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.