The Flask in the Dharma Hall had the words printed on it. OM FUCKING SHANTI. A Response.

While giving a teaching in Germany, I saw a flask besides one of the meditators. I turned to the person to ask what the words say on the front of flask.

The words said OM FUCKING SHANTI.

I googled Images but could not find a photo of the flask but I found a similar photo of a cup sold on Etsy, an e-commerce company that boasts it sells ‘remarkable gifts.’ I am sending Etsy a link to this blog.

What’s your response to the words? I asked.

The person said the words referred to the ‘shiny yoga world.’ That’s what the person understood by the words.

I asked “Do you know the meanings of the words OM Shanti?

The person said OM means The Universe and Shanti means Peace.

Yes. What do you think the response would be of the Hindu community to reading OM FUCKING SHANTI?

I then added. The community would be appalled and shocked. Om Shanti is one of the most sacred words (in the Hindu tradition). As you said, OM means the Great Expanse, the Sacred Sound of the Universe. OM is one of the words of God. Shanti means Peace.

I spent seven years in India. Can I make a suggestion? Get rid of the flask. Some people will wonder if you have a stereotype prejudice against Indians and people of that faith. Do you?

No. of course I don’t, the person replied. (Note to reader: I have met people who travelled overseas. He or she got sick, robbed, suffered in an accident, was abused etc. The person returned home angry and held onto a negative stereotype of the people of that country).

I added: In India, OM Shanti. Shanti. Shanti is sacred. It is used to in prayers, rituals, ceremonies and teachings. It is a very deeply held sacred wish for Peace in the Universe. That flask is not welcome in here (Dharma Hall). If you want to be bold, I would go to the shop where you bought it. You can tell the shop you have deep concern about the words on the flask.

Find out who are the manufacturers and let them know how offensive it is. Ask them to stop manufacturing such flasks. If you no receive a reply, then go to your Member of Parliament.

That’s how serious I regard such language. I leave it with you. I do not for a moment think you had any knowledge of the background of the text. I appreciate the comment you made about (concerns about some aspects of) Western yoga but others who express the sacred language of OM Shanti would find the flask offensive.

You would not know if you have not lived in a Hindu community and culture. I have absolutely no hard feelings towards yourself. Enjoy your break.

Note to readers.

I know many Western yoga teachers. They dedicate their lives to simplicity of the yogi while offering wonderful teachings/practices for people to develop harmony of body/mind through the asanas (postures). They also wish to distant themselves from the yoga industry of hype, fashion and expensive lessons, just as some of us have the same response to the mindfulness industry.

It was suggested to me in a short discussion in the hall about the flask that I should have spoken in private or asked the person’s permission to speak about the flask in the hall. I agreed.  I spoke to the person later apologised for any offence. I said we can all learn from such situations. Despite it being a challenging and upsetting situation, the person responded in a gracious way.

I am not a believer in freedom of speech.  I take the criteria for speech/langage to express what is true and useful. This principle requires us to reflect on the content, attitude and our potential impact on another. We do not always get it right. but we wish to treat others as we wish to be treated.

Take the above flask situation as an example. If you believe in so-called freedom of speech, then you could give a Christmas gift of a flask to your parents, with the words TO MY FUCKING MOTHER AND FATHER.  Would your parents find such language offensive or support your ‘right’ for freedom of speech? Same principle with a present for your children, partner or boss if you directed such language to them.

People of faith, people with sincere spiritual values also find such language offensive. Intensely identified with a religion or a political viewpoint, some people with severe mental health issues can become violent and perform acts of revenge.

Abusive language does not reveal freedom of speech but a mind desiring to ridicule, humiliate and gain attention in the name of freedom of speech.

Nobody exercises daily freedom of speech. The mind constantly holds back from saying things for a multiplicity of reasons. The law, society and individual consciousness do not endorse freedom of speech. Neither do I. Nor do you.

OM. SHANTI. SHANTI. SHANTI.




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