As houseplant addicts, we love unique and fun pots! We also love decorating our pots and plants. We like making our space our own. However, some planters may be considered offensive! We share why you shouldn’t buy buddha head planters.
History of Buddha
Buddha was a mystic philosopher who lived in northern India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. Later, his followers tried to make him into an infallible god-like figure, but his teachings were more of an attempt to show people how they could solve their own problems with the tools of self-reflection and meditation.
The story is that Buddha was born as an heir to a royal throne, but he rejected his family, possessions and power. He set out on a journey around northeastern India in search of peace. After meditating under a Bodhi tree for 40 days and nights, he achieved enlightenment; his spirit departed from his body, which it had never really inhabited at the core.
Dharma: The First Good Thing Buddha Gave Us
Buddha’s gift to humanity was dharma. It refers to the truth and universal laws that govern all living things. Dharma is a path of spiritual development through understanding these universal truths, then developing your own inner strength and compassion.
Buddha was simply someone who fully realized dharma. A buddha can also be defined as “a person who has achieved total wisdom and fulfilled all possibilities of spiritual growth within their lifetime.”
A buddha is not a god-like figure. He was an ordinary person just like you and me. He was fully human, with all the qualities of humanness that make us who we are. He experienced pain and suffering just like we do, but he also achieved the highest levels of enlightenment.
So where does Buddha planters fit into all of this?
Buddha head planters can be seen as offensive. They represent an outdated, racist form of Asian representation.
What do they look like? You can see an example below.
Why Buddha Head Planters can be offensive:
1. Ancient Asian cultures and religions are very complex. They did not have only one physical form of representation, like we seem to do with the buddha head planters today. In fact, many ancient traditions had no iconography or symbols at all!
2. The statues we see today are a result of trade with Western countries, where the Buddha had been turned into an idol.
3. The “idol” form was not how the ancient Asian people viewed their spiritual leaders and philosophers. They were more of something to be worn, like jewelry or souvenirs that have meaning for the owner; they did not exist for others to carry around and place in their homes.
4. Buddha, as well as other great spiritual leaders from the East, was also a real person with real human experiences. It is not respectful to turn him into a houseplant for our own purposes of beautification or decoration!
You don’t want these stereotypes in your home!
Buddha head planters can be associated with the following stereotypes:
1. Orientalism: The practice of adopting elements from Asian culture (often China, Japan, India or Korea) while ignoring the complexities of Asian history and religion in favor of stereotypes and simplifications.
2. Cultural Appropriation: When outside cultures adopt cultural forms that have been created by an oppressed minority group. This can come at the expense of the minority group. For example: a non-Asian person portraying Asian characters, wearing and using accessories and symbols associated with Buddhist or Hinduism. Invading other cultures for your own personal use, without understanding the history of that culture
3. Oriental Despotism: the stereotype which implies Asians are strict, disciplined autocrats because they were originally ruled by despots.
All of these stereotypes are not flattering or positive. They all contain racial elements that can be offensive to people!
You cannot buy off your racism with good intentions
“I’m not racist!” some might say, “I simply love Asian culture and I want to express my appreciation for it through those head planters.”
Even if you are well-meaning and do not intentionally mean any harm, it does not matter! You have to understand that symbols have meaning for a reason. They hold power in our society. That’s why we see the swastika on hateful websites today! Do you know what this symbol means in its original context? It’s not the same as it is today.
If you do not understand why a symbol can be offensive, then please ask someone who knows before using them! That way, you can avoid making hurtful mistakes that have big negative consequences for innocent people and cultures.
It is okay to appreciate other cultures; actually, it’s quite wonderful! But it is important to know why and how you express this appreciation.
What should I do if I already have one?
If you already own a Buddha planter or other symbols of Orientalism, don’t fret! There are still ways that we can change the meaning behind these objects back into something positive. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Reach out to people who can educate you, such as teachers, professors or artists with experience in Asian culture. Learn and stay informed about your own ignorance; ignorance is not a bad thing, so long as it is being actively corrected.
2. Understand why offensive objects are created within an oppressive system. These objects are created within a system that was set up to create hierarchies and divisions between groups of people, even if it is unintentional.
3. Understand why some symbols can be offensive in modern contexts! A lot of the time it deals with Western cultures invading and manipulating Eastern countries, stripping them of their religious identity, cultural pride and histories.
4. If you are not the one purchasing and giving these objects, be honest with yourself about whether you should decline or accept them in a neutral way. This means having difficult conversations with the person who gave it to you or offering to return it to them if possible. Letting someone know why their present is harmful is actually a great, respectful thing to do!
5. If you are able to return it, try finding a new home for the object that is appropriate and meaningful. Perhaps someone in your local Asian community might want it? Or if not, donate it to a museum or charity shop as a way of changing its meaning back into one of appreciation versus appropriation.
We want to create a world where cultures are free to be fully expressed without the need for stereotype and racism, so that all cultures can live in harmony. By creating a society free of oppression, we will be able to experience something truly beautiful.