Big Box Dharma
In an effort to bring Buddhism back to the people, Thai Culture Minister Uraiwan Thienthong recently proposed building “solace corners” in department stores and malls. Two malls have signed on, but not everyone thinks taking the dharma to market is such a good idea, with several senators objecting to what they interpret as setting up shrines in shopping centers. “It’s not about building a temple in a shopping mall,” said Thienthong, as quoted by Agence France Presse. “This will just be a 2,150-square-foot space with a room in which to pray and practice meditation, a reading and listening room, and a library with books of Lord Buddha’s teaching.”
It Wasn’t Meditation That Gave Him the Munchies
A Japanese monk got in trouble in December after cultivating more than sand and rocks in his Zen garden. Michimaru Obara, a monk at the Eikoji temple in northern Japan, was arrested in December for growing marijuana near the temple grounds. He compounded his problems by selling some to an office worker.
It’s a familiar story: at the foot of a great pipal tree, he sat for days on end, seeking enlightenment as a lively tourist trade sprang up in the surrounding grove…Huh? In the modern-day Nepali jungle, fifteen-year-old Ram Bomjon has been meditating and fasting in the same spot since last May, according to his supporters, a feat considered impossible by modern medicine. As thousands of pilgrims arrive daily to see the would-be Buddha, local officials are calling for an investigation by both religious and scientific bodies. The curtain drawn around Bomjon every night is particularly suspect, leading some observers to think it’s all just a ploy to raise money for leftist guerillas; others are suitably impressed by six months of all-day meditation to forgive the odd bowl of buttermilk behind the curtain.
Image: Ram Bomjon hasn’t moved from this pipal tree or taken food since May, according to supporters. © Thomas Bell/Daily Telegraph 2005.
If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Eat Him
Many people worship the Buddha. Many people worship chocolate. Now you can do both at the same time. The idea behind Chocolate Deities is really quite simple: (1) make images of revered religious icons out of chocolate, (2) sell them to people who would like to eat chocolate images of spiritual figures. Why did it take so long for this product to appear? Chocolate deities offers a range of Buddhist images, including a meditating Buddha, Hotei (the fat laughing Buddha), Kuan Yin (the tasty Bodhisattva of Compassion), and the Tibetan goddess Tara, who inspired the whole venture. You can also order the Buddha’s delicious eyes or footprints, as well as Christian, Hindu, Taoist, and indigenous icons, if you’ve got non-Buddhists on your list (or feel like chowing down on some other religious figures).
Image: © Christopher Gilbert.
The Dalai Lama recently opened his own website, appropriately located atwww.dalailama.com. The nicely designed site features extensive information about his upcoming public appearances, archives of past talks, and plenty of other goodies such as a photo archive and biographies of past Dalai Lamas. The site contains extensive information on Tibetan Buddhist initiations, and the FAQ starts off with his familiar assertion of just being a simple Buddhist monk. All Dalai Lamas have had to navigate tricky currents of competing loyalties and political/religious tensions, but none have had the enormous tasks of the current one: head of a country that doesn’t really exist, simultaneously a simple Buddhist monk and a “world spiritual figure.” Virtual reality is a fitting venue for a permanent exile embraced most everywhere else in the world.
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