Information is Transforming Religious Institutions: The growth of information and communication technologies will disrupt the historic social structure of religions as self-contained communities.

A brilliant quote from Shaun Bartone, engaged buddhist activist, taking the evolution of Buddhism as an example:

“All the forms of Buddhism that have ever been put into written form (or electronic media) are now simultaneously available to everyone in the world who can read and has a connection to the internet. There are no more boundaries between forms of Buddhism, which were formerly divided and contained by historic period, sect, culture, language, etc. You are free to learn any kind of Buddhist dharma or practice you can lay eyes on. The historical sangha, which was an enclosed society based on “secret” teachings and practices, is gone. There are no secrets anymore. Anyone can learn any kind of Buddhism, anywhere, any time. The Buddhisms we practice now are forms of a global Buddhism that is growing, spreading and intensifying: it is not scarce, it is ubiquitous.”

Shaun then continues his reflections and believes that Buddhism, not as a religion but as a ethical system, is well poised for a role of ‘no religion’:

“As Karatani said, Form D: the Supra-Reciprocal exchange, is based on a moral economy of the communal sharing exchange. Communal sharing economies were instituted at the founding of universal religions. Karatani noted that Buddhism is one of the universal religions that at its founding instituted a communal sharing economy.

Karatani said that Form D: what I call Supra-Reciprocity, will be based on the social structure of universal religions, like Buddhism. Why? Because Buddhism, as a religion of ethics, creates trust, and trust enables sharing. I will share my information, my goods, my home with you because I trust you, because you demonstrate moral integrity.

* Buddhism as a Meta-religion.

Buddhism excels as a medium of sharing exchange because Buddhism is empty. Buddhism is not a typical religion that is tied to particular forms: rituals, gods and beliefs. Buddhism is a meta-religion, a metaphysics that tells you how to understand all religious phenomena, belief systems and ethical systems. As such, Buddhism is a very powerful medium for the information processing and trust-building that takes place within a sharing exchange.

Buddhism is not concerned with believing in a certain God or gods, with life after death or other supernatural esoterica. Rather, it is concerned with pragmatic ethics, with karma, cause and effect, and pratityasamutpada, interdependence. It is a religion of morality, ethics and integrity. As such it is an excellent vehicle for creating a world-wide system of trust that facilitates the sharing exchange. It tells you how to conduct a sharing exchange in a way that builds trust and reciprocity, and how to evaluate the trustworthiness of a sharing exchange.

The demonstration, through the practice of Buddhism, that one is able to overcome greed, hatred and delusion, envy, fear, craving, addiction and selfishness, and a host of other psychological and moral weaknesses, is an excellent medium for generating trust that facilitates sharing and reciprocity. A religion that places the highest value on altruism, compassion, generosity and intention to benefit all others is one that generates trust and facilitates the sharing exchange.

The form of Buddhism that will create this kind of world-wide medium of exchange will not be Buddhist religions per se, but Buddhist ethics and principles that are shared by anyone, regardless of their culture or sect.

Principles such as interdependence, universal compassion, karma, generosity, altruism, non-violence, and the practice of the Five Precepts (not killing, not stealing, not lying, not engaging in sexual misconduct [i.e. not taking advantage of someone’s trust], no intoxication) will serve as an excellent moral medium of exchange.

Mindfulness is currently seen as the form of Buddhism that will integrate with secular culture and make us all ‘cultural buddhists.’ But I see Buddhist metaphysics, ethics and interdependence as the forms of Buddhism that will help create the global sharing exchange.

It is the growth of networked information that will disrupt the current system of Capital-State-Nation and generate in its place the new social structures of the sharing exchange, the Supra-Reciprocity economy. And trust will become the moral medium of exchange of the sharing exchange.”

Photo by murdelta

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