Open Buddha

Open Source Buddhism, Technology, and Geekery
Bay Area, California

E-Sangha Watch

I’ve posted several times on the unfortunate way that E-Sangha, a popular Buddhist forum, is operated. It is run by a group of administrators and moderators who disallow open discussion of Buddhist ideas if these discussions run to interpretations with which the moderators disagree. This happens even when these disallowed interpretations are actually traditional views in specific traditions of Buddhism. They also have a policy of banning individuals from the forum if a moderator dislikes the tradition of practice of these individuals or if moderator decisions (or the sudden disappearance of discussion threads or individuals from the site) are discussed in public.

A number of months back, the Soto Zen forum was closed on E-Sangha after controversies surrounding the disagreement by E-Sangha moderators with Soto Zen interpretations of Buddhism. The cover story for this was that the forum data was corrupted during a site update but people on the Soto Zen forum at the time reported that it was because of ongoing disagreements with the moderators. Of course, since E-Sangha moderators routinely delete or hide entire message threads and ban users who mention missing threads, there is no way to “prove” any of this. At least one Soto Zen priest, Rev. Jundo Cohen, has apparently discussed opening a lawsuit against E-Sangha because of this activity. (I’m not entirely in agreement with making this a legal dispute but I understand why someone might attempt to resolve things that way given E-Sangha’s size and the way it draws in members of the online Buddhist community without letter people know how it treats individuals, especially those of certain Buddhist traditions.)

Generally speaking, only members of a number of Tibetan Vajrayana traditions seem to have a free hand in discussions on E-Sangha and, even then, if they go over certain doctrinal lines, moderators like “Namdrol” will suddenly make the discussions disappear or simply ban the users, often with no explanation since the messages explaining why one is banned are not accessible post-banning. This has happened to at least one friend of mine recently and happened to me before I was simply permanently banned from the site.

I’ve given up on expecting E-Sangha to change and have moved my online activities to more interesting and open spaces but I received an e-mail yesterday about a new site, E-Sangha Watch. I have no idea who is running this site, which is dedicated to monitoring the abuses on E-Sangha, and I have no connection to them. It seemed worth mentioning here since a Google Search on “E-Sangha” tends to bring a lot of people to my blog (one of my posts being the fourth link on a Google search for E-Sangha, just after the links to the site).

Feel free to take a look. I would ask that the site operators, if they read this post, identify themselves on the site. More openness or transparency will help people see E-Sangha Watch as something useful and, perhaps, reputable. As it is, I don’t know the entire motivations of those operating it but it does seem like they are doing the right thing at this point.