Online Buddhism

Online communities

Online Buddhism

What is shown in this picture is a Buddhist website. Chanting the Buddha is an important activity in Buddhism. Through chanting, the merits of Buddhist believers can be improved, to obtain a complete Buddhist path. Traditionally, chanting of the Buddha needs to be carried out in a Buddhist temple, but now, it can be done through this website, and at the same time, users can choose different chanting methods, different Buddha statues for enshrinement, and can also see the real-time chanting information of Buddhist believers from all over the country. Therefore, I believe this is an example of online religion.

According to Hutchings, there are two types of religious community: the relational and the movement community. I believe this website belongs to the former; this website does not have a clear goal but rather provides a platform for Buddhist believers across the country to chant the Buddha and to communicate with each other. 

On this website, we can see the information of each user's reading of the Buddhist scriptures. Also to be seen is the list of users who form groups according to the time standard they spend on reading scriptures, and it also provides users with opportunities for offline communication. This offers users both individual and communal identities and reflects the character of the site's multisite reality, which gives users enough personal space and yet enables them to have a sense of collective belonging.

On this website, you can choose different Buddha statues to worship and different ways of chanting. In Chinese Buddhism, different Buddha statues have different meanings and can bring different blessings to people. In offline temples, usually, only one kind of Buddha statue is enshrined, and there are rigid requirements and standards for the worship of Buddha statues. On this website, users can choose any Buddha statue they want to enshrine according to their needs, and there are many ways to chant the sutras. It can be seen that this online Buddhist website can provide users with a storied identity. According to their wish, users can mix various Buddhist sects and resources to form their own unique religion.

At the same time, on this website, the concepts conveyed by Buddhist beliefs are also different from traditional Buddhist teachings. Traditional Buddhism emphasizes that people need to cut off their desires in order to achieve a state of peace. Moreover, Buddhism preaches reincarnation and believes that people do good in this life to have happiness in the next life. However, on this website, it says: Your respect will bring you benefits, devout chanting of Buddha will bring you and your family happiness and peace, wisdom and wealth. Pray for world peace and people's well-being! From this, we can see that on this website, the belief in Buddhism is more for the happiness in this life rather than in the afterlife. The website also does not guide users to abandon their desires but directly uses the word 'benefit' to cater to the good wishes of users for their beliefs. Therefore, compared with traditional Buddhism, this online Buddhist website has a different creed and tends to be secular, which is more in line with some users' expectations of reality.

Text by Meiyi Su.