KSU Researcher Explores Online Spirituality

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) _ A Kansas State researcher's study of spirituality in the virtual world has led to a focus on Buddhists' online religious communities.

Jessica Falcone is an assistant professor of sociology, anthropology and social work. She studies South Asian cultures and religions, particularly Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.

The university says Falcone is researching Buddhism and Buddhist holy objects in Second Life, an online virtual world. There, Buddhists can participate in religious events, such as group meditation sessions in virtual temples. The virtual temples replicate real-world temples and include a large Buddha statue.

Falcone says for those who live in an area without a Buddhist community, the virtual community may be the only place where they can practice their religion with other people. For others, the online experience complements their real-life practices.