Forum layout and structure - some questions

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Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Huifeng » Fri Dec 18, 2009 4:21 am

Hi

I joined up a couple of months ago, but haven't posted anything here yet. Those from E-Sangha days will probably know me, so hopefully this won't sound too over the top for a new member on their first post. But I think that the Management here knows me well enough to bear me out on this post.

I am basically wondering about the ideas and general concept behind the layout and structure of the Forum. The name is "DharmaWheel | A Mahayana forum", "A Buddhist discussion forum on the Dharma of the Mahayana and the Vajrayana". Sounds good so far.

I see three staff members, two Admin and Mod. But as far as I know, only one of them is a Mahayana practitioner. So, that makes me wonder about a few things, but mainly just a general idea of what Mahayana Buddhist is. Whatever the case, good to see that this may indicate some cross-over amongst traditions. E-Sangha was very useful for that. However, at present, a lot of these online Buddhist Forums are single tradition. I think that a lot of context is lost. (Leave this little for another day!)

At present, the structure is this, four main Forums, with sub-forums in each:

--------------------------------

WELCOME

Announcements
Includes Terms of Service (please read first).

Introductions
Introduce yourself to others at Dharma Wheel.

Suggestion Box
How can we improve this forum to better serve our members?

THE WAY OF THE BODHISATTVA

Mahayana Buddhism
General forum on Mahayana

Vajrayana Buddhism
General forum on Vajrayana

Sutra Studies
Discuss and learn about the traditional scriptures

Engaged Buddhism
Alleviating worldly suffering along the way

Prayers and Aspirations
Requesting and offering prayers and aspirations for those in need

MEDITATION

Meditation forum
Discussion of meditation in the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions

GENERAL DHARMA

Dharma Stories
Post sayings or stories you find interesting or useful

Personal experience
Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Lounge
Anything goes

--------------------------------

The Welcome section seems straightforward, standard stuff for these forums.

Is there any reasoning behind the layout for the remaining stuff? I don't know how an "anything goes" "Lounge" is in "General Dharma". And I also can't see how Mahayana and Vajrayana in general can be separated from a Meditation Forum, and if Prayers and Aspirations includes Bodhicitta, which it should, how can that be separate again from the Mahayana or Vajrayana sections? There is a sutra section, but no Sastra forum?

How do the specific Chinese, Korean and Japanese schools (which are all related) fit in? (After all, they can be quite different at times, and may differ from, say, Indian or Tibetan Mahayana, and of course, each other.)
How do the four (or five, or six) main Tibetan traditions fit in? (After all, they aren't entirely Vajrayana, as the exoteric elements in them are often very strong, too.)

Okay, I'll leave it at that for now. I'd like to have it in this thread, but if David, Paul and / or Laura want to take this up elsewhere, you know where to find me, and how to contact me. :)

Huifeng 慧峰
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:50 am

Greetings bhante,

Huifeng wrote:I see three staff members, two Admin and Mod. But as far as I know, only one of them is a Mahayana practitioner.


We went through an extensive process of trying to identify moderators and administrators from the Mahayana or Vajrayana traditions. Unfortunately we've not had much luck to date in our search (how busy are you nowadays, sir? ;) ).

Laura has been a blessing, as I knew she would be from her participation in other forums (e.g. E-Sangha, Buddha Chat) and from her own Buddlist Lounge website. We have had a couple of moderators come on board for a short period, but for whatever reason, it hasn't worked out. After all those troubles, it was decided that we'd stick with the current format for now, until traffic builds up and additional personnel are required. As you know, I was a Global Moderator at E-Sangha, so I don't have concerns about my ability to moderate according to the TOS (hopefully others don't!). In a sense, my role here is more about maintaining some continuity and consistency between the two DW sites - both technically and philosophically. David is not very involved here but looks after the technical side of things and provides an extra opinion on issues. For the most part, Laura leads things and I lend assistance, ideas and advice. If/when this forum gets enough Maha/Vajra mods/admins, I'm happy to step back to the equivalent of Founding Member status... my administrative role has always just been a stop gap function.

Huifeng wrote:However, at present, a lot of these online Buddhist Forums are single tradition. I think that a lot of context is lost. (Leave this little for another day!)


Personally, I quite like it, but yes... perhaps a discussion for another day. :)

Huifeng wrote:Is there any reasoning behind the layout for the remaining stuff?


The only real "reasoning" is an attempt to de-emphasise specific traditions and focus more on the commonalities of Maha/Vajrayana traditions and the bodhisattva ideal. Those involved with online Buddhist forums are accustomed to inter-tradition brawling so we wanted to take some tactical steps to minimise that. Sadly, some people have been unwilling to join Dharma Wheel specifically because Vajrayana is part of it. I can however understand their reticence.

Huifeng wrote:I don't know how an "anything goes" "Lounge" is in "General Dharma".


Interestingly, you're the first person to say anything about this either here or at Dhamma Wheel... as it's the same as both! I think it's just an inclination to avoid creating too many categories but we're happy to change it if there's alternative solutions.

Huifeng wrote:And I also can't see how Mahayana and Vajrayana in general can be separated from a Meditation Forum


This is just another parallel from Dhamma Wheel, as opposed to anything intentional.

Huifeng wrote:if Prayers and Aspirations includes Bodhicitta, which it should, how can that be separate again from the Mahayana or Vajrayana sections?


A partial parallel from E-Sangha, and again, an attempt to draw on the commonalities of Mahayana & Vajrayana.

Huifeng wrote:There is a sutra section, but no Sastra forum?


I'll leave that for Laura to comment about - I don't know enough about the differences to comment.

Huifeng wrote:How do the specific Chinese, Korean and Japanese schools (which are all related) fit in? (After all, they can be quite different at times, and may differ from, say, Indian or Tibetan Mahayana, and of course, each other.) How do the four (or five, or six) main Tibetan traditions fit in? (After all, they aren't entirely Vajrayana, as the exoteric elements in them are often very strong, too.)


Again, it was about emphasising commonalities, rather than differences. Also, when the structure was set up, the forum was still very small, and it looks a bit unwelcoming having many empty rooms. This may change in time, and Laura may come up with some new suggestions.

Huifeng wrote:Okay, I'll leave it at that for now. I'd like to have it in this thread, but if David, Paul and / or Laura want to take this up elsewhere, you know where to find me, and how to contact me. :)

Huifeng 慧峰


Yes, we can do this here. Thanks for your input!

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:29 am

Hi Venerable, we're glad to see you here :)

To follow up Retro's post, we can always adjust the forum and subforum division as needs arise. Right now we're still building traffic and content but Retro and David are both very flexible. We certainly welcome continued suggestions from you. And if you have an idea as for how we might best organize the sastras please feel free to send me a PM or post here. I think that would be a very nice addition that could be added sooner rather than later.

Within the Vajrayana traditions and Mahayana traditions, different schools do things differently. There is so much to discuss! I hope we can expand and add on. I think we would all look forward to that. On the positive side, for the moment this very wide open-format seems to be offering a lot of freedom with posting.

Thank you for your valuable input, hope to see more of you if time allows.

And Retro thank you for your kind remarks, it's appreciated.

Best,
Laura
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Huifeng » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:37 am

Thanks for the reply, Paul.

A point you've mentioned a couple of times is "de-emphasise specific traditions and focus more on the commonalities of Maha/Vajrayana traditions", "an attempt to draw on the commonalities of Mahayana & Vajrayana", "it was about emphasising commonalities, rather than differences".

Considering that most practitioners of Mahayana / Vajrayana (in the West - and having an English forum means that this is basically the target audience) as specifically associated with a "specific tradition". After all, for example, is there any such thing as a "general Vajrayana practitioner"? As soon as one has abhiseka into a particular practice, then that is quite specific. Likewise for East Asian traditions - the Japanese groups are quite distinct from each other, and most Western practitioners in one often don't know much about the others. This is probably less so for Chinese Mahayana, but this is definitely a minority in the West.

Perhaps one of the reasons why numbers haven't picked up, is that a Mahayana / Vajrayana practitioner looking at the format will not see a little slot which makes them feel right at home.

Of course you are right, a lot of segregated and hermetically sealed individual sub-forums is not the way to go either, but I question the idea of "de-emphasise specific traditions and focus more on the commonalities" somewhat. But you'll need someone with a good broad knowledge of Mahayana and Vajrayana to point out which are common, and which specific.
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:18 am

Greetings bhante,

Yes, it's all part of the evolution. I can remember a time before E-Sangha was inundated with sub-forums that there were only a few high level fora, not too dissimilar to these. I'm happy for Laura to structure things as she sees fit, but your input is greatly appreciated and we welcome any suggestions you have on how we may be able to further set this forum up so as to support our bodhisattva aspirants.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Dec 18, 2009 5:55 pm

Thanks Retro. I do agree with Venerable that it would be nice to parse things out a bit for the sake of clarity and respect to various traditions. But it's just a matter of when. If the current structure puts people off as Ven. Huifeng has suggested, then we might want to tend to it sooner than we had planned. Perhaps we could get thoughts from other members too on how they feel about the current layout.

Best,
Laura :)
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby some1 » Thu Dec 31, 2009 8:15 am

Huifeng wrote:Perhaps one of the reasons why numbers haven't picked up, is that a Mahayana / Vajrayana practitioner looking at the format will not see a little slot which makes them feel right at home.

Of course you are right, a lot of segregated and hermetically sealed individual sub-forums is not the way to go either, but I question the idea of "de-emphasise specific traditions and focus more on the commonalities" somewhat.

I agree with Ven. Huifeng. If the objective is to de-emphasise specific traditions, perhaps Dharmawheel should have been combined with Dhammawheel in the first place ... I do think it is good to have people to be able to identify themselves with others who follow the same practise under specifc subforums.
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Luke » Sat Jan 02, 2010 9:27 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,
We went through an extensive process of trying to identify moderators and administrators from the Mahayana or Vajrayana traditions. Unfortunately we've not had much luck to date in our search (how busy are you nowadays, sir? ;) ).

Have you asked Ashocka from E-Sangha? I believe he was actually a Nyingma lama, and, more than that, he was a very decent and sincere person who always acted with pure motivations.

retrofuturist wrote:Laura has been a blessing...

Yes, she has been. Big hugs to Laura :hug:

retrofuturist wrote: In a sense, my role here is more about maintaining some continuity and consistency between the two DW sites - both technically and philosophically.

Don't worry, Retro. You're as charming as ever. *handshake*

retrofuturist wrote:Sadly, some people have been unwilling to join Dharma Wheel specifically because Vajrayana is part of it. I can however understand their reticence.

That's very sad. Are these mostly Zen practioners who refuse to join? I know that they were badly mistreated on E-Sangha and I had hoped that they would be able to feel comfortable here. I think people will find that the few Vajrayana practioners we already have here are not hostile to other traditions and are not looking for conflicts. Perhaps creating a Zen/Chan subforum would be a nice gesture?

Maybe Huifeng is right that a few more subforums should be created as a welcoming gesture to the people who practice those traditions. I think the Vajrayana forum works well without subdivison by sect for now, but perhaps the Mahayana section could use some subforums like "Zen/Chan," "Pureland," "Tendai," "Nichiren," etc. to liven things up a bit and to lay out welcome mats for new arrivals.

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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby catmoon » Sat Jan 02, 2010 11:01 pm

It just occurred to me that since the net has given rise to a certain eclectic Zen (or maybe one should say catholic Zen?) we might need a section to accomodate that. Something like

ZEN
-Soto
-Rinzai
-Huifengianism

I stand ready to sign up as the first official Huifengianist! Of course, that means we are gonna have to declare Huifeng an arahant at least, and ... ah ... we'll need some relics I suppose...

Maybe this isn't such a good idea after all. Nevermind.


:rolling:
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:56 am

Luke wrote:Yes, she has been. Big hugs to Laura

:smile: :bow:


I do like the idea of making sure to provide a specific forum for Zen and Cha'an folks if there's been issues in the past over this. I would like for everyone to feel welcome here.

I also like the idea of a new sect called Huifengianism. Cool :thumbsup:
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby some1 » Mon Jan 04, 2010 9:24 am

LauraJ wrote:I also like the idea of a new sect called Huifengianism. Cool :thumbsup:

I am sure this is a joke, and you all have good intentions ... anyway, hope that does not invite any unnecessary attack/suspicion upon Ven Huifeng ... adhimāna conceit is not a good thing to be associated with ...
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:00 am

You're right some1, I hesitated to write it but I figured it was in good fun.
But your wise words are noted :)
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby catmoon » Mon Jan 04, 2010 10:55 am

No hidden barbs intended, I just had another silly attack. Dang, I was really hoping to see Venerable's reaction to having a new sect started in his name. Maybe if I'm patient....
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Luke » Tue Jan 05, 2010 3:30 pm

Ah, the new subforums are looking good!

Perhaps a Tendai subforum should also be added in the East Asian forum.

Shingon should probably be added too, but I'm not sure whether it's better to put it under Vajrayana or under East Asian Buddhism. Maybe you could ask a Shingon practioner what he thinks.
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue Jan 05, 2010 7:05 pm

Thanks Luke :)
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Huifeng » Fri Jan 15, 2010 3:04 am

Actually, I find the thought of having a group under my name quite ridiculous.

Do you think that what I post online represents anything other than the Dharma which is taught in Sutra, Sastra and Vinaya?

Although I'm all up for a good joke, you should well know that for a bhiksu to make false claims about spiritual attainments is a defeat involving expulsion from the Sangha. That is not something to joke about.
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Fri Jan 15, 2010 3:27 am

I am so sorry, Venerable. Please excuse me if I encouraged the inappropriate.

:namaste:
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jan 16, 2010 6:46 am

Hi Laura,
In your PM, you mentioned the restructure of the forum, sub-fora, etc.
It looks pretty good so far, nice work.
A question, though: On one hand you have put Zen / Chan / Thien & Son all together;
but then you have Pureland and Jodo as separate.
There are connections, but also differences between the (roughly equiv) schools from China into Korea and Japan. If you are going to separate one branch, why not the others? eg. separate Zen / Chan, etc. Or, keep each branch together. eg. put Jodo and Pureland back together.
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sat Jan 16, 2010 2:05 pm

Huifeng wrote:Hi Laura,
In your PM, you mentioned the restructure of the forum, sub-fora, etc.
It looks pretty good so far, nice work.
A question, though: On one hand you have put Zen / Chan / Thien & Son all together;
but then you have Pureland and Jodo as separate.
There are connections, but also differences between the (roughly equiv) schools from China into Korea and Japan. If you are going to separate one branch, why not the others? eg. separate Zen / Chan, etc. Or, keep each branch together. eg. put Jodo and Pureland back together.


Hi Venerable,

Thanks a lot, I'll fix it :)

Best wishes,
Laura
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Re: Forum layout and structure - some questions

Postby Luke » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:45 pm

Dear Ven. Huifeng,

Thanks so much for donating your time and knowledge to help us improve this site. It makes me happy to see this site transform as a result of your involvement.

I wish you all the blessings of the Three Jewels,

Luke
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