Just like anywhere else, the abominable censoring of Internet speech never helps. Since responsibility of consuming online information clearly rests with the consumer it seems high time for some helpful guidance surrounding conduct, information gathering and exposure when online.
While Intel agencies gather copious amounts of raw (mis/dis)information then apply various methods of discernment to determine a course of action (or inaction). As a individual, is this strategy best? Probably not.
How about treating information like food? This is only a start.
So what does a self-responsible, self-empowered digital diet – while leaving the digital tongue of producers intact – look like?
For sage wisdom why not turn to the ultimate master of living a liberated, happy and enlightened life in this very world, Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha.
The headings below express various areas of applicable online life followed by potentially relevant teachings and words from the Buddha in blockquotes.
First, A Prerequisite
“… putting aside greed & distress with reference to the world”
When greed (e.g., lusting after the best and most info) – or distress (e.g., the compulsion to express who and what is wrong) – motivates much of our time online we can rapidly succumb to a vortex of unwholesome, seething emotions. Before using the Internet incline towards a cool, level head by temporarily suspending greed and stress involving world affairs. Pick them up later if you must.
What To Pay Attention To
“….don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.”
“….overcome by [greed, ill will, and/or delusion] his mind possessed by [greed, ill will, and/or delusion] kills living beings, takes what is not given, goes after another person’s wife, tells lies, and induces others to do likewise, all of which is for long-term harm & suffering.“
Skillful Qualities For Online Activities
“As for the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to utter disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding’: You may categorically hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’”
“As for the qualities of which you may know, ‘These qualities lead to dispassion, not to passion; to being unfettered, not to being fettered; to shedding, not to accumulating; to modesty, not to self-aggrandizement; to contentment, not to discontent; to seclusion, not to entanglement; to aroused persistence, not to laziness; to being unburdensome, not to being burdensome’: You may categorically hold, ‘This is the Dhamma, this is the Vinaya, this is the Teacher’s instruction.’”
No Need For An Act Of Will
The Internet does not always require a response or action:
“For a dispassionate person, there is no need for an act of will, ‘May I realize the knowledge & vision of release.’ It is in the nature of things that a dispassionate person realizes the knowledge & vision of release “In this way, dispassion has knowledge & vision of release as its purpose, knowledge & vision of release as its reward. Disenchantment has dispassion as its purpose, dispassion as its reward. Knowledge & vision of things as they actually are has disenchantment as its purpose, disenchantment as its reward. Concentration has knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its purpose, knowledge & vision of things as they actually are as its reward. Pleasure has concentration as its purpose, concentration as its reward. Serenity has pleasure as its purpose, pleasure as its reward. Rapture has serenity as its purpose, serenity as its reward. Joy has rapture as its purpose, rapture as its reward. Freedom from remorse has joy as its purpose, joy as its reward. Skillful virtues have freedom from remorse as their purpose, freedom from remorse as their reward.
“In this way, mental qualities lead on to mental qualities, mental qualities bring mental qualities to their consummation, for the sake of going from the near to the Further Shore.”
Discerning Truth On The Internet
“…There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-liked, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are an unbroken tradition and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not an unbroken tradition, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-reasoned and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-reasoned, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn’t proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, ‘Only this is true; anything else is worthless.“
Qualit(ies) most helpful for the final attainment of the truth: Conviction –> visiting –> growing close –> lending ear –> hearing –> remembering –> penetrating the meaning –> coming to an agreement through pondering –> desire –> being willing –> contemplating –> exertion –> final attainment of the truth
“Whenever you want to do [while you are doing, and having done] a bodily action [verbal action, mental action], you should reflect on it: ‘This bodily action [verbal action, mental action], I want to do [are doing, and have done] — would it [is it, was it] lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be [is it, was it] an unskillful bodily action, [verbal action, mental action] with painful consequences, painful results?’ If, on reflection, you know that it would lead [is leading, has lead] to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be an unskillful bodily action [verbal action, mental action] with painful consequences, painful results, then any bodily action [verbal action, mental action] of that sort is absolutely unfit for you to do. But if on reflection you know that it would not cause self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both; it would be a skillful bodily action [verbal action, mental action] with pleasant consequences, pleasant results, then any bodily action [verbal action, mental action] of that sort is fit for you to do.”
Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone (with my edits/additions in brackets in order to condense the text)
Handling Online Abuse
….the brahman Akkosaka Bharadvaja heard that a brahman of the Bharadvaja clan had gone forth from the home life into homelessness in the presence of the Blessed One. Angered & displeased, he went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, insulted & cursed him with rude, harsh words.
When this was said, the Blessed One said to him: “What do you think, brahman: Do friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to you as guests?”
“Yes, Master Gotama, sometimes friends & colleagues, relatives & kinsmen come to me as guests.”
“And what do you think: Do you serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies?”
“Yes, sometimes I serve them with staple & non-staple foods & delicacies.”
“And if they don’t accept them, to whom do those foods belong?”
“If they don’t accept them, Master Gotama, those foods are all mine.”
“In the same way, brahman, that with which you have insulted me, who is not insulting; that with which you have taunted me, who is not taunting; that with which you have berated me, who is not berating: that I don’t accept from you. It’s all yours, brahman. It’s all yours.”
“Whoever returns insult to one who is insulting, returns taunts to one who is taunting, returns a berating to one who is berating, is said to be eating together, sharing company, with that person. But I am neither eating together nor sharing your company, brahman. It’s all yours. It’s all yours.”
“The king together with his court know this of Master Gotama — ‘Gotama the contemplative is an arahant’ — and yet still Master Gotama gets angry.” [Akkosaka thinks that the Buddha is cursing him — and thus angry — when actually the Buddha is simply stating a fact in line with the law of kamma.]
[The Buddha:] Whence is there anger for one free from anger, tamed, living in tune — one released through right knowing, calmed & Such. You make things worse when you flare up at someone who’s angry. Whoever doesn’t flare up at someone who’s angry wins a battle hard to win. You live for the good of both — your own, the other’s — when, knowing the other’s provoked, you mindfully grow calm. When you work the cure of both — your own, the other’s — those who think you a fool know nothing of Dhamma.
Online Spats: The Compulsion To Be Right And Win Arguments
“Winning gives birth to hostility. Losing, one lies down in pain. The calmed lie down with ease, having set winning & losing aside.”
“Fear is born from arming oneself. Just see how many people fight! I’ll tell you about the dreadful fear that caused me to shake all over:
Seeing creatures flopping around, Like fish in water too shallow, So hostile to one another! — Seeing this, I became afraid.
This world completely lacks essence; It trembles in all directions. I longed to find myself a place Unscathed — but I could not see it.
Seeing people locked in conflict, I became completely distraught. But then I discerned here a thorn — Hard to see — lodged deep in the heart.
It’s only when pierced by this thorn That one runs in all directions. So if that thorn is taken out — one does not run, and settles down.“
Ending War And Conflict
“Hatred is never appeased by hatred in this world. By non-hatred alone is hatred appeased. This is a law eternal.”
Shakyamuni Buddha tried to head off an impending war between the ancient countries of Magadha and Kapilavattu, home to his own Shakya clan. He tried logic and persuasion and, at last, he sat zazen under a dead tree by the side of the battlefield.
…Since it was very hot, (the king of Magadha) couldn’t understand why the Buddha was sitting under a dead tree; usually people sit under beautiful green trees. So the king asked, “Why do you sit under the dead tree?” The Buddha calmly said to the king, “I feel cool, even under this dead tree, because it is growing near my native country.” This really pierced the king’s heart and he was so greatly impressed by the message of the Buddha’s action that he could go no further. Instead of attacking, he returned to his country. But the king’s attendant still continued to encourage him to attack and finally he did so. This time, unfortunately, Shakyamuni Buddha didn’t have time to do anything. Without saying a word, he just stood and watched his country and his people being destroyed.
The Buddha failed to stop the battle because, as Dogen wrote, “The mind of a sentient being is difficult to change.”
Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter.
“…spoken at the right time. It is spoken in truth. It is spoken affectionately. It is spoken beneficially. It is spoken with a mind of good-will.”
“…knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.”
A couple of additional considerations when seeking information:
Can an informational source intoxicate in a way leading to headlessness of the above?
Can suggestions (and/or methods) for response from each source – along with any viable solutions – pass through the gates/guidelines above?
[This article is an edited version originally published elsewhere: August 15th, 2018 11:13pm]