Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Visit the Potala Palace instantly: No need to get up.

As I float over lush Tibetan mountainside in my flying clamshell, I enjoy the sights on my way to the Potala Palace: A fountain shooting rainbows in the air, a temple to sacred geometry housing enourmous spinning platonic solids, the Dalai Lama outside a temple giving teachings. Wait a minute, you say, how is any of this realistic?
Welcome to the Tibet region of Second Life.
Second Life is a virtual reality based world which prides itself on being the forerunner of Web 3.0. It attracts a range of people, from Roleplayers leading literal second lives, to online students studying in virtual universities. One thing I learnt since joining was that most residents dislike SL being labelled a "game", or being called "players". "For most people, SL isn't a game, but an extension to your RL [Real life]... You get to do things you always wanted to, or bring your own skills into the metaverse." said one of my new virtual friends. I learnt that the hard way on my first day when I was exploring someone's house, and found an adult (The main SL server is for over 18s only) pretending to be a child, and got in trouble with its "mother" for not knocking before I entered, and so had to pay her a 50L$ (SL currency, bought with real money) fine for breaking and entering. Despite the strangeness of seeing real world laws upheld in a virtual world (I couldn't have stolen anything from the house), many other aspects were intriguing from day one. For instance, the Potala Palace Virtual World. A real life Taiwanese monk called Bhikkhu Maitreya (Known as Bhikkhu Kamachi on SL) started the project to recreate the entire Potala palace in life-size accuracy as a gift of love to the Dalai Lamas and people of Tibet. So far, the project will require a few more years to complete and at least four sims (Virtual space, basically). And so, dressed as Vajrayogini (And at some points, Green Tara), I set off to explore the land and bring you back some pictures. If ever you are in Second Life, do search for the Tibet region and have a look for yourself. You can also contact me there, I go by the name of Tenzing Ansar (I wanted "Ten" for Tenitachi, but it was taken. Such is life.) Bhikkhu was also kind enough to host some of the drawings made by Tibetan children in exile that I was able to upload back in December (http://chasuma.blogspot.com/2007/12/tibetan-refugees-paint-life-in-exile.html).
Detailed information on the project and how to donate can be found on the official webpage: http://www.potalapalacevirtualworld.org/

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