Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

A place to bring a contemplative / Dharmic perspective and opinions to current events and politics.
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Dharmasherab
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Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:12 pm

We live in an age where information is highly abundant. But we need to ask ourselves whether that is always a good thing? It can depend on what type of information we are talking about.

The most common type of information we can come by are news items especially the ones that focus on global politics and current affairs. The political situations around the globe are on-going and highly dynamic and this means the news items focused on those issues will keep changing. There is so much happening around the world in a political sense that it would be impossible to be aware of everything going on even for a single day. But the news channels and news papers will try to cater to quench the thirst of the society on what is the latest even though their value may not last for a long time.

Soon as we switch on the television, radio or pick up a newspaper we are bombarded with information from different directions that it just ends up clogging up the mind. Our brains can only process a limited amount of information at a given time but the amount of exposure to current affairs means that active processing of information is left behind where information just enters our minds and influences our thinking without us even noticing. It just occupies the space in our minds. This has been happening for such a long time where most of us unquestioningly assume that the most relevant information to our lives are what is just happening immediately around us which occupies our minds at near full capacity to the extent where we dont see anything beyond that. Our minds are occupied with the news as the most relevant information and because of this we neglect the ancient wisdom that were written in texts for centuries. I feel we need to let go of this idea which is prevalent in our societies that the most relevant information we have at hand is in the news.

I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine who was into current affairs and politics. I told him to imagine himself reading Dharma content for an hour. Then I told him to imagine himself looking at the news for an hour. Then I told him to contemplate the value of the information obtained from the news over intervals of time - a week, a month, a year, 10 years and so on. He agreed that what we learn from current affairs over a specific time period diminishes in value with time. Most of these things we hear in the news become useless junk information in about a month or two. But that hour spent learning Dhamma, not only it will be of value in a month but it will be valuable for years and years and maybe even future lifetimes - the value of the Dhamma cannot be measured. It is priceless.

What we need to realise is that news items are mostly about change. Its about change from one thing to another. When we agree that change is in the air we dont need to indulge in the specific examples of change. We dont need to be involved with them even at a mental level. Most of these political problems are things which are beyond our control anyway. The most we can do is to caste a vote and after this if we are not happy with something the only options left are to sigh petitions or maybe even go out in the streets and protests but outside of this there is very little we can do. The key is to notice that most of these things going around the world is beyond our control and trying to fill up our minds with all these issues will only close down that peaceful space that would not allow meditation or Dhamma to grow within us.

2500 years ago in Ancient India there was no CNN, Fox News or BBC. There was no Times magazine or The Independent. Yet the society back then was far more spiritually developed than we have ever seen. Because there were no junk information those days the mind of the average Indian back then was a lot more peaceful which allowed meditation to develop in their minds. They could easily let go of Samsara as they had less baggage of junk information. Even the information that was memorized and handed over were only essential information, Memorizing itself is a task therefore people were careful and selective about which information to keep and what sort of non-useful information to let go.

I say we can be more selective about what type of information which enters our minds. We dont have to develop the habit of considering current affairs as what is most relevant. We can still learn from the wisdom of ancient texts which can be far more useful that any current affair item. We can make our minds peaceful once we let go of this outside world so we are more prepared to look within for Enlightenment and realizations leading to this are things which arise from within.

https://m.soundcloud.com/lama-jampa-tha ... snt-matter

This is a talk by Lama Jampa Thaye on why politics doesn't matter with respect to the Buddhist path. Despite Lama Jampa being a Tibetan Buddhist the actual content within the talk can be appreciated regardless of which tradition/school/sect of Buddhism one follows.

Garrib
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Garrib » Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:22 pm

Hi Dharmasherab,

I think I agree with essentially everything you have written here.

I have noticed that my being bombarded by current events, political back and forth, and so on (most of which is extremely negative), not only seems to hinder meditation (and spiritual progress, generally) but also the ability to engage in relatively more productive forms of mundane activity (such as learning that is concerned mainly with earning a living).

Thanks for sharing your reflections with us!

Metta

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DooDoot
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by DooDoot » Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:35 pm

Dharmasherab wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 4:12 pm
We live in an age where information is highly abundant. But we need to ask ourselves whether that is always a good thing? It can depend on what type of information we are talking about.
I think the Buddhist path is very simple & the wise easily discern the relevance of information. Take 9/11, for example. Given there were so many lies told about 9/11 (such as WMDs, Iraqi anthrax, found passorts, GWB seeing the 1st plane hit on TV, non-existence Afghan high tech bunkers, Flight 93 actually shot down, attacking Iraq for a Saudi Wahhabi crime, insurance policy for two attacks, etc), it is quite easy for a morally wise & coherent person to suspect who the suspects are. The Buddha said: "he who can tell a deliberate lie, there is no evil he cannot do, I tell you (MN 61)".
The most common type of information we can come by are news items especially the ones that focus on global politics and current affairs. The political situations around the globe are on-going and highly dynamic and this means the news items focused on those issues will keep changing. There is so much happening around the world in a political sense that it would be impossible to be aware of everything going on even for a single day. But the news channels and news papers will try to cater to quench the thirst of the society on what is the latest even though their value may not last for a long time.
The most basic Buddhist view is that of the wholesome & the unwholesome (MN 9). Simply, there are certain groups that continually engage in unwholesome activities, such as the US govt (Operation Ajax, Vietnam War, assassination of JFK, Taliban, Al Qaeda, Iran Contra, Iraq War, Libya War, ISIS, Syrian War, etc) or engage in false flag operations, such as the Israeli govt (Lavon Affair, USS Liberty, etc). Non-harming is the 2nd Parami of the Bodhisattva Path. The Bodhisattva (Being Intent on Awakening) should reject all harming political groups and have empathy towards the Non-Harming Parties, like Libya, Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Rohingya, etc, who are protecting their societies from UK-Saudi-US-Zionist Imperialism.
Soon as we switch on the television, radio or pick up a newspaper we are bombarded with information from different directions that it just ends up clogging up the mind. Our brains can only process a limited amount of information at a given time but the amount of exposure to current affairs means that active processing of information is left behind where information just enters our minds and influences our thinking without us even noticing.
Morality is something very black & white. If we watch TV, whatever we watch should be child's play if we are developed in Buddhist morality. For example, I don't watch TV but I am now visiting my sister & there are lots of cooking competition shows on TV. For me, these shows are unwholesome because they are an obsession with sensual pleasures & luxury. Its not too difficult. The food may look delicious & the activity may be fun but it it luxurious & unnecessary because there are many hungry people in the world. It is better to give to charity than waste money on luxury food. The 1st parami of the Bodhisattva Path is giving, which means giving up luxury, including coffee, and giving to poor people.
It just occupies the space in our minds. This has been happening for such a long time where most of us unquestioningly assume that the most relevant information to our lives are what is just happening immediately around us which occupies our minds at near full capacity to the extent where we dont see anything beyond that. Our minds are occupied with the news as the most relevant information and because of this we neglect the ancient wisdom that were written in texts for centuries. I feel we need to let go of this idea which is prevalent in our societies that the most relevant information we have at hand is in the news
.
No. Buddhism does not teach to let go of morality.
I remember having a discussion with a friend of mine who was into current affairs and politics. I told him to imagine himself reading Dharma content for an hour. Then I told him to imagine himself looking at the news for an hour. Then I told him to contemplate the value of the information obtained from the news over intervals of time - a week, a month, a year, 10 years and so on. He agreed that what we learn from current affairs over a specific time period diminishes in value with time. Most of these things we hear in the news become useless junk information in about a month or two. But that hour spent learning Dhamma, not only it will be of value in a month but it will be valuable for years and years and maybe even future lifetimes - the value of the Dhamma cannot be measured. It is priceless.
Your posts on this forum have mostly been political. What is happening in the world is something to be viewed with Dhamma. It is morally black & white.
What we need to realise is that news items are mostly about change.
No. In Buddhism there are three trainings, namely, morality, concentration & insight. News items are about both morality & insight. While they certainly represent change (anicca), they also represent morality.
2500 years ago in Ancient India there was no CNN, Fox News or BBC. There was no Times magazine or The Independent. Yet the society back then was far more spiritually developed than we have ever seen.
There is no evidence for the above statement. Those who have studied the time of the Buddha have remarked there were many brutal wars. Personally, the idea of 1000s of arahants in the suttas sounds like propaganda to me because it seems history shows Buddhism quickly fell into disarray. The time of the Buddha was probably as brutal as any other time, which is why only a few centuries later King Ashoka brutally & violently conquered most of India.

In reality, at least for nations politically aligned with the USA (who don't incur the brutal military imperialist wrath of the USA), we have probably lived in one of the most peaceful times in human history (although that appears to be diminishing with what appears to be a growing totalitarianism within Western govts).
Because there were no junk information those days the mind of the average Indian back then was a lot more peaceful which allowed meditation to develop in their minds. They could easily let go of Samsara as they had less baggage of junk information. Even the information that was memorized and handed over were only essential information, Memorizing itself is a task therefore people were careful and selective about which information to keep and what sort of non-useful information to let go.

I think this idea is wrong. Samsara allows the mind to develop dispassion. For example, yesterday morning I was at a city beach (I am visiting my sister) with my high advanced Christian friend, surrounded by more & more girls & ladies, of all shapes & sizes, wearing G-Strings. This g-string fad is 'change'. We sit there talking about dhamma & life for a long time, including commenting on what we see. I was telling him about Hindu 'nama-rupa' and Buddhist 'jati', and using the sense objects around us to explain these things. The more samsara the more dhamma. Samsara & Nirvana are the same thing. What this means is by observing external samsara, internal Nirvana can be realised, via dispassion & disenchantment towards Samsara. Nirvana is found in Samsara. The Pali suttas teach: "See evil as evil; then become dispassionate towards evil".
I say we can be more selective about what type of information which enters our minds.
This idea is so 'newbie', I must smile & chuckle. :jumping: The mind of Dhamma filters whatever information it experiences, as unwholesome, wholesome, empty, etc. The term & practice of 'sense control' in the Pali suttas does not refer to avoiding information but viewing information with truth discerning wisdom.
Lama. Lama. Lama.
This is a talk by Lama Jampa Thaye on why politics doesn't matter with respect to the Buddhist path. Despite Lama Jampa being a Tibetan Buddhist the actual content within the talk can be appreciated regardless of which tradition/school/sect of Buddhism one follows.
Politics is a reflection of morality. Buddhists living in the world must at least vote for political parties. Politics often affects a person's livelihood (employment). Political policies affect people and thus bodhicitta (the wish for others to be happy & free from suffering). Having a clear vision of politics & wholesome political policies is another aspect of Dhamma, which is why the Pali suttas do teach about politics (such as the duties of a monarch or democratic duties of community members).

Tibetan society was said to be a totalitarian feudalism or serfdom. Tibetans come to the west & exploit westerners, like a Lama I knew, who not only sexually exploited his female studies but obtained money from them to buying investment properties. The Dalai Lama is arguably so politically naive that his political efforts & association with unworthy (evil) politicians probably has harmed Tibet more than helped. I think Tibetans are probably the last people we need to consult about politics. Instead, the Lord Buddha in the Pali suttas provides us guidance on basically everything we need to know.

I think a more suitable title of this thread would be: "I am Living with Information Overload. Please help me discern right from wrong". ;) :roll:

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Aloka
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Aloka » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:30 pm

Dharmasherab wrote: Soon as we switch on the television, radio or pick up a newspaper we are bombarded with information from different directions that it just ends up clogging up the mind. Our brains can only process a limited amount of information at a given time but the amount of exposure to current affairs means that active processing of information is left behind where information just enters our minds and influences our thinking without us even noticing.
Hello DS,

I think it might be a good idea to use "I" and "my" rather than "we" "our"or "us". Everyone has the choice of being selective about what they watch, listen to, or read, and there are plenty of intelligent, discerning people who don't obsess over the TV & newspapers all the time.
Yet the society back then was far more spiritually developed than we have ever seen. Because there were no junk information those days the mind of the average Indian back then was a lot more peaceful which allowed meditation to develop in their minds. They could easily let go of Samsara as they had less baggage of junk information.
This is just speculation, how can you possibly know what was in the minds of the "average" person in ancient India 2,500 years ago?
a talk by Lama Jampa Thaye on why politics doesn't matter with respect to the Buddhist path.
Hmm, well they certainly seem to matter a lot with internal lineage matters in Tibetan Buddhism.

...and just as a little off-topic aside, you might find this article by Justin Whitaker of interest.
Kind regards,

Aloka :anjali:
Last edited by Aloka on Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:42 pm

Garrib wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 6:22 pm
I have noticed that my being bombarded by current events, political back and forth, and so on (most of which is extremely negative), not only seems to hinder meditation (and spiritual progress, generally) but also the ability to engage in relatively more productive forms of mundane activity (such as learning that is concerned mainly with earning a living).
Let me give a simile. Food is there to give the body nutrition. The body requires carbohydrate, lipids/oils, protein, vitamins and minerals. Our guts have developed in such a way that we were meant to obtain this nutrition in a natural manner as possible. Yet in an age like this the most common type of food is junk food. The intended purpose of junk food is far more focused on taste and satiety rather than nutrition. One may eat at McDonald's or KFC once a fortnight or once a month and the rest of the other days he or she may eat non-junk food. But when one eats junk food more often then its harmful effects start to become apparent such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension and ischemic heart disease. The harmful effects on the body become more and more obvious the more one eats junk food.

News/current affairs as for information is like junk food as for food. It is the most common form of info yet it is probably also the most useless type of information to make a generalisation. One may check the news now and then but not indulge in it. But the desire to indulge and engage in it becomes more and more apparent the more one takes interest in the news. Notice that news just like junk food is something very unrefined and tends to have bias. Watching news can be seen as drinking milk - full of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics - all sorts of compounds which are harmful where their degree of harm become more and more apparent the more you consume it. But due its insidious nature people dont see these effects on the mind soon enough. Now the media/current affairs/global politics have become the opium of the masses to an extent that most people use their political preference as their number one lens to look at all things (including Buddhism).

We all as humans are born with our own logic circuits in our mind. There is a way of joining the dots together between two points once you see things clear. What news/current affairs does it to make the mind murky and corrupt whatever the logical pathway that we process and analyze the information. It corrupts one's ability to judge and reason fairly. This is why the mass media is a very useful control device. All of this is in the way of Samsara and causes us to bind further to Samsara where the mind becomes indolent to let go and detach from Samsara - works in the opposite direction to Buddhism.

To give you an idea sometimes when I listen to Buddhist podcasts I am in there in the moment focused on the talk. At times I feel an 'empty space' in the mind. It feels nice but only lasts for a short while. I became convinced that when we sit for meditation we are actually trying to create the environment for the mind for this 'empty space' to develop and hence I started to meditate even more and more (of course there is no Buddhism without meditation). Its just that I became convinced that this 'empty space' could be the psychological soil on top which all these so called realizations that people talk about could potentially grow. It seems very rudimentary when you come across it for the first time but you know that that is a doorway which leads to what the Buddhist intends to direct you towards. I felt these moments much more 'meaningful' despite their emptiness than any mental engagement with any of the senses. Soon as one develops a mind which indulges and pursues for news and current affairs then this empty space just narrows down and vanishes.

A friend of mine who is a Buddhist who used to be into current affairs had a conversation with me once where we talked about this. I told him to imagine himself reading a Buddhist textbook for an hour. Then I told him to imagine reading a newspaper for an hour. Then I told him to see how useful the information he obtained in that hour of reading a newspaper will be in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year, in ten years. He said that its usefulness diminishes with time. Then I asked him to do the same for Buddhism – not only in 10 years it will be just as useful as the first time one reads it but provided one can remember the content in it that content will be useful for life (and probably many lifetimes beyond that). Its just a yardstick to see how much valuable is the Dhamma compared to news which is just impermanent Samsaric trash.
"As time went by, I started to have powerful experiences where names, thoughts, and even time itself, seemed to be utterly empty. It was a world - the real world - from which one might return as an exile to the shadowy world of everyday life, but which would always be there"

- Lama Jampa Thaye, Wisdom in Exile

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Dharmasherab
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Dharmasherab » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:08 pm

Aloka wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:30 pm
Everyone has the choice of being selective about what they watch, listen to, or read, and there are plenty of intelligent, discerning people who don't obsess over the TV & newspapers all the time.
Sure. This is correct and I should have taken more time to explain that. Yes people have choice as to what they want to expose themselves to - no doubt. Its just that news has becomes the most common information and the access to that is so easy. Even people who do not actively watch the news have some idea what is going around them as news through the 'mass media osmosis'/'cultural osmosis'. But even outside of news what is there in television - things like reality tv shows, soaps and others things which occupy the useful space of the mind. It is almost as if the collective variety of TV channels is like a samskara-generating machine provided we are not careful. Of course there are people who do not put value on TV and newspapers all the time. But news is popular enough to make it the most common form of information where it is portrayed to be the most relevant form of information among the masses.
Aloka wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:30 pm
How can you possibly know what was in the minds of the "average" person in ancient India 2,500 years ago?
Of course no one can know no different from the way that people of today cant go into Buddha's mind as see what he felt like when he became Enlightened. This is based on the condition on how much trust you place on the Buddhist texts as well as the rest of the Triple Gem. Provided that we have taken Refuge then we can appreciate that the society back then was far more suitable environment for people to meditate and easily reach deep states of meditation. Even the teachers of Siddhartha the Ascetic such as Alara Kalama and Uddakarama Putta were known to have taught important Samatha meditation skills even to the point of reaching Realisations as explained in the texts.

We can speculate that people back then in Ancient India had less obstacles to deal with in the spiritual path compared to that of today. And it is highly likely that part of this reason that there was no mass media back then to clutter people's minds with news items, global politics and current affairs. So in the absence of these obstacles which are highly prevalent now, their minds were less likely to be grounded in Samsara and more prepared to let go.
Aloka wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:30 pm
a talk by Lama Jampa Thaye on why politics doesn't matter with respect to the Buddhist path.
Hmm, well they certainly seem to matter a lot with internal lineage matters in Tibetan Buddhism....and just as a little off-topic aside, you might find this article by Justin Whitaker of interest.
Sometimes it is best to focus on the message rather than the messenger. Just imagine that the talk which was given was made by 'Mr X' or 'Mr Y' (where that person's history, or what they are involved with is unknown to you where you can only hear the message contents). I prefer not to discuss Tibetan Buddhism in DhammaWheel as the ToS discourages it where the admins have made a separate forum for discussions on Mahayana/Vajrayana. But in case if you are interested on how I would like explain things further on this then please feel free to send me a personal message. I will also have a read through that article you sent me and thank you for that.

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Aloka
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Aloka » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:09 pm

... Its just a yardstick to see how much valuable is the Dhamma compared to news which is just impermanent Samsaric trash.
I wonder if anything really catastrophic happened to your family and the community where you live, you'd still just consider it "impermanent samsaric trash" ?
I prefer not to discuss Tibetan Buddhism in DhammaWheel
Why keep quoting lamas then ?

.
Last edited by Aloka on Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Garrib
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Garrib » Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:45 pm

My experience is that news media does not help with meditation. Obviously, this is due to the fact that I still have defilements in the mind, and can be irritated/disturbed easily. This is a fact, but not an unimportant one. Each of us has to create the conditions in our lives which are most conducive to progress on the path. For some, that might involve limiting consumption of politics/current events. Perhaps we are just "newbs" (ouch!), but who cares??

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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by SarathW » Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:00 pm

I like the new age information overload.
Now I can chose what I want to see or hear.
In the past I have to rely on the idiot box or the lying news papers with their own agenda.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Sam Vara
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:02 pm

Garrib wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 10:45 pm
My experience is that news media does not help with meditation. Obviously, this is due to the fact that I still have defilements in the mind, and can be irritated/disturbed easily. This is a fact, but not an unimportant one. Each of us has to create the conditions in our lives which are most conducive to progress on the path. For some, that might involve limiting consumption of politics/current events. Perhaps we are just "newbs" (ouch!), but who cares??
Yes, I completely agree. Some might be able to immerse themselves in news media and remain equanimous, but the rest of us need to work out for ourselves what contact stirs us up.
The well-instructed disciple of the noble ones — who has regard for noble ones, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma; who has regard for men of integrity, is well-versed & disciplined in their Dhamma — discerns what ideas are fit for attention and what ideas are unfit for attention. This being so, he does not attend to ideas unfit for attention and attends [instead] to ideas fit for attention.

"And what are the ideas unfit for attention that he does not attend to? Whatever ideas such that, when he attends to them, the unarisen fermentation of sensuality arises in him, and the arisen fermentation of sensuality increases; the unarisen fermentation of becoming arises in him, and arisen fermentation of becoming increases; the unarisen fermentation of ignorance arises in him, and the arisen fermentation of ignorance increases. These are the ideas unfit for attention that he does not attend to.
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html

dharmacorps
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by dharmacorps » Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:12 am

I recently heard someone say "there is much more noise in the modern world, but little information". I like that, because it feels right. That to me includes "noise" of the mental variety.

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DooDoot
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by DooDoot » Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:29 am

Aloka wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 9:30 pm
I think it might be a good idea to use "I" and "my" rather than "we" "our"or "us".
Sometimes Mahayana people have difficulty transitioning from external 'repeating', 'preaching' & 'evangelizing' to internal Theravada self-reflecting (pariyatti), practising (patipatti) & realising (pativedha). The question arises whether this thread was started as a discussion, or as questioning, or as a proselytizing sermon. How do I save all sentient beings from drowning when I haven't myself learned to swim? :shrug:

Garrib
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Garrib » Sun Nov 26, 2017 3:57 am

DooDoot wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 12:29 am
The question arises whether this thread was started as a discussion, or as questioning, or as a proselytizing sermon. How do I save all sentient beings from drowning when I haven't myself learned to swim? :shrug:
That question never occurred to me. I find it the topic relevant and worthy of discussion.

Metta.

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mikenz66
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by mikenz66 » Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:40 am

Hi Dharmasherab,

Perhaps you should refer to the latest Sutta of the Pali Canon...

The Facebook Sutta (SN 57.1)

:heart:
Mike

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Living as Buddhists in an age of 'Information Overload'

Post by Crazy cloud » Sun Nov 26, 2017 6:56 am

:goodpost:

Priceless, thanks a lot!

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