Video: Mercedes Benz tests Buddhist monks against new car (and vice-versa) / With small update

As our online correspondent Konchog Norbu wrote about here two weeks ago, (“Keeping your Zen on the test track,” October 30), a new ad for the Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG seemed to pit Buddhist renunciates against, yes, a luxury car. As Konchog wrote, “in [the ad], five Zen monks receive the classic thwack on the shoulders for ogling the sleek SUV as it drifts around them… Or, allegedly they do. It seems the execs at Mercedes Japan promptly yanked the video since the car’s not officially launched yet.” (See update below as to whether or not it’s accurate to say that these are Zen monks.)

But now, via Rocket News, comes a review of the full (and quite long!) spot, which depicts a session of zazen (Zen meditation) undertaken by the monks in the presence of the revving, swooping A45 AMG, to see if they can keep their cool and their “earthly desires in check.” Yes, one monk is even hit, presumably in a punitive way, with the kyosaku (“Zen stick”) for not measuring up to the task. Is it real? Is it phony? Hard to say for certain, but the last shot of the spot, which shows a monk bowing to the car, should probably set off your Dubiosity Meter. One thing’s for sure: this is one of the more elaborate and baldfaced co-optations of Buddhist imagery in advertising seen yet.

Update: Based on the way their robers are worn, it’s arguable that Tendai, and not Zen, monks are depicted in this ad. See here for photo comparison.

4 Comments

  1. fast&furious
    Posted November 16, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    what is a Dubiosity Meter? and how can i use it effectively in my practice?

    thanks

  2. Lee Lipp
    Posted November 23, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    The kyosaku (“Zen stick”) for not measuring up to the task is an inappropriate representation of how it is used. When a Zen teacher decides to wake a student up, he often will ask the student if they all accept a hit on the shoulder. If the student says no, the teacher does not use the stick. Maybe in the olden days it was used as an abusive tool, but surely not in Zen now.The use of the stick is about awakening, not about punishing or abusing. It appears that this video is about fulfilling the earthly desires of the video maker. And appropriating a religion's way of being for the use of commercial purposes. Would this video be shown if this was a group of Muslims or fill in the blank. I'm curious to know what the Shambhala editors' views are about this video. Lee Lipp

  3. Posted November 24, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    Agreed — the representation here is certainly incomplete. And your view — "It appears that this video is about fulfilling the earthly desires of the video maker. And appropriating a religion's way of being for the use of commercial purposes. "'- matches mine, the author's, here; the word co-optation isn't often used as flattery — and wasn't here. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Lee Lipp
    Posted November 25, 2013 at 1:23 am | Permalink

    I am completely inspired by your comment dear author. What's inspiring is that you read my POV without defensiveness. Ah, if we could do this in all our relationships it would sure set up the conditions for peace.