There’s nothing lonelier than a Buddhist in Alabama” is the kind of comment I hear from many Buddhists who live in outlying regions of North America where their sangha is small or nonexistent and information about Buddhist practice and philosophy is scarce. By tapping into computer networks, however, geographic isolation can be overcome. This rapidly expanding “cybersangha” provides support and community for Buddhists around the world. From your home, you can now send a message to anyone (who has a computer, a modem, and a telephone line) within seconds, and usually at the cost of a local phone call.

Computer users can communicate with others privately, via e-mail (electronic mail that is sent to personal computer “mailboxes”), or openly, by means of public forums covering a variety of topics. E-mail takes two basic forms. Local e-mail on a particular BBS (bulletin board system) or online service travels only to other users on that system. By contrast, there is e-mail on the Internet, which is a collection of myriad computers and networks of computers run by different organizations and individuals. Internet email travels outside the host system to computers and networks around the world.

In addition to the ability to engage in conversations or exchange letters, Buddhist literature and art are also available electronically. Texts such as the Sixth Patriarch Sutra, dharma discourses by the Dalai Lama, photographs of well-known teachers, and resource guides that list Buddhist practice centers throughout the world can be “downloaded,” or copied from an online resource and stored in your computer’s memory.

Electronic Buddhist resources can be separated into two main categories: those that are connected to the Internet and those that aren’t.

Resources on the Net

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