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Dharma Connect: Happy Birthday, Internet

Today, March 12, is the 25th anniversary of the day that Tim Boerners-Lee presented his vision for a way to connect all the computers in the world. At that time, he says, he called it "mesh." He came up with World Wide Web in 1990 when he began writing code.

This is his rough sketch:

In just a quarter of a century, the Internet has gone from boxes and circles on a in a Word document to an indespensible part of daily life.

As online Zen teacher Dosho Port says in the current issue of Buddhadharma magazine, the Internet has transformed the experience of studying Buddhism, making teachers available to those in remote locations.

The Internet has transformed sanghas. Buddhists who have been geographically isolated with little access to teachers and senior practitioners for guidance now have teachers and entire communities at their fingertips. Information and opinions about dharma centers, teachers, 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?

 

IDP has a thriving program of online classes. The Monday and Wednesday night classes are offered both as in-person and online options. It's an immense benefit to those who don't live near dharma centers. I'm one of them, and I'm deeply grateful to the teachers, volunteers, and fellow students on class message boards for making this path available.

It's an example of the interconnectedness of all existence -- without the technology, I couldn't connect to the people. But without the people, the technology wouldn't do much for me in this department. Cyber and sangha inter-are, as Thicht Nhat Hahn would say.

Or, as IDP founder Ethan Nichtern wrote in his first book, One City: A Declaration of Interdependence:

If someone should happen to smile at me — even by accident — I might smile to the rest of the world for hours, spreading warmth along the sidewalk like a lip-curling virus. If I bark at people mindlessly, they might infect twenty other innocent bystanders with their frustration before they even make it to lunch. This is the real Internet — the organic network that transcends cyberspace — and we're all connected, to it and through it.

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