Saturday, September 11, 2004

Nationalism and the Attack of Buddha's Head

This story over at the Guardian got me thinking. An independant filmmaker has a poster showing the actor, producer and star of the movie sitting astride the head of Buddha, which is offensive because Buddhists believe the head is nearly sacred, especially the head of a Buddha, and should never be touched.

I can understand being upset when someone treats with disrespect something you hold dear. Yet, in this case, the Thai government is getting into the act, making veiled threats.

Kiattikhun Chartprasert, a spokesman for the Thai foreign ministry, said the government had lodged an official complaint.

“We have asked our consul in Los Angeles to send a protest letter asking the company to pull those posters,” he said. “If they don’t respond, we will seek other means,” he added, without elaborating.

The Buddha taught extreme pacifism. In one sermon, he said:
Even if thieves carve you limb from limb with a double-handed saw, if you make your mind hostile you are not following my teaching.

Kamcupamasutta, Majjhima-Nikkaya I ~ 28-29

Buddhist monks doused themselves with gasoline and burned themselves to death in protest over the war in Vietnam. Now, Buddhists are contemplating violence and I wonder what has provoked this radical change in attitudes. It is just as likely, though, that I share a common misconception that Buddhism has remained a religion of peace.

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