August 24, 2009

Buddhist baubles and Western baggage

Over at a recent post on Wandering Dhamma, I found a comment related to an issue I’ve never before considered.
I became interested in Buddhism after visiting the Tibetan regions of Nepal about two years ago. Probably the most obvious difference between what I saw there and what I see here is the rather garish presence of the Buddhist Marketplace in the West. Not the Marketplace of Ideas, mind you, but the Marketplace of Stuff. Material Goods. Consumer Items. Cushions, incense holders, relaxation music, mandalas, retreats, icons... Can’t say that I saw anything like that in Nepal! … Strangely, I haven’t found any discussion of this issue in the Buddhist media. Perhaps I’m not looking hard enough, but it seems to have been swept under the rug. Surely I’m not the only one to sense the irony between the anti-consumerist sentiments of Tricycle and Shambhala Sun magazines and the plethora of baubles and trinkets advertised on those same pages?
Is it fair to say this commenter is talking about Western cultural baggage? Perhaps. But from my personal experience, I’ve seen Buddhism commodified in Asia just as much as in North America—only along different cultural dimensions.

1 comment :

  1. Ha ha ha, me too. I've seen it both ways, and have no real issue with it. This whole neo-orthodoxy thing is kind of silly to me. I never fail to buy a few Buddhist things when in Japan, sutra books, rosaries, etc, but I neer fail to put them to good use back home, or give them to others who simply can't make the trip. Why not share? :)