April 17, 2024

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Dharma Drum Mountain's Global Meditation Center New York offers an intriguing proposition: the opportunity to practice Chan meditation online, bridging geographical gaps and physical limitations. But can Chan truly be lived and experienced authentically in a digital realm? 


At its core, Chan meditation is about cultivating deep awareness, insight, and inner peace. Traditionally, it has been practiced in serene monastic settings, with teachers guiding students through silent retreats and intensive meditation sessions. The physical environment, the presence of fellow practitioners, and the guidance of experienced masters all contribute to the immersive experience of Chan practice.

However, the digital age has ushered in new possibilities. Online platforms now connect people from diverse backgrounds and locations, offering access to teachings and communities that were once out of reach. The Global Meditation Center's online sessions provide structured guidance, including moving and seated meditation, Dharma talks, and group discussions. Through these sessions, participants can still engage with the essence of Chan practice, even if they are unable to attend a physical center.


Yet, the question remains: Can the depth of Chan practice be fully realized through online means? While the convenience and accessibility of online sessions are undeniable, some may argue that the virtual space lacks the depth and immediacy of in-person interactions. The physical presence of a teacher, the energy of a group meditation hall, and the subtleties of face-to-face communication may all contribute to a more profound experience of Chan meditation.


On the other hand, proponents of online practice argue that the essence of Chan lies in the practitioner's internal journey, rather than external circumstances. They believe that sincere practice and dedication can transcend physical limitations, allowing individuals to cultivate mindfulness and wisdom regardless of their surroundings.


Ultimately, the question of whether Chan can be effectively practiced online is a personal one, shaped by individual preferences, circumstances, and experiences. While online sessions offer accessibility and convenience, they may not fully replicate the immersive environment of a traditional Chan center. However, for those who are unable to attend physical centers due to health issues or other constraints, online practice can still provide a valuable opportunity to engage with Chan teachings and community, fostering growth and self-discovery along the path of meditation.

In addition, it's important to acknowledge the power and significance of the online sangha that has emerged through the Global Meditation Center New York. This virtual community of practitioners has proven to be incredibly supportive, nurturing, and uplifting for many individuals, providing a sense of belonging and connection that transcends physical distance. The bonds formed within this online sangha are a testament to the transformative potential of digital platforms in fostering genuine spiritual companionship and mutual encouragement on the path of Chan meditation.


Furthermore, I must share my personal experience of joining this online sangha. From the very first session, I didn't feel like a stranger; instead, I was warmly welcomed as a new member of the community. The atmosphere was remarkably familiar and pleasant, making me feel right at home. This sense of warmth and acceptance further illustrates the inclusive and supportive nature of the online Chan community.

April 2024

Sonja Roth


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