Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On-line Sangha Life - Is that so last year?

Here's an interesting post I stumbled upon about blogging, writing, and personal/professional goals behind blogs. It got me thinking about discussions awhile back concerning whether Buddhist blogging, chat rooms, and collective sites (like The IMC Community)constitutes an on-line sangha.

The longer I have spent blogging, the more I have seen how fickle the on-line world can be, even amongst us "Buddhist-types." Individual bloggers come and go. On-line communities come and go. Sustaining conversations about much of anything for longer than a week or two seems challenging at best, and sometimes next to impossible. Or, when something does get a lot of focus, it tends to be that which is dramatic and highly charged, like taking good old Genpo Roshi and his buddies down a few pegs.

On the flip side, there are more and more teachers doing online classes and workshops. And there are long running forums like Zen Forum International and communities like Treeleaf which seem to offer some of the stability and consistency you might see in a brick and mortar sangha.

Regardless of the amount of change, there is a beauty in sharing with others something you have learned, or are confused about, or just curious about. This can occur without more formal bonds, just seeming strangers sliding into each others' lives for a few minutes.

But I also wonder about all that talk about online sangha life. Was that just last year's bit of dukkha, or has it just transformed into something else?


Robyn said...

Yesterday I put a post up about (what I thought was) an amusing story from sesshin, then took it down. It felt trivial and trivializing. I struggle with that - esp. the last one. How to talk about aspects of the dharma online in this public forum without being trivial and/or trivializing? I, for one, feel like I don't know enough to even begin.

Makes me want to stick to talking about knitting mostly...

What do you think, Nathan? (not about knitting, but about how an online conversation can trivialize the very real imperative of practice.)

Nathan said...

Hi Robyn,

I read your post,I think, before you took it down. Sounded fine to me. In fact the whole oryoki experience felt really familiar to me.

The thing is I think it's important for us to share, even if we "don't know enough" because it both can support/teach others, but also because it teaches us to let go of our ideas and experiences. Blogging has become a practice for me because I have seen how my mind gets hooked by comments, or how my writing either tells the truth or lies, and also how much I want to be liked, another thing to let go of.

But you're right, too, that things can, and definitely do, get trivialized. Or people get fixed on tiny issues that really won't benefit anyone even if they get "solved." All this happens in our "regular lives" too. Like that question people ask about retreats, or about meditation:
How was it? Did you have a relaxing time?

No matter what you say, it probably falls flat in describing what happened and what you went through.

So, I guess in some ways, writing anything, or saying anything requires a faith that you're doing your best - and when you know you aren't doing your best, you catch that and start again.

Robyn said...

Thanks Nathan. Your words are helpful.

Marcus said...

I don't know what it's like to have only an on-line Sangha (I'm lucky enough to have a couple of great flesh and blood groups I attend) but I do know that I learn a good deal from the Buddhist blogs. And just this here one blog alone, Nathan, is a gem. Thank you so much for your efforts building this Sangha.


Nathan said...

Hi Marcus,

Thanks much. I'm lucky enough to be a part of a "in the flesh" sangha as well.

Glad you're still blogging too. You're a good writer, and we need as many good writers writing about our practice as possible.