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Friday, June 24, 2022

How to know if your practice of Buddhism is ‘authentic’ through listening to podcasts or using meditation apps

Is Digital Buddhism, which includes computer-assisted practices such as listening to podcasts and using meditation apps, authentic?

Some scholars have argued that digital Buddhism symbolizes Western appropriation and the weakening of traditional Asian practices. Others, such as Slovenian cultural critic Slavoj iek, see it as the spirit of late capitalism. Zizek argues that Karl Marx’s notion of religion as the opium of the people, meditation apps, is a way to make people feel good, but does nothing to change the economic relationships that are causing suffering.

My curiosity about the authenticity of digital Buddhism was fueled by a recent tumultuous flight. Most of the passengers looked terrified. However, the person in front of me was calm, even blissful. Looking over his shoulder, I could see he was wearing an earbud attached to an iPhone, with a Buddhist-inspired meditation app on its screen. Can this be considered an authentic practice?

As a scholar of both Digitalism and Buddhism, I believe that authenticity is not determined by strict adherence to older forms. Instead, a normative practice leads to a happiness founded on deeper meanings, whereas an unproven practice may only provide fleeting pleasure or temporary relief.

Arguments Against Digital Buddhism

Scholars who consider digital Buddhism to be unproven usually point to one of three reasons.

First, some scholars argue that online Buddhism differs from earlier forms – if not in the message then at least in the way it is transmitted.

Second, some dismiss digital Buddhism as simply popular consumerism that takes historically rich and complex traditions and selectively repackages them for monetary gain.

Finally, most often, they would say that digital Buddhism is often seen as the most toxic form of Western popular culture’s appropriation of Asian traditions. As religion scholar Zen Iwamura argues in his book “Virtual Orientalism”, this obscures the voices of genuine Buddhists of Asian descent.

true nature of happiness

In the end, these can all be valid concerns. Yet, these scholars do not address the deep desire of many Western Buddhists to have a deeper spiritual experience. In my research, many Western Buddhists have often described their religious practice as “the pursuit of authenticity.”

To understand what they mean by authenticity, we need to look at the Greek philosophical terms “hedonic” and “eudemonic”.

The hedonic concept dates back to the ancient Greek philosopher Aristippus of Cyrene, who argued that the ultimate goal of life should be to maximize pleasure.

Current popular culture focuses on hedonistic happiness, which values ​​an outgoing, social, joyful outlook on life. As a result, much of the Buddhist-inspired media is currently finding moments of personal bliss, calm, and relaxation on meditation apps.

Most forms of Buddhism believe that there is nothing inherently wrong with bliss, but it is not the key to happiness. For example, Buddhist texts such as the 2nd century “Buddhacharita”, which describe the Buddha’s early life as a pampered prince, preach the ultimate drawbacks of a hedonistic lifestyle. Legend has it that Siddhartha Gautama abandoned his worldly lifestyle as meaningless, sought enlightenment and eventually awakened to become the Buddha.

On the other hand, eudaimonic happiness adds meaning and purpose. Eudaimonia means a state of “good spirit”, which is usually translated as “human flourishing”. For Aristotle, eudaimonia is the supreme end, and all subordinate goals – health, wealth and other such resources – are sought because they promote living well. He emphasizes that there are virtuous pleasures other than the senses and that the best pleasures are experienced by virtuous people who find happiness in the deepest sense.

In Buddhist texts such as the “Samanaphala Sutta”, eudaimonic descriptions of Buddhist practice can be found. Damian Keon, a British scholar of Buddhist ethics, argues that there is an echo between Buddhist ethics and Aristotelian virtue ethics.

The goal of Buddhist ethics is to lead one to enlightenment.
Avishek Das / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images

He writes that Buddhist ethics rests on cultivating virtue for the goal of enlightenment and that the English word “virtue” can be used as an umbrella term to adopt several personal Buddhist virtues such as compassion, generosity, and courage. could.

Keon clarifies that in Buddhism, if not sufficient, the cultivation of eudaimonic happiness is necessary to support a good life and that it is a concern for the welfare of both human and nonhuman, who deserve to live a happy life. Is.

What is authentic practice?

It was no surprise to find someone using digital Buddhism on a turbulent flight. Still, I wondered, was this just a stop to calm down an uncomfortable situation, or an authentic practice?

Buddhism has been modified and translated into new cultures wherever it has spread. Also, of course, online Western Buddhism shows that it has been translated to fit into our consumer society.

However, as I illustrate in my 2017 book, “Cyber ​​Zen: Imagining Authentic Buddhist Identity, Community, and Practices in the Virtual World of Second Life,” lies behind foreign media stereotypes of online practitioners, often unintentional by some academics. is a lie, a largely unpublished field of popular forms of authentic religious practice. Although virtual and usually performed by middle-class white followers, these are real people engaging in real spiritual practice that adds eudaimonia to their lives.

Still, not all online Buddhist practices are the same. Above all, one needs to be mindful of adopting and reducing traditional Asian practices. Furthermore, as I found in my research, some digital religious practices resonate with the good life, and some are just a pleasurable treadmill that further engages users in their desires.

If digital Buddhist practice views the good life as eudaimonic – such as leading to human flourishing based on the search for a deeper meaning – then it can be considered authentic. An inauthentic practice is one that only advances hedonism by promoting pleasure and relaxation.

World Nation News Desk
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