F O R M S O F C I V I L A C T I V I T Y I N I N T E R N E T O N W W W P A G E S O F G L O B A L M O V E M E N T S Religion W97
FORMS OF CIVIL ACTIVITY IN INTERNET ON WWW PAGES OF GLOBAL MOVEMENTS iCamp Team # 11 Subtopic : Religion; Buddhism
Objective: The objective of this subtopic is to find the “face” of different religions through internet and how the followers are participating with it. I am focusing about analyzing the network side of Buddhism. Analyzed site: http://www.dharmaling.org
Report: The religion in general is a set of sharing beliefs and associated practices held by a group of people. It includes: traditions, ancestral cultures, institutions, books, history, mythology, faith and beliefs. It could be categorized also as a way of life. Nowadays the “Internet and religion” is a topic becoming strong in the net, many religious groups are uploading sites with general or specific information about their believes and gatherings, starting a phenomenon called i-Church (from Internet Church).
The visitors of this kind of religious sites are called "Religion Surfers" and they are mostly using the internet as a supplement tool in order to be closer to their churches, synagogues or mosques, they do this by reading articles, interchanging points of view with other users through forums and chat rooms. By the other hand, with the use of this tool, the organizations and churches are closer to the followers, keeping them at the day of some important news, offering some kind of “on-line orientation” and sharing relevant articles, increasing the faith to the followers and giving general information for those curious who are trying to solve some doubts.
I chose to analyze the face of Buddhism in the internet in order to learn more about it, Buddhism could be taken as a religion or just like a philosophy, I find this really interesting. As a religion it has different currents depending of the place where the followers are practicing it, but in general they are looking for the same objective: Happiness.
The Buddhist religion includes just the 6% of the world population and if we compare it with the Christianity current which is including the 33% of the global population, the main difference is that Buddhism is not following a personal god or making praise to a supreme grace, is not offering a grace, pardon, celestial hope or final judgment it is just suggesting a moral philosophy, an ethical way of life based in some teachings or different ways to see the things that a prince named Siddhartha Gautama (who was born in Nepal around 560 b.C.) was able to develop and share.
Interview: Through the internet and talks with one coworker I got some important information about my topic and I found out the perfect site to work with. It is the site of one Buddhist congregation here in Ljubljana, they are using the site as an important tool to be in touch with members, followers and general people with curiosity.
First I made a research about their site to see what they are offering, then I contacted Mr. -Lama Shenphen Rinpoche- by the mail, I sent him an introduction mail explaining the situation of the project and making present my interest about knowing more with reference to how are they using the site towards the followers, users and general visitors, luckily he is a really open man and immediately gave me a personal interview. I wrote by previous some questions and I sent them to him by mail, so he would have a clearer idea about my point. Mr. -Lama Shenphen Rinpoche-
<ul><li>With the interview I got to know that: </li></ul><ul><li>The site is working since 8 years ago, it has three different “managers”, one of them is the Lama and the other two are members of the group that are collaborating with him. </li></ul><ul><li>They are offering two kinds of subscription to the page, one is in order to be in the registration list and receive the weekly calendar of activities and some general information the other one is for being members. </li></ul><ul><li>They have been receiving application forms, mails and comments from people all around the world, being Austria, France and USA the most common ones after Slovenia. </li></ul>
<ul><li>They are offering some articles based in -live teachings- and they have some forums where the users are able to make comments and ask the questions that could appear. </li></ul><ul><li>At the moment the users of the site that want to have some communication, feedback or orientation are able to communicate with the lama just by two ways: the email and the forums. </li></ul><ul><li>There are a lot of Buddhist congregations in the world and some different kinds of Buddhism as well, for the same reason there are many sites and no just a main one with information about Buddhism all around the network. </li></ul>
Analysis of the site: The information of this site it is available in 4 different languages: English, Slovene, Italian and French. The structure of the site it is not so elaborate but really complex, they are using mostly the color yellow and red, a really simple kind of font and showing just the necessary images.
In the main part of the site, they are giving a short explanation of the Buddhism bases and marking some “specific” words in order that that users can have the meaning of them, what it is good to both sides; to the users because by steps they get to know more about this religion and to the congregation because by this way they are somehow giving a basic teaching of their beliefs.
Presentation - A brief explanation about who was this community born, which kind of teachings are they following and how this group was created. Contacts info - Necessary information in order to contact different groups that are part of this Buddhism Congregation of Dharmaling. Program - They are sharing a monthly activity calendar. Teachings - The develop of some items or “teachings” classify by topics. Practices - A prayer, interactive teachings about how to prostrate and some poems. In the left part of the site we have two menus, the first one gives place to the “Main menu” and it is composted by:
News(blog) - General news. Positions – Some other items about common topics and the Buddhist point of view. Ljubljana Center – General information about the center as location and services. Tax Assignment – Information about how to give your 0.5% of income taxes to the group. Photo Gallery – Galleries of different pictures from gatherings and travels. Membership – Here the visitors can get the form to become members of the congregation.
Forums – It is composed by three forums, one in English, other one in Slovene and the last one in French. Each one has various subtopics. Prayer request – Here the users can ask the congregation for personal prayers; they are also able for making donations in order to support the group. Glossary - A complete glossary with useful Buddhist words. It is available in English and in Slovene. Buddhism History – A compilation of useful information of the Buddhism history. Book library – They have a big collection of books in Slovene and English in order to lend them to the users. The second menu is called “Services” and it is composed by:
Calendar – It is a monthly calendar with the activities of the congregation. Email account – It is the tool that the members use to organize their email accounts. e-Shop – The community have a small shop; they are showing the things, marking price price and even selling some of the things by internet. Donations – It is a quick way to make a donation for the Foundation or Congregation. GuestBook – As in any other site, the visitors are able for leaving a comment by the guest book. Site map – It is the same structure than the main site just explained in a different way. Downloads – General things,membership forms and practices of the group available in this section.
The site has other shortcuts in the top part and in the right side but are basically just easy links to go to something from the main menu. In general, the Dharmaling site it is really easy to manage, a person with medium knowledge of the use of the internet must take around 5 minutes to get to know all the options that they can use/find in the site.
Conclusion: Nowadays the internet it is not just an option more, it is in fact a diary tool. Everybody with a connection and a basic knowledge of how to use a computer can use it. Many organizations are taking advantage of the internet in order to share information with the people that concern about it as news, general information and gatherings.
The religion activities are an old kind of social movements, building by a strong structure or organization, depending of the place and the faith of the followers they can have a lot of power over the society, so it is important to keep in touch with the followers in all the possible ways, including the “modern” ones as the internet. The Buddhist groups with the support of the internet are sharing no just the religion part but the philosophic side of it, waking up the interest of people that could have some similar points of view. The managers of these sites are worry about staying at the day posting as much as useful information as possible.
For the Buddhism believers or the supporters in general, having close sites with general or specific information about Buddhism or the gatherings and costumes of a determinate group, is a good supply because sometimes they don’t need to go out their houses in order to have some information like short teachings, items or even the day and time of a group meeting.