BEIJING — Would you be offended by a toilet seat cover sporting an image of Jesus? Or Muhammad?
Some Thai Buddhists are upset that Buddha’s image is being taken in vain by “foreigners” who, they say, see it as a philosophical and not a religious symbol and don’t give Buddha the respect he deserves.
These sentiments flared anew last week after reports of a hotel in France with a “Little Buddha” room that includes a toilet cover with Buddha’s image.
The hotel, Moulin de Broaille in the Burgundy region of central France, went a step too far when it used toilet covers bearing an image of the Buddha’s head, The Bangkok Post reported last week, citing “Thai Buddhists” in a story titled “Buddhists Enraged by Toilet in France.” (The hotel didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.)
“The Thais complained through the Knowing Buddha website at http://www.knowingbuddha.org,” The Bangkok Post said. And the government is involved.
“These situations are becoming more frequent,” said Nopparat Benjawattananon, director of the National Office of Buddhism, according to the report. “We have to understand that foreigners often think that Buddhism is only a philosophy. We have to help them understand that the Buddha’s image is what Buddhists respect and it cannot be used inappropriately.”
Knowing Buddha opposes images of Buddha being used commercially and some supporters have demonstrated in Bangkok, including outside tattoo parlors where people may get it inked on their bodies. Below the waist is particularly offensive, they say.
The “Knowing Buddha” Web site tries to help people “understand how you (should) can treat Buddha’s images appropriately,” it says. “We often find that Buddha is not treated with respect. Many people overlook the feelings of billions of Buddhists around the world,” it says.
It also has a Facebook site that can tell people the “Do and Don’t on Buddha.”
They include: don’t use Buddha as a decorative object, such as a statue in the middle of a table. Don’t wear his image on the pocket of your jeans, or on your shoes. Instead place him high up, in a “proper place.” And definitely don’t place a Buddha statue in a toilet, a bar or a restaurant.