From China today comes a story which might be heartening to those who practice their ollies as well as the dharma, and another story that might be taking the Buddhism/pop-culture clash a bit too far.
Photographs of a monk skateboarding inside a historic temple have caused controversy in China. […]
“Monks should seek quietness and riding a skateboard is such a contradictory thing to Buddhist life,” said [internet commenter].
However, a spokesman for the temple said that the outside world did not understand the life of a contemporary monk.
“People get their impressions from TV or movies, where monks are praying all day long, without any motivation or desire,” he said.
“But these days monks also enjoy sports like badminton, table tennis and skateboarding in the spare time, as well as praying.
“They even use the internet and mobile phones to promote Buddhism. This is not contradictory to Buddhism but actually is part of the Buddhist spirit.”
As someone who skates (well, I ride a longboard now that I’m older), this made me smile. But then, I’m no monk. And, on the other hand…
China’s famous Shaolin Temple may in fact be taking things too far. This might sound like it’s ripped from the pages of The Onion, but as The New York Post reports:
The sacred temple where kung fu was born some 1,500 years ago to spawn centuries of undefeated masters is at last surrendering to the almighty buck.
Critics were kicking and screaming in outrage yesterday over plans to sell stock in the ancient monastery and turn it into a garish tourist attraction to cash in on the sport’s popularity.
The kung fu amusement park would feature bikini-clad beauty pageants, Las Vegas-styled martial-arts shows, souvenir shops and posh hotels.
The controversial plan to convert the storied Shaolin Temple — in a picturesque mountain town in the Henan Province — is said to be the main priority of the temple’s current monk, Shi Yongxin.
Sources said the so-called “CEO of Shaolin Temple” is partnering with the state-run tourist agency, China Travel Services.
The martial-arts shrine would likely become involved in kung fu films, which have made an international comeback recently with a new generation of kung fu stars and improved film production in China and Hong Kong.
The monk got the idea to go Hollywood after seeing 1.6 million tourists pack into the remote temple’s grounds last year on pilgrimages, paying about $23 a ticket just to see a half-hour, smack-down kung fu exhibition.
Critics said the squat, 44-year-old monk, who’s headed the temple for a decade, has regularly been allowing profiteers and promoters to turn kung fu and Zen Buddhism into crassly commercial projects to raise much-needed capital for rebuilding the ancient buildings and to develop other temples.
Despite his nickname, Shi says he’s not interested in making big profits but only wanted to raise the public profile of Zen Buddhism and its kung fu disciplines.
If Shi is in fact only trying to raise profiles, well, hey, that might just be okay. But this type of conflict has been ongoing at Shaolin, and is of course emblematic (though extremely so) of the more heated aspects of the Buddhism/pop-culture discussion. It will be interesting (and important) to see how it plays out.