Do meditation podcasts and apps yield ‘genuine’ Buddhism?

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Is digital Buddhism, which incorporates computer-assisted practices reminiscent of listening to podcasts and utilizing meditation purposes apps, genuine?

Some students have argued that digital Buddhism epitomizes Western appropriation and dilution of conventional Asian practices. Others such because the Slovenian cultural critic Slavoj Žižek understand it as embodying the spirit of late capitalism. Žižek argues that like Karl Marx’s notion of faith because the opiate of the individuals, meditation apps are a means for individuals to really feel good, however does nothing to vary the financial relationships which are inflicting struggling.

My curiosity concerning the authenticity of digital Buddhism was whetted on a latest turbulent flight. A lot of the passengers appeared nervous. The individual in entrance of me, nevertheless, was calm, even blissful. Wanting over their shoulder, I may see they have been sporting earbuds related to an iPhone whose display screen displayed a Buddhist-inspired meditation app. Might this be thought of an genuine observe?

As a scholar of each digital faith and Buddhism, I maintain that authenticity is just not decided by its strict adherence to older varieties. Fairly, an genuine observe furthers a happiness based on deeper meanings, whereas an inauthentic observe might solely present fleeting pleasure or short-term aid.

Arguments in opposition to digital Buddhism

Students who deem digital Buddhism inauthentic usually level to one among three causes.

First, some students argue that on-line Buddhism differs from earlier varieties—if not in message then at the least in the best way it’s transmitted.

Second, some dismiss digital Buddhism as mere in style consumerism that takes traditionally wealthy and complicated traditions and selectively repackages them for financial achieve.

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Lastly, most frequently, they’ll say that digital Buddhism is usually seen as essentially the most virulent type of Western in style tradition’s appropriation of Asian traditions. As faith scholar Jane Iwamura argues in her e-book “Digital Orientalism,” this obscures the voices of precise Buddhists of Asian descent.

The true nature of happiness

Ultimately, these all could also be respectable considerations. Nonetheless, these students don’t handle many Western Buddhists’ deep want for an intense religious expertise. In my analysis, many Western Buddhists have typically described their spiritual observe as a “seek for authenticity.”

To grasp what they imply by authenticity, we have to have a look at the Greek philosophical phrases “hedonic” and “eudaimonic.”

The hedonic idea dates again to the traditional Greek thinker Aristippus of Cyrene, who argued that the final word aim of life should be to maximise pleasure.

Present in style tradition facilities on hedonic happiness, which values an outgoing, social, joyous view of life. Consequently, a lot of the Buddhist-inspired media at the moment discovered on meditation apps peddle moments of non-public bliss, calm and rest.

Most types of Buddhism maintain there may be nothing inherently fallacious with pleasure, however that it isn’t the important thing to happiness. As an illustration, Buddhist texts such because the second century “Buddhacharita,” which describes the Buddha’s youth as a pampered prince, preach the final word shortcomings of a hedonistic life-style. Legend has it that Siddhartha Gautama renounced his worldly life-style as empty of which means, sought enlightenment and finally woke up to grow to be the Buddha.

However, eudaimonic happiness provides which means and goal. Eudaimonia means the situation of “good spirit,” which is often translated as “human flourishing.” For Aristotle, eudaimonia is the best finish, and all subordinate targets—well being, wealth and different such sources—are sought as a result of they promote dwelling effectively. He insists that there are virtuous pleasures moreover these of the senses and that the most effective pleasures are skilled by virtuous individuals who discover happiness in deeper meanings.

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In Buddhist texts such because the “Samaññaphala Sutta,” one can discover eudaimonic descriptions of Buddhist observe. The British scholar of Buddhist ethics Damien Keown argues that there’s a resonance between Buddhist ethics and Aristotelian advantage ethics.

He writes that Buddhist ethics rests upon the cultivation of advantage for the aim of enlightenment and that the English phrase “advantage” can be utilized as an umbrella time period for embracing the quite a few particular person Buddhist virtues reminiscent of compassion, generosity and braveness.

Keown makes evident that in Buddhism, the cultivation of eudaimonic happiness, if not adequate, is important for supporting a superb life and that it’s concern for the welfare of others, each human and nonhuman, that results in a cheerful life price dwelling.

What’s genuine observe?

It was not shocking to search out an individual utilizing digital Buddhism on a turbulent flight. But, I questioned, was this only a stopgap to sooth an uncomfortable scenario, or an genuine observe?

Buddhism has been modified and translated into new cultures wherever it has unfold. Additionally, little doubt, on-line Western Buddhism exhibits that it has been translated to suit into our client society.

Nevertheless, as I present in my 2017 e-book, “Cyber Zen: Imagining Genuine Buddhist Id, Group, and Practices within the Digital World of Second Life,” behind the unique media stereotypes of on-line practitioners, typically uncritically perpetuated by some teachers, lies a largely unexamined territory of in style types of genuine spiritual observe. Though digital and often carried out by middle-class white adherents, these are actual individuals partaking in actual religious practices that add eudaimonia to their lives.

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Nonetheless, not all on-line Buddhist practices are the identical. Most of all, one must be conscious of appropriating and diluting conventional Asian practices. Furthermore, as I discovered in my analysis, some digital spiritual practices resonate with the nice life, and a few are only a hedonic treadmill entangling customers additional of their wishes.

If digital Buddhist observe approaches the nice life as eudaimonic—as resulting in human flourishing primarily based on the pursuit of a deeper which means—it may be judged to be genuine. An inauthentic observe is one which simply furthers hedonism by merely peddling bliss and rest.


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