New Tech Promotes an Old Religion



Xuecheng is open to new technologies. 


The Buddhist Association of China holds a fund-raising activity on April 16, 2010, for quake victims in Yushu, Qinghai Province.

BUDDHISM preaches seclusion and abstinence, requiring adherents to distance themselves from worldly occupations and concerns. Perhaps it’s surprising, then, to learn that one of China’s most prominent Buddhist monks has a social network presence to rival even the most committed of Internet users.

Master Xuecheng is vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of China, vice president of the Buddhist Academy of China, abbot at three monasteries, and blogger extraordinaire.

Xuecheng, now 47, started his personal blog way back in 2006. At the time blogging was still in its infancy in China, and few people, let alone authorities on religion, were embracing the new medium.

Since 2006 Master Xuecheng has expanded his online presence to include a personal microblog on Sina Weibo, China’s Twitter equivalent; a temple blog, through which he delivers sermons; a charity foundation blog and personal and temple instant messaging groups.

His electronic influence also extends outside the country thanks to an account on Twitter and foreign-language versions of his personal blog. Translations of his posts are done by over 170 volunteers in a dozen countries worldwide. To date, native speakers of English, French, Russian, Spanish, German, Japanese and Korean are able to access the Master’s wisdom in their own languages.

A Global Following

The Internet has turned our planet into a global village. Master Xuecheng welcomes this change, and says all individuals and organizations should be adept at modern means of communication. Monks can still pursue asceticism, but that doesn’t mean they can’t spiritually engage with society through the World Wide Web.

Xuecheng sees the value of new media in empowering religious workers to better serve the public. Now, religious guidance can find its way to even the most isolated parts of the world. For Master Xuecheng, this means reaching a global Sangha, or community of followers of the Buddha, without ever leaving his monastery.

Within one year of starting his personal blog, Master Xuecheng saw his online Sangha rise to 200,000 people from over 100 countries and regions the world over.

The master believes it is Karma – the Buddhist concept of “actions” creating cause and effect – that led him to start a blog. “A friend actually opened the blog, and then proposed that I take it over as a sermonizing tool. I thought it would be rude to refuse.” Since then, Xuecheng has taken to his electronic manuscript with alacrity.

“For self-meditation and inner cultivation, there is no need for the Internet. But to reach followers, particularly those living outside China and those who cannot attend sermons in monasteries every day, the Internet has been wonderful in spreading faith and ensuring equal access to religious teachings.”

Master Xuecheng admits he didn’t realize the power of the new media when he first took to blogging. But soon enough he was awed by its efficacy in disseminating core Buddhist tenets and wisdom such as compassion, equality and magnanimity to the general public. He found netizens receptive, and says the web allows unprecedented interaction among teachers, coreligionists and lay followers. All this, the Master says, exposes more and more people to the true values of Buddhism.

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