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.