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Thread: On the limits of an online Sangha

  1. #1

    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?


  2. #2
    Very wise words Louis.

    I'll sign on with that.

    There are some limitations and think that by keeping them in mind we can only make this Sangha stronger.

    I myself am probably guilty of jumping to conclusions at times and will work at not doing so.

    My addendum - I think it is important for us to treat this as a Sangha/Zendo and not just another forum.

  3. #3

    I wholeheartedly agree. This may be a forum in the technical sense, but IMHO it should be treated with a lot more respect than just any old shoutbox forum. Especially if one considers oneself to be part of this Sangha.



  4. #4
    I agree too, but would also like to add that I would have thought all Sangha's have individual differences. One here is it is online. All Sangha's must be accented buy where they are situated. This does not mean there is anything lacking and it is just an accent rather than the words.
    I don't see this as an experimental Sangha but Tree Leaf Sangha. Or if it is experimental then all Sanghas are.

    P.S I don't post too much but do like it here and am finding all the people here very helpful and I'm pleased to be here.

  5. #5
    I am here to practice with you -- (that is a plural you). Although we have a silence thread and we have the daily sittings with Jundo, we cannot greet each other with a simple smile or hug. We cannot offer the warmth of simple physical presence with each other as we might if this were a bricks and motor zendo. So we rely on our conversations to connect, and I am a relatively quiet person by nature. I am here with you but you may not know that I am here. You do not see my head nod in acknowledgment of your posts or my expressions of concern when I read posts that convey pain or frustration.

    What we write can have ripple effects that we might not be able to anticipate. While we can make an effort to write from a place of compassion, we are each responsible for our own reactions to what is written. I have not been putting myself on the line here so my remarks have not been subject to critique. (Well, that is certainly an opening!) If or when that occurs, I hope I will remind myself of the benefit of not taking things so personally. Sometimes I am reluctant to post letting someone know that I found some particular remark very helpful because I do not want anyone else to feel like I am slighting the value of their contributions. Perhaps I should make use of private messages. But for today, I think I'll go post a reply to something Hans said in another thread today!

  6. #6
    Each of us enters the home of another with our own ideas about what it is to be a guest. Jundo posted no real "rules of engagement", just that we be kind to each other.

    Since this is the only guideline, again, we are working with each individuals idea of what is kind and acceptable behaviour.

    So, most of us seem to be on a similar flow about guest behaviour based on societal standards: we don't walk into someone's home, throw ourself on the couch, but our shoe-shod feet on the coffee table, demand that our host start making us dinner simply because we've "suited up and shown up", speak snidely, sarcastically and angrily at the other guests, then proceed to berate our host for being intolerant etc. because they want us to please remove our feet from the table, take our shoes off at the door, speak respectfully to others and stop demanding their services as if those services were a requirement to keep *us in the house.

    In the "real time" world, how would that play? Why should it look different in a virtual home and, most importantly, in a virtual zendo? (I will give slack for the fact that *some people may not have been in a real time zendo and are unfamiliar with etiquette and protocol.)

    It might be time for Jundo to be a bit more specific regarding guest behaviours because this is his home and our shared zendo. One can use skillfull means to be clear and still be welcoming.

    In Gassho~


  7. #7

    I agree with you whole heartedly. I think what you are talking about needs to happen.

  8. #8

    I agree with you whole heartedly.

  9. #9
    Great post Lynn Like the analogy.

    Just one, pretty insignificant question why do you keep using * before your name and with certain words? Is it to mean you include yourself in the us or some??

    In gassho, Kev

  10. #10
    I would definitely agree that this should not be like internet fora (fori?). I hope it will continue to be a helpful place for all who are sincere about learning about Soto Zen in the Nishijima/Cohen lineage.
    I am a reluctant poster most of the time because of the limitations of the written word. Writing is a wonderful way of expressing some things, but try as I may, it does not appear to be a medium in which I can converse in my normal voice. I suppose it is the scholarly writing thing (trying to use the most precise and concise language at all times), but the things I write never read back to me like anything other than the 'student-persona' that was developed in school. So, I assume that others might have the same problem. If so, then we have barriers in between us that may keep us from getting to know each other very well.
    It is easy for us to say things on this forum. I think the benefit is that many personality types will open up about things that they would never do in a room full of people. However, I think a bit of the "freeway mentality" also is at play. Because we are basically anonymous, it is easy to say things to one another that we wouldn't normally do because we might hurt someone. It is a bit of a double-edged sword.


  11. #11
    Excellent points, Bill...and I, for one, wish you would post more often because, when you do, it's really good stuff!

    Kev...I use the "*" before words in a post for emphasis because bolding takes more time. I use it before my name as a signature thing I started waaaaaayyyyy back in the day when all computer programmes were written in Basic. While I seem to recall that it had something to do with the game Zork, that was so far back in the dim dawn of Time I couldn't tell you. Just stuck!

    In Gassho~

  12. #12
    A 5th (lesser) vow, to add to the 4 Great ones?

    internet sangha's have limits, I vow to find the Way through them, beyond them

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