Guest Post: TMcG from Full Contact Enlightenment takes on Online Teaching

This is part of the Precious Metal Blog Swap for which I have yet to send off my entry to (whoops) It'll be in tonight, I swear.

So here's Tanya:

There has been quite a bit of discussion as to whether distance teaching or online practices dilute the face-to-face transmission of the teachings and I'll admit to being of two minds in my opinion on this. 

Pro mind:
Growing up, I lived in a small town where the teachings weren't readily available and any drop of dharma that I could get my hands on was like Kool-Aid to a thirsty third grader. I devoured anything I could find and some of it was either way too advanced or came out of a more new-agey approach to meditation, usage of power crystals and other such approaches to Buddhism that were more out of selling me products than providing a path to self-discovery, kindness and compassion. Had I been able to access a teacher online, I may have had a way to connect with teachers and an online sangha and develop a sense of community with others who could help share their experiences of having teachers, sanghas and centres to assist them. 

Online teachings give many access to a larger variety of teachers and teachings and serve to help educate other dharma centres in how they operate, their protocols around community activities such as funeral services, weddings and generally all matters of life and death and everything in between. I subscribe to many many newsletters from other traditions as a means to obtain ideas for my home centre and sangha – something that wouldn't be possible if we were to only rely on paper subscriptions to newsletters. 

Sharing of content is another bonus to online teachings as it's much easier to spread a video, blog post or podcast than it is to photocopy, mail or ship off a DVD. The dharma is able to flourish via technology now more than ever and spreads faster than a sneeze out of the master's nose. 

In addition to this, for many it is financially impossible to be able to travel to follow one's teacher. Online teachings and communities help many maintain closeness to the teachings without the necessity of taking out a bank loan to benefit from what is now available online. 

Con mind: 
I don't think the online experience is the same as direct, face to face teachings that you have to make the effort to get out to the dharma centre for in a blinding snowstorm, to sit for 4 hours in a stinky meditation hall and to not be able to press pause when you don't catch what the teacher is saying. I hear you saying – wait, what is the con to being all cozy at home, tucked under a blanket and listening to a You Tube video of your benevolent guru clearly via your highspeed internet connection on your crisp Macbook Pro? The drawback to this is that the dharma becomes instant and can easily be taken for granted. The 'always on' culture that we can be swayed by does little to encourage us to emerge from our cocoon and make the effort to participate in our learning experience. Add to this the very experience of traveling in that snowstorm, sitting in the stinky meditation hall and straining to hear a garbling teacher and the ability to work with each of these annoyances. When all one experiences is the comfort of home, it's hard to fully be engaged on the Buddhist path that speaks so much to traveling beyond suffering. 

Beyond this, the experience of being with a teacher in 'meat space' allows you to sense the full nuances of being in a spiritual relationship – of being a part of this global Buddhist sangha. As much as I like video chatting with my family, it's no replacement for time spent in their company. 

We can use technology as a crutch and get further obscured by the digital raft that's supposed to carry us to the other side, but is instead making us feel bogged down by the incessant flood of information coming at us on a daily basis. Personally, I have a bulging RSS reader full of new and saved articles from Buddhabloggers and Buddhist magazines all begging for my attention. I have a zillion podcasts waiting to be listened to as well as hours upon hours of  You Tube videos marked to watch from a long list of pixellated Rinpoches, Tulkus, Lamas, teachers and students. It will take several lifetimes just to make it through all of these and there comes a time when letting go is the most sane option rather than to even attempt to keep up with it all. 

Now more than ever, we are encountering the Buddha, Dharma and sangha in different forms but regardless of whether we are engaged in face to face, real time encounters or timeshifting our studies and practice into the great digital beyond, I personally think it's important to remember our intention, our motivation and not to lose site of the essence of the teachings and not to get too hung up or attached in whatever form the messenger appears in. 

Logging off. 
Tanya from Full Contact Enlightnement

You can find Tanya's blog here

Gassho.

~Andy
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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Article Swap 2k11: The Articles « Precious Metal: the blog

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