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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:15 am

Viscid wrote: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.



"Individual's right to free speech": rights come hand in hand with responsibilities, one cannot have one without the other, otherwise there will be disharmony and conflict as we see so often these days. Insulting others is a sign of ignorance and low intelligence, because such behaviour will inevitably cause a counter-reaction.


Like this film director who was probably just acting out of ignorance and lack of knowledge about other cultures, and then recognized his mistake and apologized:

On September 7th 2547 [2004] the local newspapers Daily News and Matichon printed the news and picture of Hollywood director Philippe Caland’s ad for his movie Hollywood Buddha, with the ad depicting him sitting on a Buddha’s statue’s head.

Response from WFB:

As we see, some people would have no qualms about abusing religious artifacts for commercial advertisements, towards monetary ends. They expect to insult others, apologize and promise to remove the offensive material, and then continue to benefit from their advertisements in as many ways possible, and still expect to sell their product to the Buddhist world. We hope that we can show them it is better to be less devious and plan the promotion better, since there are many great movies out there that never had to resort to matterial offensive to whatever religion to have great success. We may be tolerant and understanding, but it doesn't mean that we don't see what is going on or avoid doing anything about it; the bhikkhus may be prohibited by vinaya from defending themselves or their religion, but we laity are not, in fact it is our duty to do so, if in a non violent, reasonable way; even from the acts of a man who claims he is Buddhist: after all the Buddha predicted that other religions cannot destroy Buddhism, only Buddhists [or those who claim to be] can.

http://www.wfb-hq.org/Open%20Letter.html
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:54 am

In the UK we have "Mecca Bingo", There was a night club called "The Tabernacle", Christian iconography has been and is used in popular fashion. I've heard there are pornos that contain religious themes are available. We have music released like Public Image http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-CGP2xIuXnw

Looking back in history weren't many Buddha images in Ayutthaya Thailand destroyed by a conquering Buddhist force?

I've remember seeing stories of Nazi iconography being used in what would be seen as a highly inappropriate way in Thailand. Wasn't there a Nazi themed night club in Bangkok at one time? http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archi ... -many.html
+ Nazi chic sweeps Bangkok http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... tlers.html

A lack of sensitivity has not been monopolised as of yet.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Sat Jun 23, 2012 8:43 am

Oh and there is David Beckham http://www.thaibuddhist.com/meet-david- ... ai-temple/
Is this for commercial reasons or just a bit of fun?
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:10 am

Mr Man wrote:Oh and there is David Beckham http://www.thaibuddhist.com/meet-david- ... ai-temple/
Is this for commercial reasons or just a bit of fun?


This is just typical Thai way of relating to certain personalities who are regarded as "special" because of their high Parami: they make them into small deities which are kind of worshiped alongside the main Buddha statue. This is not so different from Hinduism with its host of gods and deities -- Thai Buddhism is a colourful mixture with many influences, including animism and Brahmanism (especially relating to royal ceremonies).
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:20 am

Or is it a way to attract people to a temple to raise money? Cashing in?
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jun 23, 2012 10:05 am

Mr Man wrote:Or is it a way to attract people to a temple to raise money? Cashing in?

Hi Mr Man,
Thai culture can appear quite strange to outsiders, That is one thing I have learnt from interactions both here and in the real world.

the mangala sutta has as a blessing "honouring those worthy of honour", and if they see him as someone worthy of honour who are we to say they are wrong, or are trying to do something else?
but just to point out it isn't really an example onpar with offensive use of symbols such as the Buddha Bar, or the Buddha depicted on ladies underwear, it is more likely part of the folk Buddhism being discussed in another thread.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"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 Mr Man » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:29 am

Hi Cittasanto
Ideally I would like the Beckham post and the post above to be seen as "one". I certainly take no offense at Beckham's image being used in a temple. I do find ladies underwear with religious iconography on the front to be in bad taste though.

To not note that there is a vast money making industry built around Buddhism in Thailand would be naive - Is it in bad taste and offensive to the sensibilities of a Buddhist?

Back to the OP I don't think Buddhism is singled out for less respect than other religions in the USA and west in general. Hopefully my initial post shows that to some extent. Also I hope that me initial post shows that a lack of sensitivity is a quality that we all share.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Sat Jun 23, 2012 11:50 am

A Thai friend wrote to me:

Guess what I found in Europe. A giant Buddha's statue in the most unlikely place for such, right in the world-famous Grand Casino of Monte Carlo! The 'Buddha Bar' is a high-class bar, selling all sorts of alcohol to the world's richest gamblers. I thought gambling, alcohol, overindulgence and the Buddha didn't mix and match. I was wrong. They DO in Europe! Eiei. Gamblers-drinkers would find nirvana in this place, meditating upon the huge Buddha's statue before passing out. Hahaha. Unfortunately, we went there in the morning, and both the Casino and the Bar wern't open. Otherwise, we would definitely have experienced nirvana...Monte Carlo style! :P
Prince Albert II teamed up with Princess Caroline again today for the opening of the "Buddha Bar" in Monte Carlo. A business geared toward over-indulgence in alcohol in a country famous for harboring the super-rich with a Buddhist theme...hmmm....somehow I doubt that the 'Enlightened One' would approve of his image being used in this way.
http://madmonaco.blogspot.com/2010/06/r ... onaco.html


Reading the descriptions of Buddha Bar on their website, I think that this French-based chain is deliberately using a certain language and imagery which is supposed to take the customer back to the golden colonial era during which the French used to go to Cambodia, Laos or Vietnam and enjoy the life there. Smoking opium while contemplating a Buddha image was probably their version of "nirvana". Although such use of the Buddhist symbols seems offensive to the traditional Asian Buddhists, it is probably not really intentional and coming from a lack of knowledge about other religions (the images of Buddhism in popular Western culture are influenced by Zen and the hippies). There was some campaign to Stop Buddha Bar on the internet which was successful at least in some places.
http://www.facebook.com/saynotobuddhabar


Although in Thailand most people show respect to the Buddha images at certain times, it can often be just superficial: gambling and drinking and dancing at temple festivals is not uncommon, apart from other things that go on. See "Funeral Casino":
http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-BE/jbe105260.htm

And even in ancient India there were some people who believed that "highest nirvana in the here and now means to be fully enjoying the pleasures of the five senses" (Brahmajala Sutta) -- so hedonism is nothing new.

However, if you want an example of how non-religious Westerners use Buddha statues for inspiration and calming their mind, see the case of Winston Churchill:
http://dharmafolk.com/2011/08/03/the-tr ... ha-statue/

:buddha1:
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:44 pm

hi Mr Man
I see them as one post, but there is still a difference between the links you use and that one.

but to ignore that there is a money making industry in any religion with talismans or other religious object and to suggest that it is the same as, or a reason they shouldn't complain about depicting the imagery on underwear or as part of a commercial establishment which operates in ways completely against the teachings of the group to which it is associated is also naive, particularly when the reason given could be seen as akin to your second option.

BTW mecca is also a noun in English, not just a place name and Muslims did take offense to this name of a century old establishment http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/47352.stm and of a change in name of a Luton establishment to mecca, also of a nightclub of the same name in Spain http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... mists.html although Christianity doesn't have the same ideas on drink and partying as Buddhism or Islam.

however, yes the Nazi bar does show a similar lack of sensitivity and would be akin to calling somewhere pol pot, something the Thai People do have an equivalent association of due to proximity and refugees.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Thaibebop » Sun Jun 24, 2012 2:58 am

David N. Snyder wrote: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".

That Brahma-deva shrine is somewhat legitimate, it is a replica of another shrine but Thai monks were brought to the casino to dedicate it. So, it is much like Thai shrines that are placed everywhere in market areas of Bangkok, like the Erawan shrine, which just proves your point. But does raise an interesting question, if blessed by monks, is it okay, or just wrong if monks aren't involved.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Thaibebop » Sun Jun 24, 2012 3:03 am

I am relaying on my memory but I believe there is a allegory in Buddhist literature about luring children out of a burning house who refuse to leave. The parent offers them toys, I think, even though there are none and that tricks them out of the house. Now, one might argue that the parent lied, but the children are safe. I believe this was meant to suggest that it is more important to get the Dharma in to people's minds rather than holding it away. Why would it matter how one came to hear the Dharma, as long as they heard it.

I admit I am not always at ease with how Buddhism is depicted in America, but the fact that anyone here is talking about it seems to be an improvement.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jun 24, 2012 9:04 am

Cittasanto wrote:but to ignore that there is a money making industry in any religion with talismans or other religious object and to suggest that it is the same as, or a reason they shouldn't complain about depicting the imagery on underwear or as part of a commercial establishment which operates in ways completely against the teachings of the group to which it is associated is also naive


But to clarify I did not "suggest that it is the same as, or a reason they shouldn't complain about depicting". My point was that it is not just Buddhism which receives a lack of sensativity and that all societies are capable of showing insensativity.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jun 24, 2012 4:02 pm

Thaibebop wrote:I am relaying on my memory but I believe there is a allegory in Buddhist literature about luring children out of a burning house who refuse to leave. The parent offers them toys, I think, even though there are none and that tricks them out of the house.
That would be the Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Doshin » Mon Jun 25, 2012 10:15 am

gavesako wrote:This is relevant article on this theme:

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

...


Reading the first post, I would think the theme was: (dis)respect by those not following Buddhist Thought & Practice

I see my own reaction on others dis-respect, as reflection on Maras poisoned arrows that shoots towards me... Where/who gives rise to the offended'nes ?
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:05 pm

But if the prevailing image among Western non-Buddhists is that "Buddhists do not worship gods or external symbols, they only cultivate the mind internally" which might also be associated with the striking story about the Zen master burning the Buddha statue, then it might lead to an incorrect understanding about Buddhism as whole and, as in the many examples mentioned above, people will do things involving Buddhist symbols without really expecting that any followers of Buddhism would mind.

See also this interesting article on new developments in the police forces:

Mr Watts said his members did not follow one particular tradition of Buddhism and so would not all want to take the same festivals off work, however, nor were there any plans to create shrines or Buddha groves in police stations.
In total it is estimated that there are just 150,000 Buddhists – who believe in gaining spiritual knowledge about the true nature of life and do not worship gods – in Britain.
But as well as gaining popularity among police officers, Buddhism is also one of the fastest-growing religions in jails.


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... olice.html

In the jails, though, there has been an effort to set up Buddha groves with statues that inspire peacefulness.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Sylvester » Tue Jun 26, 2012 2:46 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Image
Brahma-deva in front of Caesers Palace, Las Vegas



That's not just any Brahma-deva, but believed in Thailand to be Brahma Sahampati. I wonder why Caesers installed a shrine to him?
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:33 pm

That is simple: The four-faced Brahma is a symbol of good luck and prosperity on the worldly level. Nothing to do with Buddhism particularly.
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:40 pm

Buddhists March in Bangkok to Speak Out to the World to Stop Disrespecting Buddha
The KnowingBuddha Foundation is preparing a major march in Bangkok on 30 June, to show their respect for Buddha and to show how so many are disrespecting Buddha.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/prweb2012 ... 635673.htm
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby Mr Man » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:48 pm

It's not going to be much of a march if it is just down Khao San Road. It will be over in 5 minutes!
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Postby gavesako » Tue Jun 26, 2012 12:53 pm

But the CNN might take notice of it that way... :soap:
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