Author Topic: Can we share practice online?  (Read 3195 times)

Hungry Ghost

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Can we share practice online?
« on: December 05, 2009, 06:55:07 pm »
How does one share practice online?   Here is a practitioner of many years who would like to share his practice.  Since it is an expression of living practice, and not a doctrinal argument on what constitutes “Correct Dharma”, it is not subject to someone elses measure. Conversely, it is not the held as the measure of anyone else's practice, or as a statement of what constitute True Dharma.  So there is a humility in it.

But. how can you share practice in this way in a medium (online forum)  which seems to reduce everything to a competition over who really understands Dharma?   After taking time this year to explore the Dharma online, it has become pretty clear that discussion often turns into this kind of back and forth, and I get sucked into it too, which is a turn-off.

I understand that there are always people who show up in these forums presuming to tell everyone what its all really about, and this is naturally going to be countered by people saying ..”Hey, here are a number of Sutras that show you don”t know what you are talking about”  But it doesn't have to be that way.  When my Sangha meets for practice we have a period of sharing at the end of the evening where we share our experience  without it degenerating into everyone telling everyone how its really is,

I'm not sure if this is a concern for others, but if it is, does anyone have any thoughts on the matter.?

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2009, 07:45:21 pm »
I agree. Even aside from the lunatic fringe at BC, I was annoyed by a small minority of posters who tended to criticize anything I wrote. I am not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to suttas/ sutras, and I have no desire to be. However, there and here, those types really do seem to be a minority, so it is worth reminding myself of that.

Offline Dae Bi

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #2 on: December 05, 2009, 07:56:05 pm »
There is a difference between learning sutra and knowing sutra.  I find many will use quotes to form an argument and then keep using quotes to continue like argument.   
I have read some sutra and believe I know what I have read.  I have not studied/ learned sutra and so I am unable to use them in quotes. What I can do is offer comments on my own experience and what I have found to be relevant for me.
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then there is.
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thornbush

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #3 on: December 05, 2009, 08:30:28 pm »
My thoughts...

1. Personally, I think it is a great idea and actually longed for it since time immemorial. After all...
Happy is communion
with the enlightened,
as with a gathering of kin.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/dhp.15.than.html

Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, Lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."
"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the Noble Eightfold Path."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.002.than.html

In Aryans' Discipline, to build a friendship is to build wealth,
To maintain a friendship is to maintain wealth and
To end a friendship is to end wealth.
(Cakkavatti Sutta, Patika Vagga, Dighanikaya)

"If beings knew, as I know, the results of sharing gifts,
they would not enjoy their gifts without sharing them with others,
nor would the taint of stinginess obsess the heart and stay there.
even if it were their last and final bit of food,
they would not enjoy its use without sharing it,
if there were anyone to receive it."
(Itivuttaka 18)
http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Articles/Dhamma_Quotes.htm

2. The other issue on online sharing is, it is 'impersonal', we don't really know the genuine ones from the trolls, other than from what they post and many are adepts at using language to butcher/flatter others in refined/coarse ways and as I have heard it said before 'The Online World is not for the fainthearted and the fragile'. So, we have a range of the online self made pontiffs to those who have a true Dharma heart for others.
Especially experiences deemed personal to oneself, e.g during one's cultivation of meditation and its myriad levels of absorption and ecstasy to encounters with non-human sentient beings and so forth are not to be simply shared for simple reasons of self protection from:

a. those who have a penchant to denigrate/disparage and trifle with people's genuinely shared experiences

b. those who are not ready to hear/accept of such stuff and many may misconstrue such sharing as a sign of inflated spiritual pride/ego instead of seeing it as seeing how one can learn and improve from that sharing, again differing from one culture to another

c. in many traditional circles, it is often a misconception that the prohibition of displaying/sharing of one's own spiritual abilities/experiences to the Monastics are also applicable to the Laity. Although it is not, many are the lessons to be learned on why this prohibition was given to Monastics especially in today's world where we are not short of the claimants of 'His Holiness the Flying Spaghetti Monster XVI' and 'Ajahn Wannabes' 

d. one's ability to accept criticism/comments as a response to our sharing that may range from well intentioned ones but construed by our own defilements as 'personal attacks' OR that it is genuine online miscreants         

e. if one has a Sangha/Teacher or at least a trustworthy circle of Dharma friends in real life, perhaps, these are to be trusted with our sharing, as they have the relevant experience and know one personally and spiritually speaking, that too as advised by many to proceed with caution.
Online sharing entails great responsibility both on the part of the sharer and the intended audience.
Someone once told me that if I do not have a buffalo's skin, don't mess with the buffaloes  ;D     

As below...
"One who, overstepping and despising a sense of shame, says, 'I am your friend,' but does not take upon himself any tasks he is capable of doing, is to be recognized as no friend.
One who speaks amiably to his companions, but whose actions do not conform to it, him the wise know for certain as a talker not a doer.
He is no friend who, anticipating conflict, is always alert in looking out for weaknesses.
But he on whom one can rely, like a child sleeping on its mother's breast, is truly a friend who cannot be parted from one by others."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/snp/snp.2.03.irel.html

One truly is the protector of oneself; who else could the protector be? With oneself fully controlled, one gains a mastery that is hard to gain.
Let one not neglect one's own welfare for the sake of another, however great. Clearly understanding one's own welfare, let one be intent upon the good.
If for company you find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, you should, overcoming all impediments, keep his company joyously and mindfully.
If for company you cannot find a wise and prudent friend who leads a good life, then, like a king who leaves behind a conquered kingdom, or like a lone elephant in the elephant forest, you should go your way alone.
 
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/dhp/index.html

"And how does a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, develop & pursue the noble eightfold path?
There is the case where a monk develops right view dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment. He develops right resolve ... right speech ... right action ... right livelihood ... right effort ... right mindfulness ... right concentration dependent on seclusion, dependent on dispassion, dependent on cessation, resulting in relinquishment.
This is how a monk who has admirable people as friends, companions, & colleagues, develops & pursues the Noble Eightfold Path.

"And through this line of reasoning one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life:
It is in dependence on me as an admirable friend that beings subject to birth have gained release from birth, that beings subject to aging have gained release from aging, that beings subject to death have gained release from death, that beings subject to sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair have gained release from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair.
It is through this line of reasoning that one may know how admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.002.than.html

Am I making sense? Gawd...someone stop me... :D ;D

Offline humanitas

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #4 on: December 05, 2009, 08:47:50 pm »
I had a few thoughts while reading your post.  First, because I've never really read any of your posts, I'm not sure where you're coming from with how you would ideally like to share your practice with others.  The sense I get from your words is that since the online medium is so "abstract" that we are reduced to our words to describe our practice to each other, right?  Please correct me if I've misunderstood.  The online medium in that respect is very limited compared to the "live" medium of being in the same room with other people.  And I can relate to that frustration myself.  But life and karma being as it is limits some to practice "a little" dharma (online) as well as in our daily lives and others get to practice "a lot" because they have access to "live" in-person teachings with teachers and "live" sanghas.  

We can practice humility online.  I don't see any barriers stopping us from doing so.  And in terms of "sharing our practice" what we can share online is right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.  We can practice almost the entire eightfold path.  Some of us even have right livelihood (I work in software) online.  Of course, the online medium being as it is will be limited to sharing stories, sutras, experiences, doubts, feelings, struggles, what the teachings are and what they mean to us, and none of it will take place in person, but like I said earlier, a little is better than nothing.  For those who have a lot of opportunity, kudos to them, many of those people simply use the online medium to touch base with fellow students who are not near.  After spending a bit of time in the "buddhist online scene" I observed that many people struggle with feeling inadequate in their practice, or feeling not "holy enough" especially for those who come from Christian backgrounds and have not chosen a Buddhist ordination.  It may be hard for some people to define what "sharing our practice online" really mean so it turns into, as you said, a bunch of people telling you what Buddhism is really about.  I personally have not had this experience you've had, because I just started practicing a year ago and I come from a mixed religious background.  A huge element of the living practice is also the study of the doctrine.  That is not something to trivialize, for many that is an essential element of their practice. The hundreds of pages of sutras and sacred texts are testimony to the fact that study of the doctrine is so important to Buddhist practitioners.  So I don't entirely agree that the reality of online interactions are discussions simply turning into competition over who really understand the dharma.  Some might feel that way, but I guarantee not all.  I think many people like to challenge what they know and get into lively debates about what is and isn't dharma, but this is nothing new.  It's part of the Buddhist tradition monks have been doing this for millennia, it's nothing specific to or characteristic of the online medium.  For example, these days I choose which discussions spark me in which I might most benefit others by sharing what I might have learned, witnessed, intuited, etc in my very short time of practice, and in my longer time as a human being.  If I do this and I'm nobody special, I'm sure there are many other people who post with the same interests and intents.  I guarantee, there is also nothing new or unique about me in this sense.  That reassures me daily, that I'm not the only one seeking to wake up from the ignorance that has me locked in samsara.

You say potato I say poh-tah-tow you say tomato, I say toe-mah-tow...

Observe this (I just became aware of it myself) look at how interesting this is: You feel the limitations of "online" as reducing the practice to competition of who knows or understands the dharma more than the next fellow member.  I feel almost the opposite, that how we treat each other here is an expression of our living practice, of our practice away from the computer!  If I were to write something very hurtful or offensive I could genuinely really hurt someone with my word regardless of whether or not the medium is online interaction.  This medium is so bare, so stark, so one-sided and so naked it's like meditation.  If you sit still with it your own distortions begin to emerge, and you can start just becoming aware where someone in person may not have the courage to tell you what they're observing in what's happening in your mind.  This medium offers us a unique space in which a lot of our own views that are skewed and not dharmic but samsaric begin to become distinguished by interacting with other practitioners (caveat: if we are willing to observe ourselves and be mindful).  Since we are limited to words, it's like we always have a mirror right in front of us every time we respond to a post or react to someone else's words, we are placing all the imaginary inflections and tones in our inner narrator voice as we read what others write.  We can study every intent we place into another person's words the way we interpret their expressions, what prejudices we have of them, etc.  Our blind spots become evident.  What a fantastic place to share one's practice.   You couldn't ask for a more controlled environment for your practice, you can't BUT eventually become aware of what you're saying, what you're omitting, where you're mistaken, where you need some more work, where you need to cultivate more understanding, patience, compassion, and mindfulness because the medium itself is so reflective (like a mirror) and so individual (in our experience of the mirror) yet shared by everyone who uses the medium.  You say potato I say poh-tah-tow you say tomato, I say toh-mah-tow.  We are both using the exact same medium with the exact same principles of Buddhist practice, yet, we feel so differently when we look at the very same phenomena (online medium +sangha+ buddhist practice).  

So perhaps a valuable question might be: how does this concern you have about the limitations of the online medium speak to you when you look through the mirror?

Just some food for thought.  I thought I'd share my two cents.  And if I've completely missed the point of your post, I apologize for that.  :namaste:
« Last Edit: December 05, 2009, 08:51:56 pm by Ogyen Chodzom »
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Hungry Ghost

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2009, 01:42:52 pm »

So perhaps a valuable question might be: how does this concern you have about the limitations of the online medium speak to you when you look through the mirror?

  It isnt limitations of the medium. It is what I see it bringing out in people (me and others).  Now you could say it is really about what it brings out in me, and the rest is just my projection, but no.   There is a real difference.  Before coming online this year, I had never in 18 years of practice,  seen Sutras and commentaries used  to prove how one person speaks for True Buddhism more than another.  That was a shocker.

Sharing practice  here means describing ones process and experience in practice for reflection,   without having someone respond with...      "What you are decribing is......, or "you are missing the point......",  or  worst of all  "The Buddha Taught....."

 Now in Sangha, you simply dont get other practitioners doing that. It is arrogant.  You can present to the teacher who will work with you, but otherwise when you describe practice, people listen, ask questions, share there own experiences, but never, never. make proprietory claims to the True Dharma.

I have talked to  people in a few forums who see this as an issue, its no secret.  So I'm not coming on here to slag the medium, and I really hope this forum works out.  I am asking if others see this issue, and if they do, are there ways we can share more skilfully. And I am asking myself are there ways I can share more skillfully.
« Last Edit: December 06, 2009, 02:02:09 pm by Hungry Ghost »

Offline pickledpitbull

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2009, 02:02:35 pm »
I like the Hungry Ghost approach.  If I wanted to read Sutra all day, I would just do that and not bother to log on.  There are plenty of on-line resources with lots of Sutra and teachings.  As it is, I do have a "real" teacher and access to a "real" Sangha, so I can address the hard-core Sutra questions to the monks at the center and our Old Master.  I also started attending a sutra-study class, so there is a lot of discussion and if I get involved in too many of these I will get lost.

I would like to use this forum to ask questions about life as a Buddhist practitioner.  How is the best way to handle such and such, etc.  What has Buddhism done for me, lately?  That kind of thing.

I would love to get into Koan discussion with someone...
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Offline humanitas

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2009, 03:42:24 pm »

So perhaps a valuable question might be: how does this concern you have about the limitations of the online medium speak to you when you look through the mirror?

   It isnt limitations of the medium. It is what I see it bringing out in people (me and others).  Now you could say it is really about what it brings out in me, and the rest is just my projection, but no.   There is a real difference.  Before coming online this year, I had never, in 18 years of practice,  seen Sutras and commentaries used to to prove how one person speaks for True Buddhism more than another.  That was a shocker.

Sharing practice.  here means describing ones process and experience in practice for reflection,   without having someone respond with...      "What you are decribing is......, or "you are missing the point......",  or  worst of all    "The Buddha Taught....."

 Now in Sangha, you simply dont get other practitioners doing that. It is arrogant.  You can present to the teacher who will work with you, but otherwise when you describe practice, people listen, ask questions, share there own experiences, but never, never. make proprietory claims to the True Dharma.

I have talked to  people in a few forums who see this as an issue, its no secret.  So I'm not coming on here to slag the medium, and I really hope this forum works out.  I am asking if other see this issue, and if they do, are there ways we can share more skilfully. Are there way I can share more skillfully.

Thank you for that clarification, I understand much better what you intended.  I agree with you, communicating to a fellow practitioner they the incorrectly use the "living" element in their practice--what brings their practice to life for them--is pretty appallingly arrogant.  I think the best way to begin to be part of a change is to be the change so that you yourself become a helpful tool to others practice instead of a hindrance.  At least for myself, I feel that if I want to see something happen, I make myself lead by example.  If I want to see it so much, I'll do it myself.  Eventually what you are attracts other like you.  I think the majority of the challenge you are talking about is a combination of the 'random pool of people at a forum from all walks of life' with a setting that is remote through our senses.  I appreciate your criticisms of the arrogance that pervades often just a little bit of knowledge.   I personally am taking this to heart and now that you have posted this I know I for one will be much more aware of what this brings out in me and in others.   :namaste:
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Offline humanitas

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2009, 03:47:13 pm »
I like the Hungry Ghost approach.  If I wanted to read Sutra all day, I would just do that and not bother to log on.  There are plenty of on-line resources with lots of Sutra and teachings.  As it is, I do have a "real" teacher and access to a "real" Sangha, so I can address the hard-core Sutra questions to the monks at the center and our Old Master.  I also started attending a sutra-study class, so there is a lot of discussion and if I get involved in too many of these I will get lost.

I would like to use this forum to ask questions about life as a Buddhist practitioner.  How is the best way to handle such and such, etc.  What has Buddhism done for me, lately?  That kind of thing.

I would love to get into Koan discussion with someone...

Initiate this then!  I think there is plenty of room on this forum for all kinds of interests.  Personally, I don't have any real opportunity to discuss sutras and the philosophy of Buddhist doctrine, I'm a full-time employee, mother, wife, practitioner (yes I do practice every day, I'm always practicing).  So most of my sangha interaction comes from online, both talking about life stuff, study stuff, etc.  So if there are those like yourself who have a teacher and a sangha and don't really need what the online medium has to offer for those who aren't as exposed to doctrinal or study-based interactions, then involve yourself with a koan with someone!!  LOL!  I guess what I'm saying is if you can pull it off, no administration here will impede your path to pursue the aspect that most interests you in the online exchange.

metta  :bow:
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overmyhead

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2009, 02:21:50 am »
If I am trying to teach someone something, then I want them to argue or ask questions.  That is how we learn - by actively engaging the material.  How else can I understand the things I don't already understand, than by attacking it from every direction and looking for responses?  I try not to make the mistake of saying "my" argument or "his/her" argument.  They are just arguments, dancing around some deeper indescribable phenomena.  Arguments are indispensable tools for learning, but they become troublesome when we become attached to them.

The Buddhist ideal is peace, liberation, happiness.  But it takes as bloody a battlefield as any in order to get there.

m0rl0ck

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2009, 05:23:19 am »
I have read cautions from zen teachers on talking about ones practice. To talk about something changes it and not everything should be shared. I suppose in the beginning, it may not make too much difference. But its better to share the details of your practice with your teacher first and to get his/her ok about sharing with the world.


EDIT: Yay!! 2 Stars for me as of this post !!  ::)  ;D
« Last Edit: December 07, 2009, 05:31:19 am by m0rl0ck »

m0rl0ck

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2009, 06:27:02 am »
A couple of thoughts from Huang Po on the subject:

As soon as the mouth is opened, evils spring forth.  People either neglect the root and speak of the branches, or neglect the reality of the 'illusory' world and speak only of Enlightenment.  Or else they chatter of cosmic activities leading to transformations, while neglecting the Substance from which they spring---indeed, there is NEVER any profit in discussion.

The approach to it  ( Mind, Absolute, Void, Buddha Nature, Enlightenment )  is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity.  If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity.  Those who seek the truth by means of the intellect and learning only get further and further away from it.  Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.

Both quotes from Blofeld's Zen Teachings of Huang Po


EDIT: Its worth keeping in mind tho that HP's audience most likely had a good grasp of the fundamentals of buddhism and some practice time under their belts. Past that point, talk can be more of a hindrance than a help.

« Last Edit: December 07, 2009, 06:37:13 am by m0rl0ck »

Hungry Ghost

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2009, 06:38:55 am »
A couple of thoughts from Huang Po on the subject:

As soon as the mouth is opened, evils spring forth.  People either neglect the root and speak of the branches, or neglect the reality of the 'illusory' world and speak only of Enlightenment.  Or else they chatter of cosmic activities leading to transformations, while neglecting the Substance from which they spring---indeed, there is NEVER any profit in discussion.

The approach to it  ( Mind, Absolute, Void, Buddha Nature, Enlightenment )  is called the Gateway of the Stillness beyond all Activity.  If you wish to understand, know that a sudden comprehension comes when the mind has been purged of all the clutter of conceptual and discriminatory thought-activity.  Those who seek the truth by means of the intellect and learning only get further and further away from it.  Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.

Both quotes from Blofeld's Zen Teachings of Huang Po





I'm just talking about the propensity online , repeatedly observed and experienced, of  people claiming to speak from THE Dharma, instead of from their own understanding and practice.  What else can we talk from if not our own practice?   What are you talking from now?   

m0rl0ck

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2009, 06:41:28 am »
  What are you talking from now?  


My own experiences as a blabbermouth in having talked too much about my own practice :)
And i do understand what you are saying and i agree that there are many who feel compelled to post from an understanding based only on theory and letter.
« Last Edit: December 07, 2009, 06:48:48 am by m0rl0ck »

Hungry Ghost

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Re: Can we share practice online?
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2009, 06:48:32 am »
   What are you talking from now?   

My own experiences as a blabbermouth in having talked too much about my own practice :)
Me too.    .....but still here I am online.  So I guess I want to share practice.  I love to debate. If everyone agreed with me I'd still be a five year old(still am on a certain level). Maybe I'm just hoping we, the online Sangha, can show the same respect for each others practice as we do offline. Maybe the tone of this forum can be more supportive than competitive.  Its just a wish from someone getting quickly jaded by life online.

 


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