Monday, 9 September 2013

Say your virtual prayers

From Global Times
By By Zhang Yiwei

"Staring at your computer screen, you click on the offering you want to make - will it be a bouquet of flowers, or a more expensive gold ingot? More importantly, which Buddha are you worshipping today?

After you have dispensed with the pleasantries, you can also note down your wishes or cherished scriptures, click submit, and in theory, Buddha will feel your sincerity.

Buddhism has gone online, with "virtual temples" now open for business. These "temples" are equipped with everything you would expect from a normal temple, including chanting, blessings, sacrifices and confessions, to name a few services, but aside from doubts over whether the click of a mouse is a genuine form of worship, there are concerns about whether they exist to make a profit, given the existence of donation buttons. Not to mention the fact that these temples present an ideal way to commit fraud.

Real worship?
A lay-Buddhist monk from Jiangsu Province, whose monastic name is Yihong, launched an online temple in 2006 in conjunction with a Buddhist website.

Yihong's site is split into various sections; each dedicated to a particular service, and on each section thousands of prayers have been left by Net users. Yihong told the Global Times that he launched the temple to help Buddhists maintain their faith, and that the Internet was the best way to do this.

"It's a way to remind people to practice their beliefs more often in their daily lives, as the Internet is easily accessible," Yihong said. "It can also help to build and strengthen one's faith."

However, Yihong does stress that the online temple can't replace real-world temples. "The real treasures of Buddhism are located in temples, not on the Internet," he said, noting that the key elements of the religion, namely Buddha, Buddhist sutras and monks, are in temples, and Buddhists need to show respect to them by visiting temples.

Despite Yihong's desire to reinforce worship in traditional temples, some Buddhists have simply replaced physical temples with an online version.

A 31-year-old Buddhist with the Web name Qingjing Suiyuan, who often prays online, said that he doesn't think praying online is connected with laziness. He said that people live fast-paced city lifestyles, and that the online prayers will be heard by Buddha as long as the prayers are sincere.

In contrast, another Buddhist, surnamed Liu, who has been studying Buddhism for more than ten years, said she believes that conducting rituals online will never replace visiting real temples. "Learning the knowledge of Buddhism through face-to-face communication with Buddhist masters is a totally different experience from just reading materials on the Web," she said. "Also, temples have had the role of enlightening people, as far back as ancient times," Liu said. "They are located in places distant from the secular world and try to purify visitors' minds and make them treasure the rituals. Praying at home just weakens people's respect for the solemnity of the act..."   Full article

...and other Buddhist geeks...

From Buddha as Scientist, Entrepreneur & Self-Improvement Guru by Michael Schulson  


"The political satirist Tom Lehrer says that his genre became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. I’m afraid I had a similar reaction when I first heard of Buddhist Geeks, a conference organizer and “cloud-based sangha” designed to facilitate “conversations on the convergence of Buddhism, technology, and global culture.” In other words, the devotees of some of the most distracting, mindfulness-destroying, desire-driven innovations in the history of our culture were now plotting to disrupt Buddhism. Any commentary, honestly, seemed obsolete.

As a service to readers, though, I decided to withhold judgment and plunge into the most recent Buddhist Geeks annual conference, which was held in Boulder, Colorado last month—and, until last Sunday, stored in a virtual forum by the good folks over at Tricycle magazine. After watching talks about “mindful media,” “upgrading the mental operating system,” and the links between Spiderman and Buddhist teachers, among other topics, I can offer four general truths—none of them especially noble—about the emerging realm of Buddhist geekhood.

1) Buddhist geeks really are quite geeky. They make a lot of Star Trek references, and love to cite neuroscience research, most of it about the effects of meditation on the brain. Less superficially, they embody the geek’s dream that everything can be solved with hard work and intellect. Above all, the Buddhist Geeks talks I watched were deeply practical, with little emphasis on escaping the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and much more emphasis on using Buddhism to relax the mind and channel entrepreneurial energies... "   Read it all  



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