Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

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

Post by 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.

with metta,

manas. :anjali:
Knowing this body is like a clay jar,
securing this mind like a fort,
attack Mara with the spear of discernment,
then guard what's won without settling there,
without laying claim.

- Dhp 40

David2
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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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gavesako
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by gavesako on Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Ben
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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.
kind regards,

Ben
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gavesako
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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gavesako
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Mr Man
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
+ Nazi chic sweeps Bangkok http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article ... tlers.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

A lack of sensitivity has not been monopolised as of yet.

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Mr Man
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

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

Oh and there is David Beckham http://www.thaibuddhist.com/meet-david- ... ai-temple/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Is this for commercial reasons or just a bit of fun?

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

Post by 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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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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Mr Man
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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

Post by 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.
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Mr Man
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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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gavesako
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

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/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:buddha1:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; 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" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; 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.
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He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
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Thaibebop
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Re: Respect for Buddha images and offensive use of symbols

Post by 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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