Authority is a key element in understanding the ways of a religion. In Hinduism, community temples look to a priest for their authority within the temple. This however is very different to the authority that Hindus seek to find in an online setting. What is the nature of an online authority for Hinduism? This question is something that I would like to slightly address in my blog this week.
For some of the websites that I have begun to look at, such as prarthana.com and saranam.com, there seems to be a lack of authority found on the website. There is contact information to reach about general questions or concerns involving the site, however there doesn’t seem to be the type of authority that Hindus generally look for as they do to their priest in their offline temples. This lack of authority places a higher importance on identity. For example, visitors to the site rely on themselves for their benefits from the website. They must partake in prayer individually, and are not able to confide or address questions towards a hierarchical figure in the Hind faith. However, this does not mean that authority is absent in every online temple for Hindus.
In another website I have been looking at, shivshaktipeeth.org, it is very clear who the main authority is not only for the website, but also for help and questioning in prayers and the religion itself. The Shiv Shakti Peeth “was originally established in Kurukshetra, India by Swami Harishchander Puri,” who still maintains contact information on the site for questions, concerns, lecture requests, and audio, video, and picture requests. He is a very active part on the website, and clearly a main authority figure based on his attention, communication, and feedback from the website. Unfortunately, I was not able to find a lot of information on Swami Harishchander Puri through the website or by using basic search engines. This presents the problem of knowing whether or not an authority figure is a legitimate source or not. Pauline Cheong references this problem in an article by explaining that the logic of disjuncture and displacement “perspective refers to dominant approaches in which digital media is framed to be corrosive and disruptive to traditional religious authority, stressing an erosion of power for traditional institutions and leaders, to define and determine the meaning of religious symbols” (Cheong, 5, 2011). Here, Cheong is expressing that religious context online can sometimes change or disregard a presence of authority and in knowing the legitamcy of the authority. Authority is something that cannot always be easily found for religious purposes in an online setting.
Cheong, P. (2011). Authority. Arizona State University: Online Document, 5