According to one school, illusion means that there is nothing there, really, like taking a rope for a snake. There is no snake. But the other school, to which I belong, looks at illusion in a different way. Not that there is no reality, but that there is a mistaken reality. If you take a rope for a snake, it does not mean that there are no snakes. It means that there are snakes, but in this particular case you have made a mistake. So if you are walking along a moonlit path and you get scared out of your wits when you think you have seen a snake just under your foot, and then you find out it was actually a rope, that does not mean that the next slinky thing you see on the path is also going to be a rope. It could be a snake, because such things do in fact exist. So illusion does not mean no reality. Actually, illusion is based on reality. Ropes exist. Snakes exist. The illusion is to consider one the other. So those who take the world as just a complete illusion and think nothing matters would belong to the first school, whereas those who are aware about mistaken identities, and know how to tell when realities are being mistaken, would belong to the second school, like me. Hope that makes a little sense.
I do not know that I am prepared at this moment to give up the virtual reality metaphor, but I do thank you (and others who have brought up this point) for sensitizing me to a possible drawback in using it.
Michael A. Cremo