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Virtual Buddhism: Online Communities, Sacred Places and Objects

TitleVirtual Buddhism: Online Communities, Sacred Places and Objects
Publication TypeBook Chapter
AuthorsConnelly, L
Book TitleThe Changing World Religion Map
Buddhism, online communities, sacred place, Virtual

Until recently, there has been a dearth of research which focuses on Buddhism online. This chapter contributes to our understanding of the relationships between media, religion and culture and specifically explores the themes of authority, community, identity and ritual. Examining Buddhism on the internet helps us to identify the position of Buddhism in society, the possible implications both online and offline and how people engage and communicate in a place (cyberspace) not constrained by geographic boundaries. An interdisciplinary approach, drawing from material culture, anthropology and religious studies examines how Buddhists, primarily in the U.S. and U.K., use the internet in daily life. This includes how they express their belief, practice Buddhist rituals, develop communities and communicate with others. “Virtual Buddhism” is illustrated by examples of virtual places, ritual and religious artefacts found in the online world of Second Life and how social media (Facebook and blogs) are used by Buddhists and non-Buddhists. This chapter provides an introduction to some Buddhist groups and individuals who use the internet and mobile technologies to engage with Buddhism. The discourse raises a number of questions, for example, why Buddhist communities are evolving online and the blurring of boundaries between offline and online environments which could challenge traditional concepts of Buddhist authority. Understanding how the internet is being used in the 21st century, is a huge undertaking. The examples presented provide insights into how some individuals are using mobile technologies, social media, and virtual worlds to establish Buddhism online, offline, and negotiate both spheres simultaneously.
Book Editors

Brunn, S