Being ‘Out There’

A supporter of Field of Merit offered to make a Facebook page for Field of Merit and here it is, large as life. I have to confess to not having a FB account and neither does Rev. Alicia. I guess it is only a matter of time before we do.

Quietly I think to myself, Would Dogen have used Facebook to spread the word about Zazen, had it been available back then? Zazen was, as I understand, recommended universally to be taken up by lay and monastics alike.  Another thought, or question, that comes to mind: Is being ‘out there’ – on Facebook, on this website, and elsewhere incompatible with being ‘in here’ which is the call of the Hermitage? To stop and be still, to reflect, to contemplate and to turn within. To turn the stream of Compassion within.

These questions are not so easy to answer, we don’t know what Dogen would have done to spread the word had the Internet been available then. However his life was about unstintingly offering the Dharma and he certainly did that.  In terms of us in modern times, and using modern means, we too are about offering the Dharma widely. The important thing is for us to take care that our attitude of mind behind what we do around Field of Merit, as with all actions, is truly good and indeed wise. Part of me wonders if Rev. Master Jiyu turns in her grave at the modern means of spreading the Dharma developed since her death! And part of me thinks, Perhaps not.

I would hope however, and it is our background intention, that all of our out there activities will draw those who encounter it to be reminded to draw within. Wherever you might be in this wide world. That’s to withdraw in here within our own body/mind. Zen Master Dogen says in his Rules for Meditation, Withdraw within and reflect upon the self. Our on-line efforts have the potential to reach a very wide audience and we are bound to offer the teaching freely and do so gladly.

Used wisely the Internet is in the service of the Buddha Dharma – deep religious teachings which have deeply transformed lives for a very long time.

See also the article Transfer of Merit by Rev. Master Mokugen.

21 thoughts on “Being ‘Out There’

  1. Facebook. Twitter. I think it can be quite fun, …and slightly addictive if you’re not careful – but then so can anything. Good to see you there.

  2. I resonate with the ambivalence about Facebook that people express, and that also extends to other on-line forums. But here I am using them anyway!

    Rev Mugo, I think your initial post is beautifully written and really captures that ambivalence.

    Mia, I like your proposal for looking at ‘Right Internet Use’ I’m sure there is an article there… I would be happy to comment on a draft if you do decide to expand on your thoughts.

    • Thanks Ann. I have been away from my computer for two days and not able to respond. So now just a brief thank you for the feedback.

  3. I can understand what Gay says about people using FB as an exercise in ego, I have seen a lot of that since I had a page there. We see a lot of folk exercising egos in real life too and we can choose to not join in with this. Don’t we also all have that same choice when we engage with social media?

    • True. We do have that choice Adrienne. It is just that the traces left behind stay there longer for all to see… And that’s well after the person involved has seen and bowed and moved on. We all have that chip in our heads which knows that what we read and hear is impermanent, subject to change. However, sorry to say, that chip gets a bit dusty and less easy to find and act on. Compassion being the watchword.

      • Re. “the traces left behind”, would you say the same concern applies then to books, letters, recordings, articles?… I wonder if anyone questioned the wisdom of their use when they were first invented. It does go without saying that they should be engaged with mindfully. Perhaps the difference between social media and the older writing and recording forms, is that the *format* of social media is far more open to un-preceptual use and its worldwide broadcast! So yes, as Buddhist practitioners we’re being asked to be mindful in their use. The same as we would be when using sharp knives in the kitchen (and nobody’s questioning whether we should be using them).

  4. The thing that I found uncomfortable about Facebook and other online applications was that in order to exist there, you have to create an online identity: choose a picture, a short description, maybe say what country you’re from, etc. After that, people get to know you by your writing, and writing is at several removes from “who you are”. I’ve met so many people in real life after getting to know them online, and only a handful were what I expected, even after years of “chatting”.

    So maybe the reason many Buddhist practitioners in particular feel uncomfortable about Facebook at first is that we are painfully aware that the virtual can never be real.

    And yet, it has real consequences. Perhaps I should expand on this sometime, but “Right Internet Use” is emphatically possible, and my answer to “would Dogen have used Facebook” was a resounding and unhesitating “yes!” 🙂

    Still, I would rather meet you in person than read a blog post 🙂

    Gassho, and thank you for “being there” in whichever form.


    • And thank you Mia for being there too. I will have to think about that virtual word. And I am glad you think Zen Master Dogen would have used Facebook. We will never know but I bet he would have gone for those, far more hygienic, stainless steel chopsticks you can get in Japan now.

      ‘Right Internet Use’. Indeed.

      • Ugh really? I was hoping that he would have stayed with wooden chopsticks from sustainable forests. Steel is so *cold* whereas wood feels like it moulds to your hands… however perhaps you’re right. 🙂

        • Yep, perhaps sustainability would have won out. I couldn’t get on with the steel chopsticks actually.

  5. Facebook. Internet. Perhaps the overwelming plus is making teaching available to those isolated or supporting those miles away. I have misgivings with these “new” modes , the lost face to face inneractions, the abilty to talk to another person and not a screen. But without the internet I might not have found Jade or Fields and would not have those topics to ponder, reflect upon nor found support that adds a light on my path. Bows

    • Dear Gay, Thanks for this. I confess to finding myself going towards and then backing away from being out there on the Internet. I guess I have become used to having a website, it has been almost ten years now.

      Facebook is something new to me and I’m not engaging simply because ‘everybody’ is on Facebook. Not at all. I do believe that the underlying sincerity and spiritual purpose that I wish to convey in my life can be conveyed via the Internet. And to the benefit of those who it will benefit.
      I am grateful for your presence Gay. You are an example of one who has benefited from what we are doing, or more correctly pointing to. We would call that the ‘important thing’.

    • Oh dear Walter, it saddens me for you to be saddened about our starting a Facebook page. Actually it is Adrienne who is administering it and I’m so grateful for that.

      You know I respect your views and sympathies and I am glad that you understand our reasons. Certainly not to become popular. I do hope what we do and I do is in the service of offering the Teaching freely. The way in which people interact with religion, or rather their ‘way into’ a religious practice has changed hugely. Even since I come to Buddhism. SO many people now can encounter Buddhism in a casual way and for those who’s hearts are touched by what they find will take a closer look. Even a small seed may take root given the right conditions. And those conditions may take time, life times, to come about.

      Anyway, please do not desert the ship. Now that would make me really sad.

    • Thank you for your reply Rev Mugo. I dont much care for Facebook…it seems more entrenched as an exercise in ego. .. But having said that it reconnected me with lost friends which is joyous But it does have potential to reach someone in a roundabout way that can ignite that spark. One never can tell how we find what we need.

      • Quite so. I first saw Rev. Master Jiyu on our local TV station in southern England. She was being interviews in a garden in the grounds of Sojiji. I was 16 years old. A seed that sprouted roots about 15 years later.

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