Buddhists in Bikinis

Thursday May 18, 2006


When internet lingerie and swimwear catalogue Victoria’s Secret started selling swimsuits adorned with the image of the Buddha back in 2004, countless Buddhists set about complaining at the offence caused. The product was withdrawn and the manufacturers apologised. According to the article quoted on the Buddhist Channel, “If anything can be gleaned from this outcry, [it] is that there is indeed a global Buddhist voice. If something were to upset their beliefs, many would not hesitate to voice out and to protest against actions which they deem as inappropriate and demeaning to their faith.” I can’t help thinking that if there is such a thing as a global Buddhist voice, there are better things it could be used for than speaking out against a few scraps of fabric adorning the comely form of a model on a lingerie and swimwear website (global poverty, anyone? The arms trade?). But then religious outrage seems to be growing in fashion – unlike Buddha bikinis.

More recently, Buddhists and bikinis have hit the news again. Perhaps inspired by this very controversy, the Buddhist abbot of the Chungtai Temple in Puli, Taiwan, has agreed that the finals of the Miss Bikini World competition 2006 should be held in the hilltop Chan monastery. Apparently the justification is that holding the contest in such an environment will “lead people to think of the contrast between Buddhism, which considers outlooks, especially physical beauty, as vanity, and the pageant, which promises to be the acme of all worldly pomp and ceremony…”

If – for the sake of your spiritual well-being – you want to go along and consider the contrast between Buddhism and the worldly vanity of beauty pageants, then there’s still time: the event is to be held on the 26 th August. But, whatever you do, don’t wear that Buddha bikini that you had put aside for the event – Buddhists are so easily offended…

# · Jean

Oh dear, dear. But a good reminder that Buddhists are no less absurd than anyone else – why should they be? The thought of Miss Bikini World in a Buddhist temple is just, well, words fail me…

# · Will

I think they are planning to hold it in the Vatican the year afterwards, Jean…

W ;-)

# · Dharmavidya

What’s wrong with bikinis? They do not offend me.

Anyway – good to be in touch.

# · Will

It all depends on who is wearing them, Dharmavidya…

Best wishses,


# · Chris

The question of global voice in Buddhism is very interesting. Conventional wisdom says that the variety of Buddhisms rarely speak with united voice.

# · Nacho

I just had to visit the Miss Bikini World site, you know, research, so that I knew what the situation was… Once there I did a lot of contemplation and watched my breath. The practice was good because it gave rise to… bodhicitta… the “mind” of love. : ) My wife did not see it that way however…

Oh silly indeed. The Victoria Secret debacle was amazingly silly. It showed many Buddhist’s amazing attachment and obsession with the Buddha image, the sacralizing of it (and thus sterilization of it), and the rampant commercialism that appropriates anything for consumption’s sake, that colonizes cultural space. Buddhists response: outrage at the “insensitivity” of using the Buddha’s image to grace a bikini top or bottom. Would a Buddha tattoo be bad?

Miss Bikini World in the temple? Cheap and exploitative of everybody involved. Welcome to the spectacle!

# · john

you look great

# · Jo

Why don’t you name the offence: the tantric invasion? ;-)

# · Will

Maybe, Jo…

And thanks for the compliment, John. Sadly, I have to confess that the picture is not of me. I don’t really look so hot in a bikini…

Will :-)

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