May 29, 2010

Why Zen monks don't use Twitter

There are no Zen monks on Twitter - have you noticed that? You would have thought it was the ideal place for them - literally minimalistic, encouraging of pithiness, and an inbuilt set of organic metaphors about birds and cetaceans. Despite that, there aren't any twittering Zen-izens.

It isn't difficult to see why. In the wired world, a zen monk can orally issue a koan or two without worrying about how many times he gets re-koaned. His followers have come from far and wide, casting away their social nets to listen to a wise man who often doesn't make any sense. His followers repeat what he says without prefacing it with snide comments. The Zen Master never has to block anyone even when they are caught asking each other 'youprefer padme hum or padme lakshme?'.

On Twitter, alas, many a distraction exists. Thanks to incessant tweets, it is difficult to devote yourself fully to the construction of mindful, yet funny, sutras in response to a hashtag (despite its fundamentally ephemeral nature). During meditation time, an itinerant bee in the form of that perfect rejoinder to @buddydharma's latest pun buzzes in the otherwise silent garden of the mind.

Some practitioners have argued that since Twitter's stream of thought is paradoxical to the 'live in the moment' philosophy, it is in fact the perfect spiritual vehicle for the practice of localised mindfulness. Attention hops-skips-jumps the waves of onrushing tweets, without leaving any kind of neurological imprint. If there is no trace of tweetrivia, argued the pro-twitter camp, could we even say there was any tweetrivia to begin with? Unfortunately, this was whispered deep within the Lotus Forest, where no one heard it, thus rendering the point unsaid.

The Zendarmerie of the Shaolin Temples must have forbidden monks from onefortying, fearing failure on an epic scale. They have observed the corruption among secular members of society, who prefer to talk of facing their palms and not their books. They silently wonder why people talk so much, where they invent the time to be addicted thus, and why it takes 140 when it could take just 40.

On these, the masters contemplate, which often keeps them from paying their broadband bills on time.


Anonymous said...

Your claim that Zen monks do not use Twitter, or any status updating vehicle, is not factually true. The abbot of our own Zen center uses Twitter, though to what degree I am not aware.

Unknown said...

Hi anon-monk,
that's nice to hear. However, the article was in jest (and to be ingested as such :-) ) and not to be taken as reflective of either reality or sanity.

May the status be with you!