Neo-Abhidhamma and VR

For some time I have been considering the feasibility of an online ontology (OWL, RDF + Reasoner + NLP… stack) of the Buddha’s teaching in the Suttas. I’m not happy with the structure of the Abhidhamma. It’s supposed to be a sort of ontological analysis of the Suttas—but it’s not terminologically consistent or ontologically coherent enough for behavioral computer analysis and natural-language interface. I wanna be able to talk with the Buddha in VR!

After taking a look at the task over the last few days, I’ve become all the more convinced that a sort of neo-Abhidhamma really needs to be done. Interestingly, the language base required to do it is rapidly coming into existence. Ven. Ajahn Sujato‘s epic translation project […/…/6] will finally give us a linguistically consistent text base adequate for automated semantic analysis.

Somebody is going to do this someday, so it may as well be done now. It would provide a framework for all kinds of interactive apps involving the Sutta Piṭāka, the baskets of Suttas spoken by the Buddha. The technology is probably patentable, and would have broad commercial application in games, especially in Buddhist countries.

I also know that I’m not the man for the job. I was deeply into the ontological structure of Vedānta, which is similar to Abhidhamma. I became a Protégé power user, and discovered certain logical and ontological inconsistencies that led to a crisis in trust of my path at that time, which then led on to Existentialism and the Buddha’s teaching proper.

But I now find that purely intellectual pursuits do not satisfy me. Maybe, because of my artistic temperament, they never truly did. So any sharp younger techie who would like to step up to the plate and take this on as CTO… I’ve been challenging the Buddhist community on this for years, so wake up and smell the agarbatthi already.


Published by

Dev Jacobsen

Musician, author and yogi, developer of Palingenics.

4 thoughts on “Neo-Abhidhamma and VR”

  1. It’s a great idea.

    I know nothing about programming and have read only a third of the suttas so far.

    Hopefully someone more qualified will pick the idea up.

  2. I know some things in functional languages like F# that would be ideal for this kind of stuff. But I’m not sure what are you trying to accomplish with this. I just don’t see how some semantic analysis would yield something beneficial. You could build a tree or net of some aspects for seeing evolution of the teaching, but it is not known if it really had it and it can very well be that even thorough there is new data, it is not agreeable on their significance. The big question is what are we looking for?

    1. In short I want to make Siri or Cortana for the Suttas. I want to put on a VR headset, sit down with the Buddha, ask him questions and he responds from the Suttas. Or have a conversation on my phone. In any language.

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