Holy Moley it’s already the 1st of May. Revolutionary workers day, almost everywhere except good ol’ US of A. It’s been a great day for online discussions about putting clown noses on buddha statues and whether that is disrespectful. The point of reference is the Nose A Statue contest that Clowns Without Borders was running the month of April on their facebook page. I posted my photo (image above) early on. Today Sarah, great exuberant clown in charge of the contest, lets me know that Stuart, of Portland, has posted that this photo is disrespectful… Time is of the essence in the social media world Sarah informs me. Here’s the thread:
Stuart: Red nose on the Buddha is extremely disrespectful. Buddhists consider it much more than a statue.
7 hours ago · Like
Moshe : @Stuart. I took that Buddha photo and it has been circulating in the Zen world for more than a year. Your comment is the first I’ve heard suggest it’s disrespectful. I am not discounting your opinion in the least, and I have sent out a mail to a few of my Zen Master friends soliciting their opinions…stay tuned:)
6 hours ago · Like
Stuart: I understand, Moshe. Travelers to Thailand are warned that tourists who make humorous poses with statues of the Buddha face arrest. In the 80s some tourists were jailed for several years each for taking a photo with one of them sitting on the head of a large statue. I guess they take their respect seriously in Thailand.
6 hours ago · Like
Moshe: here’s how Joshin Roshi responds: Actually, I believe I understand Stuart’s intention. Buddhist statues should be treated with respect, not because they are special in and of themselves, but because of what they represent. But also, let’s be clear, this is simply a statue, made out of medal, and transposed into our digital, virtual world. To say it is more than a statue implies that you have relegated what should be symbolic and archetypal to a level of idolatry. Orthodox religious practitioners in all religious traditions have one thing in common. They seem to lack a sense of humor. They literalize objects of religious devotion which are meant to represent some quality in humans which we aspire to cultivate or emulate. We have a saying in our Zen tradition, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.” So I think our Zen tradition is very sacrilegious, and may seem disrespectful to some, but we’re going to keep laughing anyway.
Generally, I think it’s a good practice to have clowns near by whenever priests are present or people are taking themselves too seriously.
Later in the afternoon, once the meeting had let out, I received several other wonderful responses:
from Nocando: yes- it is all very serious and more than statues- there is precedent in zen circles, however, to say respectfully that it is not not firewood. then turn and run-
from Eve: I think his hairdo looks a lot sillier