A free, slightly-Buddhist video game where you can build a Buddha-relic stupa, Edict Pillars of Ashoka, etc

There’s a video game (which I haven’t actually played), called “0 A.D.” It’s a free and Open Source clone of the popular video game “Age of Empires II: The Age of Kings” (which I also have never played). It’s a game of ancient warfare, so sadly that’s not Buddhist at all.

It’s not too often that ancient Buddhism gets a chance to appear in a video game, so I felt this was worth a mention. The interesting thing here is that you can play as the ancient Mauryans, as in, the ones led by King Ashoka.

From their “Factions” page:

The Mauryan Empire

Founded in 322 B.C. by Chandragupta Maurya, the Mauryan Empire was the first to rule most of the Indian subcontinent, and was one of the largest and most populous empires of antiquity. Its military featured bowmen who used the long-range bamboo longbow, fierce female warriors, chariots, and thousands of armored war elephants. Its philosophers, especially the famous Acharya Chanakya, contributed to such varied fields as economics, religion, diplomacy, warfare, and good governance. Under the rule of Ashoka the Great, the empire saw 40 years of peace, harmony, and prosperity.

The Mauryans originated in the kingdom of Magadha and were ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, founded by Chandragupta Maurya, between 322 BC and 185 BC. At the time, it dominated the Indian subcontinent and was one of the largest empires in the world.

In 0 A.D. the Mauryans will have many bonuses that match their historic strengths. These include:

  • Large Population: A +10% population cap bonus (e.g., 330 instead of 300, 275 instead of 250).
  • Long-range Archery: Mauryan archers have the longest range of any archer unit in the game.
  • Elephants: Access to 3 different elephant units, including the Armored War Elephant, Elephant Archer, and Worker Elephant, which acts like a mobile dropsite for resources. Wild Elephants are also capturable and give an elephant training bonus when tasked to the Elephant Stables.
  • Special Building: Edict Pillar of Ashoka (increased gathering and health for nearby units). Elephant Stables (trains powerful elephant units).
  • Special Techs or Bonuses: Emperor of Emperors (+10% Population Cap), Kṣhatriya Warrior Caste, Elephant Roundup (can capture wild elephants for a War Elephant training bonus), Archery Tradition (greater range and attack for archers), Wootz Steel (greater attack for sword units).
  • Wonder: The Great Stupa of Sanchi, which houses a relic of the Great Buddha himself.

For those of you who would like to see more historically accurate details back from ancient India, especially those pertaining to Buddhism, the game is Open Source, allowing your contributions. This might be a way to sneak a little Buddhist content into your kids’ video game playing (instead of letting your kids play those other popular, horrifically violent, and spiritually useless games like Cyberpunk 2077, and GTA 5).

Note: this game works in Windows, Mac, or Linux, including Raspberry Pis now.


Indeed, I can only think of Civ 6 which even has different flavors of Buddhism. This was before I started investigating Buddhism though; for the religious win condition I invented my own religion “NotTooBadism”. It was an OK religion I suppose.

I haven’t gamed since January, you’re not making it easy! :slight_smile: I will continue to torture mind with mind and resist the urge.


Is it easy to maintain mindfulness while playing video games of any type? :thinking:

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I see what you’re getting at I think - find a healthy alternative. It’s a nifty approach, and in fact yes… I play on-line Go (Baduk) really badly but it’s still enjoyable. It was the first thing that came to mind when I read this…

Interestingly enough, I heard a dan-level (high) Go player say

I think of every single move in terms of avoiding three things : Fear, Greed and Complacency.

Now, considering that by “Complacency” they mean “Confusion” (of unsettled areas) we get the three big bogey monsters. I could stay somewhat mindful of that.

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I like this conclusion. I wonder why the need to play games is felt at all, … in response to These Three I guess.

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If we restrict the conversation to video games, then I think there are a lot of motivations. For online multiplayer games, many people play those to hang out with their friends. It’s a “social” activity. I prefer single play games with long stories and big worlds to explore. That’s totally about escapism, honestly. Some people like games like Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, where you just do simple things like make a house, decorate it, plant flowers, etc. I think people turn to those kinds of game to relax.

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Children like to have fun (not to mention adults). There’s not much more reason necessary than that. When the line is crossed into obsessiveness, then that’s a problem where Buddhism would do well to step in. As you would know, monks and nuns are held to a higher level of behaviour than laypeople here, not playing video games at all.

BTW: I did an online Dhamma Talk recently, incorporating imagery and symbolism from a recent video game, to teach a lesson (aimed at children) about addiction and becoming (bhava):

I feel that once in a while using “art interpretation” can be a powerful means of conveying a lesson. There’s a senior Thai monk I learned this from named Ajahn Jumnian. I met him once in Sydney, Australia, and he was using “art interpretation” to teach a meditation retreat (there was a slideshow, showing various pieces of art, which he commentated on, drawing upon various Buddhist lessons and themes).


Any links for Ajahn Jumnian? I’m interested in “art interpretation” – even if not in video games. These are deemphasised for the young in our family, who are encouraged to read those old-fashioned things called books … I’ve not much idea why this is, as I never question my kids about their childrearing practices.


Oh, absolutely! While we’re on the subject of video games and art interpretation, I’m really excited about the possibilities of Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality for Dhamma teaching.

I’m a bit biased because I did a degree in this but the possibilities really are endless.
We could have 360 videos of autopsies. Which is a big step up from pictures because you really do feel like you’re there with the headset on.
We could have a “game” for the 32 parts where you can actually take your body apart and put it back together.
We could have powerful visuals to get people on started on practices that include cultivating certain perceptions. For example the five subjects for frequent recollection.
We could have visual guided meditations for children set in space or under water or whatever, literally anything.
Video games and visual art can be a brilliant tool.


Ajahn Jumnian especially liked commentating on this famous work by Alex Grey:

There’s all sorts of lessons about respecting, or destroying mother earth there. Note the man meditating in the centre there. This work of art was also feaured in a famous music album by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.


Installed it and liked it!
Great soundtrack and amazing quality for a free software!
Thanks for the heads-up Bhante!


Just yesterday I came across an advert about this virtual medical dissection and cadaver table https://www.anatomage.com/anatomage-medical/ and I was thinking the same thing. A cheaper version of this could be used for body parts or even maranasati contemplation.


My thinking is a bit different than yours here. I agree that technology can be carefully harnessed as a powerful teaching tool. But instead of higher end, expensive hardware (like current VR headsets and all accessories, requiring a fairly fancy computer), I like looking at the question: what can be accomplished with lower end, inexpensive hardware like a Raspberry Pi? There are vast numbers of ethnic Buddhists in the more poor Theravada countries like Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Laos, Cambodia, India, etc, who could perhaps afford a Raspberry Pi, but not a VR headset.

I think it would be neat to, for example, fork 0 A.D., and have the game entirely take place within ancient Jambudipa (and the game title could be “Jambudipa”). The different factions could be the kings and kingdoms from that time: King Bimbisara, King Kosala, etc. There would be characters such Buddhist Monks and Nuns, and other Samanas. Sometimes they might display psychic powers, such as levitation.

One could build them delightful meditation parks and monasteries and kutis. The points would consist of “merit”, and the most merit accrues when you make a big offering to the Buddha, along with a Sangha (not to mention, actually meditating yourself, so the game could act as a meditation app that you meditate along with, in real life). Between campaigns of slaughtering your competing kingdoms (or at least defending your own kingdom from invaders), you could also go to Buddhist Monks and Nuns, to receive brief teachings (which totally happens in the Suttas).

If you earn enough merit (through meditating yourself, and having enough sila), you start being able to see auras on the more accomplished monks and nuns. Then bestowing gifts on them earns you all the more merit points. So in that way, merit begets even more merit.

Then at the end of the game, when you die, you go to a deva realm commensurate with how many merit points you earned. The Deva realm lets you fly around, and visit large floating palaces encrusted with gems, with dancing devatas, etc. Or if you were a bad guy, you get reborn in a bad-born destination, as is commensute with your sila (which is a simple “bar” in the corner, with a positive or negative value).


I don’t suppose you could post a video where you build the edict pillars, and the Buddha-relic-containing stupa? If I made such a video, I might get accused of the frivolity of actually playing a video game. :wink:

I’m curious what the Buddhist content actually consists of.

Here’s an older video on the Mauryans:

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Yes, indeed, AR/VR technology is still a few decades away from being practical and accessible. I was just dreaming out loud.
Games incorporating Buddhist history and concepts like you’re describing would be a big leap forward in diversifying Buddhist media today. There’s a truly surprising amount of Buddha images in games for some odd reason, but very little Buddhist content besides that.

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:worried: She most certainly does. Congrats on getting your streaming platform up, sounds like it took some doing.

That looks awesome! During the ‘Perception of a Skeleton’ thread I spent a weekend watching YouTube clips disassembling the human body. It’s astounding that these things ever work at all.

Fwiw, here’s my attempt at gaming Buddhist style. It was after @Khemarato.bhikkhu PM’ed that I can call myself a Buddhist if I’m making an honest attempt at the precepts and refuges. It didn’t go public due to being deemed too low quality (by myself) but in hindsight it survives a watch. Fun fact: The vessel name was inspired by a @Rosie :sunflower: quote:

I peer at the sky through the window of my lonely sanctuary, and see hope, like an airy cumulus cloud, drift overhead, just out of reach.


@Subharo - I played this game several years ago. All I remember is 1) it was extremely hard, even on easy mode, the AI would destroy me. 2) The music was amazing, and the Israeli composer for this game, Omri Lahav, is very very skilled, the greek and macedonian music was excellent, being half greek myself.

I’m not sure if you’re allowed to listen to music, but here is a sample


It took me a minute to remember where I said that: in my Dhamma Talk about “Little Nightmares 2”… :slightly_smiling_face:

Thanks for that! It’s Murphy’s Law that now that it all works, I’ll be taking a break from it for a while… This Sunday will be my last live video Dhamma Talk for a while.

I’ll be soon moving to Arrow River Forest Hermitage, and it might be a while until we get a new Starlink satellite service set up (which will be necessary before I can do my Dhamma Talks again, at least in Video format, as the existing satellite service doesn’t have enough GB per month on the plan to accommodate both Ajahn Punnadhammo’s weekly Dhamma Talk, as well as mine).

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Ah, I remembered playing those. For one of the scenarios, there’s a possibility to spread your brand of Buddhism/ taoism/hinduism etc, located in south east asia, including India, China, Central asia. Not so much related to Buddhism, more of just labels and geographical locations. And spreading your brand of Buddhism and treating other brands as hostiles. It’s not easy to win on deity level (highest difficulty). Anyway, it’s a bit boring after a few plays.

For the main games, I always try to establish the Buddhism religion. Again, just a label, the strategy of what religious traits to put I leave it to the individual games requirement at that time.

It’s one of the great challenges to let go of games when renouncing. Anyway, I likely played so much that I got sick of playing them again, I think I got 600 or 700+ hours into Civ 6.

Still trying to see if the joy and happiness from meditation really surpasses gaming. One disadvantage of meditation is that not all sitting will have joy and happiness.

On the note of making Buddhist video games, I got some good ideas about RPG, with the mechanisms of the status bars of the protagonist is set based on the Dhammic principles. Eg. Doing good (throughout the game) will increase and fill up the non-regret bar, the non-regret bar filled up increases the blameless joy of morality bar, which in turn fills up tranquility, happiness etc… all which contributes to a good meditation. So when monsters (inner defilements) comes out, the innate meditative qualities can be readily used to subdue the defilements, rather than using aversion (which contributes negatively to the stats and kamma). When the player dies, the rebirth realms is dependent on the kamma points accumulated and then the game continues with the next rebirth, with death causing all money, reputation, worldly status, etc to be reset to zero.

It would have Pali phrases from the suttas as game tips, encouraging the dedicated players to learn up Pali. And other dedicated players to learn the Dhamma in order to master the game better. Auto save, no undo of mistakes, advanced (optional) game play mechanics can be to link to brain bands (EEG) to do real life meditation and depending on how the player’s real skill in meditation, they can increase the meditative stats of the avatar. It’s very ambitious and heavy, I didn’t got around to do anything towards it. So if anyone is keen, I can be some consultant for the ideas. The development, etc is on the lay person.

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