B. Interview with Dakini Rhode

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    Dakini_007a.jpg

    I met with Dakini at the teahouse at the Zen Retreat on April 18, 2011. Dakini had built the teahouse and it became the first meeting play for Play as Being in April 2008.

    Adams Rubble: yes, thank you for meeting me
    Adams Rubble: It is nice to be back here
    Dakini: it IS - and as a treat, it's night here :)
    Adams Rubble: yes
    Adams Rubble: shall we go in?
    Dakini: yes!
    Dakini: wow nothing changed
    Adams Rubble: :)

    Play as Being had recently celebrated its third anniversary and Dakini had attended the “founders session” at the 7:00 am session, April 1. Pema had asked Dakini to talk about those first days of Play as Being. Questions indicated people wanted to know more.

    Adams Rubble: It was fun talking about the early days of Play as Being at the recent third anniversary session. The Zen Retreat and you played a crucial role in helping it get underway in Second Life. Can we go back a bit further in time? How long before the beginning of Play as Being on April 1, 2008 did you have the Zen Retreat.

    Dakini: Reading about a group called Avatars of Change was what got me into Second Life initially.  Avatars of Change was a group trying to create a unique spirituality within the Second Life Metaverse.  There was a debate about religious intolerance, and the group vanished overnight when it's founder, Taras, left the group.   That's when I acquired the Zen Retreat, in the Spring of 2007.  

    The Zen Retreat

    Adams Rubble:What was the Zen retreat like when you bought it and what were your plans for it?

    Dakini: It was just an empty bit of virtual land.  I taught myself to terraform and build and added more land when I had a chance.  I was inspired by the gardens and retreats built by Avatars of Change, and wanted to build something in the style of a Zen garden -- something that might inspire contemplation and offer the possibly of some sort of transformation of perception.

    Adams Rubble: You began a daily meditation session at the Zen Retreat; I had thought it was the first in Second Life but told me there had been others. Did the other in world group meditations play a role in your decision?

    Dakini: Some people are inspired by the social aspects of SL, and others by the creative possibilities. It was definitely the creativity that inspired me!  On more than a few occasions I was up half the night building something or other.  I was losing sleep! 

    I started inviting people to meditate with me as a way to force myself to stop building by a decent hour.  My plan was to do some zazen and then log off Second Life and go to bed. 

    Vivienne Cassavetes of Peacemaker Institute offered twice daily group meditation, but the time was better suited to the West coast.  It was just a little too late for me.  I really did nothing original with the group meditations.  It was that or my daughter was going to do an intervention.

    A Meeting Place for Play as Being

    Adams Rubble: And, of course, one evening in March 2008, Pema showed up for zazen… Please tell more about it.

    Dakini: The Avatars of Change used an Oracle for guidance, which was a version of the I Ching.  The Oracle had told Taras to leave his own group.  Taras had recently visited Zen Retreat and gave me a reading that seemed a little sad, about the need for a fresh spirituality rather than following stale old forms.

    Pema showed up just after that, with his plans for starting a new group in SL to explore ways of knowing.  It reminded me of Taras' Oracle.  I invited Pema to use the Zen Retreat for the first PaB meetings… and so it began, in the small Tea Hut.

    Meditation

    Adams Rubble: I do not know if you remember but you are the person who introduced me to meditation and then invited me to come to an evening zazen. I had no idea what to expect then but I quickly became very comfortable. One of the nice things about zazen, there were the note cards given out at each session and available all day to any one who visited. I actually had begun reading those note cards before attending. What gave you the idea for the note cards?

    Dakini: My concept was to make the Zen Retreat interactive.  There are objects and pose balls your avatar can interact with rather than just walking through and looking.  You can click on objects and get notes or sit on pose balls to bow, pray, drink tea, sit in zazen, etc.   There was a note card dispenser in the zendo with basic meditation instructions and when Isen showed up and started handing out note cards I made those available too.

    Adams Rubble: Isen wrote many of them. How did you meet Isen?

    Dakini: My dear zen priest friends-- Isen and Bunan and Seiko -- I was surrounded by zennies, probably because I called the place the Zen Retreat.  Storm had given Isen a hermitage in his Guan Yin Terraces, and I gave Bunan a hermitage in the Zen Retreat. 

    Adams Rubble: I did not know Bunan or Seiko. They must have gone by the time I came.

    Inspiration for the teahouse?

    Dakini: Bunan was here a lot for awhile, but he became involved in running a RL zendo. Seiko had the property next to here, but her RL practice was very strict and didn't afford her much time. She invited me to my first traditional tea ceremony. I built the tea hut after that, actually. I think around that time, anyway.
    Adams Rubble: nice if they went together
    Dakini: When she saw the teahouse she said it looks just like Kyoto. I've never been to Kyoto
    Adams Rubble: we know someone who has :)
    Dakini: haha indeed :)
    Dakini: which may be why this spot was picked for the first PaB meetings :)
    Adams Rubble: Pema must have been inspired by the possibility of using it
    Dakini: just to get started with his plans, without worrying about land and building -- I think that helped
    Adams Rubble: Yes, but if it was a reminder of Kyoto, he must have known he was in the right  place…and you of course were generous in allowing it to start here
    Dakini: a fortuitous set of circumstances :)

    First Months of Play as Being and the First Guardians

    Adams Rubble: What was it like in Play as Being in those first months?
    Dakini: Pema was at every session.  He thought they would last 10 minutes.  Four meetings a day, for 10 minutes each.  I think there were people in the tea hut practically around the clock.
    Adams Rubble: were you surprised when Pema asked you and others to become guardians and each take sessions?
    Dakini: It was a change from the original format, but it seemed necessary. Those sessions were much longer than the 10 minutes Pema anticipated
    Adams Rubble: :)
    Dakini: With him running all of them, there were times I think he fell asleep halfway thru the session. I thought it was an ambitious undertaking
    Adams Rubble: Pema has a tremendous amount of energy
    Dakini: you said it -- also the vision to involve other people
    Adams Rubble: he has that “vision thing”
    Dakini: I think a lot of people benefitted
    Adams Rubble: yes, they have
    Adams Rubble: including me :)

    dakini_016a.jpg

    Memory of Sessions

    Adams Rubble: I am not sure what else I should ask you. I do miss the sessions you used to have on Saturday afternoons when I was very, very green
    Dakini: I'm wondering what those were... were they PaB or something else?
    Adams Rubble: the were PaB
    Dakini: ah!
    Adams Rubble: you had the 1pm session then
    Dakini: just my timeslot!
    Dakini: haha
    Dakini: I'm nostalgic about those experiences
    Adams Rubble: yes, me too
    Dakini: so valuable
    Dakini: I'm wondering how it all seemed to you, encountering this as a noob (pardon the term)
    Adams Rubble: When I read back over those logs when I first came, I see I was just trying to make sense of things and differentiate between Buddhism and PaB. You seemed very wise and very knowledgeable to me.
    Dakini: I worried that people would think I knew more than I did
    Adams Rubble: You taught me what I wanted to know about Buddhism and meditation while at the same time I was learning the basics of PaB
    Adams Rubble: :)
    Dakini: wow!
    Dakini: I don't know whether I ever learned the basics of PaB
    Adams Rubble: There was one session in which you gave Pia, Fael and me a great introduction to meditation
    Dakini: I remember that!
    Adams Rubble: I think that was the session you came dressed as Tara
    Dakini: green?
    Adams Rubble: yes, quite impressive
    Dakini: Ryusho made me that costume, I had quite a supply of costumes for awhile there, a benefit of giving him a little store space
    Adams Rubble: He is quite the craftsman.
    Dakini: His builds are amazing, He's mastered the SL sculptie. I hadn't the patience for it
    Adams Rubble: ohhhh. Your work is wonderful too
    Dakini: not to be overly humble, but I only used simple prims

    Four years is a long time in the virtual worlds; the places Dakini created still exist in Second Life. I asked Dakini if she was surprised about that

    Adams Rubble: I haven't mentioned Tara Ling yet but it is another one of your creations that has been taken over by others and lovingly preserved. Are you surprised at the lasting power of the retreat, the temple, the teahouse and pavilion, to name a few?
    Dakini: I am surpised by their longevity. If I had kept the spaces, they'd probably be different by now
    Adams Rubble: I guess it is much like an artist letting go of their work :)
    Dakini: yes, I think it's like that -- you always want to do something better

    Adams Rubble: nice to have a new canvas
    Dakini: or paint over the old one

    Adams Rubble: that can drive art historians crazy. hehe...need to get out the old xray machine to find the others
    Dakini: I just learned about Inness. He would actually go into the museums and repaint his art

    Inness.jpg

    George. Inness. Juniata River. 1856.Oil on canvas.
    Stockton, Haggin Gallery & Pioneer Museum

    Note: George Inness was an American landscape painter in the second half of the 19th century whose impressionistic style was labeled Tonalist. He was influenced by the belief that everything in nature corresponded to something spiritual.

    Adams Rubble: I didn't know that. He wouldn’t get away with that now :)
    Dakini: I think they stopped him then once they caught on :)
    Dakini: but interesting that dissatisfaction
    Adams Rubble: yes. Part of the creative process maybe

    Dakini has a playful side to her as well as a serious one and I assumed she was the one who introduced onigokko to Play as Being. In this case I was mistaken. As Dakini suggested, it was Moon who received the animation from some Japanese friends and who introduced onigokko at a gathering at the Play as Being pub.

    Adams Rubble: I have a surprise question :)
    Dakini: I thought so :)
    [Adams Rubble: a bit silly
    Dakini: naturally
    Adams Rubble: as you know onigokko has become a PaB mascot of sorts. When some people can't think of something to say, they start it up. Adams Rubble: How did that originate?
    Dakini: either Isen or Moon -- it must have been a freebie from one of the Japanese sims -- very entertaining
    Adams Rubble: you introduced it to me at a zazen session and it seems to appear first in PaB on May 29, 2008, so I thought it was you :)
    Dakini: you are quite the historian :)
    Adams Rubble: hehe
    Dakini (dakini.rhode) smiles
    Dakini: there was that and the Chocolate Disco
    Adams Rubble: and the frying pans .. and the hula hoops
    Dakini: ah! I think those were Martie…people would bring these things to zazen

    I asked Dakinin what had happened to her subsequently

    Adams Rubble: Would you care to talk about what has happened to you since?

    Dakini: The Buddha said it is your mind that creates your world.  To me, it seemed like the world I created in Second Life showed me what was in my mind.  Once I saw that, I thought I need to bring this into Real Life.  As things evolved, I now find myself publishing and selling books on Buddhist religious philosophy and practice.  I have no particular realization myself, but hopefully I can bring people to the sources of enlightenment through their contact with me.

    Adams Rubble: Please tell us more about your publishing venture?
    Dakini: the publishing is a very small venture -- some of the books of my Buddhist teacher, things the big publishers wouldn't take
    Dakini: the man who started it and has done it for the past 28 years wants to retire
    Dakini: I'm keeping things going for awhile and doing some transition planning
    Dakini: but I want to retire too!  lol
    Adams Rubble: hehe, I know the feeling
    Dakini: we all want to retire and go on retreat
    Dakini: really!
    Dakini: I did retire!
    Adams Rubble: :)
    Adams Rubble: sometimes one has to keep on retiring :)
    Dakini: still working, just not for money
    Dakini: it takes persistence!
    Dakini: (staying retired does)
    Adams Rubble: :)
    Adams Rubble: It takes some courage too
    Dakini: or silliness
    Adams Rubble: how can people find the publishing site?
    Dakini: namobuddhapub.com

    Second Life as workshop

    Adams Rubble:I like to ask what question(s) that I missed would you have asked yourself if given the chance?

    Dakini: I'd like to add an addendum, about Second Life as workshop.  You can try things out in Second Life with minimal risk.  You have the feeling you're risking something, but you actually aren't -- when your avatar falls from a great height it just brushes itself off and walks away. 

    You could model virtually anything, including behavior.  For example, your first encounter with meditation was in the virtual world.  The mind doesn't distinguish between "real" experience and "virtual" experience -- learning happens.  People interacting within the virtual world and modeling new behaviors are actually imprinting new habits.

    Part of my experimentation involved reversing my Real Life patterns. In Real Life I worked for money, so in Second Life I didn't want anything to do with that -- I wanted to give it away.  I observed how thought takes form -- how you can start with a small intention and actually make things happen.

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