First I must beg your understanding and forbearance with this question from an ignorant Buddhist newbie.
Focusing on the precepts of inherent emptiness and dependent origination…not to mention dispassionate detachment, my question is this: how can monks claim to be withdrawn from the sensory pleasures of this world when they are constantly connected to the machines designed to promote attachment to worldly things.
Don’t make sense to me. But seriously, what the heck do I know. Where is that Sutta that describes a relationship with a monks phone or tablet. Please teach me the right view on this matter.
Thanks, with gratitude and Metta. to monks everywhere.
It depends on how one views the internet. For some people it is a source of pleasure, for others it can simply be an obligation (witness harried businesspeople who complain they cannot disconnect from work and are forced to check their work e-mail even when on vacation).
Electronic devices and the internet can simply be a way for monks to disseminate information about their activities. At the Wat I attend the monks post news, information, and photos of Wat events to keep laypeople informed about past and upcoming activities. It’s kind of a necessity in the world today and in many ways more cost efficient than sending out paper mailings.
I am also helping the head monk practice his English. We use text messaging to schedule appointments and to exchange correspondences regarding vocabulary, etc.
As @Metaphor has said, it is also about how it is used, and the purpose for which it is used. The internet, electronic devises etc are just tools for communication. So is writing on paper and publishing books etc. There is nothing inherently negative in the tool. It is all about the skillfullness with which it is used.
Personally I am very grateful for the monastic participants in this forum. 99.9% of the time, the internet is my only source of Dhamma teachings, and skillful forums like this one, the only opportunity to have any questions answered by monastics.
But as with anything, the tools can be used unskillfully. That would be a matter for individual practitioners imo.
Dhamma was always transmitted via word of mouth until it was first written into Ola leaves in Sri Lanka.
It was to protect the Dhamma due to deterioration of teaching as a result of famines and wars.
Learning Dhamma via internet is no difference to a learning it by reading a book.
But I upon retrospect I don’t think it was a good question. I woke up this morning and reread my post and thought “What a wrong view my comment revealed”. Obviously I and so many others have benefitted from the use of the internet by Buddhist monks and lay people like me that I must have been in a daze to have written it.
I think perhaps my question might have been about monasticism, but no it was dense and thank you for helping me to understand that the internet has been very beneficial to the dissemination of all things Buddhist.
I sincerely apologize for my ignorance and any negative effect it may have had on anyone.
If internet presents the teaching in a way that makes me become less interested in this place, it’s okay for me, but if it sucks me into this place again and again then it isn’t a optimal skillful mean for reaching the goal
Undoubtedly someone has gotten something from this, but I haven’t met any of those yet, other than I meet new monks all the time with no other attainment than being able to drop some names of real fantastic teachers and teachings on the net …
That is very kind of you. But I think my reply to my own comment is a way of reining in my very undisciplined ego which is occasionally more interested in sounding erudite than actual practicing of the Dhamma. A well placed critique can be very illuminating as much as a poorly thought out criticism of anything is a subtle way of elevating the ego.
If I had thought more clearly I would have realized that the benefits of internet Buddhism far outweigh the negative aspect.
May you be liberated from suffering today and everyday. Thanks for your kindness.
Thanks for clarifying the issue. I think I was visualizing Buddhist who become attached to technology under the guise of productivity, but that is not exclusive to internet technology. Human consciousness is sticky in the sense that it easily forms attachment to anything.
But more than that the money for technology must come from somewhere as monks do not have jobs to afford digital tech.
Thank you for an insightful question which caused me to think more deeply into this subject. Ironically, in order to give a coherent answer to your question, I did a Google search and found that much controversy exist surrounding Buddhism in a digital age.
First let me be clear: I benefit from internet communication of Buddhist related material predominately from this site because I believe in the wealth of wisdom contained herein as a relatively pure distillation of Buddhism in a way that allows me to ask questions, receive excellent feed back, and learn from a multiplicity of videos by learned monks. Because I live in a rural area, Buddhism on the internet is, sadly, the only contact that I have with Buddhism. At 35 miles from the nearest and only temple, I have absolutely no personal contact with other Buddhist people.
But I have also noticed that monks, people disguised as monks, and other celebrity types disseminating a wide variety of generalized info which might lack authenticity. And there is a lack of validity in the impersonal transmission of principles which claim Buddhist authenticity And because of the superficial aspect of the internet or the way people search for Buddhism on the Net with the attendant range of confirmation biases it gives rise to the possibility of what is termed American Buddhism. And none of this touches on the financial requisites to own this technology. I feel very fortunate to have here at Sutta Central …on the internet
I hope this answered your question sufficiently. With Metta…
Hi @awarewolf, your comment really struck me. My belief is that our reactions to ‘contact’ are at the very core of skillful behaviour. It is not useful to blame objects for our reactions, but rather to recognise how defilements and hindrances operate within us, and then to train ourselves to have more skillful responses. As such, training oneself not to get ‘sucked in’ is the place of focus. Additionally, you can only guess how this ‘contact’ impacts others. They may have completely different responses to you, given that each of us is conditioned in different ways.
I’m guessing that if there were iPads and the internet at the time of the Buddha, he would have banned them. I think of the story of the meditating monk sitting outside the gates of the city, and the Buddha expressing displeasure over this monk, vs. the more sloppy monk in the forest. The monk being close to the city is kind of like the monastic being connected to the internet.
Having said that, the Buddha would have loved Sutta Central! No longer his painful worry that the Dhamma would be forgotten. Here it is, at SC, all of it, in so many languages and preserved for all time.
So, my thought on the OP question is that a good monastic will practice restraint, renunciation, and mindfulness when using an iPad. And, place themselves in an empty kuti, a cave, or at base of a forest tree as much as possible. Good monastics know how to manage these modern issues, it seems to me.
For the last few weeks i have practiced internet renunciation , and this is the second time i’m breaking silence and making room for a few words here.
And I’ve experienced that my self responded to this new regime like when some of my other addictions were threatened, - that it bites back for the first few days and weeks, and suddenly, when the smoke has cleared, one finds oneself back in a more boring but cleaner and tidier environment for practice . But I must add that I was astonished that this wholesome activity resulted in the same kind of illness that ordinary use of the net does …
Guess I’m gonna look some more into this because I like to find out if one can make do without daily confirmations from nice kalyana mitta’s and social goodygoodyness and trust that one can walk completely alone now - the teaching should have been picked up now, so why not?
This gives even greater importance to what one share and why one does it. Does anybody learn anything by this activity … I have difficulties recalling anything at all that has been implemented into one’s being or resulted in a lasting shift here …!?
I do find that only logging on one or two days a week or less and deliberately choosing not to comment most of the time helps a lot. Otherwise you end up spending all your time talking about the path instead of actually practicing it. I am also finding that turning on the computer and getting online is becoming less and less appealing and happens less and less often while practice becomes more appealing.
I sometimes just pick up the phone and deliberately follow the intent of shutting off the damn thing, and then focus in on that nice little feeling of nibbana when the minds eye sees the screen being executed into black
Since many (most?) laypeople who spend time at monasteries do so in order to experience the monastic lifestyle, I think the following is relevant to this thread:
I wonder about policies regarding use of the internet or cellphones at monasteries and retreats. I have seen both extremes as well as the middle in implementation - from a requirement to surrender one’s devices while in residence, to being allowed to keep one’s devices but making a committment not to use them (except in emergencies), to wifi being available 24-7 and everyone is free to use their devices as they see fit.
My personal preference is towards the more restrictive extreme because I need some help in breaking the habit, but I can understand the annoyance of those that are able to exercise self-control being forced to operate under restrictions that are for the benefit of others.
I would be interested to hear what others have experienced and prefer.