What does Buddha revere above all else? Is it an end to suffering? A compassionate yet detached lifestyle? Breaking the chains of reincarnation?

Or is it the pursuit of some really hot bling?

If you know anything at all about the Buddha’s teachings, you know that people creating statues of him and encasing them in the purest gold makes about as much sense as a dog on water skis. Sure, it can be done, but why would you? That dog will never make it off a ramp. Likewise, covering the Buddha in gold serves only to show the deepest ignorance with regard to the man himself. For some reason, Buddhists continue this practice today.

The Buddha, like other spiritual leaders was a revolutionary, a fellow out to turn the tables on the establishment. Born in India during the height of the atrocities of the caste system amid the many gods and spirits of Hindu practices, Siddhartha Gautama sought to put an end to what he saw as a corrupt and ridiculous system. Preaching critical thinking, independence, and some pretty revolutionary spiritual ideas, The Buddha founded one of the strangest religions on earth without really trying to. The sad thing is that, once again, like other spiritual leaders, his message has, in most cases, become a ridiculous form of what it was intended to be.

Dogma, in general, seemed to be something the Buddha loathed and it seems strange to me that some of the most entrenched forms of Buddhism today (I’m looking at you, Dalai Llama) are filled to the brim with it. Mahayana Buddhism is an insane tangle of different spirits, gods, and incarnations of the Buddha that can hardly be unraveled easily by the western mind. Even it’s counterpart, Theravada Buddhism, is fairly confusing when you get down into some of the deeper concepts and rules. Theravada offers rules and regulations on what it means to lead a life of peace and enlightenment but, aside from laws set down for monks and nuns, there does not seem to be an intention for creating a dogmatic church in the vein of modern Tibetan Buddhism or The Catholic Church.

All this aside one of the most basic concepts of Buddhism is that to free oneself from suffering, one must learn to give up the desire for acquisition and wealth. To decorate the Buddha in gold or to create preposterously expensive monasteries and artwork flies in the face of that most basic idea. One would think this would be obvious but people did it then, and they do it now. If we’re freeing ourselves from wealth and attachment, why are monks and temples acquiring gold and putting it on statues?

It was not long ago that the Notorious B.I.G. rapped:

“It’s like the more money we come across/
the more problems we see.”

Mo money mo problems, yo.