Zen and the art of Facebooking

Facebook becomes a fad among young Buddhist monks in the Himalayan town of Upper Dharamsala.

Paul Sakuma/AP
A sign is shown at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., in this December file photo.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

Walk down the tiny, colorful streets of Mcleod Ganj, also known as Upper Dharamsala – home to Tibet’s spiritual leader, the exiled 14th Dalai Lama, and thousands of his Buddhist followers – and one glimpse reveals what 21st-century Buddhism is all about.

Internet cafes sprinkled around the Indian Himalayan town are filled with new Web users sitting hours every day trolling Facebook and other social networks while dressed in red robes. With Buddhism’s embrace of the Internet, lamas and monks are increasingly “adding” friends and family to their Facebook account, posting images, sharing videos, and “liking” Web pages.

In this town where monks perform daily religious duties, joining Facebook has become a phenomenon among young Buddhist monks. Hundreds are discovering new ways to communicate with the world while others use the network to join monastic Facebook groups.

Among those is Geshe Lobsang Wodsal Norbu, a Tibetan lama and an active Facebook user who believes “being on Facebook is not only about public self-expression or tagging friends but, from a modern Buddhist way of life, it is also how my spirituality intersects with science.”

“You add me and I will poke you,” smiles Lama Norbu, while checking Facebook at an Internet cafe.

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