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I have just found out that there is a person producing and selling a beer in my town called "Buddha Beer" with Hotei's picture on it.

Initially I found it offensive and disrespectful (marketing Buddha's name, associating it with alcohol and putting the image in the trash just like every bottle when it's empty). Well, I'm sure the person meant no disrespect, I know the producer, but I still didn't like it.

Allow me to give more context: We live in a country with almost no Buddhism in it. People have no idea regarding what Buddhism is all about and commonly confuse the Buddha with Hotei.

Even though the person meant no disrespect I found it disrespectful and so this question came to my mind: If I felt offended by it, is this a problem that I have with attachment? So, where is the real problem, in the beer or in myself? Or maybe in both?

I thought about talking to the person and explaining why this is a bad idea but I'm sure it will be completely useless (let's face it, no one will change a brand because of that as the commercial impact is irrelevant here and people dont believe in Kamma) and I will also look like "that boring guy" that complains because of religion. I guess I will do nothing unless someone asks for my opinion.

That said, how a Buddhist should behave in such a situation. Shoud we feel offended? Should we discuss it with someone not Buddhist?

  • 1
    Is it this Buddha Beer? Which originated in Asia, and is sold in lots of countries? – user5287 Jun 15 '15 at 11:58
  • No, it is another one. – konrad01 Jun 15 '15 at 15:15
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    I enjoyed Matthew's answer here -- that the statues are placed above the liquor is an interesting way to see the photo. – ChrisW Jun 16 '15 at 8:53
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    "If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him" seems to cover this predicament... – Phlip Jun 16 '15 at 16:21

11 Answers 11

15

What would be your plan of action, if you saw someone running a brothel with your mother's name and picture on it? Feeling angry or not depends on if you have eradicated anger. You can do Metta meditation to deal with your anger. But that doesn't mean it is wrong to take action against such establishments, even if they mean no disrespect. There's nothing wrong in peacefully protesting, trying to make them come to their senses or using any legal options available. You don't actually have to get angry while doing it. You are doing them a favor since they are committing bad Karma due to their ignorance. Buddhists don't always have to accept people's ignorant acts meekly in the name of Metta.

Once there was this cobra practicing loving-kindness in the forest saying: May all beings be well, may all beings be happy, may all beings be peaceful. And an old woman who was collecting firewood saw this cobra and mistook it for a rope. So she used it to tie up the firewood that she was carrying. As the cobra was doing loving-kindness practice, it allowed this woman to do anything. So after the woman carried the bundle of firewood home, the cobra escaped, but with a lot of wounds and physical pain. So he went to meet his teacher who was the hermit(Bodhisatta) staying in that forest. The cobra said: See what happened to me! I was practicing loving-kindness, and now see the wounds and all the pain that I'm experiencing in my body! The teacher very calmly said: You have not been practicing loving-kindness. You have been practicing idiotic compassion, because you should have shown that you were a cobra. You should at least have hissed! So with regards to people like the person you've described, you have to learn to hiss, and in doing so you'll also be doing a service for that person.

So if you have any crowd pull, go hiss without biting. :) Or use social media to protest and let them know about it. If business owners get the idea that whenever they do something like that, there will be negative consequences, they will be reluctant to do it in the future as it is bad for business.

6

There is also a Buddha-Bar and both the bar and the beer might strike a practicing Buddhist as rather strange due to our understanding of the teaching of the 5th precept. While different traditions interpret the 5th precept somewhat differently (from undertaking to drink no alcohol at all to undertaking not to drink enough to cause heedlessness), the fact that one of 5 precepts concerns alcohol makes it clear that the Buddha was not a proponent of alcohol. Selling alcohol is considered a wrong livelihood as well.

But that said, Buddhism doesn't generally have the strong emotional outrage sometimes seen in other religions when the founder's image is used in a unexpected way, or used at all. (There are exceptions to this as seen in this recent controversy in Myanmar).

I would suggest guarding your own mind state about becoming upset about a thing like this. I would suggest Karuṇā would be an appropriate mind state to cultivate regarding this as those selling and drinking alcohol are both digging their way deeper into samsara. When you think about how sad it is for people to have to drink alcohol in an attempt to relax or find happiness; it can be easy to feel compassion. The Buddhist teaching of Pratītyasamutpāda is a blessing that isn't so well known outside of Buddhism. We're very lucky.

If you find yourself next a person swilling down Buddha beer at a party or picnic, and you feel you can do so skillfully, you could point out that the Buddha actually taught against the use of alcohol so it's odd to see "Buddha Beer". But you'd have to do it in a very non confrontational way just adding to the general knowledge of something dear to you that's not so well known in your country.

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    According to the news, Sri Lanka too legislates about images/representations of the Buddha. – ChrisW Jun 15 '15 at 15:23
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Theres nothing wrong with raising the subject to your friend if you do it politely, skillfully and respectfully. Right speech is not always just about staying silent but saying the right thing at the right time out of compassion and kindness when you see something could cause harm.

You say that you don't want to have the problem of attachment to the symbols of Buddhism, but you also state that raising the topic to your friend will make you "also look like "that boring guy" that complains because of religion", which shows that you already have attachment to who you don't want to be seen as. You also say "let's face it, no one will change a brand because of that as the commercial impact is irrelevant here", but you maybe overlooking a good business case for changing the branding, especially when there are potential bad publicity associated with potential cries of outrage and/or petitions from conservative Buddhists. Whether you feel offended or not, or whether a "good Buddhist" should be or not, there's always going to be people out there who will get outraged and you can alert him to this. Branding and goodwill is one of the biggest assets to a business and I am sure he would want to be know any risks associated with what he has invested in.

You don't need to get angry with the situation and you have already demonstrated you have exercised some wisdom by forgiving his ignorance. Even if you do get angry, thats ok, it's normal, just recognize there is anger there and observe it mindfully rather than feeding into it. Do some metta as others have suggested if that helps.

Since you know the producer personally, you can just tell him that as a friend (assuming you are friends) you wanted to alert him that associating the image of the Buddha with alcohol:

  • Is not compatible with the views of what the Buddha was about
  • Could potentially lead to immense damage to their branding

In the end, even if he might just ignore your advice and not do anything about it, at least he would appreciate that you have informed him about this because he would have had no idea if you didn't tell him and perhaps it will make them more mindful (and do more market research) in their actions in the future.

5

Any time we don't like the way reality is, exactly as it is, then that is pushing reality away. We are craving for something better. Any time we like something we pull it towards us increasing clinging so that when it's gone we suffer. Are minds move so fast that it takes seeing things as they are moment by moment and that takes practice. We really, really, really need to practice. To many people are too intellectual and shun practice but love study because they haven't even practiced enough to understand why it's good to practice. Words like these aren't going to get people to practice. We have to be interested in not suffering. More of an interest in the heart instead of the intellect.:)

  • 1
    very well said . – Ryan Jun 15 '15 at 6:46
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One should not. If one does one should instead observe that feeling of being offended and make it into a foundation for gaining insights.

Its just a name belonging to the conventional reality. Its just an image belonging also to conventional reality.

Feeling offended by it means one is attached. Its not the goal to become attached, the goal is to due away with attachment and clinging through renunciation and the gaining of insights through insight meditation practice and of course the rest of the Noble eight-fold path. The suffering is created by ourselves by having aversion towards something and by wishing for reality to be different than it already is.

Feeling of being offended is just a feeling.

An image of the Buddha is just seeing. Thats all. When interfering with these phenomena and taking ownership of them one is prone to extrapolate on them. One has thereby moved away from ultimate reality and into conventional reality.

When one observes phenomena with mindfulness, e.g. seeing, feeling, hearing etc. one is staying objective and experiencing the true nature of reality.

The Buddha didnt want us to interfere with phenomena. He wanted us to see reality for what it is. To become awake and stop dreaming. When dreaming one is living in conventional reality where persons, beings, entities exist. The Buddha wanted us to experience ultimate reality where there exists no I, Self, Me or other conventions.

Being offended by something means that there has to be an I, Self or Me that this feeling of being offended can be attached to. It means that there has to be an experiencing entity that experiences this feeling of being offended.

That is not the case. When seeing the true nature of reality, i.e. the 3 signs of existence one will come to realize that there is no such thing as an experiencing entity or a Self. One then sees that there really was no problem to begin with.

2

Unfortunately the answer would be yes, you do have an attachment to the Buddhism. You are therefore offended when you see that someone is selling Buddha beer, as this disregards one of the precepts of not consuming any alcohol or drugs. You have to remember however that if the beer was called 'awesome beer!' or 'great beer!' you would not be offended because these words don't mean anything to you. Fortunately however, there is a quick solution to this problem that will help you stay calm when the Buddha is 'disrespected'. The Buddha stressed himself that people should not take his word for anything and instead choose to practice meditation themselves and see where it leads them. The Buddha did not want to be worshiped but rather his teachings. If you and I mean 'YOU' think that alcohol is not such a good thing, then you should not need a Buddha to tell you so. Next time you see the word Buddha or a symbol of him, its helpful to remember that's all it is. Its not Buddha himself (too old to be alive now haha) and its not even his teachings. It's just a word. :)

Hope this helps.

2

I guess you should feel compassion for people who know no more of Buddhism than the Buddha's name or image.

There's a version of the Sermon at Benares in which the Buddha reproves his former comrades for calling him "friend" instead of addressing him with proper respect: and the reason is because it's better for them if they have proper respect. I don't know whether that story is canonical (i.e. what its source is – I guess it's east asian), but it's found in this relatively early English version:

When they had thus received the Blessed One, he said: "Do not call the Tathagata by his name nor address him as 'friend,' for he is the Buddha, the Holy One. The Buddha looks with a kind heart equally on all living beings, and they therefore call him 'Father.' To disrespect a father is wrong; to despise him, is wicked.

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I find the idea of offence a difficult one. Considering the cause of many conflicts, religious offence has often been a factor. But why should a follower of a religion be offended? As a Christian, I wince when people use the name of Jesus as an expletive. I am sad but I can't say that I am offended. Should I be? Surely the one whose name has been misused (Jesus) should be offended. He is the one who will take the necessary action. I think a god who can't look out for himself is not one who demands much respect anyway ;-)

I'm afraid I know very little about Buddhism so I'd be interested to hear what people have to say. Just wanted to share my thoughts on it.

  • +1 If Jesus were personally offended he might tell Peter, "put away your sword" and "bless those who curse you". The context here is that alcohol was one of the few things ("five precepts") explicitly identified as harmful by the Buddha, i.e. wrong to drink it ("fifth precept") and wrong (one of a mere handful of careers that are not "right livelihood") to sell it. So by analogy, it isn't just about speaking the name with disrespect: it could be seen as appropriating the name to endorse something wicked (perhaps, for example, preaching "hate thy neighbour in Jesus' name"). – ChrisW Jun 16 '15 at 9:45
  • Hello Paul and welcome to Buddhism.SE! We've put together some information to help you get started here. – Robin111 Jun 16 '15 at 10:49
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From The Dispute between Tea and Chang, from the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives:

Tea and Chang are in an unprecedented war. The main cause of this situation, the root of their ulterior motives, is again caused by attachment to oneself. This tree gave life to the boughs of other delusions: passionate attachment to misconception, as well as to various other branches and flowers. From beginningless time until today, it has led to the fruition of cyclic existence, but of course it resulted in suffering. Therefore, the root of grasping at oneself should be cut by the axe of knowledge and wisdom. The branches of grasping at oneself and others should be sawed into pieces. The leaves of the misperception of attachment and hatred are to be illuminated by the sun of wisdom. If the fruition of the lower states of birth and experiences of self-grasping return to their natural state, then the '84,000 soldier army' of the three poisonous afflictions would be attacked and defeated completely. Then the main army of the Great Blissful Buddha body would triumph: the entire process resembling the return of a rabbit to its hole."

The three poisonous afflictions referred to are desire, aversion, and ignorance.

  • Hello Joe and welcome to Buddhism.SE. We've put together some information to help you get started here. – Robin111 Jun 16 '15 at 20:04
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Feeling offended comes from suffering. Whenever you are offended, it is because of craving or clinging within you.

Feeling offended comes from within you, not outside you.

When you completely stop craving and clinging, suffering ceases. Feelings of being offended do not arise any more.

To answer your question, a Buddhist should not feel offended by anything. He who is offended, should search deeper within to find the truth of his suffering.

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I just want to add that Jesus first miracle is turning water into wine.

So, as you said yourself, the guy may not think it's offensive at all. He mean well.

And it gives you opportunity to teach about Buddha's opinion on alcohol.

If the beer is of high quality, I do not see anything negative with it.

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