Religion

Buddhists launch digital currency to banish corruption from religion

By Oliver Smith 29 August 2017
Image: Getty/ugurhan.
Summary

Buddhism meets Bitcoin.

Corruption and religion have, sadly, always gone hand-in-hand.

From stories of religious leaders abusing their power to the most dodgy day-to-day practices.

“Everyone has seen a donation box at the front of a temple, church, or other religious institution. Wouldn’t it be nice to know exactly where that money went?”

It’s this question that led Anton Doos to realise that, by harnessing the modern technology of blockchain, religious corruption could be almost entirely banished.

Meet Lotos Network

His solution is called Lotos Network, which at its core is “an accessible audit trail that can reward wholesome institutions by restoring their trust,” Doos told The Memo.

The network is made of two concepts. The first is for a kind of religious social network, a digital realm for practitioners to spread and share their teachings so that anyone, anywhere in the world can access Buddhism.

The second, maybe more interesting part, is a new digital currency called Karma Tokens which are based on the same kind of decentralised system as Bitcoin, known as blockchain.

Now Karma Tokens and the wider Lotos vision is still under construction, dozens of volunteers are constantly tweaking Doos’ original whitepaper fleshing out the idea, but, as Doos explains it, the tokens “are attempting to become the first currency for Buddhist Economics.”

Buddhist Economics

Eventually the idea is that students of Buddhism will be able to buy Karma Tokens in order to pay their teacher or school for teachings, and once they’ve paid they’ll be able to make sure those funds are being used correctly.

The digital currency could also serve as a measure of a temple’s reputation, a log of its teaching and a judgment of its reputation.

“By accumulating and using [Karma Tokens], you are in compliance with the Noble Path,” says Doos. “The use of these tokens is intended to reduce consumption and create producers through meditation with no negative change in satisfaction.”

Crucially Doos says the whole idea behind Lotos isn’t to ‘compete’ with traditional Buddhism, rather to allow the religion to grow in the digital world.

“Lotos is a platform where anyone can erect their own digital temple.”

And, if truly successful, it’s not just Buddhism that could benefit from the idea of Lotos Network.

The future

Any religious institution that accepts donations or deals with money ought to be using a cryptocurrency, says Doos, in order to establish a transparent audit trail for its followers.

And especially in religions where persecution is an issue, digital currencies could let followers support a religion without fear.

“In the case of religious persecution and censorship, the blockchain is an ideal place to make these transactions as they can be done anonymously.”

This is obviously a first for Buddhism, but maybe it won’t be long before Catholic Coins and others arrive too.