The world is going to a point of no return, with the thirst for materialistic grandeur and power to rule over nature; after the conquered of Oriental by the Occidental. This article talks about Cyborg. Cyborg, Bionic Man, Clone, Trans-human... these could be the future of you and me, friends and colleagues walking on the streets. Or programmed, or with specific "functions", or one prototype of "human resources", it could all be tailor-made. When human falls into such situation, are Buddhist self-cultivation practices such as meditation, mantra chanting, concentration of mind... etc still viable; can enlightenment still be reachable for these types of humans?

Explanation Added: Especially for certain schools of practices, it's about the Wind (氣), Nadi (脈), Bindu (明點) related to the human body, e.g., the Tibetan School. Certain other schools, included is the Hinayana, that the practice of the White Skeleton Visualization is depended upon working on the body to transform the consciousness - can a "Re-made Human" (Cyborg, Trans-human who has his body parts enhanced, replaced by organic or inorganic components, partially human partially machine, with devices implanted to achieve certain supernatural abilities such as remote viewing, mind control with micro-wave... all could be imagined... in short, Iron Man or Wolverine type of human) do the Buddhist practices and achieve enlightenment?

Remarks Added 14/02/2017

Excerpt from MarketWatch:

Musk also touched one of his favorite topics: artificial intelligence. Specifically, he spoke of humans eventually merging with machines, like something out of a "Terminator" movie. ...merger of biological intelligence and digital intelligence ...the bandwidth, the speed of the connection between your brain and the digital version of yourself...

The future human destiny is approaching us with rapidity: In a beautiful name called upgrading human.

  • 1
    I cannot understand why this question is downvoted??! The engaging in manipulating the DNA, child-birth selection and design (by In Vitro Fertilization, IVF), enhancing human abilities and intelligence by implanted devices or alteration... these are challenging the volition/free-will of human, and the very core nature of human, i.e., able to liberate from Samsara/World of Forms/World of Illusions, by enlightenment. The Sutras said "to be born as a human is difficult" (人身難得); the Tibetan practice involving the wind (氣), nadi (脈) and bindu (明點) are at first based on the human body... Jan 26, 2017 at 19:16
  • i also have no idea why the downvotes
    – breath
    Jan 26, 2017 at 21:36
  • Do think people's answer should based on references, or based on personal experience? What kind of information should be in an answer? Is this a question about Buddhism, or is it mostly a question about so-called "cyborgs"?
    – ChrisW
    Jan 26, 2017 at 23:36
  • @ChrisW My intent is to discuss this issue based on the Buddhist principle. For enlightenment is all about being a human; all Buddhas first born as a human then reached Buddha-hood in their last lives, even though they were already the Great Bodhisattvas dwelling and teaching in the Inner Tusitas (兜率天內院). Maybe phrase it in a different way: Can a Trans-human, i.e., half man half machine like Iron Man or Wolverine sort of man, become an arahat, or a buddha? Although "I" is not my body, but 'human body is the medium between the Form and Emptiness' - in my own words... Jan 27, 2017 at 3:28
  • 1
    If you want to "get deeper into this issue", do you want to edit the question to clarify that what you're actually asking about is "subtle body channels besides veins and nerve systems"?
    – ChrisW
    Jan 27, 2017 at 10:42

4 Answers 4


This question is actually unanswerable. However a human being is vastly more complicated than a mere cyborg. The ability to achieve enlightenment. Whereas a cyborg would be created artificially, and is merely a mind and a body to accomplish some tasks. Therefore it doesn't seem plausible that a cyborg achieves enlightenment/Nirvana.

Edit: Understood the clarification. The changes you mention, like enhanced body parts or something, may enhance man's capacity in the outside world but the alterations to the body structure/parts will have lots of unintended consequences. We don't clearly understand the ramifications and chemical imbalances in the system. In the same way that we are able to interact seamlessly with mobile phones in our age of technology, man's capability will increase but seemingly at a cost of his/her own natural technology called the mind and body. It is still an artificial way rather than a natural style.

Let's take a simple example. Are you able to meditate well with all the interactions you are having with your computer and mobile phone and Facebook/Twitter etc.,? If you are able to think about this you will understand how spiritual goal is unrelated and artificially enhancing life spans or body parts will be detrimental to a person's spiritual growth. Understand that man's body is already a well engineered machine. Just because we are insensitive to that and don't treat it well, doesn't mean our body is not an awesome machine. Our bodies are a vehicle too. We must oil it well and consume well in order to keep it running. But it has its life span and capabilities and we must respect that.

  • Thanks. Maybe I haven't phrased my question clearly. Cyborg here meant not merely a machine, but half man half machine, is a man but with certain body parts altered, enhanced; imagine a man with only his brain but most of his body parts are replaced, some organ-transplants, some inorganic organs, even his brain is enhanced with, say wifi sort of device so that he could "connect" to the Big Data? Jan 27, 2017 at 3:41
  • Edited my answer.
    – esh
    Jan 27, 2017 at 4:20
  • Thanks for the edited. To get deeper into this issue, I'm wondering how those concepts related to wind, nadi, bindu, or 經脈 (subtle body channels besides veins and nerves systems) work when a human body is artificially altered. In meditation practice, not only breathing or concentrating, but also with other methods which involved the human body. It may be too specific though... Jan 27, 2017 at 4:45
  • I understand where you are getting at. But I know very little about the energy channels and the elements composition (like wind, water, fire) of our body so I will not venture into that. Perhaps Tibetan monks or yogis or some texts would be able to help with that.
    – esh
    Jan 27, 2017 at 4:48
  • I am doing a yogic practice related to the nadis and the chakras with a breathing technique. But I am not well informed. I am just doing as instructed.
    – esh
    Jan 27, 2017 at 4:51

Buddha has said, “Dear Bhikkhus, ones who would not realize this Dhamma is like this earth (in amount). Ones who realize this is like this small amount of soil on my finger nail.” If it is so for you and I, for us normal humans, what are the chances for a Human Cyborg to get to hear the True Dhamma?

For those who are not familiar with the term Cyborg - Cyborgs walk among us, though we see them as ordinary people. People who have robotic prosthetics generally qualify as cyborgs. Even people with pacemakers qualify as their existence depends partly on the continuing function of the electronic device that keeps their heart’s rhythm.

This Cyborg then has to be one who has cultivated the five ‘Sēkha Bala Dhamma’ – Saddhā (faith), Sīla (virtue), Sutha (Dhamma knowledge), Thyāga (generosity), and Paññā (wisdom of the Dhamma). Also this has to be a Cyborg that has religiously gone through the stages of listening, remembering, constant reciting, mental observation and ideologically understanding the Dhamma (Sutha, dhata, vacasa paricita, manasanupekkhita, ditthiya suppatividdha). Still when trying to put into practice in daily life, what this Cyborg has learnt, s/he faces many obstacles, difficulties, emotional pain, and conflicts that throw one away from this Dhamma path. This is due to the “Evil eye, evil mouth and evil tongue” of ones own making. So what do you think are the chances of this happening in this short lifespan?

  • Oh, here Cyborg is the real manufactured "being", could be a highly intelligent man, with high moral and self-control, but enhanced/upgraded by scientific devices. Example, when a normal practitioner (human) doing the White Skeleton, if he sinned, his body has some defects, at that part he would not be able to see the bright bones - how about a Cyborg who has his organs replaced? Jan 30, 2017 at 4:42

There is a precedent that the Buddha set for letting in a 'different' set of humans, when he allowed women to join the Sangha, and his reasoning there we that the female mind had the capacity to reach the goal. Arguably, you can use this for any other 'different' life form.

The question is not whether AI (I assume cyborgs with human brains are human and ones with non-human brains are AI) will have access to the logical and reasoning aspects of the intellect that are necessary to recognise the Four Noble Truths. This is likely because the Truths are empirical and the human mind already has access to all empirical evidence within its frame of reference (subject to technology). So I don't think AI will be substantially different from 'Intelligence' to justify the 'Artificial`.

The question is whether all life, that has the capacity to comprehend the Noble Truths, can meditate and experience cessation (as the process of Jhanna may be dependent on the human intellect, I don't think it is initially necessary for distinct life forms in their exact form).

Personally I think this will happen soon enough with some animal species like dogs, which are already getting to 3-5 year old intelligence through cohabitation with humans - so they are not far from having a right to access to the Dhamma imo (being carbon based, their minds shouldnt be too different from human's).

Cyborgs and AI are too speculative at this point imo (although AI is heading down the neural network route, so same architecture as the human brain really), but I would find it difficult to believe that a conscious non-human intelligence would not be able to find a secluded place, sit down, and learn to have a peaceful abiding.

(though specifically for Cyborgs - since post human upgrades will have individualistic motives and end up dependent on the purpose of those upgrades, some Cyborgs may find themselves more stuck in Samsara.. militarily enhanced human minds, if they appear, will likely find it useful to have cognitive empathy downgraded.. This will obviously not help along the path. On the other hand, a Cyborg who's mind has been specifically enhanced for medical practice (the Buddha described himself as the doctor (not that one! ;) ), is likely to benefit from his enhancements in the practice of Buddhism.)

  • i don't understand why this answer is -1! whether agreed with the opinion or not, this is a well learnt and intelligent answer, imo Jan 30, 2017 at 4:47
  • first of all, i disagree that because buddha accepted female into the Sangha thus assuming Cyborgs are just another type besides female. Female and male are just, ordinary humans. In the Buddhist tradition, not just what you said abt dogs (a saying that dogs living in the temples are usually previously Bhikkus), naga (dragon/snake), animals (fox, weasel, toad), plants they could also in certain extend do self-cultivation, if they live long enough and spiritually advanced, however they are forbidden upto a certain stage, for they must then earn the chance to re-incarnate as a human first... Jan 30, 2017 at 4:59
  • I wonder whether this part of the message is open to interpretation though - evolution, as the theory currently is understood, was not available to the Buddha - if an animal evolves a mind that can perform the same tasks and actions as a human mind, is that mind then limited from progress along the path solely because of its non-human body? Jan 30, 2017 at 9:27
  • Also, whilst females and males are ordinary humans - are cyborgs and AI, given the Buddha's instance on the regularity of experience, any thing more or less than ordinary? That the conditions for their birth differ a bit from the conditions for the birth of humans doesn't take away the fact they will face anicca, dukha and anatta, as that is what this world is. The question then is, if they face these conditions and have the mental capacity to break free from them, why treat them differently from any other life form that fulfills those conditions? Jan 30, 2017 at 9:29
  • You may like all the rest who's went through academia being enchanted by the notion of "evolution". There're some axioms in the "evolution" that are sound, yet the whole notion is more like a myth to be believed by some infantile minds. It can't explain the giants where bones and skeletons are discovered over the world; humans are walking side by side with dinosaurs in some ancient graffiti; do you believed that your grand grand... grand father was a - certain sub-class of chimpanzee, honestly? Jan 30, 2017 at 13:29

A cyborg will not have volition and without volition it can’t reach enlightenment!

I think volition is grossly misunderstood, I wouldn’t say in Buddhism, but mostly in this platform.

Volitional action as explained on some Buddhist texts or as understood by the Stoics (Prohairesis) can not happen in a cyborg.

  • Would u expain more on volition, even whatever u unstand on this term from any schools? For cyborg what if it's a gradual development? Not a cyborg manufactured from lab, but a human gradually changing body parts? How about lab-created human with flesh: all components are developed from cells to whole body - do they have volition? May 23, 2017 at 12:35

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .