Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

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  • ChrisA
    Member
    • Jun 2011
    • 312

    Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

    Click here for Ethan Nichtern's talk from the Buddhist Geeks conference on "The Internet Is Not Your Teacher." An excerpt:

    I think there are two aspects that are important here. The first is the cheapening of knowledge and wisdom. Where in the ancient world to even learn how to follow your breath was quite a journey over mountains or requesting teachings for a long period of time. And because it was quite a journey, you took the instructions that you received as important. And that’s not so from a respect standpoint of course it’d be great if we were all respectful of teachers, etc. But the main thing is how the process of learning happens and when you think what you’re receiving is important you tend to take more time to absorb and integrate it into your experience which is the whole point of how these teachings work. This isn’t ultimately a philosophy. As my teacher has been talking about recently the point of this is reworking how a human being experiences themselves not how they talk about themselves. ...

    [The second:] Our entire society, in the words of Generation X, has become very DIY. Do-it-yourself. The interesting thing about this term is that it started as an anti-consumerist phrase but it actually means you get to consume in the way you want. So there seems to be a strand of dharma, a huge strand of dharma, where we all want to become spiritual libertarians. We want to do the teachings in the way we do them. My teacher a lot of times says if you’re going to ask a teacher for advice you should actually do what they say. Chances are they’re going to tell you to do something you didn’t want to do in some small way. That’s what doing something good for you is, right? You have to do something that’s outside of the framework of your habitual apparatus, which means it doesn’t feel immediately good.

    So I always think of this conundrum of our DIY consumerist culture, especially in the United States of America which is possibly the most libertarian society on Earth today in terms of freedom is that we all really proclaim our individual freedoms. And the way we express this freedom is by doing whatever everyone else is doing. So we don’t really want to submit ourselves to a community, which is the sangha, or a teacher, which is the Buddha principle, that’s beyond our ability to control what feels good in the present moment. ...

    In my tradition what we are increasingly saying is the purpose is to create a society that is awake, that encourages people to be awake. I don’t think anybody would say that it’s about attaining a certain state of meditative absorption or jhana or Samadhi, although those are fun and those can be a tool or a method to awakening. But I think a lot of people think it is about that. Yeah, I know it’s not really about meditation but if I actually could do that that’s what it’s about. The word enlightenment is really tricky. I find that people usually just define enlightenment as whatever I’m not experiencing now, and good luck trying to attain something that you have linguistically and psychologically defined for yourself as whatever I’m not experiencing now. I would like to propose that from my point of view Buddhism is about neither of those things. It’s not about enlightenment. I like to translate the term bodhi, awake, enlightened, as just sane. The whole purpose of all of these practices is to become a more sane and decent human being. And try to do whatever we can in a world that’s pretty quickly going away from sanity to spread sanity, to model behaviors to other people and communities to other people where they can feel sanity as well.

    If you want to become a sane and decent human being, this is my only point, that’s something you only learn from other human beings.
    More at the link. Powerful stuff, Treeleafers.
    Chris Seishi Amirault
    (ZenPedestrian)
  • Ryumon
    Member
    • Apr 2007
    • 1691

    #2
    Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

    He really thinks he discovered those ideas? They're not new; they've been around for a long time, and the internet only makes them more obvious. Chogyam Trungpa addressed similar issues in his early book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

    To be honest, I don't think anyone considers the internet to be a "teacher." It's a library, and the best one ever, but it's certainly not something that teaches.

    And, sorry to be picky, but:

    "possibly the most libertarian society on Earth today"

    That is not what "libertarian" means. He probably meant to say "individualist."
    ---
    Ryūmon (Kirk)
    流文

    SAT/LAH

    I know nothing.

    Comment

    • ChrisA
      Member
      • Jun 2011
      • 312

      #3
      Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

      Originally posted by kirkmc
      He really thinks he discovered those ideas?
      I don't think I understand what you mean here. Can you show me the quotation where he makes this claim?
      Chris Seishi Amirault
      (ZenPedestrian)

      Comment

      • Graceleejenkins
        Member
        • Feb 2011
        • 434

        #4
        Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

        “So let’s talk about the samsaric side (of the internet) as it relates to people wanting to study and practice genuine teachings of awakening. I think there are two aspects that are important here. The first is the cheapening of knowledge and wisdom. Where in the ancient world to even learn how to follow your breath was quite a journey over mountains or requesting teachings for a long period of time. And because it was quite a journey, you took the instructions that you received as important.“
        From Ethern Nichtern's talk with my italic parenthetical and underline added.

        I don’t think that knowledge has been cheapened in today’s environment.

        It’s been made less expensive to obtain. However, it’s effect, or value, is greater than ever, because it can be shared more easily and then used by others as a foundation to advance further knowledge. The explosion in knowledge that has been made possible since the beginnings of writing, to the printing press, to computer and internet technology has been amazing to me. We need more technology to be able to keep up!

        I appreciate members of the sangha sharing readings and talks like this that they have found valuable. I think the sangha is one of the ones to keep up, with the opinions and recommendations. There are several such postings that I have explored further outside of the post. Gassho, Grace.
        Sat today and 10 more in honor of Treeleaf's 10th Anniversary!

        Comment

        • ChrisA
          Member
          • Jun 2011
          • 312

          #5
          Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

          Thanks, chugai and kirkmc, for your responses. I have to say I'm a bit confused by them. I haven't read everything written on internet Buddhism, nor am I familiar with the entire Warner oeuvre, so I don't quite know why you both have chosen to post and dismiss the article rather than engage with the points it raises.

          I guess I should clarify why I posted myself! I assumed that an article -- a thoughtful, productive article, imo -- on the intersection on information in the 21st century and its relationship to the 2500-year-old practices to which we are all committed would be a worthy topic of conversation. Here on, you know, the online Treeleaf sangha, which seeks to use 21st century technology to support Zen practice. I'm new, so if I have overstepped some boundary, I'd be grateful to know what it is.

          Thanks also, Grace, for your response. I've emphasized a couple of points to which I want to respond:

          It’s been made less expensive to obtain. However, it’s effect, or value, is greater than ever, because it can be shared more easily and then used by others as a foundation to advance further knowledge. The explosion in knowledge that has been made possible since the beginnings of writing, to the printing press, to computer and internet technology has been amazing to me. We need more technology to be able to keep up!

          I appreciate members of the sangha sharing readings and talks like this that they have found valuable. I think the sangha is one of the ones to keep up, with the opinions and recommendations. There are several such postings that I have explored further outside of the post. Gassho, Grace.
          I think that Nichtern's got a point about the relationship between "cost" (he might say "effort") and effect or value:

          Where in the ancient world to even learn how to follow your breath was quite a journey over mountains or requesting teachings for a long period of time. And because it was quite a journey, you took the instructions that you received as important. And that’s not so from a respect standpoint of course it’d be great if we were all respectful of teachers, etc. But the main thing is how the process of learning happens and when you think what you’re receiving is important you tend to take more time to absorb and integrate it into your experience which is the whole point of how these teachings work.
          Think of the entire corpus of koans, in which medieval monks traveled for weeks or months to get to a master and ask a question. John Daido Loori emphasizes this effort in a (great) essay in the Book of Mu that I'm reading. In particular, Loori demands that we recognize that the two Mu monks had real, life-and-death questions about Buddha nature and sentient beings for Chao-chou.

          I don't want to mystify the efforts of the ancients, nor do I think that there's a simple correlation between effort and worth -- whatever those two possibly mean in Zen. But I do think that Zen as readily available information is not the same as Zen as thorough, abiding practice, and I say that fully believing that Jundo, Taigu, and the Treeleaf sangha have a thorough, abiding commitment to that practice. Once glance at the ango thread indicates that.

          Perhaps that's a tired argument that Treeleafers have heard again and again. It was useful and provocative to me, connecting to my own commitment to practice.

          As for your second point in bold above, Grace: gassho.
          Chris Seishi Amirault
          (ZenPedestrian)

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39075

            #6
            Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

            Hi,

            Having not had the chance to listen to Ethan's talk yet, I will just say this.

            The internet is but a tool, like a hammer. All depends what one does with it. One can do something constructive or destructive. One can make something cheap and shoddy, or do fine work like a craftsman.

            It depends on the attitude, skill, experience, sincerity and diligence that one brings into its use. That is all.

            Same with "Sangha" and the like ... so much dependent on the attitude of the members, and what we each bring into the community.

            Oh, and ... don't always think the 'good old days' were so golden, even with our image of 'Golden Buddhas'. They had their own 'issues' in the Sangha. 8)

            I will try to listen to the full presentation this week.

            Gassho, J
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • ChrisA
              Member
              • Jun 2011
              • 312

              #7
              Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

              Originally posted by Jundo
              It depends on the attitude, skill, experience, sincerity and diligence that one brings into its use.
              I think that is precisely one of the author's points.

              Oh, and ... don't always think the 'good old days' were so golden, even with our image of 'Golden Buddhas'. They had their own 'issues' in the Sangha. 8)
              You mean

              Fleas, lice,
              The horse pissing
              Near my pillow

              isn't just Basho being all poetic?
              Chris Seishi Amirault
              (ZenPedestrian)

              Comment

              • Jundo
                Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                • Apr 2006
                • 39075

                #8
                Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                Originally posted by ChrisA
                Oh, and ... don't always think the 'good old days' were so golden, even with our image of 'Golden Buddhas'. They had their own 'issues' in the Sangha. 8)
                You mean

                Fleas, lice,
                The horse pissing
                Near my pillow

                isn't just Basho being all poetic?
                Hi Chris,

                I mean more that there were folks in the old days who took monasteries as just a place to live and have a warm meal, better than working in the fields. There were folks who took Buddhism cheaply then just as now (both those who wore lay clothes and priestly robes). There were lay folks who would just drop in once in awhile for a quick sermon or ceremony as "something to do" on their day off from work. Heck, the whole Vinaya was written because Buddha's boys were a herd of cats. There were those who cared about it just as a way of "navel gazing" and "stress reduction", or to bring some luck in the family business fortunes ... then just as now.

                People have been people all through time. It is only over time that we tend to scrub up the past.

                Let's make it something wonderful now.

                Gassho, J
                ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                Comment

                • ChrisA
                  Member
                  • Jun 2011
                  • 312

                  #9
                  Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                  People have been people all through time. It is only over time that we tend to scrub up the past.
                  Indeed -- and gotcha. Gassho.
                  Chris Seishi Amirault
                  (ZenPedestrian)

                  Comment

                  • Echo
                    Member
                    • Apr 2011
                    • 26

                    #10
                    Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                    Originally posted by Jundo
                    Oh, and ... don't always think the 'good old days' were so golden, even with our image of 'Golden Buddhas'. They had their own 'issues' in the Sangha.
                    I admit, I definitely got an "Old-timer reminiscing" kind of vibe from the beginning of Nichtern's talk, at least from reading the transcript. "Why, back in my day, we had to zazen-shuffle uphill both ways just to find a teacher... back then, the Dharma actually meant something..."

                    I agree with Grace - a beautiful jewel doesn't become any less so simply because more people look at it. Even if many of those don't appreciate it as much as others might want them to. If anything (in my humble and likely misguided opinion), the Internet, and the DIY mentality, is a fantastic boon rather than a hindrance or a devaluation of the teaching. Many from the younger generation, myself included, only stumbled across these teachings because of the internet. It's not a "teacher" in and of itself, and sifting through it all would be impossible and probably counterproductive. But it's a great place to start - I mean, eventually I stumbled across a youtube video of some "Jundo" character, so it can't be all bad.

                    That said, I want to point out that I'm not attacking the guy! There's a lot of wisdom in what he's saying, and I rather admire the Shambhala tradition for taking a very community-based approach. Still, some of his points can be counter-argued using themselves. The fact that "we don’t really want to submit ourselves to a community, which is the sangha, or a teacher, which is the Buddha principle, that’s beyond our ability to control what feels good in the present moment" is a bit of a loaded statement IMHO. It implies that we absolutely must "submit" in order to make any progress away from instant gratification - and I think people deserve a little more credit than that. Besides, I'm sure we can all think of an example when unquestioning "submitting" to a commune or idea has brought people a lot of grief.

                    Originally posted by Ethan Nichtern
                    The whole purpose of all of these practices is to become a more sane and decent human being
                    Now this? Fantastic.

                    He's right, of course - the internet can be an impersonal place. But we're making it more and more personal. Like anything else, it's what you make of it and how you use it. Just a vehicle, to be used for whichever means we choose.
                    -Konstantin

                    Comment

                    • disastermouse

                      #11
                      Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                      The Dharma doesn't become any more or less beautiful in accordance to how it's transmitted, IMHO. Treating the Dharma as though it's a commodity, the cache of which diminishes according to how easily it is obtained, seems likewise to be diminishing or misunderstanding the Dharma. The dharma that's taught is just inspiration or correction - it's the bowl that holds the water, and that's important, but you can't drink the bowl. The Dharma is something you do/are, and the container doesn't offend it.

                      IMHO.

                      Chet

                      Comment

                      • Nenka
                        Member
                        • Aug 2010
                        • 1238

                        #12
                        Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                        This is a great discussion! Thanks, everybody. (I haven't had time to listen to the talk yet, will do this weekend.)

                        Jen

                        Comment

                        • ChrisA
                          Member
                          • Jun 2011
                          • 312

                          #13
                          Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                          Originally posted by chugai
                          Sorry Chris, I was impatient in my response -- I didn't listen to the talk and only read the excerpt -- the excerpt reads like other articles I have read by both Mr. Nichtern and Mr. Warner ... both have been postulating this position for years ... I will respectfully bow out now.
                          No worries at all, chugai. I'm a very long time veteran of internet discussion forums and know the difference between a post and a person. No need to apologize and I appreciate your response here.
                          Chris Seishi Amirault
                          (ZenPedestrian)

                          Comment

                          • Kaishin
                            Member
                            • Dec 2010
                            • 2322

                            #14
                            Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                            Travelling thousands of miles, over mountains, rivers, forests to hear the great masters, then...
                            Sit facing a wall.

                            Logging on, listening to podcasts, reading RSS feeds, Skyping Jundo, then...
                            Sit facing a wall.
                            Thanks,
                            Kaishin (開心, Open Heart)
                            Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

                            Comment

                            • ezzirah
                              Member
                              • Dec 2009
                              • 56

                              #15
                              Re: Buddhist Geeks 230: The Internet Is Not Your Teacher

                              I think the internet has only helped. Now I have only read the excerpt, but like anything it is all in how you apply it. One of the reasons I love the Dharma is that it is timeless, it applies today and it did then. I imagine 200 years from now the Dharma will be transmitted in some weird way that we cannot imagine, the people 200 years behind us would think this forum is weird. It does not dilute the message. IMHO....

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