Seeing the Divine through Windows: Online Puja and Virtual Religious Experience
Abstract“Seeing the Divine through Windows: Online Puja and Virtual Religious Experience” will attempt to use phenomenological methodology to parse the meanings and uses of Internet religion itself. Hindu cyber-darshan/puja may be the ultimate long-distance religious experience, but most often, religious experience in Hinduism includes actions and reactions that occur in real time and space. During these practices, darshan is produced for the deity and the worshipper. Any description of darshan must now deal with the complex religious experience of the intertwining sight/site and location of the form of the deity. Cyber-darshan is being performed daily at a Swaminarayan Mandir in Downey, California. I began to be a regular visitor on site, watching the proceedings being captured for posting on the Internet. The temple web site offers the possibility of myriad darshanic experiences: on the homepage, there was the link directly to “Online Darshan.” Surveys of the members showed that over half the Sampradaya utilizes the resources developed by the Swaminarayan webmasters both in California and in Vadtal, India. This article will attempt to analyze the situation in which the computer has become a legitimate open portal through which Hindu religious experience can pass back and forth. The focus of will be on the ever- flexible definitions of ritual and the crucial Hindu religious experience of darshan in the context of the 21st century technological revolution.
Academic discipline and sub-disciplines
senses; internet; religious practice; Hinduism