Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

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Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:47 pm

A new website has been created by a group in Thailand who is offended by disrespectful treatment of Buddha images by foreigners who don't seem to think that Buddhism counts together with its symbols as a "valid religion" in the same way that for example Christianity does:

Do and Don't on Buddha
http://www.knowingbuddha.org
http://www.facebook.com/KnowingBuddha

:buddha1:

Please visit the organization's website, where we have all contents regarding Dos and Don'ts on Buddha, Buddha's biography and his core teachings.
Mission
To provide the better understanding about what should and should not do to the Buddha.
Description
We often find that Buddha is not treated with respect. Many people over look the feelings of billions of Buddhists around the world.
General information
Why is the image of Buddha so important?
When Buddha was still alive he never asked his followers to make statues or worship him in images. Instead he taught us to not have any attachment to anything – not even himself. Buddha said that the best way to worship him was to follow his teachings. And that after he passed away, after his “Nippana” or “Nirvana”, his teachings would take his place.
100 years later some of his followers wondered how Buddha looked. They prayed to an angel who used to meet Buddha. Then the angel appeared in Buddha’s image, and so the first Buddha statues were created. Since then Buddha statues have become a key element for most Buddhists around the world are reminded of his compassion, kindness and his teachings and feel the highest regard for him.
Some show respect, others behave with ignorance.
This summary might help you understand how you (should) can treat Buddha’s images appropriately.



Compare these cases:

Why, for some reason, do some religions in America seem to carry more legitimacy, treated with more respect and sensitivity, over other religions in America?
Can you imagine a scenario in which Las Vegas opened a new nightclub called “Trinity” that themed all it’s decorations and advertising material around Jesus and other Christian icons? Would Christians (and Americans in general) find that disrespectful and offensive? Would their feelings be treated as melodramatic and inappropriate?

http://dharmafolk.com/2012/05/30/lets-g ... he-buddha/


Sexuality, Exoticism, and Iconoclasm in the Media Age: The Strange Case of the Buddha Bikini

http://bucknell.academia.edu/JamesMarkS ... dha_Bikini

Buddha Bar

http://www.scribd.com/doc/7154047/Buddha-Bar-1
http://sdhammika.blogspot.co.uk/2009/03 ... ar_15.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Cittasanto » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:11 pm

hi Bhante,
I had a good look at the site when you linked to it a little while ago.

it brings up a few conflicting thoughts to put them into an extreme form of "how dare they..." "why should I care..." I think it boils down to "is this an intelligent criticism; unwitting mistake or is it a ignorant "piss take" (pardon my language)."
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby cooran » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:23 pm

Hello all,

Personally, I don't think the Buddha would have cared. I don't. And I don't believe 'the angel told us what Buddha looked like' tale.

Many people I know have all sorts of buddha garden gnomes, sold in many garden and hardware shops - and Hotei (whom they think is the Buddha) seems to be the most popular - they rub his belly for good luck.

Buddha garden statues
Image

Why create unwholesome akusala mind states and work yourself up over it? It only matters if it matters.

with metta
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby reflection » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:30 pm

Here in the Netherlands I know of at least one coffeeshop (the Dutch kind, where various sorts of drugs are sold) that is literally called "The Buddha" and has symbols of him too. :D

And there is a jewelry brand called "Buddha to Buddha".

And once I walked into this bar called "Little Buddha", with a huge statue surrounded by drunk people:

Image


:lol: :lol: There must be many more cases like this. I personally think it is kind of funny and couldn't care less.
Last edited by reflection on Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:37 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Viscid » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:30 pm

gavesako wrote:Can you imagine a scenario in which Las Vegas opened a new nightclub called “Trinity” that themed all it’s decorations and advertising material around Jesus and other Christian icons? Would Christians (and Americans in general) find that disrespectful and offensive? Would their feelings be treated as melodramatic and inappropriate?


Yes, some group of people would likely express outrage at calling a nightclub trinity and using sacred imagery in a manner which they judge to be disrespectful. But isn't it people's own attachments, their own defilements, which is making them feel hurt and outraged at having particular symbols used in a way they find inappropriate? I think there's value in sacrilege if it devalues an object of worship. Such attachment to symbols can cause violence. Look at the history of the Tooth Relic in Sri Lanka. Wars and violence over a stupid tooth! What absurdity. If people are repeatedly exposed to casual display of symbols of divinity, those symbols lose their sense of sacredness, which is absolutely wonderful in my opinion-- less attachments to cry over.
"What holds attention determines action." - William James
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby mpcahn » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:33 pm

There's a head shop in Boulder called Buddha's Gouda. My kilesas came up when a girl from it offered me a coupon for 50% off a glass pipe.
is the mind us? Is it ours? Slash on down! Whatever is going to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. We feel no regrets. We want only the truth. (Ajahn Maha Boowa)
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Skeptic » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:34 pm

cooran wrote:Buddha garden statues
Image


I have a little statue looking like this, given to me by a Sai Baba devotee which bough it in India. She said it is the statue of Metteyya Buddha, but when I did some research I have found that this is also depiction of some Chinese folk deity named Hotei. On other occasion I have seen this statue in the picture from Khmer new year celebration in some Theravadin temple. So what this really is?
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby cooran » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:38 pm

Hello skeptic,

This might give you some information:
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/hotei.shtml

with metta
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:41 pm

Viscid wrote: But isn't it people's own attachments, their own defilements, which is making them feel hurt and outraged at having particular symbols used in a way they find inappropriate?

Certainly if people feel hurt or outraged about something, and not totally equanimous, they have not fully developed the Path.

However, even equanimous beings, such as the Buddha, criticised things he found inappropriate.

:anjali:
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:44 pm

That is how it might appear to "protestant Buddhists" but if you consider the feelings of people in traditional Buddhist countries which have preserved the Sasana for generations and made it literally part of their culture, it might look quite different.

Here is some history:

With the fall of Mandalay, all of Burma came under British rule. Throughout the colonial era, many Indians arrived as soldiers, civil servants, construction workers and traders and, along with the Anglo-Burmese community, dominated commercial and civil life in Burma. Rangoon became the capital of British Burma and an important port between Calcutta and Singapore.
Burmese resentment was strong and was vented in violent riots that paralysed Yangon on occasion all the way until the 1930s.[33] Some of the discontent was caused by a disrespect for Burmese culture and traditions such as the British refusal to remove shoes when they entered pagodas. Buddhist monks became the vanguards of the independence movement. U Wisara, an activist monk, died in prison after a 166-day hunger strike to protest a rule that forbade him from wearing his Buddhist robes while imprisoned.[34]


Similarly, the Portuguese were particularly nasty in Sri Lanka and more destructive than the British. It was part of the colonial mentality obviously.

In the present case involving Thailand, there might be some nationalist sentiment behind it because "Sasana" (meaning Buddhism here) is regarded as one of the three pillars of the state. These are sensitive issues obviously which one does NOT joke about and foreigners would be well advised to be careful around them:

Now Thailand's culture ministry has filed a complaint to police against Lady Gaga for misuse of the Thai flag during her show last month. The ministry said the part of Lady Gaga's performance when she wore a traditional headdress and sat on a motorcycle in a skimpy outfit with a Thai flag trailing behind was "inappropriate and hurt Thai people's sentiment".
The ministry noted that the Thai national flag consisted of three colours -- red for the nation, blue for the revered monarchy and white for religion.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/breakingnews ... ok-concert
http://thaiscare.com/2012/06/thai-cultu ... -over-gag/

:o
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby cooran » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:51 pm

mikenz66 wrote:
Viscid wrote: But isn't it people's own attachments, their own defilements, which is making them feel hurt and outraged at having particular symbols used in a way they find inappropriate?

Certainly if people feel hurt or outraged about something, and not totally equanimous, they have not fully developed the Path.

However, even equanimous beings, such as the Buddha, criticised things he found inappropriate.

:anjali:
Mike



Yes, I agree, Mike. None of my practising Thai friends in Thailand or Oz are hurt or outraged. Governments, of course, have different responsibilities and agendas.

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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Skeptic » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:59 pm

cooran wrote:Hello skeptic,

This might give you some information:
http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/hotei.shtml

with metta
Chris


Thanks Cooran, I also had a picture from Thailand with large Hotei-like statue of Buddha, but can't find it now. Completely different from other Thai Buddha statues. But maybe this was from some Chinese temple in Thailand, since there is a large community of Thai-Chinese which are now Theravadins but their ancestors were Mahayanist, and some of them are Mahayanist even today.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Viscid » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:06 pm

gavesako wrote:That is how it might appear to "protestant Buddhists" but if you consider the feelings of people in traditional Buddhist countries which have preserved the Sasana for generations and made it literally part of their culture, it might look quite different.


And it would be appropriate in these countries for foreigners to abide by their sentiment. It would be terribly arrogant of someone to decide unilaterally that it's better for Eastern people to follow 'protestant Buddhism,' (western values) over tradition. Their house, their rules. However, in the West such imported traditions as Buddhism must not attempt to limit the individual's right to free speech. That right is more sacred in the United States than any symbol, and its repudiation more offensive than any sacrilege.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:13 pm

Image
Tao night club, Las Vegas

Image
Little Buddha, Las Vegas

Image
Brahma-deva in front of Caesers Palace, Las Vegas

Personally it doesn't bother me. I actually think the 'publicity' might be good, raising some questions and possible interest. And I think it tells a lot of a religion and its adherents in how they respond; for example in that most Buddhists take the high-road, don't get upset, don't call for violence or other actions when a Buddha image is used or if someone names their teddy bear "Buddha".
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Sokehi » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:50 pm

why the heat.

I remember a zen story where a master burned a buddha rupa thus shocking his disciples. He did because they were lacking firewood in the winter. It was just wood essentially.

I smile about such incidents were statues and symbols are "misused". It's very unskilfull to get angry about it imho. To be relaxed about it shows how passionate and peaceful buddhists are (or can be). In that way it surpasses any other worldreligion.

They will see for themselves.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby manas » Fri Jun 22, 2012 11:01 pm

Greetings Bhante, all,

it's been said that the Buddha would not feel any offense whatsoever regarding how an image of him were treated, and that is obviously true. But that isn't the point here, imho. The point is, that people who deliberately disrespect an image of the Enlightened One are accruing unwholesome kamma, and at the same time, might sway others who are not malicious but merely ignorant, that this kind of unwholesomeness is somehow ok. Let's leave aside whether or not disrespecting Buddha-rupas or any other symbols of Dhamma is 'ultimately' akusala in and of itself, and consider the impact this could have on many devout Buddhists. For that same reason, I choose not to disrespect the Christian cross, nor would I disrespect a Quran; not because I think these things are inherently sacred, but because of the distress this could cause to many who hold those faiths dear.

My only issue with the 'Do's and 'Dont's' page was that some persons with an already malicious intent, might actually get ideas from it. I have doubts about whether actually displaying the various kinds of ways in which symbols of Dhamma could conceivably be disrespected, is such a good idea. But I agree with the basic principle that those who do know about showing proper respect, should inform the ignorant.

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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby David2 » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:39 am

cooran wrote:Many people I know have all sorts of buddha garden gnomes, sold in many garden and hardware shops - and Hotei (whom they think is the Buddha) seems to be the most popular - they rub his belly for good luck.


Yeah, I think those Hotei statues are the reason why it seems that most people who don't know much about Buddhism think that the Buddha was fat. :roll:
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:02 am

Sokehi wrote:I remember a zen story where a master burned a buddha rupa thus shocking his disciples. He did because they were lacking firewood in the winter. It was just wood essentially.


Stories like this one are easily taken out of context and applied in another context where the meaning of such an action would have entirely different meaning. The Zen master, who was surrounded by a Buddhist culture, was probably trying to point to the essence of the Buddha's teachings which lie deeper than just the external worship of Buddha images, so he tried to "shock" his disciples in order to test their real faith in the Dhamma. That might have worked quite well in that case. (Also Ajahn Buddhadasa in Thailand used to say similar things for similar reasons.)

But this guy representing Christian religion in America is not a Zen master:

Pat Robertson appeared yet again on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club," and yet again his remarks were unabashedly forthcoming. When a viewer asked if it was OK that her Christian friend had a Buddha statue, Robertson advised her to "break it."

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/1 ... 25778.html

I think he could shake hands with the Taliban who blew up the Bamiyan Buddhas (their world-view is probably quite similar):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I6ikrF1 ... re=related
Last edited by gavesako on Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Ben » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:16 am

I have seen beer bottles shaped as Hotei (many people believe Hotei is "The Buddha"), a picture of a Buddha on the front of women's underpants, and the now ubiquitous garden gnome buddha. One doesn't see pictures of Christ or Mohammed on the the crotches of women's underwear, or beer bottles in the shape of those figures nor garden curios. Perhaps its because of our own "let it go" attitude that the Buddha nor Buddhism is taken as seriously in the west. Just a thought. Reverence for the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha isn't necessarily attachment.

Its also interesting to note that in Buddhist countries and in Buddhist monasteries and centres, there is an expectation of respect. One cannot walk into a monastery grounds wearing one's shoes, one cannot point feet at a Buddharupa or at a monk. In fact, I believe that in Thailand there are laws that criminalize disrespect towards the sasana. When I was in Myanmar, I was told of a famous incident during the time of the British colonial days when British soldiers attempted to enter a monastery without taking their shoes off - it caused a riot.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:54 am

This is relevant article on this theme:

Opening the Door to the Dhamma
Respect in Buddhist Thought & Practice
by Thanissaro Bhikkhu


If you're born into an Asian Buddhist family, the first thing your parents will teach you about Buddhism is not a philosophical tenet but a gesture of respect: how to place your hands in añjali, palm-to-palm over your heart, when you encounter a Buddha image, a monk, or a nun. Obviously, the gesture will be mechanical at first. Over time, though, you'll learn the respectful attitude that goes with it. If you're quick to pick it up, your parents will consider it a sign of intelligence, for respect is basic to any ability to learn.

As you get older, they may teach you the symbolism of the gesture: that your hands form a lotus bud, representing your heart, which you are holding out to be trained in how to become wise. Ultimately, as you grow more familiar with the fruits of Buddhist practice, your parents hope that your respect will turn into reverence and veneration. In this way, they give a quick answer to the old Western question of which side of Buddhism — the philosophy or the religion — comes first. In their eyes, the religious attitude of respect is needed for any philosophical understanding to grow. And as far as they're concerned, there's no conflict between the two. In fact, they're mutually reinforcing.

This stands in marked contrast to the typical Western attitude, which sees an essential discrepancy between Buddhism's religious and philosophical sides. The philosophy seems so rational, placing such a high value on self-reliance. The insight at the heart of the Buddha's awakening was so abstract — a principle of causality. There seems no inherent reason for a philosophy with such an abstract beginning to have produced a devotionalism intense enough to rival anything found in the theistic religions.

Yet if we look at what the Pali canon has to say about devotionalism — the attitude it expresses with the cluster of words, respect, deference, reverence, homage, and veneration — we find not only that its theory of respect is rooted in the central insight of the Buddha's awakening — the causal principle called this/that conditionality (idappaccayata) — but also that respect is required to learn and master this causal principle in the first place.
...
Especially interesting is the protocol of respect for the Dhamma. Buddhist monks and nuns are forbidden from teaching the Dhamma to anyone who shows disrespect, and the Buddha himself is said to have refused to teach his first sermon to the five brethren until they stopped treating him as a mere equal.

This protocol, of course, may have been a cultural accident, something picked up willy-nilly from the society of the Buddha's time, but there are passages in the canon suggesting otherwise. Buddhism was one of the samana (contemplative) movements in ancient India, which claimed to follow truths of nature rather than mainstream cultural norms. These movements were very free in choosing what to adopt from prevailing customs. Buddhist descriptions of other samana movements often criticized them for being disrespectful not only to outsiders but also among themselves. Students are shown being disrespectful to their teachers — their group meetings raucous, noisy, and out of control. All of this is then contrasted with the way Buddhists conduct their meetings in mutual courtesy and respect. This suggests that the Buddhists were free to reject the common customs of respect but made a conscious choice not to.

This choice is based on their insight into respect as a prerequisite for learning. It's easier to learn from someone you respect than from someone you don't. Respect opens the mind and loosens preconceived opinions to make room for new knowledge and skills. At the same time, people who value their knowledge feel more inclined to teach it to someone who shows respect than to someone who doesn't.
...
So when Buddhist parents teach their children to show respect for the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, they aren't teaching them a habit that will later have to be unlearned. Of course, the child will need to discover how best to understand and make use of that respect, but at least the parents have helped open the door for the child to learn from its own powers of observation, to learn from the truth, and to learn from the insights of others. And when that door — when the mind — is opened to what truly deserves respect, all things noble and good can come in.

:bow:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... pect5.html
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