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Woman wants Buddha statues banned from nursing home

I have sympathy for the Christian woman who is protesting the decorative Buddha statues that are being used in her father’s nursing home.

If I was staying in a non-religious nursing home, I would not be comfortable being surrounded by crucifixes, or statues of Christ or the Virgin Mary. If it was a religious nursing home, then fine, but it seems inappropriate to have religious displays used in non-religious settings.

The general manager, Mr. Adey, said “She’s confusing decorative Asian items with a religious message.” For Buddhists, Buddha statues are not “decorative Asian items” but are symbols of spiritual awakening, and reminders of the historical Buddha, just as for Christians, statues of Christ are symbols reminding them of God and his son’s sacrifice. Arguably, using Buddha images as “decorative Asian items” is a misuse of religious imagery. The topic of Buddhist ideas or imagery in the marketing or production of (usually non-Buddhist) services and consumables is one that Rod Meade Sperry takes up in his well-known “Dharma-burger” site.

Not having seen pictures of the Buddha statues, however, there’s one related matter I’d like to comment on: a lot of what people think are “Buddha statues” are actually statues of Hotei — those “fat-bellied Buddhas” aren’t actually Buddhas at all! Hotei is more like Santa Claus, so confusing Hotei with the Buddha is akin to thinking that Santa is Christ.

Herald Sun: A Christian woman is demanding a nursing home in South Australia remove decorative Buddhist statues, saying they are “stressful” for Christian residents including her 89-year-old father-in-law.

Ruth Thompson, of Vista, has lodged a complaint with the ACH Group’s Highercombe aged care home in Hope Valley, which opened late last year.

At least half a dozen statues of Buddha, about 60cm tall, adorn communal areas, Mrs Thompson says.

“We’re so agitated and annoyed about it,” she told the Leader Messenger last week.

“It’s very stressful for the older people to see this sort of thing.

“We are committed Christians and we don’t want Buddhist statues in our faces all the time.”

However, ACH Group general manager of residential services Greg Adey said there had been no other complaints from the more than 60 residents or their families.

Mr Adey said the statues were purely decorative and would not be removed.

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About Bodhipaksa

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Bodhipaksa is a Buddhist practitioner and teacher, a member of the Triratna Buddhist Order, and a published author. He founded Wildmind in 2001. Bodhipaksa has published many guided meditation CDs and guided meditation MP3s.

He teaches at Aryaloka Buddhist Center in Newmarket, New Hampshire. You can follow Bodhipaksa on Twitter, join him on Facebook, or hang out with him on .

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Comments

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Comment from Angela
Time: April 8, 2010, 5:36 am

I read with interest the ban the buddha from a nursing home.

I would think that this person has had a bad time with someone of that background if not it would only be a statue, or a deep rooted race problem.
I do know of people that are Jewish background that would not like a cross nere them, and Christians that do not like stars of David, however I have never know a Buddhist that has a problem with anything that is visual.
This is something to think about.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 8, 2010, 11:16 am

I don’t think it’s necessarily a race issue or that this woman has had a problem with a Buddhist in the past. For her, Buddha statues are likely just an unwelcome reminder of an “alien” faith. Let me tell you a story about the prison I teach in.

In the non-denominational chapel there were Christian banners all around the walls, except for one empty space. With the permission of the chaplain
some local Buddhists made a banner that had a line-drawing of a bodhisattva on it. No words, just an image. There was an outcry from the Christians about the presence of an image from another religion. They couldn’t have just that image removed, so they settled for the removal of *all* banners from the chapel. They see it as a turf war.

Incidentally, I’ve known many Buddhists who are bothered by Christian imagery, especially Buddhists who were formerly Catholics. I don’t at all mind seeing Christian imagery in churches — I rather like it, in fact — but I am bothered when Christians try to take over public spaces.

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Comment from Angela
Time: April 9, 2010, 5:18 am

Thank you for your reply, an alien race is a race issue, and let me tell you about a college that I teach yoga in.

Many of the church going christians asked me not to display a very small
OM, as it was too Yoga! The other slant could be that, a deep fear of the unknown.
To sum up from me we are all comming in from our own experience and background.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: April 9, 2010, 8:16 am

Hi Angela,

I referred to an “alien faith” not an “alien race.” It’s quite possible to be bothered by symbols of a religion other than one’s own without being a racist. A white Christian could, for example, object to being surrounded by Mormon imagery, even though the Mormon faith is practiced almost exclusively by white people.

That’s an interesting story, by the way. Was it Christians who were attending the yoga classes who objected to the Om symbol? Or was is Christians who were merely sharing the college space with you?

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Comment from Brian
Time: October 15, 2012, 12:09 pm

I’m from a Christian heritage and because of my mediation and yoga practices have been drawn to a Buddhist path. I’ve have very serious pushback from my spouse and a few family members with questions about worshiping idols, where will you spend eternity etc.

I can see the confusion, fear and frankly anger in their eyes and it has taught me the value of patience, non-attachment and metta.

Dualistic and exclusive religious practices have a real problem with iconography etc. from other faiths and practices. at least that is my observation.

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Comment from Bodhipaksa
Time: October 15, 2012, 2:20 pm

Catholics have faced the same kind of suspicion from Protestants since the Reformation, and of course the same suspicion of idolatry is prevalent in Islam as well. It’s a shame that so many people don’t understand symbolism…

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