May 04, 2012

Buddha Buzz: Penises, Praycations, and the Death of Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch

I'm not trying to wax philosophical here, but writing Buddha Buzz is somewhat of a metaphor for life. Sometimes it's great, sometimes it's difficult, and sometimes you're thrown situations that you're not quite sure what to do with.

Case in point: there are some strange Buddhist articles out there. Last week's highlight, for instance, was the story "Wizard arrested for raping Buddhist," which turned out to be a (poorly translated) bizarre and upsetting account of a Chinese self-proclaimed exorcist who would exorcise demons in exchange for sex.

And now there's this article from i09: "In Bhutan, friendly phalluses painted on houses scare off evil spirits." What?

News about Bhutan in the Western media is generally limited to three topics: Buddhism, Gross National Happiness, and the Bhutanese royal couple, who are pretty damn attractive. And even if sometimes an article pops up that deviates from these themes, this sort of deviation isn't exactly expected.

The article begins, "In the tiny landlocked Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the unique aesthetic tradition of painting erect penises on architecture—a tradition that has persisted for over 500 years—is finally receiving attention on a global scale. Yes, from the mountains to the valleys, Bhutan is covered with disembodied doodles." It then continues, "There are penile places, and then there are veritable penile wonderlands—Bhutan is the latter."

I was at a loss for words when I first read the story on Wednesday, and I still am now. Really? Bhutan is a "penile wonderland"? Oh, the ever-widening realization of my own ignorance. In any case, the article is loaded with lots of photographic evidence, if you wish to satisfy your curiosity.

And further down the rabbit hole we go. An Australian aid organization, the Sydney Morning Herald reports, has started a new vacation trend called "praycations." What's a praycation, you ask? Well, this particular Australian agency can help you become a "Thai monk for a month" or a "Muslim for a month." 

(At right: Can you spot the praycationer?)

Spiritual tourism has been around for a long time, but it's usually in the form of pilgrimage. This "monk for a month" program seems to bring it to a whole new level. It is true, as the article relates, that temporary ordination is a large part of Thai culture (for men, that is). And 20% of the program's profits return to Thailand and Burma, which is nice. But why the need to pay to be a monk in the first place? What are you paying for? And if there's money involved, shouldn't it go directly through the monastery? Perhaps I'm overreacting, but let's just say I'm smh (shaking my head) here.

Not all of the Buddhist news this week was kooky, however.

I am extremely sad to relate the news that Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys (Boys Entering Anarchistic States Towards Internal Excellence) died today after a long battle with cancer. Yauch, a Buddhist and an ardent supporter of the Tibetan cause, leaves behind a colorful music legacy—he is, after all, the writer of both "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)" and "Bodhisattva Vow."

You can read a 1994 Trike interview with Adam Yauch here, and find the lyrics to "Bodhisattva Vow" here.

Image: From http://www.smh.com.au/travel/praycations-a-new-source-for-enlightening-travel-stories-20120504-1y438.html.

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Dominic Gomez's picture

Here's some nice news: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-17935041
A version of the Lotus Sutra dating from the 5th Century and discovered by cattle grazers in India in 1931 was released in book form yesterday. According to researchers this Lotus Sutra is believed to be the only written Buddhist manuscript discovered in India. The newly released book is an exact replica of that original manuscript and was launched cooperatively by the National Archives of India, the Institute of Oriental Philosophy and Soka Gakkai International.