Use the force – for good
B. I’m hoping this post will inspire action rather than anger or hostility, but I feel that it needs to be said although I may not be saying it as skillfully as someone more learned or trained. I offer it up for discussion, remix and with an intention of kindness to my dharma brothers and sisters.
I’m STILL processing Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s epic missive on “Social Media Guidelines for so-called Vajrayana students” and I’m taking my reaction (or resistance) as a positive thing in that I’m not rapidly jumping into the fray, but rather digesting it bit by bit. Already some of the suggestions or comments from Rinpoche have manifested in that I’m adding a bit more of a gap or awareness before I post something or go off on a tirade about politics, animal abuse or any of the zillion triggers that get my buttons pushed.
Now this isn’t to say that I’m not saying that I don’t want to sign your digital petitions to fight oppression of any kind. I’m not looking down on anyone here because I’m just as guilty of getting caught up in online pursuits be they as trivial as whimsical cat photos or as urgent as a call for help for a dog spotted in the back of a parked truck for over an hour during abysmally cold temperatures that meteorologists warned people to stay indoors from. What I am asking (both you and myself) is to ask…
How best am I using my time?
There’s a certain amount of ‘Middle Way’ required in navigating the digital waters and I fear that we’re being carried off in so much documentation and too little action.
Building up an arsenal of books is of no good if we’re not putting the dharma to good use. All the mala beads, prayer shawls, corduroy covered zafus (is this a thing, if not, it should never be one ziff ziff ziff), Green Tara tattoos, copies of 108 records (yadda yadda yadda and so on…) in the world can’t save us (and in turn others) if we’re so caught up in these physical possessions and not practicing and studying.
What I am wishing to bring attention to is that the world needs help. We all get this. We know that things are pretty wild out there. In my (very humble and perhaps naive) opinion, a great place to start is to work with building up your sangha’s digital presence or get involved more directly with “digital dharma” more than just instagramming photos of your spiritual possessions (again I’m guilty of this one too. I know. I’m working with it).
A great place to start with some real world activity is to use your digital savvy for good. Many sanghas don’t yet have websites. You, digital bodhisattva can do wonders to help get yours online. Spend some time with your sangha to find out their needs and get them a space out there in cyberspace so that the next person who is searching online for a Buddhist center in their neighborhood can find it. If there are many sanghas in your neighborhood and you are an unaffiliated Buddhist, perhaps create a site or Google map with all of the local sanghas listed so that people can easily locate them. I can’t tell you how many times I get asked about Buddhism in Montreal and to be of help in this way allows me to get to know so many people both new to the city and new to Buddhism.
Another suggestion is to find an online cause you believe in and see how you can help them with their efforts. Many lovely organizations are screaming out for help with webmastering, promotions, writing, translation and a myriad of tasks that would help them out to take their efforts beyond what their funding allows them to. Blog posts, tweets and Facebook posts about these groups are all lovely but in my opinion, we need to get dirty and dig our hands in the mud beyond what is at such a surface level. Get on their board of directors. Help share your specific expertise with them. Pick one cause and give, give, give. This is service. This is practice. This is the joy of the “digital sangha”.
There is such great joy to be found with connecting with those who need our help. Let’s build a stronger foundation for future dharma practitioners by helping to build up a community to those coming into learning about Buddhism through our digital traces and that it isn’t about consumerism, greed and pithy scripty quotes on a tranquil seafoam background (I’m guilty of this too).
Perhaps Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche intended his ‘Social Media’ guidelines as a wake up call to what he’s seeing as a misuse of our precious human lives. I don’t know. I’m still mulling over a blog post dedicated specifically to his guidelines. What I do think is that it has provided me with much food for thought.