Enlightenment, Now Streaming: The Rise Of Cyber Dharma!
I wholeheartedly believe that we are all connected in a profoundly complex, astronomically-textured way that couldn’t possibly be described using mere words. I’m not only speaking about this in the literal sense but also in the cyber sense – you know, that place online that we are all too familiar with – the Internet a.k.a. World Wide Web. No longer merely a depository for information, it has become a “place” where people spend hours of their time – a place of vast connectedness. Go ahead, check behind your computer, if there aren’t cables hanging out of the back, there are definitely invisible radio frequency signals making their way to wires somewhere. However, behind all of this technological gadgetry lies real people.
You Can Still Be There Without Being There
I’m extremely fascinated by (and grateful for) the enormous exchange of ideas, ideologies, perspectives and new ways of seeing and being that the Internet provides. Yes, there is a lot of exploitative thrash and gossipy content to sort through to find those seemingly hidden gems, those deeply influential messages that feel personal and real and can be utterly life-changing. If you cannot experience such moments in real life with real people in real time, the next best thing, with an “almost as good as in-person feel,” is live video streaming. It’s raw, unfiltered and very much in the present moment (timezone irrelevant). Live streaming gives you that in-person experience of human vulnerability without having to actually be there physically, which made me think of a time when I once heard Pema Chodron refer to aging as “showing your warts and all.”
Expansiveness in Expression Realized
Beginning in January 2017, I offered my services to a local Buddhist organization to live stream their weekly guided meditation/dharma talks and it just so happened that they were already planning to reach out to a larger audience with their scheduled teachings. I was excited about helping facilitate a vehicle for meeting the demand for these valuable, helpful ideas that I myself had come to rely on as a source of inspiration and spiritual growth. There are people all around the world who seek such ideas, therefore, why should people like me, people who have geographical access and a means of getting there, be the only ones to take in the teachings? And so it began.
The Challenge of Getting There
Using Los Angeles as an example, and since it is the location of where the particular live stream is transmitted from, getting to places at different times of the day not only takes longer, but also puts you at risk of potential collisions as a result of the stress and strain of navigating the busy, urban terrain. Sometimes you just don’t want to drive anywhere, but you usually have to – nearly every day. Getting to places, whether a Zumba class, an art exhibit opening or a Buddhist meditation and Dharma talk, can be challenging and sometimes people just don’t make it there – even when they truly want to be there. Sometimes people are over-obligated and experience an overwhelming feeling of anxiety while trying to rush off to a place where you could quite possibly work with that anxiety, your anxious self-says “no” – but you still wish you could be there. Even regular sangha members who come to retreats, workshops, guided meditation, etc., cannot always make it there.
A New Entrance into Buddhism
As children, we were all naturally curious, about the world, about ourselves, about the ant crawling on the ground in front of is. We were curious about everything. Although many adults lose their curiosity in exchange for work and survival, many still find themselves curious about things like the nature of existence, the mysteries of the universe, mortality, and our own purpose. Spirituality offers to many some new ways of approaching these long enduring questions. Through live streaming, people who are curious about Buddhism will be able to experience what a guided meditation and Dharma talk actually “feels like” and be able to assess whether it’s a good fit for them.
The Challenge of Digital Dana
Can you give from the heart over the Internet? Core to Buddhism is “dana” which is generosity, freely offered to teachers from the heart. This not only supports the teacher, the sangha, and the larger Dharma community but also, indirectly supports your own practice. Herein lies the greater challenge resulting from the rise of cyber Dharma – freely offering the teachings and upholding the traditions of offerings and dana, without appearing as if you are selling ideas. Many will benefit from live video streams where real ideas and real connections are shared, in real time, but we must make sure and support these efforts so that such teachings will persist, expand and have the greatest reach imaginable while remaining authentic to their very roots.
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