GOD ONLINE: Exploring media spirituality

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

Woodsy Buddhists

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For tonight’s Buddhist Web site, we go old school with . . .

Forest Meditation


Tibetan Buddhists may get more media, with their dancing monks and their multicolored sand mandalas — and, of course, the humble yet flamboyant Dalai Lama. But forest monks, from the ancient Thai Theravada tradition, have their own deep spirituality and supple thought.

Forest Meditation follows a familiar track in telling the story of the Buddha, though it leans heavily on direct quotes from the Pali Canon. But the emphasis seems to be practical teaching rather than tradition. There’s lots of help on meditation: chants, breath control, historical background, suggested positions.

The articles can be long — “Buddhism in a Nutshell” alone is nearly 17,000 words — but internal hyperlinks mark the 11 chapters. That allows you to read a unit, take time to digest it, then return to where you left off.

Included are various chants and blessings in Pali, stored as mp3 sound files and sometimes text. But don’t hop around the site, as you can do with some others. If, for instance, you skip the “Basics” unit, you’ll miss definitions of oft-used terms like Dhamma and Vinaya.

Fortunately, footnotes in “Buddhism in a Nutshell” explain those and other concepts. A link to another Theravada site, Access to Insight, is another big help.

Oddly, though, an explanation of Forest Meditation itself — history, development, its very reason — is missing. That would have been easy to add, as shown on the Web site of the Abhayagiri Monastery, another Forest Meditation retreat.

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Written by Jim Davis

October 29, 2008 at 3:16 am

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