May 11, 2010
Mobile phones work hard to keep us constantly connected and accessible in both our personal and public/ professional lives. As such they may not seem like the most likely candidates to provide a moment of peace, clarity, or stillness in your life, but as mentioned on this blog just about a year ago, there are many meditation-based apps and just plain Buddhist apps that might provide you some relief from the relentless clang, zip, and buzz of modern life.
One of the best Buddhist apps for the iPhone is Access to Insight, the mobile version of the the well known website. For the low low cost of nothing it gathers together over 1,000 suttas, essays by contemporary scholars, and audio dhamma talks. Access to Insight focuses on Theravada texts and teachings, but there are several free Mahayana texts available too, including the Heart Sutra, Diamond Sutra, and collections of Zen stories and koans.
I counted about 150 Buddhist-themed iPhone apps, but many of them (the game "BuddhaBelly" being a prominent example) will not be of interest to (ah-hem!) serious Buddhists. Among the more serious apps, the field is divided between the book type, which are usually referred to as "guides"—the priciest of these is the Oxford Dictionary of Buddhism at $14.99—and the lifestyle type, which includes meditation timers as well as many apps whose purpose is quite mysterious. One such intriguing (and free) app is called KarmaTracker, first released just two weeks ago. There are also quite a few "Buddhist Quotes" types of apps, which are often free but usually cost 99¢. These may be worthwhile for those people stuck somewhere who don't want to wade through the iPhone's web browser and the teeny tiny sites that appear on it.
iTunes also lists five Buddhist apps for the iPad, though one of them is a Thai-language keyboard.
There are also hundreds of meditation-themed apps—timers, guides, and more—for both the iPhone and iPad. It's a bewildering field—I'll leave it to readers with experiences of these apps to tell us which they think are worthwhile. Oh, and see below for the icons of KarmaTracker and BuddhaBelly, respectively.
UPDATE: Buddhist Geeks interview Wisdom 2.0's Soren Gordhamer (March 2010)