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.

Buddha, Buddha, Everywhere

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:

Buddha Balm

more Buddha Balm
Buddha Spa
True Religion Jeans

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.

For who the Buddha is…

I recently received a late Christmas present from a friend and of all things he could have given me, he gave me a Pocket Buddha, the exact item I wrote about on my ” Buddhism for Sale” post. It comes with a set of stickers and a quote from the Buddha – “Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace”. Though a direct product and example of the commercialization of the image of the Buddha, I have to admit that I really like it. It’s cute and a rather dashing ornament to put on my bookshelf. Pocket Buddha Gift Continue reading “For who the Buddha is…”

Buddhism For Sale

Hello everyone,

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.

Continue reading “Buddhism For Sale”

Conquering Devils on a Daily Basis

Mara challenges Lord Buddha

For the past few weeks, I’ve had a lot of difficulty keeping meditation at the top of my priorities. Even when I manage to sit every day, my mind has been more agitated than usual. Then the other day, I had a moment that brought me back to the stories of Lord Buddha that I learned when much younger — and this reminded me of an article I read in Buddhadharma.

(I also hope this shows that I really mean it when I say that I appreciate Buddhist magazines, no matter how much I criticize them!)

The Fall 2008 issue of Buddhadharma contained a forum with Glenn Wallis, Judy Lief and Ari Goldfield. The topic was: “Do You Believe in Miracles?” (with the subtitle, “Debating the Supernatural in Buddhism”). I picked up this article during a break at the office some weeks ago, and I remember feeling numb while reading. While deities and ghosts were all a part of my upbringing, I didn’t have any opinion about what these stories meant, or whether I should believe in the “supernatural.” For me the notions existed at one time and then went away, much in the way people let go of Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy come a certain age. So it was strangely both deeply interesting and a little boring to follow this epistemic debate about devas, spirits and monks walking through mountains.

Continue reading “Conquering Devils on a Daily Basis”

Throwing away your Buddha: Epilogue

I am at my parents’ home for the weekend, and aside from (1) marveling at the amazing interior decoration that they’ve done in the past six months and (2) not meditating for over 24 hours, I’ve noticed that there’s one thing missing. What happened to that statue that I left behind when I moved to Los Angeles?

Apparently, it was never fixed. My dad just chucked it in the trash. In case you’re jumping to any conclusions about my father, it was his mother who inspired my Buddhist practice (as well as that of my brothers). So he knew how important the statue was to me, but I’m guessing he just didn’t want to fix it.

This conclusion is pretty disappointing for me. I would have rather gone with Plan A and placed the statue behind one of the downtown temples. Maybe not so much because it’s a “Buddhist” thing to do, but because there is some comfort in knowing that there’s a time-tested tradition you can follow when you don’t know what to do. Maybe next time…

Sabbe sankhara anicca, sabbe sankhara anatta…

Throwing away your Buddha

On a Vesak celebration four years ago, a monk presented me with a Buddha statue to thank me for my service in the community. It was a typical statue of Lord Buddha sitting with legs folded, made of white plaster and set in a mold that the monk himself had crafted with his own hands. It was relatively large — bigger than a basketball — and heavy. A year later, when I unpacked the statue from a cross-country move, I found it broken in two.

Broken Buddha statuesI was faced with a personally unfamiliar dilemma (related to a previous post): What do you do with a broken Buddhist statue?

According to one gardener: “When a household statue of Buddha is broken, it cannot be thrown away. Instead, it is left at the base of a Bodhi tree.”

What if you don’t have a Bodhi tree?

Why can’t you throw it away?

Continue reading “Throwing away your Buddha”