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Recently, I heard a news report that Buddha was a popular name for puppies in America. This seemed odd to me at first. I was curious about why someone would name a dog, Buddha. So, I did a little research on the subject, and it was true. Not only is Buddha a popular name for puppies, but it is also recommended on several sites on the Internet as a great name.
After some reflection, I determined that this was disrespectful and offensive. There are 450 million Buddhists, which would make theirs the fourth largest religion in the world. I am assuming that for them, the name Buddha, which means "Enlightened One," is spiritually significant; therefore, should be revered.
Now, I have had some smart pooches in my life. One, named Champ, could hold a can of beer in his front paws and roll over on his back and guzzle it down. Another memorable and much loved dog of mine, named Kai, demonstrated an exceptional capacity to comprehend at least 100 words. According to my research, many experts think this is pretty impressive.
My current dog, Snoop, is perhaps the most loving being that I have ever met. I know you could care less about the furry friends in my life; however, point I am trying to make is that no matter how cute, lovable and smart my dogs are or were, I could in no way refer to any of them as "Enlightened One."
I wonder how many Buddhists have named their dog Jesus or Christ. It's a sure bet that if one did this in some parts of America, he or she would know immediately how one's Christian neighbors felt about it. Can you imagine a peaceful, mild-mannered Buddhist in a dog park in some Bible Belt town shouting, "Here, Jesus, come on boy, get over here."
At the very least, he or she more than likely would be subjected to some verbal abuse and in some instances might be physically assaulted.
Why is it so easy for many of us in this country to devalue the sacred values and traditions of others, while assuming that ours are superior? Is it because we are geographically isolated and an overwhelmingly Christian country? Even though the United States is becoming ethnically and religiously more diverse, there seems to be an abiding ignorance by many of us about who and what is occupying the rest of this planet.
This is why the events of Sept. 11, 2001, made it clear to many Americans, for the first time, that some groups and countries have a deep-seated hatred for us, and that our Christian and democratic values are not desired or coveted by all.
We have to realize that the majority of this world is non-Christian and non-white, as well. Additionally, not everybody is jealous of democracy. This vacuum of arrogance and ignorance that we live in has not served us well, rather, has created many of the domestic and global problems with which we struggle today.
We have to learn how to view and operate in this world without our biased filters, and stop assuming that our values and traditions are desired or coveted by all. More importantly, it is thoughtless acts like naming a dog Buddha, or a football team the Redskins, that create unnecessary friction and hostility, which disrupt communities and foster hatred and violence.
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Rev. Jay Speights, is an interfaith minister, Director and main United Nations representative for The New Seminary in New York. You can learn more about his work at The New Seminary website. His email address is email@example.com
© copyright 2007 by Jay Speights