This article argues that the conceptualization of the (un)reality of the phenomenal or material world (qishijie) in Lu Yang's animated short Material World Knight Game Film (MWKGF, 2020) at once follows and departs significantly from the Theravada and Mahayana traditions it references. MWKGF's reconfiguring of Buddhist notions of (un)reality is especially apparent in its representation of samsara (cycle of birth and rebirth) and in its questioning of Buddhist wisdom through the lens of neuroscience, psychotherapy, and (popular versions) of quantum theory. The film further suggests that Buddhist philosophy can be effectively expounded and played, as an “executable thought experiment” in/as a video game. The article shows in conclusion that MWKGF also envisions an “ecological dharma eye manifesto” that seems to call for an epistemic-technoscientific-spiritual revolution.
Livia Monnet is professor of comparative literature, film, and Asian studies at the University of Montreal. Her research interests span environmental humanities, environmental film and media art, feminist and queer fiction and film, East Asian visual and popular culture (manga, anime, video games, ACG, K-Pop, K-drama), film philosophy, decolonial feminisms, Asian and Indigenous futurisms, new materialisms, speculative fiction. Forthcoming publications include Toxic Immanence: Decolonizing Nuclear Legacies and Futures (McGill-Queens University Press, 2022) and two articles on indigenous environmental art.