At the same time, it might be understandable if a Buddhist family living in Whitby is a bit upset over the mascot of the local weed-paraphernalia store, the “Laughing Buddha”, which features a jolly fat Chinese Bùdài smoking an oriental-style bong.
In instances such as this two questions arise, what is the context and what is the appropriate reaction?
Concerning the context, associating the Buddha with a business trafficking in intoxicating substances offends Buddhist sensibilities as it runs contrary to the precept against the use of intoxicants and also is inconsistent with Right Livelihood. So it could be considered offensive, even more so because it conveys to people unfamiliar with Buddhist teachings the idea that Buddhist enlightenment is compatible with intoxication (which it is not).
On the other hand, it’s important to keep things in perspective. A friend of mine who does research on Nazi Germany has pointed out that one of the propaganda tropes of Nazism was the image of the “laughing Jew” which sought to depict Jewish people as clowns, utterly at odds with the supposed “serious” aim of creating an Aryan super race. Compared to the Nazi project, marketing cannabis to a bunch of stoners using the Buddha’s image may be offensive and tragically misleading, but it probably does more harm to marijuana users than it does to people who follow the Buddha’s teachings.
As for how one should react, it seems to me that the most constructive thing would be to talk to the owners of the business in question and discuss with them the misleading nature of their business name. My guess is that the business owners have no clue that what they are doing sends unfortunate messages about a philosophy that guides millions of people. You probably won’t get them to change the name of the business, but you probably would “enlighten” them (in the colloquial sense) more than they feel enlightened by smoking weed.
That is a level of bodhisattva social responsibility that I am not prepared to take up! They’ll have to continue their business without my comments, alas.
Hi, I am is Knot.
I do support KBO. This organization is non-profit organization. Many volunteers finnished meditation and Vipassana meditation course.
I have seen and joined many activities which held by this organization to educate people about Buddha. The campaigns are about please respect Buddha, and stop disrespect the Buddha by using as decroration or merchandise.For example, walking campaign in Khao san Rd. or JJ market. I also joined booths in Wat Arun, Wat Pho, Wat Benchamabophit. In booth, there are video regarding Buddha’s teaching…5000s Magazine is also a channel to educate. This is good megazine that tell Dhamma and Buddha’s teaching can be applied to people’life also laypeople. It publishes every two months in book stores such as B2S and etc…Buddha does not teach us only to be a good person, but more than that such as to reach enlightenment. Thus, this is a good campaign to support.
Greetings in Dhamma to you all, here is my two bobs worth. When i was in Bangkok recently I noticed the big billboards and to be honest it didn’t come across as being a particularly skilfull way of trying to create cultural/resligious sympathy. I thought the quote ‘the Buddha not for decoration, respect is common sense’ if I was not familiar with buddha-dhamma wouldn’t really make that much sense or have any of the desired effects. It also comes across -to my mind at least- as a bit out of place. I also saw some similar stuff in a few wats in the form of placards and what not. On the few occasions I saw some farang people they seemed curious and interested and if there had been someone to explain the idea of respect I’m sure they probably would have even bowed. So my point is yes I think it’s a good thing to provide the general public with understanding of correct cultural etiquette and a nice way to introduce Dhamma related ideas such as virtue, humility etc, in the form of say a pamphlet when you arrive at the airport maybe? or if you have to make a gigantic billboard then use quote that may resonate more with people and is a bit more tactful…such as
"World peace starts with inner peace, please be respectful of Buddha images, and don’t forget to meditate!’ #NamaskarnKa#SaWatDeeKa
“Your inner life is your outer life, what could be more lacking in the world than respect, so when you see an image of the Buddha don’t forget to wai!(Namaste)#GoodKarma#NamaskarnKap #SaWatDeeKap”
“Be what you want to see in the world, enjoy amazing Thailand, and don’t forget when you see and image of the Buddha or a monk don’t forget to wai(Namaste/Añjali), and say #NamskarnKap if you’re a bloke and #NamaskarnKa if you’re a Sheila.” #Enjoythe Smile."
I sure hope the billboards would not have so much text on them that disoriented farang, suffering from jet lag, and driving a rental car in an unfamiliar setting try to read a lot of words on a billboard, lose focus while driving, and get into an accident on busy Bangkok roadways
The best way to get the message to others is to warn them at the airport terminal that they would be deported if they disrespect the religion and culture that they are craving to visit. I’m not saying this is the nicest way but just the most effective one.
So what do the suttas say about representations of the Buddha? Do they say someplace “Thou shalt not make an image of me” or something like that? It seems people believe that Buddha heads (without the rest of the body) should not exist. There is a custom that prohibits placing a representation of the Buddha on the floor… Are there other customs associated with depictions of the Buddha?
No such thing! But some societies hold nothing sacred. Deeper dhamma will show nothing is sacred, as well, however to get there something must be held sacred. The ‘death of respect’, and all that. It’s about a system of values, which have a certain functional utility.
Here is an irony: In the United States (and quite possibly in other Western countries that are majority Christian) it is not at all uncommon for people who are Christian to get Christian symbols or images tattooed on their bodies. In the U.S. it appears to be especially common among Roman Catholics. The Catholic Church, as far as I know, takes no position on this and seemingly places no restrictions on the faithful when it comes to tattoos.
And yet, if a practicing Christian were to get a Buddha image tattooed on their body, some Buddhists would take offense. Why? The answer seems to be because it trivializes the religion when non-Buddhists treat Buddhist images as if they were mere decoration, as if a picture of the Buddha was like an image of Mickey Mouse. (And, by the way, the Walt Disney corporation jealously guards its trademarks and frowns on people getting Disney images tattooed on their bodies.)
The point is, if you walk around Western countries, e.g., in Europe, North America, Australia, etc., you see countless people with tattoos that are either overtly or vaguely “Asian” in appearance without having any idea whatsoever in terms of what those images mean. That’s an over-simplification, of course. Obviously many Westerners have done a lot of thinking, put great care into their tattoo choices, and in many cases have a deep relationship with Asian culture. However, I think what defenders of Buddhism are concerned about is the trivialization of Buddhist images by people who treat such images as if they were no different from a picture of Mickey Mouse.
That’s the issue. Walt Disney values the image and there’s also a cultural difference in what it means to tattoo something. In Asian countries only underworld gangs members would tattoo, traditionally, though this is now slowly taking on Western values. Rational thinking is something Asians could learn from the West, though that’s another topic! As I’m typing this I am realising that having rules at airports doesn’t translate to making people realise anything much, though some pointers to proper etiquette wouldn’t be out of place. I think it’s reasonable that as much as a Christian wouldn’t like a statue of Christ defaced Buddhists don’t like their religious icons used in a similar manner and neither would Muslims (EBT buddhists might not see the issue, though!).
And what if it’s not mere decoration? What if they find something profound in the Buddha’s story? Or, as non-Buddhists, respect the Buddha?
That’s a fair point. I acknowledge that. Thank you. I guess what I should have said is that, from the perspective of someone living in a predominantly Buddhist country in Asia, on the surface, seeing Western tourists sporting tattoos with Buddhist imagery might seem as if it is mere decoration. I’m sure there are plenty of Westerners who actually do practice Buddhism who have Buddhist-themed tattoos. I actually know an individual who came close to ordaining who has several tattoos with Buddhist images.
On the other hand, here in the United States I frequently see Buddhist and Asian images on tattoos on people who may or may not understand their meanings. There is plenty of thoughtless invocation of Buddhist symbols in the West. In an earlier post on this topic @Coemgenu pointed out that there is a store in Washington state (USA) going by the name “Laughing Buddha” which sells marijuana paraphernalia. I have a weekend condo near a marijuana store on the Oregon coast that is called “Citi-Zen,” as if it’s Zen to get high.
So it’s true that Westerners sporting Buddhist tattoos may mot be trivializing those images and may in fact be quite genuine in their respect for Buddhist practice. I should have said that. But it’s also true that for people in Asian countries who see tourists wandering into tattoo shops to get a Buddhist-themed tattoo they might rightly feel that some of these tourists are trivializing Buddhism.
Well I’m not even sure we’re talking about the same emotion! Think of it as having much impact as an insult against someone’s mother! They would consider the image or statue of a Buddha very close to their hearts. They hold it dear! Imagine them seeing it printed on toilet seats, bikinis and in music videos.
On the other hand I can see that exposure to the Buddha’s image has made it an icon for release! Maybe it makes it easier to recognise and less foreign! I see that something or someone being exotic, is appealing too!