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Buddha figures in your garden

July 4, 2012

Yesterday on the plane back to Thailand I read an article in The Nation about a demonstration against the profane use of Buddha figures. During my recent stay in Sweden I saw many examples of Buddha figures used for interior design and in Swedish gardens. I asked a lady why she had one in her bathroom and she replied it looked ‘cute’.

Indeed Lord Buddha was a great philosopher and many westerners like his teachings without necessarily believing that his spirit is still alive. Using Buddha figures in western gardens is to stress tranquility, divinity and meditation. Still, to a Buddhist this profane use of sacred figures may hurt. This is good to know if you ever invite Buddhist friends to your garden in the west, and I think it is essential to consider for westerners decorating their Thai garden. A Thai gardener or a Thai visitor or spouse may suffer as much as a devoted Christian would suffer if he saw you placed crucifixes among your raspberries. Being tolerant, Buddhists generally suffer silently without complaint, so this demonstration shows that some people have had enough. If you want a Buddha figure in your Thai garden, consider erecting a proper spirit house and discuss the matter with the local temple.

A Buddha figure in front of a mural painting at ‘Wat ke chi cha was’ temple in the Namprae subdistrict, just 3 km from Dokmai Garden in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The tree in the background is Ficus religiosa (Moraceae) under which Lord Buddha reached enlightenment. Even planting this tree is considered wrong, according to Ketsanee. It grows at Dokmai Garden since it came by itself (or rather via birds), and that is alright.

Text & Photo: Eric Danell

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. July 4, 2012 7:20 PM

    Yes when my wife arrived in England for the first time and saw one of my Buddha statues outdoors on the deck she immediately moved this to a position on my desk upstairs! Apparently Buddha should always be high up rather than low down and certainly not somewhere to be rained upon!

  2. July 6, 2012 10:10 PM

    Great topic, Eric. My wife called my attention to this disrespectful treatment of Buddha images (sometimes just called “monks”). She feels that if the image if the image is placed on a raised platform, it may remain in the garden without disrespect. Unfortunately, to some farang, these religious images remain nothing more than exotic knick-knacks.

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