How should we approach online Dharma teachings and downloaded texts?

These days we look online and find a likely looking Dharma website and feel that parting with our money is to take a risk.  So often it is with suspicion and scepticism that we embark on an online course and the practice, hardly knowing what to expect and wondering if this is yet another internet scam.

Hardly the best way to approach the holy teachings!  But time has shown me that actually connecting online in this way is much more fruitful than not connecting at all. It is entirely up to our approach.

When downloading and printing online Dharma teachings, we can take care how we treat the pages as they come off the printer, remembering not to stand our coffee cups on them and keeping them somewhere special.

We could try different things such as adopting a special ritual when downloading teachings – maybe burning some incense or offering a light on the shrine.

With a little thought and ingenuity, we could make the way we relate to the Buddhist teachings online more alive and sacred.  The benefit for us is that we will feel effect of the adhistana* more strongly, because we are making of ourselves a fit vessel or to use the images of electricity or water above, a fit conduit or channel. It is up to us entirely.

So I want my students to think of the Living the Awakened Heart Training as potentially the vehicle for very deep transmission. It is up to each student to approach the materials, their sangha mentor, AHS teachers, myself and my teachers with as much respect as they can in order for the adhistana to take maximum effect.

The source of the adhistana is the Buddha, the Awakened One and the Awakened Heart of the Awakened One and all the Awakened Ones there are and ever were and will be. It is all one great reservoir of adhistana.

It is our living connection with that reservoir that gives our practice special power. It is completely up to us, therefore, whether we treat the course as a transmission or simply as so much information.

In some ways this is tough on us, since it’s much easier to maintain a sense of the sacred in a temple of sacred space of some kind.  We are lucky to have the essence of the transmission, but unlucky to have rather an inferior infrastructure.

So it’s up to us to make the best of what we have.  We may not have holy texts made of gold, with writing in lapis lazuli ink – ok it comes rolling off the printer as a computer download.  But in essence it’s the same thing!  Let’s make sure our attitude makes up for the seeming mundanity of this mode of transmission!

Lama Shenpen Hookham

*Adhistana is often translated as a blessing, which is too weak a term – it’s a powerful influence or energy of some kind – electricity is a good example for it. However it is more the power and influence of Awareness itself, and in this context is the power and influence of the Awakened Heart of Awakened Beings. One could say roughly speaking that transmission is adhistana in the sense that adhistana is what is transmitted. Read more about Adhistana here.

Lama Shenpen’s Living the Awakened Heart Training is a structured, comprehensive, supported, distance learning programme. The training, which is open to all, brings the profound Dzogchen and Mahamudra teachings to a western audience in an experiential, accessible way, through spiral learning. Find out more and how to join at

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