Digital Buddhism on Dharma Dialogue
This month I’ve been contributing to our class blog Dharma Dialogue: Buddhism in the U.S. My posts are in reference to “digital Buddhism” or Buddhism on the internet. The first was an interactive post to explore some of the most popular Buddhist websites today. The second post is more of an analysis and personal reflection on the state of digital Buddhism today. Please go over to Dharma Dialogue to read the full post about “Another ‘Lonely’ White Chick with a (Buddhist) Blog.” Here’s an excerpt:
I started blogging as a way to reach out to other Buddhists. As a white chick living in a very white part of the country, surrounded by Christians and hemmed in by cultural homogeneity, there simply weren’t very many other Buddhists for me to talk to. Those I found were often as lost and clueless as I was, relying on books and the occasional retreat at a distant meditation center to try to build a sangha-less practice. So I used the internet to reach out. And I found that there were a lot of other lone Buddhists who were also reaching out – and most of them were like me. Go figure.
In fact, there is actually research to show my anecdotal experience is not even remotely unique. A study by Ostrowski in 2006 (in Contemporary Buddhism, volume 7) found that a third (33%) of people looking for Buddhism on the internet did so because they didn’t have the ability to become involved with teachers or sanghas in real life. A further fifth (20%) turned to the internet simple because it’s convenient. (Nor is this phenomenon unique to the United States. Kim found similar behavior in 2005 among urban Koreans due to the fact that most Buddhist temples in Korea are located in rural areas. However, Korea may be a unique case in Asia.) Ostrowski found that people using the internet to learn about Buddhism were overwhelmingly white (72%) and over half (53%) had been raised as Christians. Yet despite their obvious interest, three-quarters (74%) were not members of a Buddhist center – just like me.
So why is that? Is geography really so powerful? What about white converts who live in big cities with lots of temples?