I read an article concerning the long term effects of the Covid pandemic on society. One side effect of social isolation seems to be a significant uptick in cases of unruly behavior on airplanes, in schools, and pretty much everywhere else. The author of the article pointed to studies pertaining to moral behavior in social settings. He notes that humans tend to act more kindly when continuously engaging others in real time and in person. We are moral beings in as much as we are social beings. When our socialization is stunted, like in the last two years, our morality suffers.
The loss of socialization also affects Dharma practitioners. Although the online venue has some value in planting the seed of Dharma, there are limitations to experiencing Buddha’s wisdom without personal interactions with the teacher and between sangha members. We are a lineage of vibrational presence. Direct transmission of the teachings from teacher to student and within the sangha community necessitates interpersonal experience.
Without all our animal senses engaged along with the subtle energetic aspects of being, we tend to only use the conceptual mind in our learning. But Buddha’s words are beyond conceptualization. They are more of a presence than a teaching—something that one does not experience online. If we are dedicated to practice at home, we can begin to reclaim the ‘vibe’ of our Buddha mind, but it is tested through relationships we form in the sangha and the wider human community.
So, as the pandemic runs its course, I encourage sincere Dharma practitioners to seek out a local sangha. Online support of our practice is fine. We can use the digital platform to convey information and perhaps provide inspiration. Nevertheless, If we do not taste, touch, smell, listen, and see in an unprocessed environment, we risk sanitizing the Dharma through decreased social interaction.
Sanitized Dharma is like losing the health-giving aspect of our gut micro-biome as a result of eating processed and low nutrition food. It can be very tasty but lacks the necessary ingredients to support clear awareness.