Modern Zen Tools

“We become our thoughts.”
Siddhārtha Gautama Buddha

I like to think of my brand of Zen philosophy as nothing more than a slightly modern take on very old ideas passed down through hundreds of generations of spiritual people. No doubt the teachings of today’s Buddhist acolytes are vastly different from the lessons taught during the Buddha’s life. The unstoppable force of time, a cruel teacher that kills every student, makes change a fact of human existence, both on a corporeal and spiritual plane.

Here are my notes on a few contemporary tools I have found and incorporated into my search for truth. Share your own modern ways of actively pursuing consciousness and peace, if you want. We must learn from each other; we’re all in this web together.

An Old-School Analog Tape Recorder

I suppose if you take the long look, analog recorders aren’t all that old-school, are they? But considering that digital recorders, apps for mobile devices, and software for recording on a computer are the norm now, using an actual tape recorder is kind of old-fashioned. I use my recorder, which is pocket-size, to store my reflections, questions, and occasionally just pleasant nature sounds for use during meditation. I may have to switch to a digital recorder one day, when tape recorders go the way of the dinosaurs, but for now they’re still easy to find.

Antivirus Software

My computer and smartphone are busy gadgets that gurus from times past would no doubt see as a cause of suffering. However, it would be difficult to get by in the modern world (and more difficult for me to learn the Eightfold Path) without Internet access. It may sound strange for a Buddhist to list antivirus software on his list of spiritual tools, but my Mac security software makes it possible for me to be a wheel inside a wheel.

Digital Music

When I am chasing the high road and practicing meditation, I’m open to ideas and traditions from all over the spiritual spectrum. For example, this article on the use of sound and music in traditional Hindu meditation practices led me to an entirely new library of music to use in my meditation room, collected digitally and stored on a computer’s hard drive. Like a good friend of mine (who happens to be a Buddhist monk) puts it: “Whatever gets your foot in the door to Nirvana . . .”

My Blog, NewZenSite

Modern and Progressive Buddhists are very active on the Internet. A good example is the very site you’re reading right now. Though it may temporarily distract me from living righteously, I have to think that no Buddhist or other spiritual person could deny that spreading a positive message to the entire world is a bad thing. If this site gets in the way of my path to peace, I’ll shut it down, as I would anything else that got in my way.

Buddhist Chant Boxes

Playing loops of monks chanting mantras, these boxes are a common sight in modern cultures dominated by Buddhism, across all sects. I like to keep them around for crises or times when I feel like I’m falling off the peace wagon. Many styles are available – I like the Buddha MachineIt’s a very stylish and modern take on traditional chant boxes. My favorite source for more traditional boxes is an Indian company (shetra.com) that has a huge variety of both single- and multi-voice versions.

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