Thursday, March 26, 2015

Questions of Taste Over Chocolate Deities

How to See Yourself As You Really Are
How to See Yourself As You Really Are (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It could be something religious, or simply a matter of taste... I leave the decision to you.
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By ANDY NEWMAN


As religious question go, it is a relatively small one. But inevitably, it must be asked: Is it O.K.to eat a chocolate statuette of your favorite holy figure?

The matter arose at Bond Street Chocolate, a boutique in Manhattan that traffics in detailed figurines of Jesus, Moses, the Buddha and the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh.

Last month, an organization called Universal Society of Hinduism issued a demand: “Upset Hindus urge withdrawal of Lord Ganesh-shaped edible chocolate.”

The owner of the store, Lynda Stern, was puzzled. For more than five years, she has been selling the gold-dusted Ganesh and his shelfmates, beside passion fruit bonbons and chocolate- coated wasabi peas, with barely a whiff of controversy.

In the news release, the society’s president, Rajan Zed, wrote that Ganesh, the remover of obstacles, was “highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshiped in temples or home shrines and not to be eaten casually.”

But Ms. Stern, whose nearly eight-centimeter-tall Ganesh sells for $15, has no intension of desisting.

“All spiritual icons are treated equally in my shop,” she said, “with honor and respect to the religion.”

But whether the statues offend the devout depends on whom you ask.

“We Hindus look at the universe as eternal and god almighty as one,” said Uma Mysorekar, president of the Hindu Temple Society of North America in New York. “So we would not say that the lord resides only in that little piece of chocolate. It’s more like when they eat it, the lord comes back to us-he is within us.”

The store’s Divine Collection also includes a 10-centimeter –high Virgin of Guadalupe. The Reverend Santiago Rubio, pastor of the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in New York, was not pleased to hear this.

“We consider statues and images as sacred objects that help connect with the divine or the supernatural, “he said. “So to transform them into merchandise, candy to eat, I don’t think it’s the best way to go.”

But a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, Joseph Zwilling, recalled a Catholic organization’s dinner at which guests were given white chocolate Virgin Marys.

“I don’t think there’s anything inherently sacrilegious about it,” Mr.Zwilling said, speaking about Ms. Stern’s Jesus treat, which is cast from a dashboard ornament. “It’s the intention of the person making it that matters.”

Ms. Stern said that an article about the chocolate statuettes appeared in 2009, she got a call from a representative of a Buddhist community in Chinatown who threatened a boycott of the store. She chose to ignore it-“That’s not my demographic, “she said-and it ended there.

Since then, she said, her figurines had been purchased “non-ironically” by many religious customers.

Hun Lye, a Tibetan Buddhist lama who last year helped make a sand mandala at the Asia Society in Manhattan to demonstrate impermanence, said that an ancient Buddhist text, “A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life,” “says that those who get upset when the Buddha is being insulted should not call themselves disciples of the Buddha.”

“It’s the Dalai Lama’s favorite text,” he said. “But probably you wouldn’t see the Dalai Lama buying the statue and chomping on it.”


Taken from TODAY Saturday Edition, The New York Times International Weekly, March 21, 2015


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