The use of the Internet to explore and study Buddhist teachings is finding favor among Southeast Asians disillusioned with organized religion, reports Tricycle magazine (Spring).
“From virtually no online presence five years ago, Southeast Asia’s Buddhists have recently exploded onto the Web…In Thailand, where 95 percent of the country’s sixty million people are Buddhist, there are now over one hundred Thai-language sites focusing on the dharma,” writes Joshua Kurlantzick. Monks are setting up websites to connect with inquirers and followers. Temples in Singapore and Taiwan host extensive sites and send out e-mails reminding followers of dharma lessons.
All this Internet activity is hoped to revive the interest among the young in Buddhism. Financial and sexual scandals involving Buddhist clergy in recent years have led to disenchantment and non-involvement in the religion’s temples and monasteries, especially among the young. Economic development and materialism likewise have lured many away from spiritual and religious concerns, writes Kurlantzick.
By presenting Buddhist teachings over the computer, inquirers can tailor Buddhism to their lifestyles without having to go to a monastery. Progressive religious leaders hope the Web will also help reform organized religion, making lay people more knowledgeable and less willing to let the monastic hierarchy monopolize the religion.
Although traditionalists fear cyber-Buddhism will be oversimplified, already there are hints that the web presence may also increase actual participation. The attendance at forums held by the World Fellowship of Buddhists, which advertises online, have shown growing numbers of young people.