Let’s Party! (with the Buddha)

My friends recently made a trip to Las Vegas and came back telling me that I should go to “TAO”. For those that aren’t familiar (like me), TAO is popular Asian-themed restaurant and nightclub in Las Vegas. Though I’ve never been, browsing through their website will give you a good sense of what it’s like.

From my friends’ clubbing experience, they described seeing many statues of the Buddha as part of the themed-decoration and scantily-clad woman dancing (probably in the way that young people do nowadays) against the statues. After hearing this, I really wish I could go, take a photo, and post it here. But I can’t so I’m just working off my friends’ description and my imagination.

I think this could possibly be the worse case of using Buddhism out of it’s religious context. And usually, if the Buddha or different aspects of Buddhism are used out of context, I’m willing to give it the benefit of the doubt that it may be harmless. But this is different. TAO is using representations of the Buddha to make money from encouraging sex appeal and alcohol without taking into consideration what the Buddha actually symbolizes for the Buddhist community. To me, that is highly offensive.th

What’s even more interesting (and telling) is that this is the first time I’ve heard anyone I know who’s gone to TAO mention the strange paradox of using the Buddha to decorate a nightclub.  I don’t expect people to be hypersensitive and constantly on the lookout for “out of context Buddhism” like me, but doesn’t anyone feel awkward dancing next to the Buddha with Usher’s new song playing in the background? Apparently not.

But if that mouthful doesn’t make any sense, don’t take my word for it. Head on over to Vegas with your makeup and clubbing outfit, bring your ID, buy a few drinks to get tipsy, and party the night away with the Buddha at TAO.

4 Replies to “Let’s Party! (with the Buddha)”

  1. I am extremely pleased that not death threats, beheadings or protesting boycotts have occurred over such sacrilege. Sacrilege should be welcomed — it informs us of opinions and perceptions. It is our duty to adjust, not theirs.

    I too find the distasteful use of sacred things such women or the buddha, as mean to obtain money to be very disappointing.

    The question is, how do we respond?

  2. Wow, that is interesting. I like you have never heard of this, but I am very curious as to why anybody seemed this is appropriate. I do not see any night clubs with Mother Mary or Jesus statues with girls on them. It is interesting how just because some cultures or religions may not be the popular or the mass media, but it is ok to degrade them and make money off of it? I would be very curious to hear the defense of the owners or the workers, I suppose because it makes money, then they are perfectly happy keeping the business afloat.

  3. I live in Vegas and I’ve been to TAO. I will admit that the club is beautifully decorated, even so I found the scene disturbing (I am a Buddhist practioner). I guess you have to look at the bigger picture and analyze such a club against Vegas culture. The city is extremely exploitive and not much is off limits (trust me if a there was money to be made off a club decorated with Mother Mary or Jesus statues it would be done) so this isn’t really anything abnormal as far as Vegas standards go. Another club, The Foundation Room in Mandalay Bay, is decorated with Buddhist and Hindu icons. Another factor is that there is not a socially engaged Buddhist community here to address such issues.

    Not suprisingly, TAO is one of the most popular and profitable night clubs on the Las Vegas strip. Popular enough to charge $30/ladies and $50/men cover charge and still draw enough of a crowd to have entry lines wrapping around the building.

  4. Ugh, I’m always weirded out and offended by these kinds of ‘dharma burgers’. I think because Buddhism has this “hip” and “edgy” image in American popular culture there is an unfortunate tendency for all kinds of alcohol, drug, and party-related paraphernalia to incorporate Buddhist imagery. I agree that some of this is harmless but to me having a whole club full of this stuff is crossing the line into wholly inappropriate territory.

    I’ve never been but I always hear TAO being talked about as one of the premier Vegas clubs. I assumed it probably had the usual mishmash of “Asian” decor, but I didn’t realize Buddhist statues figured so prominently.

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