Tag Archives: Right View of the Eightfold Path

Staying Focused In The Modern Age: Culture & Modern Communications

By: David Xi-Ken Astor, Sensei

Consider this from the DaoDeJing Chapter 14:
Hold tightly onto way-making in the present
To manage what is happening right now
And to understand where it began in the distant past.
This is what is called the drawstring of way-making.

You have heard me mention, perhaps often, the Hua-yen Buddhist school’s discourse of ‘The Jewel Net of Indra’, or Indra’s net in short. It is a wonderful way of depicting the Buddhist principle of the universal reality know as inter-connectedness, and inter-dependence. It also points to the more complex principles of inter-causality and inter-penetration of dharma. A significant characteristic of our human specie is our unique ability to communicate in complex ways beyond just the verbal form. Our ability to express ourselves to convey needs, desires, ideas, and emotions has become the driving force for making and managing this net of connections that binds our civilized world together in evermore complex relationships. In this 21st Century’s technological advancements, our ability to make and keep connected has emerged as one of the most important drivers for worldwide cultural change. Communication technology, and especially social-networking, has become the most important element in this computer age that is now being recognized as a new anthological stage for human development. In some scientific circles, this stage is considered necessary in preparation for the next human adventure of space exploration. We can only imagine how Siddhartha would react to these contemporary possibilities.

This is not the first time that human ingenuity has addressed the need to advance the tools for communication. And in doing so, has driven worldwide cultural change. In the beginning of the 1500’s a young Venetian printer (Aldus Manutius) published a translation of Virgil’s works. There was nothing particularly unusual about this as several publishers offered versions of classic texts to an intellectually hungry audience. What was new about this particular volume of work was its physical dimensions, the so called octavo size, which was designed to be small enough to fit in a person’s saddlebags, so as to make important parts of his library transportable. This was a small revolution, literally and figuratively, small in the sense that the nature of the book had shrunk in size and costs, and small in that it was less significant than Gutenberg’s original innovation. Yet the octavo size mattered, because it helped spread the written word and the ideas behind them. By making books cheaper and more portable, the printer made them more desirable, which in turn meant more copies were produced and more experiments in printing where undertaken. In addition, this created a market for new work, especially fiction and travel logs. Also, because a book now was less expensive, and therefore less precious, they were traded among the reading class that enhanced social connections. A very important aspect to this particular printer, was that he was young, and had the notion that the future belongs to those who take the present for granted. I like this story because as someone born before 1980 I remember a time before any tools that supported group communication was available. For me, no matter how deeply I immerse myself in new kinds of technology, it will always have a certain fantastic quality. I “love” my Kindle Fire and iPhone by the way. Our considerable real-world experience usually confers an advantage relative to young people who are comparative novices in the way the world works. Novices make mistakes from a lack of experience. Continue reading


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