There were two Buddhas
Religion and kitschBuddha in the hardware store
Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment about two and a half millennia ago while meditating under a poplar fig in northern India. Today thousands of small Buddhas meditate under ornamental plants in garden sections. Mostly they are made from artificial stone. Natural colors, different sizes. The customer can spend five euros or 500. Buddha has had an amazing career in Germany's hardware stores. However: Several large hardware store chains are rejecting interview requests.
So change of location, the rooms of a Buddhist association in Dresden. Ulrike Aurig-Böttcher, Thomas Reis and Markus Rudolf Domula bend over a screen. You look at the online stores of hardware stores. Search term "Buddha". 20 hits, or even 30 or 40 - and spontaneous laughter.
"Old-fashioned one would say sacrilege"
Markus Rudolf Domula: "I laughed because I got this level of - perhaps old-fashioned, one would say sacrilege - or disrespect simply because it shocks me somewhere."
Ulrike Aurig-Böttcher: "My first spontaneous impulse is: not bad. Above all, it reminds me of countries I've been to, in Nepal, in Tibet, in India. Everyday life is permeated with it."
Markus Rudolf Domula: "Such a Buddha in the garden, that's okay. I've got used to it. But a Buddha as a shower back wall - it has something like Buddha heads on toilet paper or Buddha on napkins and I find that kind of strange. "
"A symbol of relaxation"
So the German Buddha boom is being received differently by the Buddhists in Dresden. Also in the rooms of her association Samten Shenpen Ling, there are two Buddhas. However, not from a garden department, but directly from Tibet and Laos. Thomas Reis believes that Buddha figures are sold and bought in Germany because they satisfy a spiritual need:
"I would suspect that it simply has to do with the withdrawal of Western religion. And on the other hand, perhaps also with the intensification of everyday work. That people are stressed, exhausted and perhaps think that because of the Buddha figure - that it is like such a symbol for relaxation, for healing and ... "
"... that this can easily be associated with a focus on this supposedly thick, cozy Buddha image. The fact that there is a lot more and a lot different behind it is not so superficial for many people."
"Expression of the fact that people long for something"
Edith Franke can confirm this observation by Ulrike Aurig-Böttcher. She is professor for religious studies at the University of Marburg.
"I think that then these Buddhas actually end up in the living rooms, in the gardens, has in my opinion to do with the fact that it is an expression of the fact that people are already longing for something that goes beyond their own little ones yes, very material everyday life. And there these Buddha figures convey the idea of something that is more without being dogmatic. And I think that's why they're incredibly popular. "
Buddha - the new king of kitsch? (Deutschlandradio / Christian Röther)
That has to do with the fact that Buddhism has become extremely popular in Germany. Bookstores have various guides on mindfulness. Meditation courses are offered in cities, villages and monasteries, often according to Buddhist tradition.
"Buddhism is not considered dogmatic"
Edith Franke: "Buddhism is also a religion - or the religion, I think, that is seen most positively in our culture. So it is considered a peaceful religion, it is not considered dogmatic. So you have to see that if people who are more secular or who turn away from traditional religions, that Buddhism is always that where there is still a great deal of sympathy. "
Religion in public space - that has not only existed since the Buddha made his way into the gardens. Some Catholic regions in Germany are still shaped by Jesus, Mary and other Christian saints. They hang on house facades or watch at crossroads. Is the Buddha now competing with them? No, says religious scholar Edith Franke. At least not in the eyes of those who set up the Buddhas.
"Otherwise, interest in Buddhism - or Buddhism is characterized by the fact that it is perceived by the people who are now getting these Buddhas as very integrative and not competitive. Rather, it is something that is also an expression of religiosity or spirituality, which is then simply added. "
"Religion is not immune to kitsch"
This sometimes leads to bizarre combinations. In many a front yard Buddha lives next to Bambi and trolls, dragons, meerkats.
Edith Franke: "I think there is hardly an area of religion that is not immune to kitsch. And kitsch always means, in a positive sense, a broad and popular reception of religion. That is perhaps something new that we can do that now also more lively and diversely combined next to each other. And then not only Maria gets next to the Buddha, but maybe also the garden gnome or the frog next to it.
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