GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

Web sites, TV, films, books and the search for meaning.

Monkish advice

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Welcome to the second night of our look at Buddhist Web sites. Fold yourself into your best lotus blossom position and prepare to . . .

Ask a Monk

What puzzles you about Buddhism? The Cloudwater Zendo community in Cleveland, Ohio, wants to answer it.

Practicing both the Ch’an (Zen) and Pure Land varieties, Cloudwater posts some breezy-sounding answers to common issues. The questions cover things like “Buddhism is just an offshoot of Hinduism, isn’t it?” and the chuckle-inducing “Buddhism is the tradition that worships the jolly-looking fellow with the big belly, right?”

Even better: You can write your own question in an online form — and specify how soon you need the answer. The site also has longer discussions based on reader feedback.

Those chains of questions bring out more nuanced teachings, like whether believers should worship Buddha, or whether human relationships help or hurt the road to enlightenment. Also explained are the differences between Pure Land Buddhism, and its Buddha Amitabha, from Jesus and heaven.

The Cloudwater folks explain concepts like Buddha-fields, transferring merit, and the relationship of a Buddha to a bodhisattva. A chart compares and contrasts Ch’an and Pure Land, but it has so many in-house terms, only a disciple would grasp it fully.

One glitch: Ask a Monk says Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions basically teach the same things. Those who read my last column know my opinions on that. When a faith claims special insights, it necessarily creates differences. Choose any religion you want, but choose you must.


Written by Jim Davis

October 22, 2008 at 3:31 am

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