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A LESSON ON CYBER-BUDDHISM
Pst. Gerald Chen Hsiongcai
2001 Panna Youth Centre, Singapore

It seems like it won't stop. First there was the computer. Then E-mail. Then the internet. Then E-commerce. So what's next? E-vangelisation? Well, yes ! Of course. If we take it seriously the injunction to make the most of each and every opportunity and chance to spread the Buddha-Dhamma,we can't ignore the internet as a mean to share the Dharma will the unreached people and from this issue tightly associated with us modern Buddhists in our homes, offices, schools or anywhere, with just an computer with internet connection, you will help Buddhism a lot in it's propagation ! Perhaps, we should consider four common possibilities.

E-mail

Today we can simply correspond with anyone, anywhere, any time and this immediacy gives e-mail a personal touch. It is more or less like long drawn-out telephone conversations. On the internet, there are all sorts of discussions forums being carried on by e-mail, and Buddhists have been able to make it fruitful contributions to many of them.

Chat rooms

Online discussions groups allow people to have a "live broadcast" of conversations, typing and sending one line of text at a time. Here, total strangers "meet, talk and discuss." Research has shown an increasingly number of people spending ours everyday in these chat rooms, living half of their life in virtual world. This might be an effective way of engaging with the world's affluent people to come in contact and know more about the Dharma.

Making links

During E-mails, it is most common that people reply with a "thank you" or "yours", but if by simply putting a link to a Good Buddhist Webpage (eg, Dharmanet International Buddhist ) might arise the person receiving your mail his or her interest in Buddhism. The mail you sent will then indeed be "value added." Buddha said " The Gift of Dhamma excels of others" of course by making a link or even putting some quotes from the Sutras may inspire people's curiosity and present each and every e-mail of yours to be an e-mail that excels all other mails that the person receives.

Web Pages

Here we put good information where seekers can find it. This is more interactive then it sounds, though the interaction is with a compute. As with an e-mail and chat rooms, web pages are anonymous and yet strangely personal. Millions of people around the whole globe especially Asians are signing upand logging onto the internet these days, though they tend to be the more educated and wealthier folks, such as academics, professionals, business people and the younger generations especially youths ! It's a relatively small and elite group, but a potentially influential one. Even in countries where there isn't any Buddhist associations or temples due to political beliefs of the country, still thousands of people getting online everyday as the information highway is recognised by their leading government as an important key to modernization and development. It is almost impossible to control access, research has shown last June there were more than 1.5 million internet users in China. This is estimated to rise to nine million people by the year 2002.The internet can easily make Buddhist Teachings available to believers as well as non-believers to these people in these countries and provide them with excellent Dharma materials and evangelistic materials such as that it may reach to the many people out there.

People staying in countries where there isn't any Buddhist temples can too be our fellow Buddhists by gaining their information and putting into practice in their daily lives. As the millennium had approached, technology, telecommunications, transport, quality of lives will be expected to increase at a fast speed. Just as Lord Buddha taught us to be practical, to fit ourselves as a Buddhist in this new era, we have to constantly keep up with the world. The internet can nature the interest of inquirers for the quest of Buddhism, Professor of Communications at Calvin College in USA points out that, as well as anonymous, "the internet is strangely personal. Some people are even looking for relationships or life-long partners through the net." As a result, encounters that may begin anonymously may blossom into extended international e-mail-based relationships which eventually will lead one to Buddhism.

Developing an E-vangelisation strategy

The internet is not the ultimate answer to world evangelisation, but it does help to make new approaches possible and use it effectively, we must remember two mission basics as below:

Context

Any strategy for using the internet must take seriously the context of those trying to reach. This includes researching the ease of internet access, finding out about any restrictions or monitoring, and discovering what kind of people have the internet access. It must also include the basics of studying the culture, language, religions and social context issues of the people so that the materials are relevant to their particular situation. On the other hand, due to the exchange of knowledge with the people in the west, sending the Dharma as a context flow of exchange will indefinitely greatly be benefited by both the sender and the receiver.

Outreach Targets

The Buddhist Community urgently needs a team of people that includes those with knowledge of technical skills and those with an understanding of the people. The latter need to be gifted communicators, both in writing materials for the web and counseling through correspondence. Location is immaterial. This might be as a project for someone who has had to return home from the field. Then, where possible, each and every Buddhists like us could meet with those who bring the torch of Dharma that's so vital in propagation the Buddha-Dhamma in this 21st Century, Creating chances for people to contact Buddhism and nurturing people to join the one comic brotherhood of all fellow Buddhists. With Determination, Wisdom, Love and Energy, let us not fail but success in bringing Buddhism to the many !Glory be to Lord Buddha !"We should always ask ourselves what we can give to Buddha instead of asking what Buddha can give us.

If each and everyone is willing to do a part for the propagation of the Buddha-Dhamma, Buddhism will definitely prosper. Faith is the Key to Buddhahood.


The author, presently the President of  Panna Youth Centre, a Buddhist Based Youth Organisation, Singapore, can be reach at hsiongcai@yahoo.com

 


Updated: 14-3-2001

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