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Monks and Computers

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  • Monks and Computers


    Thanks to the technology of today, lay followers of the Buddhadhamma such as myself and the other members of this forum have the privilege of contacting the monastic comunity through computers and correspondance that, until recently, was simply not possible.

    I have often wondered, how does a forum such as this one fit into a participating monk's lifestyle? Do you have a computer for use at the monastery, or do you have to go offsite to use one? Have you encountered any problems communicating with the laity due to this technology that the Buddha's retinue would not have encountered? Obviously an e-Sangha has the benefit of reaching people across the world who would not have a chance to participate otherwise, at the sacrifice of face-to-face human interaction.

    I must say, I find the idea of a monk with shaved head and ochre robe sitting behind a keyboard and monitor quite an endearing one! Hehe.

    With metta!

  • #2
    Hey Conor. :-)

    Actually, I was thinking of asking this question of the laity myself. If people generally found it unmonkish I would immediately stop posting. I am happy to see the image as "endearing". :-)

    Ok, this is a good question for me... I'll throw the juicy bones of anatta and dependant origination to Ajahn Brahmali.

    I am the monastery office secretary and talk editor at Bodhinyana. In these roles I use computers more than most monks. We have no internet at the monastery, though we do have 3 unnetworked computers. I edit the Wednesday night talks and make mp3s, and the computer hosts these files for monks to transfer to mp3 players. The other computers are used for word-processing and such like.

    Jhana Grove, however, is hooked up to a (somewhat expensive) 3G network. These are relatively up to date PCs that were bought around the opening of Jhana Grove. That is where I usually work on the forums. It entails getting permision from a senior monk, getting the JG office key and a 15 minute walk (if you're not lucky enough to get a lift with an anagarika). I try and keep focused on monastery work, with not much web surfing. It doesn't take very long to take care of business, and I try and get by visiting JG every couple of days. Tonight I am at my family home in Mt Lawley. Back at the monastery I spend most of my day alone in a small hut in the forest. I have a solar panel and 12V battery powering my reading lamp, and a water tank. All I need really. And when I take my 2 week retreat I will not use the net at all, nor read novels, send letters, or anything to interupt my practice.

    I studied and worked in software development for 9 years, so I feel a bit lost given the rapid pace of change in the IT world. Facebook is banned, and email usage is quite limited. I'm getting left behind, but I guess that is samsara for you.

    So, anyway, I hope I have answered your question. I have to watch myself carefully, but I think there is a good balance right now.



    • #3
      Originally posted by Conor Burke View Post
      Obviously an e-Sangha has the benefit of reaching people across the world who would not have a chance to participate otherwise.
      I think that's the key point, Conor!

      Also, the monastic forums are moderated. This allows them to control the pace and content. They can thus allocate a small fixed amount of teaching time to a very large audience. It in no way interferes with their practice, in fact sharing their wisdom in this quick, efficient way enhances it.

      So to the rest of you out there please post your questions wisely, selectively and with compassion. Above all please do not spook the monastics with subtle suggestions of unmonkish behaviour

      (I know the question wasn't addressed to me, but I have worked for a long time to make this a reality so I just had to say something)


      • #4
        Originally posted by Conor Burke View Post
        I must say, I find the idea of a monk with shaved head and ochre robe sitting behind a keyboard and monitor quite an endearing one! Hehe.
        Warning! This reply contains shocking images!

        Serious: This is a wonderful opportunity for people who can't ask questions to monks (or experienced Buddhists in general) in real life.


        • #5
          Originally posted by Bhikkhu Jhanarato View Post

          So, anyway, I hope I have answered your question.
          You have indeed! Thanks very much.


          • #6
            Santi Monastery has a rather more liberal computer use policy than Bodhinyana or many other forest monasteries. I also do the IT administration/support and audio (talks editing and uploading) for Santi, so I'm on the computers a bit. If I didn't 'have' to use the computers, I might abstain from more internet activities, including these forums.

            But in my opinion, computers, and the internet, are very much a tool which you can make anything of. I gained an absolutely huge deal through youtube, because it was through youtube I encountered Ajahn Brahm (and before that, other people I found inspiring). So the internet does have a critical role to play in spreading the dhamma.

            Also the second most powerful spiritual insight I've ever had (and the one which more than anything impelled me to dedicate my life to the path of Brahmavamso), happened to occur while I was browsing wikipedia. This forces me to the conclusion that computers are probably not a major hindrance to spiritual progress.

            With that said, during the three months of the rains retreat I try to abstain completely from using the internet. And I also abstain from using the phone and writing letters! This is for the sake of cutting off communications with the outside world and actually living in the forest, physically and mentally.


            • #7
              And not forgetting, it's the time for vitakka vicara to settle down to the barest minimum...


              • #8
                I think it is good to have the Sangha on line. Thank you.
                1. It means they do not have to travel to teach - thus freeing time potentially. Whereas a trip to Dhammaloka and back from the monastery, for example, is over 2 hrs of driving.
                2. It means instead of answering single questions individually which can take a lot of time, they can answer a question and it is recorded for all to read and doesn't have to be answered again (on the forums anyway). This seems a better use of time.
                3. It means people other than the "elite few" who live near the monks or can go on retreat can benefit from their experience and wise teachings.

                My q is, now that so many remarkable and valuable teachings are on line, now that so many guided meditations are on line, could the Sangha now reduce the number of talks they give face-to-face so that their online teachings are not an extra burden on their time but in fact replace and complement some of their other work.

                Originally posted by Bo Schafers View Post
                Please post your questions wisely, selectively and with compassion.
                Fully agree Bo!


                • #9
                  I had been tossing the idea around lately of having a sort of tele-conference with the Friday night talks in addition to the recorded versions on Youtube. I realize this would cost in terms of a little more equipment and such, but would be nice to see a talk and perhaps interact with those at Dhammaloka in real time. I can't promise anything but know I would be willing in the future if I had the means to help provide such a set-up. Though I can see the Q and A period after a talk getting much longer. Though it could all be worked out. With the advent of basically free communication via the internet, ie Skype, it could be done with little cost in terms of equipment. Just an idea. Anyone else see any value in such a venture?

                  With loving kindness,



                  • #10
                    Hiya Jerrod,

                    I think if the lay community want this, they can have it. But there is a rule in our monastery... whoever has an idea has to make it happen. :-)


                    • #11
                      Dear Jerrod,

                      I have long thought it would be nice to stream the Friday night talks live on the internet. A significant proportion of the world's population (all of China and parts of South-East Asia) happens to live in the same time zone as Perth. Perhaps this could be combined with two-way communication, and thus questions from around the world. It really is up to Bo (our site administrator and web master) and his mates, but I also happen to know that he is already overstretched in terms of workload.

                      Good luck.

                      With metta,
                      Ajahn Brahmali



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