On the limits of an online Sangha
Ok. A clean slate. I have no need to rehash or point out anyone's shortcomings.
My intent is to examine the experiment of the online sangha. Particularly the differences and similarities of this place and a real world sangha. Firstly, it is a godsend. Given my commitments, professionally and to my family and friends, I would not be able to practice as often, nor commit to the two hours to transit to and from NYC to get to a community.
Secondly, we get to make it. Say what you will about the Nishijima line, they are pretty open. They all fend for themselves, earning a living, having a wife and maybe their own family and give us a place to hang and say pretty much anything. So far my monthly charges to Nishijima, Jundo or Brad are zero, they do us a tremendous service and perhaps because of Nishijima's feelings to professional priests, keep their financial life separate from the practice. This openness has also meant that I know alot about the goings on of the various groups, everyone's personal shortcomings and a whole lots of things only tangential to the practice. But hey, that is the price of an open forum.
My concern is that this freedom is showing its limitations. In a traditional sangha, when I talk to the Roshi, it is a one on one. His meaning and mine in that setting has the advantage of being personal, and therefore nuanced. 16 emoticons and a keyboard are not the same thing. That misunderstandings arise and take on a life of their own shouldn't surprise us, they happen far more often in normal online social networks.
This place is great, lets make it better. While we share a strong common bond, and that bond makes me feel like I know some of you well, I have to accept that I there are limits to this medium and that i cannot just assume that you all know what I mean and that I know you all well enough not to edit the first thing that comes to me. (Trust me, this post has been milling in my head and re-re-edited.)
So what to do. What is our focus? Bill made a nice comment recently. Perhaps being a musician he comes to this practice understanding the role of apprenticeship. We don't always get what is meant but need to put some trust in Jundo to at least try to do as he suggests. So Jundo asks that we play nice without defining nice. As for myself, I interpret him to mean that it falls on me to make my contributions as inclusive and unpresumptive as I can. What think you all?