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Soren Gordhamer

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If the Buddha Used Twitter . . .

Posted: 07/06/09 10:48 AM ET

I can't say whether the historical Buddha, the one that lived some 2,500 years ago, would use Twitter if he were alive today, but if he were alive I think he would advise the following 5 approaches to this web phenomena:

1) Don't Give a Damn About How Many Followers You Have

Never allow yourself to envy others. For you will lose sight of the truth that way. -- The Buddha

He would encourage this, I believe, not because the number of followers displayed on Twitter is largely inaccurate (many people use Twitter applications that allow them to view only select users, so while it shows that you have 5,000 followers, only a hundred may actually read your posts on Twitter -- or tweets.) The Buddha would instead advise this, I think, because the continual search for "more," including Twitter followers, is simply another form of envy that makes us look to the future for our satisfaction, and as a result lose sight of the present moment where, to him, life is to be lived.

2) Focus on Quality Over Quantity

Better than a thousand senseless verses is one that brings the hearer peace. -- The Buddha

The second is that the quality of our tweets matter much more than the quantity of them. One meaningful tweet a day is much better than posting numerous tweets that do not add value to the world. Of course, what "adds value" can be debated. There are a lot of silly tweets and links to videos that bring smiles to millions of people. Tweets do not have to be serious, but I think the Buddha would say that the real mission of life is not to produce large quantities of anything, including tweets, but it is instead to make a positive impact. One tweet that does that is better than a million that do not.

3) It's Not What You Say But How You Live

The one who talks of the path but never walks it is like a cowman counting cattle of others but who has none of his own. -- The Buddha

On Twitter, it is easy to tweet about how wise and wonderful we are, and few people (minus our mom or partner if they are users) know to the extent we actually live this. I think the Buddha would say that it is fine to share accomplishments, but the real question is not what we say but how we live -- both when tweeting, but also in challenging times: in dealing with an angry neighbor, a pushy boss, or a rude customer. He would discourage using Twitter to brand and market oneself, tweeting only things that show us in a particular light. The purpose is not to be appealing to the Twitterverse, but to live with mindfulness and compassion, whether such actions ever get tweeted about it or not.

4) The Inner Story is Always More Important than The External One

The conquest of oneself is better than the conquest of all others. -- The Buddha

There are certainly quality news sites, but many have one driving objective: to get as many page views as possible. Thus, the more graphic, the more sexy, the more gossipy, the more people respond "Oh My God" to a post or news item . . . the better. The Buddha would say that news is fine, but it can easily become a distraction and that true happiness is, as they say, an inside job. He would encourage people when they use Twitter to be mindful of the thoughts and emotions that arise in them, and to see how they get caught in confusion, greed, or anger. Our inner life, he would say, is where the real news happens.

5) Do the Work that Matters

Your work is to find out what your work should be. Clearly discover your work and attend to it with all your heart. -- The Buddha

The Buddha often reminded people that death will come to all of us. When it does, we leave behind everything: all our money, all our possessions, all our status, all our accomplishments . . . and yes, all our followers on Twitter. Okay, if we are really famous, we may get a building named after us, but in a blink of universe time, say a thousand years, little of our name will be around. Twitter and other sites will arise and crumble. I think the Buddha would encourage us to remember this, and to use everything, including Twitter, not to distract ourselves from what is important, but to remember it and to do our work on this earth impeccably.

The Power of an Empty Box

Do not live thoughtlessly with deluded aims, outside the universal law. -- The Buddha

Of course, it is not really that important to know whether the historical Buddha would have used Twitter or not. What matters more is how our own inner Buddha can. The real brilliance of an empty box that allows us only 140 characters may not be in our ability to quickly share information, to stay in touch with friends, or to gain access to breaking news, but it is in what we learn about ourselves in the process, if we pay attention.

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Soren Gordhamer is the author of Wisdom 2.0: Ancient Secrets for the Creative and Constantly Connected (HarperOne, 2009).
Website: http://www.sorengordhamer.com.

 
 
 

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