A Buddhist group has successfully convinced a French factory to stop printing the Buddha's face on toilets, but failed in a lengthy campaign to censor a Walt Disney movie series featuring a dog named Buddha.
the group protest the ‘Air Buddies’ films on Khao San Road last year.
The Bangkok-based Knowing Buddha group targets what it deems to be disrespectful use of the Buddha's image, such as on clothing, furniture, souvenirs, statues, tattoos and even sex toys.
"There has been no progress on Disney; they have not responded at all," said Acharavadee Wongsakon, the Thai founder of Knowing Buddha, referring to the Air Buddies movies.
"Also, the US Embassy has not been helpful," she said.
"It is pathetic. We have been trying to push the [Thai] government to arrange a seminar for government bureaus, including tourism and hotels, to show the serious problem that is happening, and to address a solution. Our effort is proving fruitless."
Mrs Acharavadee launched the anti-Disney campaign in June when she led 200 supporters on a "Stop Disrespecting Buddha" protest march through Khao San Road and other markets which sell clothes, home decor and souvenirs portraying Buddha.
When she recently saw a hotel's website proudly displaying a photograph of a toilet _ opulently decorated with Buddha's face _ Mrs Acharavadee unleashed her latest campaign.
"This case was brought to us by one of our supporters on Jan 22. At that time, we were running a campaign on portable public toilets in the Netherlands which had the Buddha image painted on the outside of those toilet booths," she said. "The Buddha image in the toilet is a hard blow to Buddhists."
She wrote to the French Embassy in Bangkok and the Thai Embassy in Paris.
"On Feb 18, we received a reply from the French ambassador showing their concern and they indicated that they had already contacted the hotel in France," she said.
"We wrote a letter to the hotel Moulin de Broaille which displayed the toilet seat in their hotel. We then searched who is the manufacturer of the product, and we wrote to them, asking them to stop and explaining why this is not appropriate and is disrespectful to Buddha. That company is called Olfa, from France."
On Thursday, however, the toilet seat adorned with Buddha's face, was still on the manufacturer's website, which boasts of being "the major specialist" in the toilet seat market.
The hotel's website also continued to display the toilet on Thursday, illustrating a "Little Buddha" theme of "pure Zen" which guests could enjoy.
"We received an apologetic letter from the manufacturer, which said they would not produce it any more," Mrs Acharavadee said. "But the hotel has not removed this product, forcing us to continue working on this case."
The campaign against the Air Buddies movies is also continuing, but Mrs Acharavadee acknowledges that this a much bigger fight. Disney's Buddha dog is aimed toward children and, according to the movie's website, exhibits Buddhist stereotypes. For example, the dog practises yoga and meditation, while avoiding meat and stress.
The friendly puppy also eats dog food from a dish emblazoned with the word "Buddha".
When Mrs Acharavadee's daughters innocently downloaded the film from iTunes last year, she was shocked to see Buddha the dog as a main character.
"Disney's adorable talking puppies" are "everyone's favourite canine siblings," says Disney's website.
The dogs are five "Buddies" named Budderball, RoseBud, B-Dawg, MudBud and Buddha.
Last year, Mrs Acharavadee called for a global boycott by Buddhists of the Air Buddies movies.
She launched her campaign so Disney would "stop using the name 'Buddha' for a dog. There is no need to cancel the series; just remove that character, or change its name."
Repeated emails to Disney's media addresses failed to garner a response.
Knowing Buddha is comprised of 35 team members plus 7,000 supporters, she said, and it protests receive a mixed response from the public.
Random posts online discussing the protests include critics who say Buddha would not have supported the censoring of people who use his face or image for disrespectful or commercial purposes.
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About the author
- Writer: Richard S Ehrlich