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Buddhadharma : Spring 2014
SPRING 2 0 1 4 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 19 The Internet has transformed sanghas. Bud- dhists who have been geographically iso- lated with little access to teachers and senior practitioners for guidance now have teachers and entire communities at their fingertips. Informa- tion and opinions about dharma centers, teach- ers, and sanghas are also readily available to practitioners worldwide, effectively leveling the dharma field and deflating notions of specialness. But does all that accessibility build dharma community and lead to insight? As someone who teaches dharma online, I’ve taken a particular interest in this question. Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training, my online project, like other online communities, offers Zen practice and the oppor- tunity to work with a teacher without leaving home. This is especially meaningful for those with no zendo nearby or with mobility issues. DOSHO PORT is the founder and guiding teacher of Vine of Obstacles: Online Support for Zen Training and the author of the blog Wild Fox Zen. Beginning in June, he will be the resident teacher at Great Tides Zen, a new training center in Portland, Maine. Cybersanghas—Do They Work? LET’S TALK My students tell me that through their online interactions they have found a sense of connec- tion, an affirmation that they are not alone in the difficult work of cultivating practice in daily life. This matters. However, an equally important “polishing stones” aspect of dharma community life, in which practice is a team sport and we learn by working together, is not fully present in online dharma communities and can be dif- ficult to replicate in the virtual world—or, for that matter, outside of the monastic container. Online or in a physical zendo, zazen remains the heart of the practice. Vine of Obstacles prac- titioners report that online sitting carries with it some of the same advantages of sitting with a group, such as accountability and continuity of practice. When the time comes for morning zazen, it is not as easy to roll over and punch the snooze button. by Dosho Port STEVEHARRINGTON Dosho Port meets with some of his students online