On 10 August 2000, during the Kishore-Kishori Shibir at Perry (Georgia), a question-answer session on the subject of internet use was held with Swamishri. The focussed, practical and penetrating answers by Swamishri provide a very clear ethical guideline to all netizens.
Q: For what purpose should we use the internet?
A: Science has advanced tremendously today. Before using anything we should exercise the power of discrimination (vivek-buddhi) as prescribed by our shastras. Such discrimination develops through the company of good people, the realized sadhu and God.
The internet is both good and bad. With relation to business and academic studies, it is very lucrative. But in logging to academic sites, one is also influenced by its dark side. At present you should have only two priorities - studies and satsang.
Many are overconfident about themselves, thinking that nothing will happen by looking at such things. But even the great have fallen. There are examples of people who were greater than us, from our Sampradaya and others, that have succumbed to such obstacles.
Ekalshrungi rishi was a recluse who was not even aware of the distinction between man and woman. From childhood his father had taken such care to seclude him. He was a person of strong mind yet he fell. Similarly, you may feel nothing will happen to you but these are enticing matters. A click of the button, then a brief glance and you feel like seeing a little more. And then you go deeper and get drowned in it. If there is no discrimination you will lose everything. You will decline in your studies and then ruin your life. New Research and more discoveries will be made. First came the telephone, then TV, video, internet and now the website. And tomorrow morning something else will arrive and it will be faster! The element of 'speed' is demonic.
There are glamorous and pornographic videos published by people who want to earn money. They are not concerned whether your thoughts get corrupted, society gets spoilt and the country devastated. The authorities get taxes from them so they will not be able to stop them. There is only one means to stop it - personal understanding. To realise it yourself. When you realise that drugs, gutka and other addictions are poisonous then you will be able to stay away from them.
The only reason for such evils in life is the lack of discrimination in daily living. If you mentally resolve that you don't want to use it then liquor, gutka, etc. will not touch you. Otherwise these are demonic things that are so alluring that one gets enticed. Within there lies desires, so on contact with such things there is obviously a greater attraction. So no matter how strong you may be but you will lapse. Therefore, if you are vigilant then you won't have problems. Be cautious and don't ever see and use the bad things on the website. Internet seems good but it is like slow poison. As you experience it more and more you spoil your life. Spread this message so that others may be saved. To save a drowning person is our duty.
Q: Should we chat on the Internet?
A: You can chat on what is necessary but not on unnecessary things. There is no objection to chat on academic or business aspects. If you want to know about religion then you can chat. There is no objection to chatting about things that enhance your character, culture, faith in religion and God, and make your life good and philanthropic. But there is no benefit in chatting about things that spoil your life, family and society. This means that you should not chat and listen to bad things.
Q: How much time should we spend on the Internet?
A: Today, we see that people get so absorbed on the Internet that they spend hours and nights looking at it. And its influence is more on the youths.
You should use it for a little while. Once you get the answer of your question then you should end it . There's no need to expand it further. And if it is related to your studies, satsang and business then work on it but otherwise don't waste your time.
Give all your attention when it is related to your academic studies. Secondly, spend time for devotion and satsang for it will mould your life and help control your mind. You will reap its benefits in future. You will not be affected by bad influence. And with the remaining time serve your mother and father, do the household chores - respect your parents and please them by obeying their wishes. And there is nothing wrong in playing sports.
In brief, spend the amount of time necessary but don't waste it. If you spend a little more time in good things then there's no objection. If you spend 15 minutes extra in matters related to study or mandir then its OK. But you should not spend a single minute in bad things.