Socrates did not only teach in the high temples and academies of ancient Athens. He also debated in the noisy, chaotic marketplaces and open spaces of the teeming city: in the agora, the public spaces and marketplaces filled with deal-making and shouts, with hard bargaining and the sour stench of animal piss, where fights could break out at a moment’s notice, where a group who disagreed with your point of view could mete out retributive justice for your philosophical challenge to them to “look deeper.”
In the same way, we cannot only teach Zen in the clean temples and Zen centers of the world. Social media is the new agora — the (often unclean) space where the mucky commerce and intercourse of human life are increasingly played out. Social media is the new social center — you will find debates taking place there far far more often than you will in the churches and in the academies (the latter especially less so, being policed by “woke” cancel-culture and political correctness).
As such, I am taking my students’ lead in offering perspectives on Zen and Buddhist teaching in the agora of social media. As inadequate as it might be, it is at least a shot at making some more constructive contribution.
Here is a reply to someone who recently asked about “karma,” on Instagram. The format of Instagram is given to super-short replies, which remain only for 24 hours; hence, the abbreviated nature of this. But maybe that is a blessing in disguise…
“What is karma?” Short and (hopefully) sweet. Complicated is not necessary.