The Edmond Sun

Opinion

April 5, 2013

HEY HINK: More to Buddhist enthusiasm than meets the eye

EDMOND — This week, I got a call from a friend of mine — let’s call him Artie — who developed a sudden interest in becoming a Buddhist. I’m taken off guard because I’ve known Artie for a long time and in the years we’ve been friends, he’s shown no interest, whatsoever, in any religion.

Evidently, Artie’s newfound fervor is prompted by an item that appeared in the Reuters News Service last week. More about this in a minute.

The first thing Artie wants to do is convince me his conversion is 100 percent bona fide. He’s clearly done his homework. With undisguised enthusiasm, he tells me that Buddhism is older than Christianity — centuries older. In fact, Artie announces with pride, Buddhism was the first world religion. Up to the first half of the 20th century, there were more Buddhists than any other religion; about 520 million of them in 1951. Even today, in spite of the gains made by Christianity and Islam, Buddhism is one of the world’s largest religions.

Artie is convinced his conversion is meant to be. How else can you explain the timing? His interest is roused last week and he discovers that next week, on April 8, his Japanese friends are celebrating “Hana Matsuri,” Buddha’s birthday. He’s convinced this is no coincidence. The news item that aroused his zeal for Buddhism had to do with the practices of a Buddhist monk in Tokyo. I promise I’ll get to the news item in a minute.

Artie is determined to go to Japan next week and join in the celebration of Buddha’s birth. “It’ll be great. Everywhere you look, there’ll be flowers and everybody will be chanting and meditating and stuff. It’ll be like Woodstock without the music.”

Now if you know Artie, you’d suspect there was more to this sudden enthusiasm for Eastern religion than meets the eye. There is.

Artie wants me to answer a number of legal questions: “If I become a Buddhist and build a temple, will the costs be deductible? If I attract a bunch of people to join my Buddhist congregation would their contributions to the Temple be deductible for them and would I have to pay tax on the contributions? If I provide beverages for the congregation, would there be any tax liability for anybody? If I run the Temple, could I draw salary from the contributions without jeopardizing the tax status?”

Here’s where the Reuters News item comes in. On March 29, journalist Hyun Oh reports from Tokyo that Yoshinobu Fujioka, a Buddhist monk, practices his religion at a bar called “Vowz” which, according to the story, is a play on the Japanese word for “monk.” Fujioka is not only the presiding Buddhist priest, he also owns the bar.

The bartenders, all with the shaved heads traditionally associated with Buddhist priests, evidently provide sermons and homilies along with the drinks they serve. Instead of karaoke music, patrons at Vowz are treated to a chorus of Buddhist chants.

Even the drinks are concoctions designed to promote deeper meditation on Buddhist principles. For example, the “Perfect Bliss” cocktail is a mixture of vodka and cognac. “Infinite Hell” is a combination of vodka, raspberry liqueur, cranberry juice and a splash of tonic water (don’t I know it?). The story doesn’t disclose the ingredients, but the house specialty is called “Enslavery To Love and Lust.” (Surely this drink is limited one to a customer.)

There’s something about the whole deal that strikes us as odd on lots of levels. I mean, after all, the headline reads “Tokyo Bar Offers Cocktail of Booze and Buddhism.” But, in Fujioka’s words, “People would gather in a Buddhist temple and drink together. We’ve just updated the tradition to fit our times.”

This brings us back to Artie. No doubt he’s shopping for a legal opinion to hide behind when “Artie’s Buddhist Temple and Cocktail Lounge” gets audited. Unfortunately for Artie, I’m retired and rarely give legal advice these days. Even if I was still practicing, I wouldn’t undertake to offer advice on tax matters. Even if I were to offer advice on tax matters, I would tell him to confine his gambles to Las Vegas.

I am, however, willing to advise Artie to this extent. Go to Japan next week. Join in the celebration of Buddha’s birthday. Enjoy the flowers, chants and meditation. While you’re there, drop into Vowz, have a cocktail and introduce yourself to Fujioka. See if he’s interested in taking on an American convert as a partner in the business. If the answer is “no,” order an “Infinite Hell” cocktail and try to get over it. I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.

MIKE HINKLE is an Edmond resident and retired attorney.

1
Text Only
Opinion
  • Instead of mothballing Navy ships, give them to our allies

    A bitter debate has raged in the Pentagon for several months about the wisdom of taking the nuclear aircraft carrier George Washington out of service to save money. The Washington, at 24 years old a relatively young vessel, is due for a costly refit, a routine procedure that all of the 11 large carriers in service undergo regularly.

    April 18, 2014

  • The pessimist’s guide to grizzly bears and Earth Day

    This coming Friday, to “celebrate Earth Day,” the Walt Disney Co. will release one of those cutesy, fun-for-all-ages, nature documentaries. “Bears” is about grizzly bears.
    The trailer says, “From DisneyNature comes a story that all parents share. About the love, the joy, the struggle and the strength it takes to raise a family.”
    Talk about your misguided “Hollywood values.” I previously have acknowledged a morbid, unreasonable fear of grizzly bears, stemming from a youth misspent reading grisly grizzly-attack articles in Readers Digest. This fear is only morbid and unreasonable because I live about 1,500 miles from the nearest wild grizzly bear. Still. ...

    April 16, 2014

  • Digging out of the CIA-Senate quagmire

    Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee, led by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., voted to declassify parts of its report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program. The White House, the CIA and the Senate still have to negotiate which portions of the report will be redacted before it is made public. But this is an important step in resolving the ugly dispute that has erupted between the intelligence committee and the intelligence agency.
    The dispute presents two very serious questions. Was the program consistent with American values and did it produce valuable intelligence? And is effective congressional oversight of secret activities possible in our democracy?

    April 15, 2014

  • Los Angeles Times: Congress extend jobless benefits again

    How’s this for irony: Having allowed federal unemployment benefits to run out in December, some lawmakers are balking at a bill to renew them retroactively because it might be hard to figure out who should receive them. Congress made this task far harder than it should have been, but the technical challenges aren’t insurmountable. Lawmakers should restore the benefits now and leave them in place until the unemployment rate reaches a more reasonable level.

    April 14, 2014

  • Many nations invested in Israel

    Former Israeli Ambassador to the United States Yoram Ettinger recently spoke to a gathering at the Chabad Center for Jewish Life and Learning in Oklahoma City. The event began with a presentation by Rabbi Ovadia Goldman, who told the attendee that the  upcoming Jewish holiday of Passover was an occasion for them to embrace the children of God, which is all of humanity.

    April 14, 2014

  • Coming soon: More ways to get to know your doctor

    Last week, the federal government released a massive database capable of providing patients with much more information about their doctors.
    The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the government agency that runs Medicare, is posting on its website detailed information about how many visits and procedures individual health professionals billed the program for in 2012, and how much they were paid.
    This new trove of data, which covers 880,000 health professionals, adds to a growing body of information available to patients who don’t want to leave choosing a doctor to chance. But to put that information to good use, consumers need to be aware of what is available, what’s missing and how to interpret it.

    April 14, 2014

  • HEY HINK: Hateful bullies attempt to muffle free speech

    Hopefully we agree it should be a fundamental right to voice criticism of any religion you wish. And you should have the right to sing the praises of any religion you choose. If criticism of religion is unjust, feel free to make your best argument to prove it. If criticism is just, don’t be afraid to acknowledge and embrace it. If songs of praise are merited, feel free to join in. If not, feel free to ignore them. But no American should participate in curbing free speech just because expression of religious views makes someone uncomfortable.

    April 11, 2014

  • Putting Oklahoma parents in charge

    Oklahoma’s public schools serve many children very well. Still, for various reasons, some students’ needs are better met in private schools, in virtual schools or elsewhere. That is why two state lawmakers have introduced legislation to give parents debit cards, literally, to shop for the educational services that work best for their children.

    April 11, 2014

  • Israelis, Palestinians are losing their chance

    Developments in the Middle East suggest that prospects of success for the Israeli-Palestinian talks, to which Secretary of State John Kerry has devoted countless hours and trips, are weakening.

    April 11, 2014

  • Teens might trade naked selfies for mugshots

    Will teenagers ever learn? You think yours will. Maybe so. But it's likely that was also the hope of the parents of children who were so shamed by nude photos of themselves that went south - how else can they go - that they killed themselves.

    April 11, 2014

Poll

Do you agree with a state budget proposal that takes some funds away from road and bridge projects to ramp up education funding by $29.85 million per year until schools are receiving $600 million more a year than they are now? In years in which 1 percent revenue growth does not occur in the general fund, the transfer would not take place.

Agree
Disagree
Undecided
     View Results