Furniture shopping several days ago, I was a little surprised by the number of Buddha heads for sale. Not that I've anything against Buddha, but it seemed as though every store I entered had a sculpture or painting (or several) of one kind or another, available for purchase. Even in the office supplies outlet, large format prints on canvas of the Buddha's face were hanging on the walls, tastefully done in gold or grey monotone. Now I know this isn't new, but surely the market is expanding!
I wondered, how many of those who purchased a Buddha's head were aware of the Buddha's teachings? How many followed the Eightfold Path or understood the Four Noble Truths? These particular items, on sale post Christmas, were most likely destined for patios and porches, poolside decks and book keepers reception areas. Do Buddhists, in kind, decorate their backyards and bar-be-que areas with Crucifixes or effigies of the Virgin Mary? Do Buddhists have bar-be-que's? It seemed to me a misappropriation of iconography, without regard for it's significance. Would a Buddhists find this decorating style offensive? I don't know any Buddhists to ask. Perhaps they don't mind other folk plonking a Buddha's head in one corner of the living room, filling up a space that otherwise made things look just a little bare. Maybe the mere presence of Buddha's head can improve your Karma, enhance your mindfulness and bring you just that little bit closer to enlightenment, regardless of your personal theology.
I've decided to do a little misappropriation of my own, beginning with a very straight, hopefully unbiased pencil rendering (of a sculpture) of Buddha's head. Not that I think middle class suburbia need be burdened with another graven image of the enlightened one. This for me is a kind of 'getting to know you' exercise. We'll see where it goes from here.