As someone who has made blogging a part of his Buddhist practice life, I was excited to see this post about yoga and blogging as collective practice. Carol, the post's author, brings up a lot of interesting issues to consider, including this:
those of us who want to continue discussing yoga and culture shouldn’t seek to avoid controversy and debate. Instead, we should practice working with it skillfully, both for our own benefit and that of the larger community.
Much of Carol's post is an attempt to consider the ways in which online debate can turn into hate-filled drama. She has a sincere desire to see the ethical principles of yoga practice extend into online activity, and from what I have seen in her blogging and responding, she's doing a good job of being a role model. I have the same aim in my blogging and online activity, and it would be wonderful if all of us could be civil and ethical with each other, even if we are in complete disagreement about whatever is being discussed.
However, although the ideals of Buddhist ethics or yogic ethics should be present, it's probably more fruitful to work with a question like this:
As members of the Buddhist blogging community, how can we respond when discussions/debates spiral into personal attacks and other such nastiness?
I think this is more challenging than it might appear on the surface. Here's why:
1. Offering generalized appeals to behave ethically usually fall flat. When someone says "We should follow the precepts" or "Buddha taught people to be kind to each other" it sounds patronizing or pious at best, and sometimes leads to even more arguing.
2. Uber-rational comebacks filled with direct statements of fact and dharma quotes also tend to fall flat, and can serve as alienation mechanisms to those who are heated.
3. Attempts to guess at someone's intentions for writing something nasty tend to be wrong, and sometimes serve as points of escalation, especially if the intentions suggested sound negative.
So, I think for those of us online speaking about Buddhist practice, and perhaps doing so as something more than just for amusement, it's worth considering how we might aid in supporting healthier dialogue. Here are a few ideas I have. Maybe you all have others to add.
First, it's good to remember that whomever you are arguing with, whomever you are arguing about, or whomever you see arguing, is another person living somewhere in the world. For all our vastness and diversity, we're never very far from each other.
Second, I have found it helpful to look for the spirit behind comments and try to respond from there. Sometimes, the flaming is loud, but an underlying message might be very important, if only it can unearthed.
Third, ask questions. Especially if you're unsure of motives or if you think there might be something of value lurking beneath the madness.
Finally, learn to walk away. It's true in real life, and so also here online. Sometimes, the best way to let a fight die down is to just leave it.