Last week, I successfully defended my thesis, titled [see long and winded title of this post]. I think this explains my two-month absence from tumblr. I want to eventually put the entire paper all online, but with its 91-page word count, I’m still considering my options. Hopefully, once I’ve relaxed and stepped away from the paper, I can revisit it with fresh eyes and edit it down to an article-length piece. For now, here’s the first page:
Religion online, one of the newest form of religious expression, provides an open and unlimited arena for information, dialogue and community, for religious practitioners, the spiritually curious, and everyone in between. Alongside other religions, Buddhism has found its place in the virtual world. Digital representations of Buddhism are present in personal blogs, throughout so- cial media sites, and in institutional websites. Anyone can download audio files of dharma talks, view instructional meditation videos, or read illustrated biographies of the Buddha. The site BuddhaNet offers a searchable “World Buddhist Directory,” Tricycle magazine’s website features articles on how to be Buddhist in a business-centric world, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama posts video lectures on transnational compassion. Many of these representations lack an anchor to any specific Buddhist tradition or institutional referent, even material accredited to traditional teachers.
One of the more interesting examples of Buddhism online is the expanding market of smartphone meditation applications (apps). Especially trendy in the West, these mobile apps pack Buddhist practice into the framing of a smartphone. And while this new medium features interactive components that other mediums lack, such as instant, quantitative evaluation and easy mobility, the smartphone medium and the app itself removes institutional framework and ritual elements of traditional Buddhist meditation. The apps offer portable meditation practice, without commitment to a religious organization, adherence to regular practice, or involvement in any religious community. With no institutional framework, the apps transform meditation into a spiritual and psychological self-improvement exercise and transports it indo the middle of daily activities such as the urban commute.