Utah Data Center

About the Project

In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that the movement of a physical object inscribed with a prayer produces a similar effect to saying the prayer. Thus, prayer wheels adorn many temples such that devotees, including illiterate individuals, can release the prayers into the world and acquire their karmic merit. Prayer flags work the same way; the wind blowing through the flags is like the air in our throats and likewise says the prayer. These technologies for praying, like all technologies, have continued to evolve and advance. Thus, it is now possible to purchase or make an electronically powered prayer wheel or an electronic machine that recites prayers endlessly. Likewise, there are a small handful of sites that claim that an animated digital image of a prayer wheel, a screen saver or a video of a digital prayer wheel provide the same karmic benefit. According to one website, the Dalai Lama has even affirmed that having a prayer wheel on one's computer works the same way as a physical prayer wheel. Some websites have gone so far as to suggest that having a prayer on one's hard drive functions as a prayer wheel spinning at 5400-rpm (or faster)[1]. If this is true, we are led to believe that any motion of the prayer on some physical medium, including digital systems, puts the prayer into the world.

At the same time that our technologies may be propelling some interested individuals towards enlightenment at speeds orders of magnitude greater than hand powered prayer wheels, there are those in certain security agencies and corporations around the world that wish to use these technologies to spy, intimidate, destroy and monetize our social interactions. We hope that, by harnessing the ability of these technologies to generate karmic merit at exponential rates to resist and overcome the negative egoist uses of these technologies. Since corporations and security agencies are storing an increasing amount of the information we send back and forth for increasingly longer durations on spinning hard drives in data centers, such as the NSA's new multi-exabyte data center in Utah (pictured above), we suggest creating a constant stream of prayer-emails. Our hope is that these prayer emails will turn into thousands of 5400-rpm+ prayer wheels as they are archived in these data centers, thereby filling the universe with positive karma and promote the enlightenment of all sentient beings. To this end we have set up an e-mail list that will e-mail you a mantra once a week and hopefully deposit this information on servers across the world.

Join the project and help us create innumerable prayer wheels on data centers throughout the world. You will get one email a week and can unsubscribe at any time.

Email Address:

Upaya (Skillful Means)

While it is our current belief that since you will have initiated this process by signing up for the e-mail list you will attain the karmic benefit, it is a largely underexplored issue in Tibetan Buddhism. Supposedly, Lama Zopa Rinpoche has argued, "The merit of turning an electric prayer wheel goes to the electric company. This is why I prefer practitioners to use their own 'right energy' to turn a prayer wheel."[2] If this is an accurate statement it then follows that the merit will go to the security agencies and corporations who store the data. Underlying Zopa Rinpoche's statement is a concern for upaya which can be translated as "skillful means." Upaya can take many forms, as we see in the Lotus Sutra where we encounter a variety of creative methods and techniques by which the boddhisattva can carry out their vow to liberate all sentient beings. The great boddhisattva's were able to modify their teachings such that their audiences could readily receive their message and modify their behaviors. This doctrine of skillful means helped to ease anxieties in translations between the original Indian cultures in which Buddhism first developed and the later flourishing of Buddhist practice and Buddhist thinking that occurred in China a thousand years after the life of the historical Buddha. Given this need for adaptation to the means by which we communicate today (utilizing the communication channels that the NSA surveils and trawls for metadata), we offer this initial technique.

The creation and promotion of this email list is an act of Buddhist-inspired peacework and as such benefits from the considerations and mindful practice of many others. We understand that peace is a "proactive, comprehensive process of finding common ground through open communication and putting into practice a philosophy of nonharm and sharing resources."[3] Crucial to attaining this peace is open communication so that we can find our way to clearer thinking in our daily lives. To live in fear of being spied upon potentially stymies what we say to one another. To live in fear of being indiscriminately watched at all times engenders a paranoid relationship to the world and promotes minds and hearts that are the opposite of at peace. Thus, we hope this attempt to use these channels and their constant surveillance for peace can begin to help free us from the paranoia they engender.

Although we on this email list may not accrue much, if any, merit by turning these hard drive prayer wheels, we hope and possibly even prefer that the NSA and other organizations will accrue good karma from our incorporation of their surveillance network into our intentional network. This technique we are utilizing is not to aid any organization in spying, but rather we hope enables everyone who will be karmically effected to become better listeners and thereby encourage "right heart, right mind, right action." We also hope this project will provide an opportunity to rethink our digital technologies and their uses and abuses. We will continue to research the praxiological issues involved and gladly welcome any suggestions or insight into the matters prompted by this technique. We would greatly appreciate any feedback or thoughts anyone may have on this project; our e-mail addresses are listed below. In order to participate in the project and work towards liberating all sentients through the creation of innumerable hard-drive-prayer-wheels, all you need to do is sign up for the e-mail list. It is not required to read the e-mails as they arrive, since it is their movement through the network and on spinning hard drives in data centers that matter. You can even set up a filter to delete the e-mails (or preferably archive in order to keep them spinning away in data centers) as soon as they arrive.

With Love and Peace,

Paul Boshears
Justin Joque

Join the project and help us create innumerable prayer wheels on data centers throughout the world. You will get one email a week and can unsubscribe at any time.

Email Address:

1 Dharma Haven http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/digital-wheels.htm Archived October 3 2014 available: https://web.archive.org/web/20141003232627/http://www.dharma-haven.org/tibetan/digital-wheels.htm
2 This quotation is listed in the Wikipedia article on prayer wheels (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prayer_wheel#Electric_dharma_wheels Accessed October 3 2014) with no citation. While its questionable provenance perhaps should be a cause for skepticism, we still wish to treat it as a valid idea that, with or without authority, should be taken into consideration when addressing these questions.
3 Acharn Sulak Sivaraksa, "Buddhism and a Culture of Peace" in Buddhist Peacework ed. David W. Chappell (Boston: Wisdom Publications) 1999: 44.