Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The Buddha With Headphones


Three men have just been arrested in Burma  on a charge of insulting Buddhism. The three own a bar in Rangoon. It seems they posted an image of the Buddha wearing headphones on the bar’s Facebook as part of an advertisement for an upcoming event at the bar. The news reports do not make it clear whether the alleged insult stems from the identification of the Buddha with a bar, the picture of the Buddha wearing headphones, or both. If it is about the headphones I think it rather curious that Buddhists would find this insulting. In Rangoon there is a temple enshrining a large statue of the Buddha wearing glasses. Many Burmese Buddha images depict him with a crown on his head. Indeed in Thailand once a year the king places a crown on the Phra Kaew, the country’s most revered image. In Thailand and I think in Burma too, the Buddha is not uncommonly depicted adorned with a necklace, armlets, bracelets, rings and other jewellery, things which as a monk he never wore and would have probably disapproved of. If the bar/Buddha association is the cause of the outrage I think this is misplaced. That someone could live in Burma, where Buddhism is so pervasive, and not know that such an association would be quite inappropriate, I think calls for education of the offenders rather than punishment. 
The Buddha actually made a comment on this very matter  which would be worth keeping in mind. I quote from the Alagaddupama Sutta: “If others abuse, revile, insult or harass the Tathagata…you should not because of that feel annoyance, bitterness or be down-hearted” (M.I,140). I am pretty sure the Buddha would have considered anger on the part of those who know his Dhamma, far more unbecoming than the misuse of his image by those ignorant of it. Let’s hope Buddhism is not deteriorating into a religion that reacts with angry indignation and calls for retribution at every slight real or imagined. The three men should be asked to attend several talks on basic Buddhism and the cultural norms of Burma. This way they would respect Buddhism because they understand it, not because they fear it. 
You might like to read this too http://sdhammika.blogspot.sg/2010/09/burn-buddha.html

16 comments:

Ananda See施性国 said...

Bhante, why do you always write Burma instead on the correct Myanmar and Rangoon instead of Yangon?

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Ananda, the reason why I use Burma instead of Myanmar etc. is because I am an English speaker. Businessmen say ‘I’m going to China next week’. They do not say ‘I’m going to Zhongghua because China is the English name for that country. Someone might say ‘I’m going to India for my holidays’. They would not say ‘I’m going to Bharat’ because India is the English name for that country. We refer to Austria not Osterreich, Japan not Nippon-koko, and Egypt not Masr, etc. when speaking English for the same reason.

Gui Do said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gui Do said...

(corrected)

Hmm. Myanmar is given in my online dictionary as an English word for this country. I heard Englishmen saying that they go to Myanmar. I use Burma only because I am nostalgic. Actually the cleaning ladies here in my Thai hotel who are partly Karen from Burma say that they are from Myanmar, that is the word they use in their and in Thai language, or they say "ga-lee-en" for Karen, or simply "P(r)ama". Using Myanmar would show some distance to its past where it was colonized. On the other hand it is sometimes identified with the military regime.

On the other hand, I was once scolded for using Formosa instead of Taiwan.

Bhante, let me tell you that I am often inspired by your blog and have repeatedly quoted references to the Palikanon from here. So thanks for your text-based work.

On the other hand, you yourself quoted that a treatment with cannabis leaves is permitted even to monks with rheumatism. Would it then be okay to have the Buddha taking such a bath on a poster advertising a wellness centre?

Isn't this Buddha just a statue or picture, not the historical Shakyamuni? To be offended by the use of such a symbol means to me that one is putting too much personal attachment to it, I'd call it a craving for an ideal that should not be smudged. In Thailand on Loi Kratong people go to temple ponds and release flowers with candles and some money attached, praying for this and that. In the pond a couple of people wait to take out the money. And as you said, the statues are regularly made up, e.g. with stickers of gold foil. Those things are much more offending to my eyes because they symbolize right the opposite of what Buddhism should stand for, i. e. the greed for money and luster.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Gui Do, thanks for the comments on Burma/Myanmar and the complement. Concerning the other things you mentioned; using the image of the Buddha in advertising seems to me to be inappropriate,not a deadly sin, but inappropriate, and thus if asked I’d advise against it. When I was in Austria I visited Mauthausen concentration camp and just near the entrance was a large sign for McDonalds. Not a deadly sin, but inappropriate, out of place, ill-suited. The juxtaposing of two things so different from each other; e.g. spirituality and commercialism (the image of the Buddha in an advertisement, e.g.) is, to me at least, inappropriate. An ad for a meditation retreat appropriate, for a bar, a bedroom suite, a bank or a Big Mac; inappropriate.

Javen said...

Dear Bhante,

Its not about the Buddha wearing headphones or spectacles; I think its more about not giving enough protection money.

Mirco Danasilabhavanapanna said...

Dear Bhante, thanks for the article. For month I was irritated by images of the Buddha's head printed on cushions outside a cafe people used to sit on. I always spoke myself down to better let go and relax instead of making fuzz about it. Now, they're gone, anyway. But your last comment encouraged me to next time talk to people running such a place, if they maybe can replace it by something neutral.

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Danasilabhavanapanna, thanks for the comment. I’m glad my post helped you see things a little more constructively.

brahmavihara said...

Dear Bhante, please excuse my faulty memory, but I do recall a Buddhist, Sutta (Number?) that says something to the effect, that those who develop the Dharma effectively, will 'see' The Buddha. This to me is a metaphor that points to the full realization of the Dharma, for the devoted follower of the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. To me, a Buddha Rupa (statue) is really a manifestation of this realization, not only for the commemoration of the historical Buddha(s) but also the possibility of one's own complete realization, or at least the possibility of it. As Buddhists we hold these principles and their representations in great reverence, because they are universal. There are of course, appropriate or inappropriate applications or locations for such statues and common sense tells us what these are. The ubiquity of Buddha images throughout the modern world(no matter how appropriate) is something that gives me great inspiration in the knowledge that The dharma is quietly effusing it's liberating qualities in locations far and wide, beyond it's traditional areas of influence, in the form of Buddha statues and Images. Let's not forget however, that some locations that were once Buddhist Kingdoms, are now places where practising The Dharma would be a risky and perhaps fatal course of action and The Dharma in all it's visual manifestations are either not allowed or punishable and of course not likely to be understood either. We must not be complacent about the right to practise the Dharma to be pre eminent, because it is not. We Buddhists live at a Time where Buddhism has thrived, especially in Western Democracies, but all but the most optimistic can see the dark clouds gathering that may challenge our Western Nations themselves and their prized religious and cultural plurality.

Randi J Task said...

Have you heard the jataka where a monkey masturbates into the Bodhisattva's ear? It's true.

jeff chang said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeff chang said...

Dear Randi, have you been drinking?

Richard Yan said...

one must learn to respect.. u cannot go to somebody's house n put a joker hat on the elder's head just bcoz u think its amusing or entertaining.

Just a respect for other religions. I am buddhist and i don't say nothing to another religions. When I hear bad things about my religion then Have to say " that is bad and not good or something else"

Buddha can forgve them but Myanmar people and law can't forgive them

Arrested three peoples in Myanmar.

THUY STRONG said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jhony Bairstow said...

I truly relish whilst I go through your blogs and articles. Fashion Buzzer

Samia Khan said...

The material and aggregation is excellent and telltale as comfortably. wordpress themes