by Jayanti (Pamela Hoye)
The internet was just emerging when Sri Sarada Society introduced a website dedicated to Holy Mother in 1996. An information-sharing forerunner had been in place in government and academic circles, but a system for public access, complete with images, was exciting, perhaps even revolutionary! The focus was on the “worldwide web,” which started us thinking about creation. Wasn’t this virtual world simply a new manifestation within, as well as a representation of, the illusion of Maya? We named the site “Holy Mother’s Cyber-Tantu” after a Sanskrit term, “tantu,” meaning silk threads or a web, and wrote this introduction:
How much the worldwide web mirrors the Divine Mother’s web of creation, Maya!
Having seen cyberspace come into being we know its nature is illusory. Yet, as with creation itself, the illusion appeals to us. We find this virtual world increasingly useful. As new frontiers continuously open it is not difficult to envision that a veil of forgetfulness will fall. Cyberspace will become as real to us as the physical world of our everyday experience, which physicists and mystics assure us is not at all as it seems.
By the power of creation the Divine Mother snares us in the alluring web of Maya, causing us to forget our own true nature and the divinity of the world around us. Yet in this bondage we are ever tied to Her, bound by a silken thread that is fastened to the Mother’s heart.
At the time we had little awareness of the internet and technological explosion that lay on the horizon. Yet, how prophetic the reflections seem. Eighteen years later, the digital age is upon us, impacting every aspect of our daily lives. Whether in the workplace or in the classroom, at home or on the go, digital devices and internet connections have become commonplace. The early “worldwide web” united us in communication with others, unhampered by location or distance. Today it is the gateway to shopping, banking, information, recreation….The communication aspect alone has spawned social networks, video and text messaging, “tweeting”—an ever growing list.
“All this technology is overwhelming. It demands my constant attention,” is
a common complaint expressed. I wonder, are the challenges and “demands”
really greater? Or, do we become so caught up in this new expression of Maya
because of its availability? As spiritual aspirants we try to move our attention from the countless distractions in our daily life and apply it, mindfully, to the tasks at hand. If technology helps us, why do we need to feel overwhelmed? Might its ready availability be simply a more subtle test of our self-mastery? Might it be offering us new opportunities to exercise discrimination by choosing what is helpful to us and leaving behind what is not?
I have been physically disabled since birth, so there is much I like about this readily accessible world. At an early age, punching keys with a stick enabled me to write on a typewriter. Enter the computer in the late 1980s and my “key punching” gave expression to so much more, things many people take for granted. The salesperson had “loaded” my computer with programs he thought I would enjoy. I spent hours mesmerized. My family had always kept a jigsaw puzzle in the works and now and then I’d seen a piece from afar. But now, I was putting together jigsaw puzzles on my own! Through computerized desktop publishing, I was soon doing layout projects, Sri Sarada Society Notes being among these. As the internet flourished, my experience of the world become more “normal” and the pitfalls more obvious.
For example, I like the independence of internet shopping, but one learns that the ordinary guidelines of thrift and sensibility apply. Being able to access information when I want or need it is great if I have a purpose. But I dislike “surfing the internet”; I’m just not curious by nature. While I find email very useful, social media proves a mixed bag. Having the ability to do things on my own has allowed me to become aware of my tendencies toward excess. Through the years I have gotten better at not thinking that I have to step into a situation or take on yet another project “just because I can.” The jury is still out on whiling away time streaming movies. What matters is knowing that while the digital age has given tools enabling me to interact with the world, my own strengths and weakness “drive the show.”
Vedanta assures us that “all this is verily Brahman.” As spiritual aspirants we know, at least as a guiding principle, that nothing is Real except the Divine, which is playing hide and seek with us behind an ever-alluring veil. Our spiritual tools of discrimination and detachment apply no less in this age than in ages past. We can trust that Mother has spun this newest attraction. Holding fast to her, we can use it for our benefit no less than the so-called “physical world.” If anything, it can serve as a reminder of the Illusion. We need not feel overwhelmed.