Impermanent Forms

Boing Boing points to what is at least a half-serious description of using your hard drive as a Tibetan Buddhism prayer wheel:

To set your very own prayer wheel in motion, all you have to do is download this mantra to your computer’s hard disk. Once downloaded, your hard disk drive will spin the mantra for you. Nowadays hard disk drives spin their disks somewhere between 3600 and 7200 revolutions per minute, with a typical rate of 5400 rpm. Given those rotation speeds, you’ll soon be purifying loads of negative karma.
P.S. It wouldn’t hurt to think of the mantra from time to time while it’s spinning around on your disk drive.

Tibetan (esoteric) Buddhism is particularly ritual-intensive and stretches a lot of the traditional doctrines, so I can believe this is legitimate. Leaving aside the question of automated practice, the loose definition of the representation of the words isn’t unique. Compare it to Rabbi Moshe Saul Klein’s ruling on deleting the name of God from a computer:

A leading Orthodox rabbi has ruled that the word “God” may be erased from a computer screen or disk, because the pixels do not constitute real letters.

Rabbi Moshe Shaul Klein published his ruling this week in a computer magazine aimed at Orthodox Jews, “Mahsheva Tova.”

“The letters on a computer screen are an assemblage of pixels, dots of light, what have you,” the rabbi’s assistant, Yossef Hayad explained to The Associated Press on Tuesday.

“Even when you save it to disk, it’s not like you’re throwing anything more than a sequence of ones and zeroes,” Hayad said.

According to Jewish law, printed matter with the word – “elohim” in Hebrew, and its manifestations in any other language – must be stored, or ritually buried.

Well, actually:

It is worth noting that this prohibition against erasing or defacing Names of Elohim applies only to Names that are written in some kind of permanent form, and recent rabbinical decisions have held that writing on a computer is not a permanent form, thus it is not a violation to type Elohim?s Name into a computer, and then backspace over it, or cut and paste it, or copy and delete files with Elohim?s Name in them. However, once you print the document out, it becomes a permanent form. This is why observant Hebrews avoid writing a Name of Elohim on web sites like this one, or in newsgroup messages, because there is a risk that someone else will print it out and deface it.

The binary representation is as valid as braille, so they’re actually in agreement.

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