On our third night among Buddhist Web sites, we gaze upon . . .
An impressive, Flash-powered site from the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif., is a near-perfect use of the Internet for religion. It blends beauty and sound -- flute, chants, rippling water -- in sharing knowledge.
Exploring is easy. Simply pick one of four big icons, on the Buddha, Compassionate Beings, Buddhist Sites and Ritual Objects. Each section crosslinks to the others, letting you skip around without returning to the homepage.
For a gimmick-heavy site, Visions of Enlightenment has surprisingly detailed text. Fact boxes pop up everywhere.
Click a keyword in the text, like Theravada, and a box defines it. Roll your mouse pointer over the pictures, and balloons pop up to point out, for instance, why images of the Buddha have long earlobes, or why some begging bowls are made from human skulls. Throughout the site, you're gently challenged with "Fact or Fiction" questions.
The four Flash photo essays are a treat in themselves. One, Hollywood Buddha, shows the many ways that city has co-opted the Buddha and his concepts: names of restaurants, clubs and coffeehouses; rock groups like Nirvana; even a bobblehead Buddha for a dashboard.
Once intrigued, you may be frustrated by the lack of a print-friendly mode. But there's a way around that. Simply select the HTML option on the homepage instead of Flash. That brings up conventional text blocks with inline images.