New York, USA -- The Dalai Lama said that it is important to preserve one’s own traditions and culture but it is wrong to close door to the outside world. He said that one should strive to become a 21st century Buddhist with both traditional values and modern education.
One of the ways that Buddhism is adapting so well to this new century is the embracing of the internet. It has enabled people living in very isolated communities where they might be the only Buddhist within hundreds of miles to connect with other practitioners. This gives great numbers of Buddhists a chance to participate in a vibrant sangha (community of Buddhists).
It is a fabulously diverse world-wide sangha where Buddhists can meet up, meditate, converse and learn together any day of the week, night or day. I have gotten to know Buddhists from all corners of this amazing world and that would never have been possible without the internet which is perhaps the most profound and influential invention in a century.
The internet also gives anyone with a connection access to teachers and texts that use to require traveling great distances. You can now send an email while in your pajamas to a monk in a monastery living half-way around the world for assistance in your practice. To that end I've been reading the blog of a Zen Master living in Japan and because of having this access my practice has grown in ways otherwise perhaps not possible in this lifetime. Via online shopping we can order Dharma books from areas in the world where Buddhist bookstores don't exist. I can't think of another time when Buddhism was more accessible to so many people. It's perhaps the greatest Buddhist information explosion since probably the Nalanda University days.
That being said, In some regards the internet creates a false world where we can easily fall out of balance between thinking and actually sitting our butts down on the cushion. However, we can still gain much from the internet as long as we remain mindful and present when we are online and remember that the internet is just another finger pointing to the moon.
In this modern age meditation is gaining a lot of popularity amongst people of all beliefs and those of no beliefs at all. You can find basic meditation classes being taught in hospitals to help people deal with their emotions while sick and/or dying. It gives them a tool to deal with the suffering in their minds and center their breathing to bring down anxiety of having to deal with terminal illnesses, etc.
I firmly believe that Buddha would be very happy to see his teachings benefit as many people as possible whether they call themselves "Buddhists" or not. His main motivation was simply to help people reduce their suffering. I don't think that he'd feel offended that non-Buddhists are adopting some aspects of the Dharma. He is Buddha after all, I am pretty sure that he can't be offended anyway.
Then there is the advent of the ipod which gives people even more accessibility to Dharma talks and teachers. It gives the practitioner the ability to listen to teachings and motivational speeches anywhere at anytime. We can literally listen to these things on the way to work on the train, while cleaning the house or while jogging/exercising.
It's an exciting time to be a Buddhist!!