There Is So Much More to Religion Than Just the Aesthetics
by Beverly Phung
New trends arise on social media almost everyday by popular internet personalities and celebrities; this branches from fashion, make-up, and other interests. If you keep up with pop culture, you might have seen girls at Coachella wearing jewelry on their foreheads or snapping pictures with phone cases that have a multi pattern circular flower. Maybe you have also seen clothing or tapestries with images of Buddha and a familiar elephant as you scroll down your Instagram. What do all these popular “trends” have in common? They all belong to a religion. In particular, Buddhism and Hinduism both have aesthetically pleasing features and accessories corresponded with them. Before using them as a fashion statement, the meaning behind each symbol should be considered and respected.
The mandala is a symbol that is now popularly seen on IPhone cases and room tapestries. They were first used by Hindus as a spiritual tool but the mandalas that people are most familiar with were made by Buddhists. The word “mandala” means circle in Sanskrit and it represents the universe. Mandalas are commonly used during meditation practices because the main goal is for the individual to become one with the universe. The purpose of the complex but captivating designs in a mandala is to restrict bad thoughts allowing the mind to be in a more elevated and peaceful state. Next time you see a mandala, you should take the time to focus and indulge in the beauty of them. You might feel more calm and even enlightened.
Another popular trend is the jewels worn on the forehead between the eyebrows during music festivals like Coachella; this accessory is called the bindi which derives from Hinduism and Indian culture. Religiously, the bindi is believed to be a third eye that averted bad luck from its wearer. Culturally, the bindi is worn by married Indian women; it is usually a red dot because the color brings good luck and prosperity. Gradually, the bindi has become a staple accessory to Indian girls of all ages to be worn with their traditional outfits. Today, the bindi is sold in different colors, shapes, and sizes and are worn by young girls who aren’t of Indian descent. There is nothing wrong with following fashion trends, however, it is offensive if it belongs to a culture or religion and people are just wearing them for aesthetic purposes. An issue that stems from cultural appropriation is that, for example, Indian girls struggle with having others judge them for wearing their traditional attire while a non-Indian girl will get complimented for “being bold.” The bindi has lost its cultural and religious significance in today’s pop culture; it is simply considered as “exotic” and “trendy.”
Furthermore, faces of deities are often seen on many products, most notable are Buddha and Ganesha. Even if people aren’t followers of these religions, they should still be educated of each religions’ beliefs and what they mean to devoted followers. For example, Ganesha, portrayed as an elephant and worshipped all over India, is the hindu god of success. He is one of the main five Hindu gods and is believed to be the destroyer of evils and obstacles; he is also associated with education, wealth, and wisdom. In Buddhism, “Buddha” means the Awakened One; this person has no faults, breaks away from mental obstructions, and they know everything of the past, future, and present. Many people had reach this enlightenment and became a Buddha but Siddhartha was believed to be the first person. The main goal of Buddhism is for followers to reach their own wisdom and enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path which consists of all Buddha’s teachings.
Those were just a few examples of how people often carelessly wear or possess religion-related items and it has become highly offensive. Even though it is difficult to prevent everybody from cultural and religious appropriation involved with fashion trends, people should at least take the time to educate themselves about the significance of these religions and cultures before being ignorantly associated with them.