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.
For this summer, I will be spending about two months in Taiwan. I just arrived in Taipei Wednesday morning and my parents took me straight to the hill where my grandparents have their grave site. The entire area is a cemetery, each person owning a certain enclosed spot separated by a small wall. There are no roads, no signs, and no permanent caretaker – the only way I would know where my grandparents are buried is through my parents.
The Last Airbender is a live action movie coming out on the weekend of July 4th based on a Nickelodean cartoons series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. It is being directed by M. Night Shyamalan and there is great controversy over various aspects of the film. I will be referring to the cartoon series as “Avatar”, not to be confused with James Cameron’s Avatar film.
Going along with arun’s last post on branding, Western culture has definitely used the Buddha as a brand, a way to market products of all kinds, most of the time not related to Buddhism in any way. It’s the commercialization of Buddhism and if we take a closer look around us and increase our sensitivity to it, we can see that it’s everywhere. In a way, it’s interesting because in a dominantly Christian society, Buddhism makes appearances quite often – just not necessarily in a Buddhist context. Here are some examples I’ve noticed:
What is your first reaction when you see these? Is this acceptable, using the Buddha for purely commercial and marketing reasons? Feel free to share what you think about it – I’m curious to know.
So as I was watching a Daily Show clip my friend posted on Facebook, I realized that the next clip on the video player included Jack’s Mannequin (official website), a band I liked back in high school. Jack’s Mannequin has recently come out with a new album called The Glass Passenger as well as a DVD called Dear Jack. The DVD is a documentary that focuses on Andrew McMahon’s, the lead singer, battle with leukemia.
What I found interesting with Jack’s Mannequin’s performance on The Daily Show is that on top of the piano, there is a miniature statue of the Buddha. It’s in plain sight and I wished Jon Stewart asked about it, but it was never pointed out.
This past Friday, I had the opportunity to watch a free screening of Burma VJ: Reporting from a Closed Country. I saw the trailer last year. I’ve read reviews and heard other people talk and blog about it. It’s one of those films that you go in watching with high expectations because of all the hype generated from those that have already seen it. Yet, I still left the theater with mixed feelings of sadness and shock. The movie is intense and emotional. I encourage everyone to see it. Here are some of the screening locations and dates.
I recently posted an article about “karma” that I found on the Examiner that I thought was very well written. As with any concept in Buddhism, describing what “karma” is the length of an article can be very tricky and difficult to do in a comprehensive yet easy-to-understand manner. I thought the author of this article, Emily, achieved both and therefore posted it on my Facebook account.
My friend pointed out that the way Emily described karma diverged from the way another author, Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw, described karma from another article I had posted on Facebook a while back. I reread both articles and she was right, they did conflict in the way they described “karma”. But both descriptions seemed valid. Both authors seemd to know what they were talking about and I never thought twice to think they conflicted until my friend brought it up. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Who has the more accurate description of karma?
I have posted about this topic before. Scott Mitchell from the buddha is my dj recently posted his wonderfully paper on “Buddhism, pop-culture, and the homogenization of the Dharma”. Read it here. I’m so glad that scholars are addressing this issue from an academic standpoint. It is something so important for the development of Buddhism in America and yet, something that is also overlooked and rarely questioned. I’ve noticed that the commodification of Buddhism and Buddhist images happens quite a lot in Western culture and every chance I get, I take a picture of it with my phone. Here are some examples of Buddhism being used out-of-context, used by non-Buddhists for non-Buddhist means. You can find more of the dharma in pop culture on The Worst Horse, a blog dedicated to posting about what they like to call “Dharma-burgers”. Read more
I’ve been meaning to write a post for the longest time but gosh darn it, life just gets busier and never seems to give you a break. Well, the academic year has just ended so I’m given a few days to breathe before diving straight into my summer plans. While reading through Google Reader, I came across a post on the Angry Asian Man website that just left me…well speechless:
One of my recent general observations about religion is that its role in the lives of the younger generation has been deteriorating. While I do not have the numeric data that my fellow blogger arunlikhati is so skilled in collecting to support my claim (I tried to sort out some PEW stats but gave up…), I think many readers will agree with my claim just through each of their personal experiences with the youth, namely children up until high school. I am well aware that this is not the case for all youth and each of us can easily come up with children who do hold their faith close to their hearts. However, I do think that in a society where people share their latest thoughts and status with Facebook and Twitter more often than God, where money and power have become society’s determining factor for success rather than morality, and where Miley Cyrus has become a more influential icon for children than most religious figures, religion certainly has much more competition nowadays especially in finding a place among the youth.