April 22, 2015
Using Your Smart Phone to Water the Seeds of Compassion and Wisdom

A monthly update on the Sangha Project, from Robert Thomas

Many of us are unsure about our relationship to our personal technology. Does it make us more anxious or stressed out and less able to connect with the people right in front of us, people we care about and love? Or can technology also support us to extend practice throughout our lives? The precepts—an ethical framework for engaging with the world—offer a useful perspective for exploring our relationship with technology and for imagining how it might help us cultivate compassion and wisdom.

Robert's photo for SP_800Don’t kill is the first of the ten core precepts. I want the technology that I use to help by not killing the open spaces in my life. It would support me to fully meet, and not turn away from, whatever is before me—be it people, ideas or emotions.

Don’t take what is not given. In this case, I would want my technology to support my understanding that happiness is not a consequence of getting more stuff. It wouldn’t drive me to be covetous of what others have, and it would help me to be less greedy and self-centered. It would encourage me to be more generous.

Don’t misuse sexuality. Technology would support me in having open, honest, respectful, loving and caring relationships with everybody in my life. It would remind me to treat people just as I would want to be treated.

Don’t lie. How would technology help me to speak the truth? It would encourage me to be honest at all times in my life with myself and with others. My technology would remind me to be truthful at all times about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

Don’t intoxicate. Cultivate a clear mind. I would ask technology to discourage me from indulging in my worst habit patterns. It would help me to avoid addictive behavior that numbs me and prevents me from relating to what’s in front of me. For this reason, my technology wouldn’t be so compelling that I would have to be told twice to put my phone down.

Don’t slander. I want to speak and think about others (and myself) with the openness of “don’t know” mind. I want technology to promote living mindfully, and speaking carefully and with kindness about others.

Don’t praise self at the expense of others. I want to see others as different and as exactly the same. My technology would not drive me to seek personal advantage over others. It would support me to create loving relationships based on generosity. It would help me to act on my intention to appreciate and cooperate with others rather than dismiss or compete with them.

Don’t be possessive of anything. Technology would not incite me to get more things or better things than others. It would show me how I could share my life with others. If I have a little bit more of something, technology would make it easy for me to share it with someone who needs it.

Don’t harbor ill will. I want to let go of anger. My technology would discourage me from expressing anger or hatred or causing harm to other beings. It would invite me to be more compassionate, empathetic, caring and kind.

Don’t abuse buddha, dharma or sangha. Wake up to things as they are. To align with this precept, technology would remind me to be fully present in this moment, to see clearly and to live my life for the benefit of everything—not just myself.

How would technology and your relationship to technology be changed if you asked it to support your highest aspiration and deepest intention? How would you use your smart phone to water the seeds of compassion and wisdom in your life? Contact me at sanghaproject@sfzc.org with any thoughts you might have.


Do-On Robert Thomas is currently San Francisco Zen Center’s dharma teacher in charge of online initiatives. Starting Tuesday, April 28, he will be leading a seven-week experiential online course exploring the fundamental principles and transformational practices of Zen Buddhism, titled Meeting This Moment: Transforming Your Life through Zen Practice. Follow the link for more information.