TEXAS FAITH 38: The Blessings and Burdens of Life Online

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Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

A recent United Methodist Reporter article quotes clergy and laity who take a regular break from Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, regular email and even cell phones. Some have a "tech Sabbath" in which they refrain from such communication one day a week. Others plan to use Lent as the occasion for going offline.
"Digital distraction" is one term for the problem they see when people are instantly, but often shallowly, communicating and multi-tasking. Even one of the Twitter co-founders admitted in a recent public radio interview to being overwhelmed at times by email, and having to let it go for stretches.
This week, we asked our Texas Faith panelists the following: What do you see as the blessings and burdens of social networking and the general ease with which people stay in touch these days? Would you, through your religious tradition, advocate periods of withdrawal?
We posed the questions by email, and got answers back - in a matter of minutes, with one panelist - by email. So there's some irony in this week's Texas Faith.
Here's what the panelists said:

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas

"Vairagya" means the act of giving something up for a higher spiritual goal. This subject is discussed in great detail in an ancient book known as Nectar of Devotion. Vairagya has been described to be either "phalgu," false renunciation or "yukta," practical renunciation.

If I was to withdraw all of my money from the bank account and throw it into the trash I would be acting under the assumption that the money was mine to reject. But in the Bhagavad Gita it is understood that Krishna, God, owns everything. Giving up something that is not yours in the first place is simply false.

Here is an example: A wallet is left on the street. The greedy man wants to keep it for himself. The false renunciate rejects it as materialistic and the honest man returns it to the owner.

Therefore the honest spiritualist uses everything, which may include Facebook, in the service of God and reject all, which may include Facebook, that is not conducive to loving service to God. One must use spiritual intelligence to apply this principle.
To see all the responses from the Texas Faith Panel click here