June 17, 2010

Keds to promote new line of "Tibetan Buddhist Shoes"?

The Buddhist Channel reports that Keds is promoting a new line of shoes called "Tibetan Buddhist Shoes," which will feature images of the Dalai Lama and the Buddha, among other sacred Buddhist images. Though it is unclear whether the shoes are being made by Keds, or by a shoe company called Zazzle, to many, the use of such iconography is deeply troubling. From The Buddhist Channel:

It is beyond one's imagination as how the designers of a multinational company come to such an idea. Worst still is the fact that Keds mass-produce and mass market them in their stores and online. If a designer comes up with an idea to put Holy Bible or images of Christ or for that matter Prophet Muhammad and Koran, the people concerned at Keds would have vehemently opposed it.

In the Spring issue of Tricycle we ran a joke advertisement for "The Guru Dunk Double Pack," which featured Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama's faces on Nike hightops and promised "Peace in Every Step." Maybe Keds took our joke too literally.

Top image courtesy of www.thebuddhistchannel.com

Bottom image courtesy of Isaiah Serte, Gesar Mukpo and Alex Usow.

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J's picture

liu san chang--

Your post is infinitely more offensive and detrimental to Buddhism than the shoes in question.

Hope you get some help.

liu san chang's picture

if you do such a stupid things like this, we will never let you head up and fuck you up one day......put your own fucking god on your filthy mom's pussy with tatoo....we buddhists never had such a hatred feeling among religions of world.....do you think only muslim people can sucide bomber ? No,everybody can do this kind of shit when somebody cross someone's line!!Everybody has they own line so,don't cross that line unless you wanna die.you know what are you doing now?you are doing against buddhists in this world.why don't you put your own fucking God....fucking stupid cheap ass,bad idea like monkey ass!

Metak's picture

It's offensive to Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhist culture. Whether or not you consider it a "Buddhist" offense shouldn't matter. Would you run around spray painting obscenities on the walls of churches just to prove that there is no such thing as true holiness or make a point about impermanence? I doubt it. So I fail to see why it's acceptable for Buddhists who are not ethnically Tibetan to say its acceptable and "funny" to denigrate Tibetan and Tibetan Buddhist culture. Remember, the Tibetan people who's cultural value you are completely dismissing are among those who bring you the Dharma! Apparently cultural sensitivity doesn't apply if you are trying to prove how "Buddhist Philosophy Aware" you are?

A few other quick notes. Don't say "Dirty Kadampas" the Kadampas are completely separate from the NKT. The Kadampa school is an ancient, highly valued Tibetan school which has little to no relationship, aside from name, with NKT.

Secondly, George, while I appreciate your point, I disagree about having a shrine in the bedroom. In Tibet, many people live in one room houses, same with Tibetans in India. There is no other room for the altar. Are all Tibetan nomads sinning by having an altar in their tent, which also functions as kitchen, sitting room and bedroom? It is a privilege, which many (if not most) Tibetans do not have to have multiple rooms and be able to afford a separate shrine room that does not function as a bedroom. Even among wealthy Tibetan families in Tibet, the shrine room frequently functions as the guest bedroom and is usually outfitted with a few spare beds. Even monks in Tibetan monasteries will have small altars in their bedrooms!

lhadon's picture

Tom, I appreciate your effort in trying to open our eyes to see the good in this. What I meant by "true buddhist" though was practicing compassion. Compassion for all beings, understanding them, thinking like them. My mother was a victim of the Chinese government's brutality in a jail after attending a demonstration in Tibet. She ran away from that jail..at the age of 15 alone with 20 yen. I will not state the things that happened to her nor leak out any more information but what I'm trying to get at is, I would forgive any of those soldiers who did wrong to her. They did not do this to themselves, they were taught to be like this and if they realize their wrongs, forgiveness should come easily.

Even with the tears I would shed imagining the forms of torture practiced upon my own mother, the freedom I wish for Tibet, how I want to see all my cousins and my grandparents before they pass, I still would not want those Keds to be released. I have come to realize in recent days Keds will not be releasing the new line because of so many opposing remarks so this discussion should be discontinued soon because the meaning is frivolous. I just wanted to put out there how much our culture and HHDD means to us, and how we want it to be respected. Call us stubborn at the sake of losing promotional opportunities, but it is what we believe. That is what you have to understand.

Thank You, Tom. No need for apologies, we are all friends here.

sonam's picture

I guess it is ok for some here to have sacred images on that part of attire where we make contacts with the filthiest things. They can have their parents image one day on their shoes and happily go to toilet and may be get shit on it sometimes.Ooops moms face looks filthy or oops dad's nose is having a dog shit. it is funny !! rite. So please carry on with your attitude as this is real world. We kill, manipulate, cheat and do the worst. This shoe will not make much difference as the worst is yet to come when we have people with these kind of valuable perceptions.

Tom's picture

@Ihadon First: these were not my words, but hers. You might want to ask her about the real meaning. But I believe that was not her point anyway.
She used it as an example in a discussion about the differences between catholic christians and the christian revival movement.
It was all about people who sing loudest in the mass on sunday and what they do on monday, when no one is looking. She said it's more important to practice than to preach. In fact: better don't preach at all.

Ihadon, it seems like you distinguish between a "real" Buddhist (in-group) and "not-a-real" Buddhist (out-group)?
I respect - but don't share - this concept, as this involves a need to define what a "real Buddhist" is supposed to be, which I don't wish to discuss.

Since you asked, allow me to explain in more detail what @Franko above was referring to, to give you another view of the matter. You may of course agree or disagree with my conclusions.

My story may be equivalent to that of many others in the west, (like Franko and others) where most people around are either Atheists or Christians - not Buddhists. Most who step away from Christianity and it's bells and whistles really which for a different concept and reject just replacing one symbol by another.

A typical (catholic) christian concept is that something "holy" may have a proxy and that this proxy is the same as the thing itself.
This led to the conclusion, that it is more important to obey than to think for yourself, because the symbol (proxy) may replace the message. This so-called "religious discipline" led us into many wars throughout the centuries. Wars for the holy land as a symbol for Christianity, prosecuting people who worship other symbols or even the same symbols in a different way, or burning people for doing (or possibly doing) "unholy" things.

As a boy (among others) I started reading David Hume's excellent "Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding" (1748) and even started with Kant, when I finally discovered records of teachings of HHDL (which - among others - he held in Harvard and France alike). While the basics were the same, these teachings went far beyond (more precise and clear in every aspect).

One of the most important concepts you will find in almost any flavor of Buddhist teachings or western philosophy is: that a symbol (or any other proxy) has no inherent holiness by nature. It is "empty" and receives this meaning only when it is assigned to it by a human mind.

Even christianity has known this concept called "skepticism". Nikolaus von Kues wrote: "How do you know what a stone is or a man? You don't! Because if I ask you to explain the true nature of a stone you can't tell. You observe the way these interact and by observation your distinguishing rationality gives these concept distinct names." He then extends this concept to the understanding of god's true nature - which of course applies to the understanding of any other religious concepts alike.
So he concludes, that the symbol does not equal the concept and the concept of a thing does not equal the true nature of the thing itself.

As you have seen: we have found a broad acceptance of these ideas across different cultures and religions, even though buddhist writings are amongst the most precise to explain the issue.

Why is this all so important and fundamental for Buddhism? Because any Philosophy, may it be religious or non-religious, is always based on meditation over the most basic concepts - not the most abstract.
If you have strong feelings for something (whatever it is) your are best advised to meditate over the origin of your feelings.
If the symbol is not important and would even be replaceable, but the message is not, would you still take the symbol for the message?

There is a primitive nature of things, there is a subtle nature of things (and for those who go beyond that, there is a very subtle nature of things).

1) The symbol is only holy as the primitive result of perception. Like a white flower is orange in the red shades of the sunset.
2) The symbol is just a symbol in the sense of it's subtle nature. Just as you would say that the orange looking flower is white by it's true nature - not orange. And the sun is not red - the sunset is red, but the sun itself has no color at all.
3) And neither is true in a very subtle approach, that identifies that there is no such thing as "holy" at all, since the word itself is empty and has no inherent meaning. Like you would say, there is no such thing as a "white flower", since it has no intention to be white. It's just light that collides with the surface of the plant, is thrown back in a particular angle, causes a reaction in our eyes, that our brain interprets to make a picture which we call "white" since we don't know any better.

So (just like Fanko above suggested) I appreciate these shoes as an opportunity. They got me thinking again about the true nature of things, about sympathy towards others and my own egoistic feelings of "demanding" respect from others, to make me feel accepted and wanted.

I need to apologize. It seems like it ended up being a long story after all. As I said, I wish not to offend, but to help by giving you ideas and an insight to a different view.

Aka's picture

It boils down to nothing but just respecting other's culture and custom. It is offensive for Tibetan Buddhists to see their teacher's face on someone's feet. So just don't make profit off offending another culture.


Ron's picture

HAHA the Nasty Kedampas

George's picture

Here is the link, three things considered inappropriate, choshum in bedroom, pointing sole of running shoes shoes towards it, guess the third


lhadon's picture

Tom, please do tell me what the real meaning of buddha is. I would love to learn more about what you are thinking. Since you have a right to judge because you are a tibetan buddhist yourself? If I may be so bold, correct me if I am wrong.

lhadon's picture

unless you are a tibetan and buddhist, you honestly cannot comprehend how antagonizing this is for us. I understand where they might have felt this was a good idea, but truly those who worship the dalai lama could not bear to see his face, nor our flag or prayers, imprinted on a sneaker where it becomes dirty.

Sonam's picture

REALLLY!!!??? Hiss Holiness the Dalai Lama's image on a shoe? where you put your feet into? Howww DISSRESPECTFULLLLLLLLLL!!!!!
Can someone tell me what the hell KEDS were thinking about while they thought about this? How disrespectful is it to have an image of a spiritual/political leader that millions of people look up to have posted on a shoee?!!

one word! BOYCOTTT!!!

Tom's picture

Surprising and interesting reactions on a simple shoe.
"Impure part of the body" ... "disrespectful" ... "holy picture". So many seem to mistake an image for the real message and sanctify the "bells and whistles". Talking as if the picture of something holy was the same as the thing itself.
Funny. I heard it all before. I just didn't think I would ever hear this from the mouth of a Buddhist. Indeed I totally agree with this last sentence of Franko: "why are you grasping at your umbrage?"

Let me tell you some story: there was this girl who told me, most Buddhists wouldn't honor the real meaning of Buddha. Instead they would worship a golden stone and believe this was the same thing.
Now: shouldn't we be wiser than that and show her that she was all wrong?

Ron's picture

HAHA, what do you expect from the Nasty Kadampas–"the third buddha's" real estate pyramid scheme?

George's picture

Sarah: You have no sensitivity to Buddhist culture. Like pictures of an NKT cultie I saw facing her dirty converse running shoes towards her bedroom (!) 'shrine', no knowledge of dharma, culture just hippy junk worshippers.

Franko's picture

@15 (Dhamchoe) -- i'm a practicing buddhist, i help lead our local sangha, and i was raised a catholic. i am saying this out of my heart. it's not prejudice, it's not ignorance of other religions or philosophies. i am, i think, quite cognizant of why people are finding offense in these. but i also think that "if you find the buddha on the road, kill the buddha" applies here: these shoes are impermanent things. they will be gone soon. why are you grasping at your umbrage?

Dhamchoe's picture

Hi, Franko # 14! are you saying these shoes are awesome from your heart or out of pure prejudice owing to your ignorance about others religion and philosophy? Be objective, so that you will not regret later and suffer with the guilt you made whole of your life.

Franko's picture

barbara (#10) is right - i have a zazzle account, but i have never used it. the site is user-generated. people come up with designs, and they are printed on demand. i understand where the hue & cry is coming from, but on the other hand, these shoes are pretty damn awesome. : )

Dhamchoe's picture

We all recite every day the mantra, "treat others the way you want to be treated". I respect all religions of the world and I never ever step over any religious article or figures of any other religion. So, "Hey! Ked Company, please do respect other's religion and remove all prints related to Sacred Buddhist figures, Tibetan National Flag and Portrait of our beloved leader, teacher guidance, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, The Noble Laureate.

Tim Lilttle's picture

Remember, keeping a good sense of humor -- especially about ourselves -- is essential!

I suppose the shoes aren't too bad in and of themselves... as long as they aren't being produced in some Chinese sweatshop.

Dhamchoe's picture

did the samething The Ked company shoe designers and the authorities have committed the same blunder that the Talibans did in Afghanistan when they destroyed an ancient Sacred Buddhas Statue that can not be forgotten until a sincer confession is made with remorse.

Millions of peace loving human beings all lover the world worship His Holiness Dalai Lama as direct manifestation of the historical Buddha Shakya Muniin the form of compassionate Buddha. The Ked shoe designers have hurt the religious sentiments of all these peace loving people.

Besides, what benifit the ked company would get by hurting the religious sentiments of a millions of Buddhist all over the world.

Barbara O'Brien's picture

Zazzle is not an independent shoe company. It's a site that allows people to upload their own images and have them printed on T-shirts, coffee mugs, greeting cards, mouse pads, etc. And then if other people order products with the images you created on them, you get a royalty on the sale. But the products are not manufactured until someone orders one.

kunga's picture

Pictures of Buddha and His Holiness the Dalai Lama on a shoes is a pathetic action by KEDs and I would say its unfortunate for all the human beings in this world witnessing such a insulting things happening for once beleive. I think its a sign of bad luck and indeed, we are experiencing lots of unfortunate things happening in this world. Save ourself and Respect before the profits.

Sarah's picture

Cool. I may just order a pair.

Bill's picture

It's really bad karma to put an image of Buddha on a running shoe. Traditionally the feet are regarded as an impure part of the body and it's bad karma to point them at holy objects such as Teachers and shrines, much less to put a holy image on a shoe!

The things people do out of ignorance....it's sad.

Tenzin Thinlay's picture

What "no holiness". Are u even a buddhist to say that. well i am and i know what buddha is. even his holliness picture is spoiled here. well i am truly against this kind of things and moreover i hope they wont be in much demand as they use to because now people are knowing what these little but effective( in a bad way) do. I AM FULLY AGAINST THIS!!!

Mark O.'s picture

There is no holiness. The true Buddha is not an image. The true Buddha can be found in the nature of the marketing executive who green-lighted this idea, among other places. This is just funny. It is not offensive.

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dolma's picture

This is totally insult to my relgion. It is absolutely disrespectul. Please don`t hurt and harm others feeling. I think nobody has the right to insult others religion.

Tom's picture

They have sold pictures of Jesus. They have sold pictures of Che Guevara. They have printed the name of a president that was directly responsible for the end of the cold war on a bottle of Vodka. They will sell anything that goes, as long as there is a demand.

You might decide to be mad at them for doing so. Or you might smile and understand that people have always been and always will be: people. It's another lesson about your very own nature.

You are talking about these "symbols" as if they were a "thing". Are they? Is this meaning an inherent property of the symbols or are you just projecting your personal feelings towards a transcendent idea on an abstract image and are now feeling, that some "infidel" violates your "holy ground", penetrates a private zone and disrespects you and your believes?

This is a very interesting lesson to learn about yourself. You should take it as a precious opportunity.