Old Navy, purveyor of yoga mats and matching bags as well as cheap clothes for the entire family, occasionally slaps a Buddhist logo on a shirt. Here’s their latest version, available now for just $14.50.
My question for you dharma warriors: this is a good thing, right? The more mainstream yoga and Buddhist imagery gets, the more peaceful the world becomes …right?


Those are two pretty large assumptions. Does Buddhist practice make the world more peaceful? One City bloggers and readers talked a little about it in GZA’s post on Tonglen earlier this week, with discussion back and forth about whether doing tonglen practice for a given person actually sends them bonafide good vibes. Studies on prayer have shown it not to be effective, but the larger question comes down not only to whether the goodwill practiced in lovingkindness or tonglen meditation actually generates anything tangible in the world, but to what it does in the practitioners’ hearts. There’s no shortage of violence in countries where Buddhism is practiced, but I’m going to say yes, Buddhist practice does make individual practitioners more peaceful, and through their good karma, the world at large.
OK. Fine. But even if you’re willing to agree with me on that, do you think putting an image of the Buddha on a t-shirt actually spreads Buddhism? Well, maybe. I think it certainly makes the concept more approachable. Less esoteric and unknowable, perhaps. There’s still a big leap between seeing a t-shirt for sale and dropping in on your first meditation group, but hey. I’m willing to be an optimist about it.
But then the inner cynic, as always, chimes in: this is crass commercialism. Don’t buy it! Half of what Old Navy sells is probably manufactured by slave laborers in China (which opens up a whole ‘nother can of worms). Same goes for all the bead bracelets and dharma trinkets for sale at any given head shop. Making money off the Buddha just cheapens the whole thing.
Now I’m completely of two minds here. What do you think? Buy the shirt, or not?
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