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Paul Maxwell's NETWORKS column in the Cyberslice section of Tokyo's Asahi Evening News, August 2, 99.

(with a mention of cuke.com at the bottom)

www.latter-day.silkroad

The all-conquering armies of commerce have been roaming the globe for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of years. Prehistoric trade in things like flint and turquoise spanned continents, and some recent evidence suggests that cocaine and tobacco were imported from South America to the Egypt of the pharaohs http://www.uiowa.edu/~anthro/webcourse/lost/coctrans.htm

But "roaming the globe" misstates the case: the business traveler has probably always been focused and purposeful, favoring the established trade routes, the most direct connection between buyer and seller.

Consider the Silk Road: the mountains and deserts that formed such formidable barriers to the penetration of what is now western China nevertheless afforded just enough access for the steady movement of goods between the Middle Kingdom and the Roman Empire.

Channels for trade are inevitably also channels for ideas. Thus the Silk Road became one of the most significant conduits in history for the transmission of art and religion. The same could be said of the Crusades. The same could be said of the World Wide Web.

To take a single example, the Web (like the Silk Road!) has made a tremendously important contribution to the worldwide dissemination of Buddhism. There is no missionary organization behind this development, and no unified effort on anyone’s part to further any particular agenda – just a large number of independent operators creating little outposts of the "middle way" in the middle of the new global marketplace.

What follows is a random survey of some of the more interesting Buddhist Web sites.

The Buddhist Information Network at www.buddhanet.net is a good place to start; it is especially useful for its interesting and wide-ranging file library. The Asia Directory at this site has listings of Zen temples in Japan that welcome foreigners, while the more adventurous may wish to check out the dozen or so temples listed in Ho Chi Minh City.

The BIN is part of a Web ring that allows you to drift along to a seemingly endless series or related sites, most of which turn out to be pages put up by local meditation groups in cities around the world. Still, some of these can be fun, like the Blue Iris Sangha in New Orleans http://home.bellsouth.net/p/pwp-blueirissangha. The graphics are clean and fresh, and there is commentary in verse on a famous Zen koan:

Toilet paper isn't something
we would want to be without,
but the wisdom of keeping it after it's used
is a matter of serious doubt.

Tricycle is one of the best general-purpose, English-language magazines on Buddhism, and their homepage www.tricycle.com offers brief excerpts from the newsstand version. It’s too bad the William Wegman photos from the current issue aren’t online.

At http://www.shambhala.org/heart/index.html you can click on "Auto Flip" and sit back for "Essential Buddhadharma (in under 10 minutes)."

There are a couple of cool things at http://quietmountain.com/buddhism.htm – little icons of Tibetan hats, and a daily biorhythm calculator that also tells you how many days you’ve been alive. Plus: a lovely graphic of spinning prayer wheels.

Photos both exotic and puzzling are on display at www.aroter.org/, as well as examples of tantric art. To really plunge into Tibetan Buddhist art, visit www.tibetart.com/ --features include searchable image database and zoom.

Women Active in Buddhism have a homepage at http://members.tripod.com/~Lhamo/. Check out their "famous female Buddhists" – fans of the British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous may be interested to know that actress Joanna Lumley, who plays Patsy Stone, is, yes, a Buddhist.

Finally, David Chadwick, author of Thank You & OK: An American Zen Failure in Japan, is the master of ceremonies at www.cuke.com. The site supports his new book, Crooked Cucumber, a biography of Japanese Zen teacher Suzuki Roshi. Favorite quote: "Life is like stepping onto a boat that is about to sail out to sea and sink."

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