As a new contributor to Dharma Folk, I am honored to particpate in the discussion of Buddhism through this blog.
As my first post, I have gathered several pictures of Buddhist related products taken while Christmas shopping. It’s always surprising to see Buddhism appearing randomly on t-shirts, in restaurants, as toys, and whatever else people can think of. This “Buddhamania” phenomenon, as the Los Angeles Times calls it, appears everywhere – the Buddha figure seems to be getting more and more popular, though not always in a spiritual context.
While I agree that some images of the Buddha used for fashion, decor, brands, etc. can be offensive and inappropriate, I also feel that the increased presence of Buddhism in American popular culture can have a positive effect. I certainly don’t encourage people’s only exposure to Buddhism through a Buddha-shaped coin bank, but any initial exposure to Buddhism imagery, even if it is laminated on the front of an Asian-fusion restaurant menu, introduces Buddhist culture, though probably stereotyped, to those unaware. The idea is that exposure can lead to curiosity, which can be immediate or stored deep within one’s memory until something (maybe a friend suggests Buddhism) revives the desire to learn more. As long as we don’t see Buddhist imagery used in any way harmful to others, seeing more of Buddhism while I’m window shopping can be interesting and quite nice.