05 March 2009

The Buddha Bar -- Jakarta


The Buddha Bar is one that I have heard of and have never had the cause or the inclination to go there. I have friends and colleagues who have trundled by and have given it mixed reviews. By consensus it seems that it caters to the upper end of the market and I am a strictly down town kind of fella. So, the Buddha Bar and me are not a match made in heaven.

However, this is not a post about my watering hole preferences,but rather a musing about what Buddha might think about a group of Buddhists students closing the place down because it allegedly insults their religious sensitivities.

The Jakarta Post is reporting that the Indonesian Buddhists Student Association (Aliansi Mahasiswa Buddhis / AMB) has closed down the Buddha Bar and management has seemingly agreed to this. This does not seem to be a particularly enlightened move on the part of the AMB.

The Buddha Bar is part of a chain of bars owned and operated by George V Hotels and Resorts which is based in France. The groups has Buddha Bars in a number of other locations including London, New York, Cairo, and Beirut, to name but a few.

According to Kompas, the group has recommended that the Tourist Agency of the Government and the Governor become pro-active in the stripping of the groups business license to operate in Jakarta. Presumably, this request should be directed further up the chain so as to ensure that any requisite business licenses are stripped for the whole of Indonesia and not just Jakarta.

It seems that the primary concern of the AMB is that the association of Buddha to a bar is inappropriate, particularly as the Buddha Bar is a place that serves alcohol and allows people to get drunk. I am guessing that the point is that Buddha neither drank alcohol nor got drunk.

The secondary concern relates to the fact that the Buddha Bar is populated with Buddhist symbols and artifacts (I would be guessing that most are cheap imitations as opposed to the real thing - but as I said I have not been to the place and I am not sure that I would know the difference anyway).

It also appears, according to a spokesperson for the AMB, that before the word Buddha can be used in any context there must be written approval from the Directorate General of Buddhist Affairs at the Department of Religion.

The last time I was in a music store checking out a couple of the latest CDs, I noticed that there are a series of music CDs related to the Bar and simply called Buddha Bar I, Buddha Bar II, Buddha Bar III, and I think I saw a Buddha Bar IV as well. I guess once the students successfully close down the Buddha Bar proper then they can turn their collective attention to blockading music stores and demand that the CDs be withdrawn from sale.

Interestingly, the Jakarta Post is reporting that the management of the Buddha Bar has also filed a request for a name change. It is not often that you see Indonesians demand changes that are likely to see them out of a job.

The simple reality here is that the Buddha Bar is part of a chain, a franchise if you will, that will lose its appeal should it be renamed George V Bar (although you might get a bit more patronage from some English folks looking to down a warm pint or two). More to the point the staff that work there had no qualms about joining the establishment in the first place. Because if they did then they should have stuck to their principles at that point in time and refused to take up employment until such time as the owners caved into the yet to be employed employees demands for a name change.

This is at best a case of opportunism by the staff and at worst a misrepresentation in the media of the employee's actual position.

This is clearly a case of students having too much time on their hands and nothing better to do. Let's face it there is a world of poverty and illness out there that needs the idealism of youth much more than the shutting down of a poorly named bar that is providing an income to Indonesians and allowing them to feed themselves and their families.

My understanding of Buddha and Buddhist teachings is that they teach tolerance and understanding. I am guessing Buddha is probably sitting under a tree somewhere taking a break from his enlightened meditations and thinking to himself, chill out, it's just a bar.

My thanks to Lawblogger (one of my readers - I cannot link to a blog because I do not know who he is and whether he even has a blog) for pointing me in this direction.

9 comments:

treespotter said...

I'm surprised that you never heard of the Buddha Bar music compilation since they really are, one of the best lounge music ever - i think the collection (along with those of Cafe Del Mar) pretty much play continuously in my house/bedroom in the last four years. It's an impressive collection of light jazz-ethnic-acid, probably the best background music you can find anywhere (it has everyone from Nusrah Fateh Ali Khan, Deepak Chopra, Amr Diab, the Tibetan Project, etc.).

Heavily recommended and i have some 12GB worth of them, you can get it anytime you want).

Even more surprised that you didn't mention that the Buddha Bar in Jakarta is owned and ran by the daughter by our esteemed ex Gov'nor and President Wannabe, Ms. Renny Soetiyoso.

Frankly, i don't think much of it, i love the one in London and Dubai are my two favourite and they're really good. I also heard great things about the Cairo one.

The jakarta one, however, serves bad food and the service was generally not very good, particularly considering that we pay north of 1m on each visit.

a question tho, "I would be guessing that most are cheap imitations as opposed to the real thing" -> wat, exactly, is a "real Buddha"?

Rob Baiton said...

Tree...

I did not mention the Sutiyoso connection only because I was focusing on the name of the bar and the religion of the students demonstrating against it.

I guess Renny Sutiyoso was not sensitive to the objections that Indonesian buddhists might have to the idea of Buddha being a bar-hopper.

On the music front, I had seen the CDs around, even thought of buying one once (then bought a Bob Dylan CD instead). I night take you up in the 12GBs.

Real Buddhas in this context I was referring to legitimate historical artifacts and antiquities that have been stolen from their rightful owners and have then ended up as ornaments in a bar or a private home.

agonz said...

I think they have the right to say what they say if they feel offended. I'm not a Buddhist and although I think the interior is beautiful but I do understand of their objection and respect that. I think we all should respect that. We don't leave alone in the world where our opinion solely prevails, there are other people with different views that we should respect and understand the boundaries.

You said that instead of shutting down the bar which is some people (assuming you meant the employees) to gain some money to feed their family. Although, that is true, I don't think that is the case. There are other ways to feed your family without offending a certain group. How would you feel if I use your name as a female escort business to feed my children?

Rob Baiton said...

Agonz...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

I do not think I said that they did not have a right to protest what offends them. I merely made the point that there are more important things in the world than this.

If you had read what has been written in this blog over time you would realize that I have often made the point that we do not live in isolation and that there are rarely times when absolutes exist.

In that regard, I have also written regularly about the rights of people to have and voice opinions, even ones that I do not agree with.

I agree, there are plenty of ways to earn a crust to feed your family without trading in the offense of others. The point I was making was that if the employees are now operating from a point of principle that it is wrong to work in a place that offends some part of the community, then they should have been standing on that principle and not sort employment there in the first place.

It is interesting to note that much of the focus in this case has now shifted to who owns the joint, how it came to be located where it is, and whether corruption was involved.

If you want to name a female escort agency after me, then go for it! I am a nobody in the big scheme of things and as such using my name is not likely to bring you in any additional business.

buddhist amulet said...

Wow,so good!

Rob Baiton said...

Buddhist Amulet...

Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Viagra Online said...

the place looks so cultural and the Budha statue give a sensacional air, beside and a according of one of my friends, the food is delicious.

Nini said...

What you know about Buddhism to justify Buddha bars??? If Buddhist do the same to Jesus Christ.....will they bear it..?? Jesus Bar!! The world should really make Jesus or Allah Bars too....then people would know how low is it to insult other religions....YES BUDDHA TEACH ABOUT TOLERANCE AND BEING IMPATIENT.... BUT BUDDHA DIDN'T DRINK WINE AS JESUS DID , BUDDHA DIDN'T EAT MEAT LIKE JESUS DID...... LIQUOR IS A MAIN THING BUDDHA ASKED BUDDHISTS TO STAY AWAY FROM.....IT'S THE 5TH OF MAIN 5 PRECEPTS OF BUDDHISTS....SO YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO LINK BUDDHA WITH LIQUOR....JESUS LIKE LIQUOR SO WHY DON'T U PEOPLE MAKE A JESUS BAR WITH SOME SPECIAL RED WINE?? HEHE....
BUDDHA'S TOLERANCE TEACHING WASN'T A STUPID ONE LIKE U HAVE MENTIONED HERE....IF U GO AND STUDY BUDDISM.....U WILL KNOW REAL BUDDISM.... BUDDHA'S DAMMA IS LARGER THAN MILLION OF BIBLES OR QURAN....SO THINK MILLION TIMES BEFORE U OPEN UR MOUTH AND TALKING ABOUT BUDDHISM...LEARN IT WELL AND TALK...BUDDHA WILL NEVERAPPROVE MAKING ANY BARS FOR ANY ONE..SO WHY WOULD HE JUSTIFY MAKING ONE ON HIS SACRED NAME..????? GO AND A GET A BRAIN WASH....RESPECT FOR ALL THE RELIGIONS...ANY WAY BUDDHISTS SHOULD BE PROUD OF THEMSELVES AS THEY NEVER INSULT JESUS, ALLAH OR ANY OTHER RELIGION..THAT MAKES BUDDHA GREATER THAN ANYOTHER GOD OR HUMAN!!
YES WE SHOULDN'T STOP BUDDHA BARS COZ PEOPLE WHO DO SO WILL GET THEIR KARMA BACK TO THEM... MERCY ON THEM !!

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