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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Modern Buddhism.

Phayul, July 18, 2008

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!!

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8 comments:

seafarer said...

Great post. I am amazed at the amount of free Buddhist literature that is available online. I am fascinated by it all. Do you have any favorite Buddhist websites that you would recommend?

scruffysmileyface said...

Excellent post, as always! But also remember that there's a lot of misinformation on the Internet. There are some websites that claim to be either Buddhist or Buddhist-inspired, but are in fact neither, and the consumer (or user, in this case) must be careful.

Tim said...

I like the idea that meditation is being taught "amongst people of all beliefs and those of no beliefs as well".
It was never of any importance to the Buddha that people become "Buddhists" only that they would discover for themselves what he himself had discovered.

Linda Sama said...

I agree! about it being a good time to be a Buddhist....I just spent 4 days in His Holiness' teachings in madison, WI....you can visit http://lindasyoga.blogspot.com to read a little post about it....

They call him James Ure said...

Seafarer:

I like The Buddhist Channel News website a lot. I check it all the time and they always have fascinating stories. Same with the Tricycle blog.

Scruffy:

Yes there is a lot of misinformation. I brought that up in the post as an advisory.

Tim:

Me too. I like how adaptable the teachings of Buddhism are. I'm just happy when people find happiness and some peace when they adapt things like meditation. I don't care if they are Buddhist or not, I just want everyone to be happy and free themselves from suffering any way that they can.

Linda:

Wow, that's cool that you had that experience with H.H. I'll be over to check out the post.

Matt said...

I agree with many of the points here, and think Buddhism has much to offer the West.

It may even encourage us to return to our own wisdom roots - perhaps re-evaluating Greek philosophy such as Stoicism which seems very similar to Buddhism.

With regards to meditation, I think this will help many people again return to lost practices that already existed here - such as contemplative prayer.

The great thing about Buddhism is that is doesn't arrive in new places to conquer, but rather, arrives to enrich the existing traditions of that place.

They call him James Ure said...

Matt:

The great thing about Buddhism is that is doesn't arrive in new places to conquer, but rather, arrives to enrich the existing traditions of that place.

Exactly.

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