Shin Dharma Net as Virtual Dojo

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This paper, written and edited with the gracious help of Prof. NASU Eisho of the Institute of Buddhist studies, was presented at the XI Biennial Confrence of the International Association of Shin Buddhist Studies, held in Berkeley in 2003. It was subsequently published in the 2003 issue of The Prue Land.

Abstract: The purpose of the present study is to examine use of the internet by American Shin Buddhists in more depth and within the context of one particular site. Rather than exploring the whole gamut of Jodo Shinshu online, which could ultimately prove too complex for such a narrow study, I will focus on the work of notable Shin scholar Dr. Alfred Bloom and his web site, Shin Dharma Net. This site aptly illustrates the most productive use of the internet by Shin Buddhists in the West to date. Rich in content while being accessible to both the specialist and non-specialist, Dr. Bloom’s site creates a virtual dojo for Shinshu practice and study worthy of more in-depth analysis. Through such content analysis, I will focus on three distinctive aspects of his site which have implications for the propagation of Jodo Shinshu teachings and the formation of Shin communities. It is my belief that this site successfully acts as a mirror of off-line Shin Buddhism in that it provides a place for practitioners to further explore both the doctrinal and practical aspects of their faith. And yet, this site falls short in creating genuine community, a fault clearly of the medium rather than the site itself or its producers and members. Nevertheless, Dr. Bloom’s efforts to create a forum for the further propagation and sharing of the dharma is admirable and a model for other Shin communities in the West and beyond.

© 2003 by Scott A. Mitchell