In class, we addressed a number of questions regarding offline and online rituals in the Buddhist and Hindu communities. A couple of questions that I will be addressing include “what are the limits to online rituals?” and “can they have supernatural efficacy?”
In Connelly’s case study, she focuses on Buddhist ritual in Second Life, an online virtual world with avatars engaged in cyberspace activities. Second Life has an actual Buddhist Center for members to attend and participate in rituals. Human senses are vital when partaking in Buddhist ritual ceremonies in the physical environment. Because the online world can’t offer the sense of smell, taste, or touch, it is a challenge because the sensory experience is limited. In order to compensate for the loss, the Buddhist Center in Second Life provides a visual effect of incense and other physical artifacts like a Buddha statue and a scroll. It also provides auditory effects of a waterfall, a singing bowl, and wind chimes, all of which contribute to ambience.
In Scheifinger’s case study of Hindu worship, puja is a ritual practice that involves making offerings to a deity. Puja can be practiced both offline and online. In the online world, there are multiple websites available to perform puja. Although stimulation of the senses is limited online, it is more important to understand and partake in the core practice of darshan, or gazing into the eyes of the deity and vice-versa. If this is achieved, then the supernatural efficacy of during a puja ritual is possible.
Another online ritual that I’ve found via Radde-Antweiler’s article “Ritual is Becoming Digitalised” is the “prayer Gohonzon” affiliated with the American Independent Movement of the Nichiren Buddhist sect. This movement is unaffiliated to the Soka Gakkai Internaion (SGI). This prayer has been deemed extremely sacred. It is usually hung above a home altar, only to be displayed for private devotional chanting. However, the “prayer Gohonzon” is accessible at Nichiren’s Coffee House website (http://nichirenscoffeehouse.net/GohonzonShu/037.html). This is a separate identity from the SGI community; thus, it has stirred different opinions regarding whether this online prayer is sacred and acceptable within the Nichiren Buddhist sect.
Additional outside resources:
Radde-Antweiler, K. (2006). Ritual is becoming digitalised: Introduction to the special issue on rituals on the internet. Journal of Religions on the Internet, 2(1), 1-5. Retrieved October 14, 2011, from http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/volltextserver/volltexte/2