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The pros and cons of internet Buddhism

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited June 2019 in Buddhism Today

I came across this today and thought people might be interested. It’s a piece in Buddha Weekly about the advantages and disadvantages of learning the dharma from the internet, and it talks about the role of a teacher.

It’s unfortunately not a very deep article and relates to a few other sources, but it does touch on the highlights. I think because gathering information on the internet is so relatively quick and easy, it becomes the first port of call in many cases and people are tempted to not look further.

Lion’s Roar also did a similar article a while ago...



  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    “There's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” ~ Morpheus

    Internet Dharma to me seems like a big jumbled box of parts or a wide open field. Without the actual guidance of a teacher or support of a sangha it is easy to get lost or build something out of Dharma pieces that doesn't really accomplish the goal.

    I do think online teacher connections and internet forums like this are important in that they can connect us with others who have some experience in the path so we can help each other try to sort it all out.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Who believes everything they read? No? Same for Internet, hopefully more so.

    We through life experience develop discernment. On the Path, we may have been started by a variety of sources. How we finish or refine is up to us. If you can not find a teacher, go Rhinoceros ...

    My teacher taught me Nothing!

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The pros and cons of internet Buddhism

    I think that it's a case of...Dharma is Dharma and Karma is Karma ....

    It all depends upon the individual and the karmic pattern flow, as to whether or not they connect to/best suited for internet Dharma teachings or in the flesh Dharma teacher teachings....

  • KundoKundo Veteran Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @Lee82 said:
    How worse is internet dharma than the raft of “Buddhist” splinter groups publishing and promoting trash to unsuspecting inductees? Even taught in person, the teachings are open to misinterpretation or falsification. As with all things, religion or otherwise, the internet should be taken with a pinch of salt, as should any teaching or education that you can’t find sense or reason with.

    I think online is slightly worse in the fact that face to face allows for challenges/questions to be made more easily. It's also easier IME to discern bullshit by seeing the reaction and hearing the answers in real time than allowing someone to sit and craft an answer via email or on a forum like this. After all, there's no "edit" function IRL like there is on a forum or a "draft" feature like in email.

    Just my 0.02

  • KundoKundo Veteran Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited June 2019

    @Kerome said:
    I think because gathering information on the internet is so relatively quick and easy, it becomes the first port of call in many cases and people are tempted to not look further.

    Absolutely!! I completely agree with Ethan Nichtern - The Internet is Not Your Teacher.

    The internet is a great tool (when used properly). But we're not Buddhists because we are members of NB. We are Buddhists if we choose to apply the dharma in our lives and keep learning the dharma. For this, we attend IRL sanghas, read texts and DO the required work on ourselves.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Surprisingly everything is a teacher. Even ourselves, non-Buddhists, fake-think Trumpe clueless types, cult new agers dharmaists and of course those who provide genuine info, online teaching, phoning, writing, retreats, meeting etc ...

    Good teachers make themselves redundant and students independent as soon as possible.

    Have I gone wrong again? Ah well this is the Internet, someone will put me right ... B)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @Lee82 said:
    How worse is internet dharma than the raft of “Buddhist” splinter groups publishing and promoting trash to unsuspecting inductees? Even taught in person, the teachings are open to misinterpretation or falsification.

    True, but a big part of internet diy Buddhism is the self-directed nature of the search. If you just go and read articles, you’re going to come across a jumble of short pieces, video’s and varied teachings from different traditions. It’s not really a good introduction.

    A good beginners book such as Buddhism for Dummies is going to give you both more depth and more overview, from where you can sample a few different traditions and see what is the right path for you. If you’re lucky you will stumble across resources such as AccessToInsight’s introduction.

    Then I think there is an intermediate stage during which you are gradually deepening in knowledge, but are not really fully committed. You may know quite a bit about Buddhism but haven’t really taken on a structured study. This can last a while. Next comes I think taking refuge and finding a teacher, if you choose to go that deeply into things. This is more of a commitment and will give you new pathways to follow.

    I think even if you’ve found a splinter group’s centre and are following their teachings and path, it is likely to be more structured, deeper and more complete than the internet diy approach. But I think most westerners would not be willing to forego the tasting of different approaches to see what resonates...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Little things but so important.

    The overt teachings are info but the real comes into our conscious understanding:

    • attitude
    • behavour
    • deportment
    • response
    • non-action as an activity
    • presence
    • lack of specialness/ego
      and so on ...

    These are all qualities I found in my teacher.
    This is why there was no need for teaching.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited June 2019

    In the end I think that internet buddhism is better than no buddhism at all. My sense is that buddhism has important lessons to teach people in modern society, and it’s a good thing that the information is available. But I really would advise internet Buddhists to supplement their understanding with a few good beginners books. A book has a capacity to teach a sequence of knowledge on a scale that you generally don’t find in a website article or YouTube video, and so can contribute to a deeper and more nuanced understanding of topics.

  • QuidditchQuidditch Explorer Earth Explorer

    I listen to lectures recorded on retreats by Pema Chodron and other teachers. They have been helpful in learning too, as isolated as I am from the larger community.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    ... as isolated as I am from the larger community.

    Might be just as well ...

    I am only here for the lager community ... :3 ahhh ... oh ... larger ...

    Carry on. I'll be in the naughty corner with the Buddhist Incommunicado ...

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    I find internet Buddhism is useful for exploring ideas about Buddhism, and there can be a sense of community.
    But I'm glad I have regular contact with Buddhists off-line, I think Internet-only Buddhism would be a bit weird. 😋

  • DhammikaDhammika Veteran Veteran

    I found this on the Internet. 😊 It has been teaching me.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I'm glad for the accessibility the internet provides as well as the time and effort put into sites like Access to Insight. I'm also grateful for Newbuddhist for obvious reasons.

    There's also Kindle, other e-readers and videos galore.

    I wouldn't really want to go without a live sangha and regular meditation but I am glad we have this huge online aspect to go along with them.

  • DhammikaDhammika Veteran Veteran
    edited June 2019

    And humanizing monks! Another boon from the Interwebs! (Hmmmm. My cartoon won’t upload no matter which way I do it. What's up with that?) =)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran

    Forum is being updated. I canz does it ... @Dhammika ...

    Good company is like the ice cream on the cake ... (don't like icing)

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