Cyberdharma and the Net's Vast Reach

John House, managing editor of Yahoo Internet Life, recounts his odyssey from an isolated buckwheat zafu to the vast interconnected reaches of dharma online.

John House

Article Preview

To access this entire article and all other member-supported
content, join Tricycle as a Supporting or Sustaining Member

© San Francisco Zen CenterWhen I first encountered the dharma, some two decades ago, it arrived at my door looking achy and lethargic and smelling of beer. In the aftermath of a loud and fragrant freshman dorm party, I had rescued my next-door neighbor from a night spent face-down on the damp floor where he'd slid to a stop and fallen asleep.

The following day, Jonathan dropped by to offer me as thanks a copy of Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, which he had been introduced to by an older brother. Considering the circumstances, it struck me as an odd gift, and he surrendered it with little ceremony and less explanation (he made sure to point out the page with the fly, and left it at that). But I remember thinking sometime later that, almost by accident, I'd come into possession of something profound and catalytic, and that even though monks and robes and incense were missing from the whole transaction, what the gesture pointed toward was genuine and stocked with real possibility.

This was, to say the least, a novel sensation. I had grown up in a factory town full of Christian sports enthusiasts, and if there were Buddhists of any sort around, they cannily escaped notice. Nor was there a local bookstore—not even a chain outlet, let alone an independent seller trafficking in religious subversion. And anyway, after a childhood of catechism at the hands of the disaffected priests and short-tempered nuns who staffed out parish, I was as wary of those who claimed spiritual expertise as I was untrusting of my own ability to recognize it. I was largely inclined to let sleeping gods lie.

So the seeds of Suzuki's wisdom fell not lightly over some rich and spacious field but into a smallish pot of poorly fertilized soil. That may explain why, even after a number of years of sitting meditation according to the instructions he outlines, I came to believe that Buddhism meant Zen Buddhism—or, more precisely, Soto Zen Buddhism—and that the whole business was somehow neatly self-contained. I was confident that my handful of books, my buckwheat hull zafu and booster pillow, and my ferocious, solitary practice were quire enough. And that, in turn, probably explains why, on my first retreat (with a local Soto community, of course), when I asked the woman leading rhe group whether I needed to find a teacher and she answered unhesitatingly, "Yes, if only because it's a proof of commitment," the panicky thought arose: great—what do I do now? . . .

Share with a Friend

Email to a Friend

Already a member? Log in to share this content.

You must be a Tricycle Community member to use this feature.

1. Join as a Basic Member

Signing up to Tricycle newsletters will enroll you as a free Tricycle Basic Member.You can opt out of our emails at any time from your account screen.

2. Enter Your Message Details

Enter multiple email addresses on separate lines or separate them with commas.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Become a Supporting Member

*With Autorenew

  • You Get
  • Tricycle | The Magazine - a one-year subscription to premier Buddhist quarterly
  • Tricycle Retreats - a new online video teaching every every week by a contemporary Buddhist teacher
  • Tricycle | The Digital Edition - web based edition of the magazine
  • The Wisdom Collection - nearly two decades of teachings by the world's most compelling teachers, from the pages of Tricycle
  • Tricycle Gallery - the best in Buddhist art to download and share with friends
  • Tricycle Book Club - online discussions with leading Buddhist authors
  • Tricycle Discussions - teacher-led explorations of dharma in daily life
  • The Tricycle Blog - our diary of the global Buddhist movement
  • Daily Dharma - heart advice delivered direct to your inbox
  • The Tricycle Newsletter - the latest news, teachings, events, and more, every Monday

Become a Supporting Member

Become a Sustaining Member

*With Autorenew

  • You Get
  • Tricycle | The Magazine - a one-year subscription to premier Buddhist quarterly
  • Tricycle Retreats - a new online video teaching every every week by a contemporary Buddhist teacher
  • Tricycle | The Digital Edition - web based edition of the magazine
  • The Wisdom Collection - nearly two decades of teachings by the world's most compelling teachers, from the pages of Tricycle
  • Tricycle Gallery - the best in Buddhist art to download and share with friends
  • Tricycle Book Club - online discussions with leading Buddhist authors
  • Tricycle Discussions - teacher-led explorations of dharma in daily life
  • The Tricycle Blog - our diary of the global Buddhist movement
  • Daily Dharma - heart advice delivered direct to your inbox
  • The Tricycle Newsletter - the latest news, teachings, events, and more, every Monday

Become a Sustaining Member