Unexpectedly, my research team found that religious practices, particularly Buddhism, had a signiﬁ cant presence in this virtual world. In hindsight, ﬁ nding religion online is actually not surprising. Wherever people go, religion seems to follow, and the spread of digital media corresponded to a growth in online practice. As early as 2004, a Pew survey reported that 64 percent of Americans with Internet access had used the medium for religious reasons. 3 Almost a decade earlier, on December 16, 1996, the Time magazine article “Finding God on the Web” stated, “Like schools, like businesses, like governments, like nearly everyone, it seems, religious groups are rushing online, setting up church home pages, broadcasting dogma and establishing theological newsgroups, bulletin boards and chat rooms.” Intriguingly, digital Dharma , more than other religious practices, ﬂ ourishes online. 4 As spelled out below, digital Dharma describes Buddhist teachings spread through computer-mediated communication. 5 There is no doubt that during the time of my research, the vast majority of digital
Dharma consisted of websites that merely offered information. Still, there was a sizable presence of Buddhists in Second Life who practiced “online religion,” which the Canadian sociologist Chris Helland deﬁ nes as locations “where people could act with unrestricted freedom and a high level of interactivity.” 6 Second Life’s online religion enabled users not only to gather information but also, as epitomized by BodhiDharma’s online meditation, to engage in ritual and other types of digitally mediated religious practices.