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Japan Launches 'Buddha Phone' 212

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-eight-immortal-numbers dept.
CNETNate writes "The Japanese Odin 99 handset isn't a regular video-enabled phone. It's geared, perhaps somewhat ironically, towards the Buddhist geek. Aside from regular cell phone features, a dedicated button loads a private, customizable, animated altar on the phone's screen. The idea is to allow Buddhists to perform their dedications conveniently on-the-go. You can simulate incense burning, purification rites and play music to help you meditate wherever you happen to be. The question is, does such a device somewhat negate the values a Buddhist would stand for?"

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Japan Launches 'Buddha Phone'

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  • Umm... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SCPRedMage (838040) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:13PM (#28102369)

    The question is, does such a device somewhat negate the values a Buddhist would stand for?"

    Yes.

    • Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

      by Jangchub (1139089) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:33PM (#28102595)

      Actually, it depends on what tradition of Buddhism the practitioner follows, their personal path, his or her Guru or Teacher (if they have one), that guru's teaching style, and not least of all the individual's personality and life situation. I spent five years as a live-in volunteer at a Buddhist center where I practiced and received traditional training and met many Buddhists of many types, with and without cell phones; simple westerners that were ordained monks and Tibetan Rinpoches who drove Mercedes.

      The idea that a Buddhist is some Vietnamese guy with saffron robes and a shaved head chanting "Ommm" all day is not quite in touch with reality. I am not directing this at you personally but at your posts blasé answer: I have found in my conversations that the majority of people who voice any opinion about Buddhism have gleaned their learning from pop culture and suffer greatly from the root cause of samsara: ignorance.

      • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

        by SCPRedMage (838040) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:40PM (#28102681)
        If it helps any, I think that such crass commercialization negates pretty much any value system.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Jangchub (1139089)
          We can agree that it is quite stupid and an exploit of a spiritual practice (it seems easier to me to sell snake oil and useless consumer junk to spiritual people than to more secular individuals but that's just a hunch) but the original assertion that it is against some tenet of Buddhism is a simple answer to a complex question.
          • Re:Not quite (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Nutria (679911) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @10:21PM (#28104195)

            it seems easier to me to sell snake oil and useless consumer junk to spiritual people than to more secular individuals but that's just a hunch

            Considering that most geeks think of themselves as secular, and have (or aspire to have) iPhones, iPods, Androids, Crackberries, multitools and just about the whole ThinkGeek inventory, I'd say that it's an invalid hunch.

            • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

              by F34nor (321515) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @01:41AM (#28105515)

              The funny part about this is that Buddhism IS SECULAR. There is no debate here either. Buddha specifically said he knew nothing about god, the afterlife, or anything spiritual. All he figured out was why humans suffer on earth and how to eliminate suffering. Life is suffering, wanting things makes you suffer, to end suffering end desire, and don't be a dick. Where's god? Nowhere. Just because the Tibetans hybridized his teachings with tantric yoga or because Asians like to burn incense and build gold Buddhas has no impact on his teachings and philosophy.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Haeleth (414428)

                Buddhism is not purely defined by what Buddha said. You cannot discount thousands of years of teaching and tradition as having "no impact".

                The plain and simple fact is that the vast majority of Buddhists in the world today believe in spiritual things. Good luck convincing them that the religion they have followed all their lives is really a secular philosophy.

                • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

                  by Simon Brooke (45012) <stillyet@googlemail.com> on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @04:43AM (#28106583) Homepage Journal

                  Buddhism is not purely defined by what Buddha said. You cannot discount thousands of years of teaching and tradition as having "no impact".

                  The plain and simple fact is that the vast majority of Buddhists in the world today believe in spiritual things. Good luck convincing them that the religion they have followed all their lives is really a secular philosophy.

                  Well said. If Christians actually followed the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the world would be a much better place. If Muslims actually followed the ethical code written down by Mohammed, the same applies. Every one of our great religious traditions (with the possible exception of Judaism) was founded by a great moral teacher with real and humane insights, and then corrupted into something almost diametrically opposite usually within the first couple of hundred years.

                  • by Amouth (879122)

                    its funny how their followers - the start . the ones others looked up too become drunk with power..

                    maybe humanity's greatest flaw is how easy we are blinded buy a sence of power.

                    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                      by F34nor (321515)

                      I just listened to a Art Bell Coast to Coast with Graham Hancock http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dzKp2PeXeWI [youtube.com] where he argues that major religions are based on direct contact with the supernatural by the prophet but then the followers become rapidly divorced from that union through human power structures.

                      I live in the Gulf and I love to tell people that I think that the companions of the prophet and the apostles were for sure influenced by the devil to create the shitstorm that is modern region. I don't belie

              • by CRCulver (715279)

                The funny part about this is that Buddhism IS SECULAR. There is no debate here either. Buddha specifically said he knew nothing about god, the afterlife, or anything spiritual.

                Really? Then in the Avatamsakata Sutra why does Buddha ascend to heaven and have a chat with Indra and his buddies? Even though Buddhism may consider the Buddha nature higher than any god, it inherited the whole Vedic pantheon. Furthermore, the notion of reincarnation that is central to Buddhism is completely supernatural.

                I know West

                • by F34nor (321515)

                  I am not saying that the world and or Buddhism is not supernatural, I am just saying he specifically did not talk about it. To quote Wikipedia... "The sutra was written in stages, beginning from at least 500 years after the death of the Buddha." So you point has no bearing on what the man himself did or did not believe.

                  One of my Yoga teachers pointed out that after the rise of aesthetic yoga practices there was a blow back that took India to tantra. Or in short, the Indians can't not drape flowers on things

                  • by CRCulver (715279)
                    As the Buddha left behind no personal writings, and all sutras date from at the earliest a century after his death, discussions about what the man himself did or did believe are pointless. For the tenets of the religion/philosophical system/what-have-you called Buddhism, one can only go by the sutras and the tradition carried out by believers. All of these, except for the rather haughty redefinition of Buddhism by Westerners over the last half century, squarely believe in the supernatural.
            • I think you'd be surprised by how many geeks identify themselves as Buddhists, particularly among the successful Silicon Valley group.
        • by jellybear (96058)

          If it is also negating your ego and your preconceived notions, then it is sort of buddhist after all.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        The idea that a Buddhist is some Vietnamese guy with saffron robes and a shaved head chanting "Ommm" all day is not quite in touch with reality.

        That is true. These days, Buddhists can choose from several different colors of robe.

      • by Abreu (173023)

        Sorry, but instead of buying a Mercedes, a buddhist with money should instead be financing an organization that feeds and clothes the poor... ...or maybe sending money to Ubuntu, I don't know...

    • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dave562 (969951) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:28PM (#28103241) Journal

      +1.

      My experience with Buddhism (Chan / Zen) has been that the intention behind the practices involves becoming mindful and living in the moment. One of the key aspects of the training involves sitting in meditation and just "being". It isn't that a person lights incense for the sake of lighting incense. They might incense so that they can focus on the incense and meditate on it as it burns.

      I personally meditate on the train quite often. My Blackberry doesn't meditate for me. I do the meditating.

      Buddhism is like any other religion. There are a lot of people who get so caught up in the rituals of the religion that they don't fully understand the underlying reason for doing the ritual in the first place. It's not like once you've lit your 10,000th stick of incense, some guy named Buddha appears before you, smacks you on the forehead to open up your third eye and then you're suddenly enlightened.

      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Starayo (989319) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:57PM (#28103549) Homepage

        It's not like once you've lit your 10,000th stick of incense, some guy named Buddha appears before you, smacks you on the forehead to open up your third eye and then you're suddenly enlightened.

        That would be pretty awesome, though. I'd convert.

        • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward

          It's not like once you've lit your 10,000th stick of incense, some guy named Buddha appears before you, smacks you on the forehead to open up your third eye and then you're suddenly enlightened.

          That would be pretty awesome, though. I'd convert.

          Screw that. Too much grinding. Couldn't they mix up the levels? Like sometimes you burn incense, sometimes rake rocks, take pilgrimages etc?

      • Re:Umm... (Score:5, Funny)

        by Joe Snipe (224958) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @09:31PM (#28103785) Homepage Journal

        not like once you've lit your 10,000th stick of incense, some guy named Buddha appears before you, smacks you on the forehead to open up your third eye and then you're suddenly enlightened.

        It usually takes several smacks.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dave562 (969951)
          I can't even get the guy to talk to me, much less smack me in the head. I think he's put off by all of the conversations going on in my head all the time. ;)
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        Buddhism is like any other religion.

        Buddhism isn't technically a religion. There really isn't a "god" to believe in, and some of the Western interpretations play down a lot of the actual parts which make it a religion and emphasize the personal growth aspect of it. You can believe in literal reincarnation and nirvana, or treat it as more of a metaphor and a way to teach a more meaningful life. There's nothing inherent to it which requires you to take it all on faith, and it's always up for debate if it p

        • The kind of Buddhism imported to the West - secularized, made "not a religion," turned into a kind of set of technologies for personal development, stripped of any perspectives that generally clash with regular humanism - is very much unlike the Buddhisms of Asia, which are very much religions, which have real religious exclusivity, which have outright superstitions, rituals, etc.

          • by bcrowell (177657)

            The kind of Buddhism imported to the West - secularized, made "not a religion," turned into a kind of set of technologies for personal development, stripped of any perspectives that generally clash with regular humanism - is very much unlike the Buddhisms of Asia, which are very much religions, which have real religious exclusivity, which have outright superstitions, rituals, etc.

            I'm sure you're right, but why does that matter? Conversely, if someone in Thailand wanted to take up Christianity, and asked m

          • by dave562 (969951)
            When reading the old Chan scriptures and treasties (as translated by Thomas Cleary), even a thousand plus years ago, there were masters warning about the secularization of Buddhism, and the inclination of certain sorts of followers to focus in on the organized religion-like aspects of the practice. The underlying teachings themselves have a universal appeal, and those roots of the teachings are what have been transfered to the Western world.
          • On the other hand eastern religions don't tend to be exclusivistic as the Abrahamic religions are and so what they practice as Buddhism is actually a syncretism of Buddhism with whatever other religions co-existed with it in the region over the centuries. They are not so concerned about where the boundaries are between real Buddhism and the other traditional religions they have incorporated into their faith.

            • Tell that to the Tamils.

              • by gstoddart (321705)

                Tell that to the Tamils.

                Tamil's aren't Buddhist. That's the Sinhalese.

                Cheers

                • Um, that's the point. The Sinhalese (or at least, many of them, particularly in the recent past) were Buddhist nationalists quite disinterested in the non-exclusivity of which you spoke, and who wanted to maintain Buddhism as the national religion of the state, marginalizing the largely Hindu, Christian and Muslim Tamils.

          • by gstoddart (321705)

            The kind of Buddhism imported to the West - secularized, made "not a religion," turned into a kind of set of technologies for personal development, stripped of any perspectives that generally clash with regular humanism - is very much unlike the Buddhisms of Asia, which are very much religions, which have real religious exclusivity, which have outright superstitions, rituals, etc.

            See, it's still Buddhism, and it's all compatible. At core, the same teachings are present in both -- The Four Noble Truths [wikipedia.org] and

          • Several of the Buddhisms of Asia are not pure Buddhism, but Buddhist philosophy take in conjunction with an established religion. Shinto in Japan, for example, is the fusion of Buddhism with belief in traditional Japanese gods (massive oversimplification here for Slashdot - go and read about both if you want to know more; Wikipedia has a good overview and links to some good books in the Further Reading section).
      • some guy named Buddha appears before you, smacks you on the forehead to open up your third eye

        Try following Sid Arthur, not Sid Vicious. Whole different Sid.

    • by iamhassi (659463)
      "The question is, does such a device somewhat negate the values a Buddhist would stand for?"

      Yes."


      Care to elaborate?

      I would have to say no, because cellphones are no longer fancy gadgets for the rich, they're required for communication with the rest of the world, so if you have to have one, why not have one that caters to your religious beliefs?
  • C&E (Score:4, Insightful)

    by merreborn (853723) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:17PM (#28102413) Journal

    I suppose this represents a form of religion no more watered down than that practiced by your average "christmas and easter christian" over here in the states.

    The world is full of people who don't take their professed religions seriously.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ZigiSamblak (745960)

      The world is full of people who don't take their professed religions seriously.

      Which seems preferable to a world full of religious extremists to me, but then I am an atheist.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        hmmm.....funny, the Buddha Gautama was an atheist, too...................

      • And why can't one take religious seriously and not be a violent extremist, or even a bigot?

        • Re:C&E (Score:5, Insightful)

          by JanneM (7445) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:17PM (#28103111) Homepage

          "And why can't one take religious seriously and not be a violent extremist, or even a bigot?"

          I don't know. Why?

          • "And why can't one take religious seriously and not be a violent extremist, or even a bigot?"

            I don't know. Why?

            Ah, the delicious^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hnoxious irony of "All people who take religion seriously are bigots!"

        • Ever notice there are almost no Buddhist Terrorists?

          • There are. Look in Sri Lanka, Japan through much of the 20th century, and China. Now, many people would argue that these are not real Buddhists, but the same is true of Islamic terrorists and Christian terrorists like the IRA, as they both have holy books that preach against killing.
    • Re:C&E (Score:5, Funny)

      by interkin3tic (1469267) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:05PM (#28102979)

      The world is full of people who don't take their professed religions seriously.

      On behalf of agnostics worldwide, I -might- be offended by that statement.

    • The world is full of people who don't take their professed religions seriously.

      Maybe so; or maybe you just don't understand the religion or its practitioners.

      • by gd2shoe (747932)

        No, he's right. There are still a great many people who take their religion seriously, but I think they are now in the minority. I've spoken to many people who confess that they don't know much about their church, and only attend on Easter and Christmas.

        Case in point: How many supposed-Christians view porno on the web with impunity? They either don't take their religion seriously enough to know about Matt 5:28, or don't care enough to live the lifestyle outlined by the religion. (I'm not even delving int

  • The question isn't just whether being attached to this sort of material object is the kind of value a Buddhist would have, but also What Would Odin Do with this kind of phone? Is it a replacement for the ravens Huginn and Muninn ? Can you use the phone with only one eye?

  • by Grond (15515) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:20PM (#28102447) Homepage

    If you're talking about Tibetan Buddhism, then no, this doesn't really 'negate the values a Buddhist would stand for.' To wit [dharma-haven.org]: "His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that having the mantra on your computer works the same as a traditional prayer wheel. Since a computer's hard disk spins hundreds of thousands of times per hour, and can contain many copies of the mantra, anyone who wants to can turn their computer into a prayer wheel."

    A Zen Buddhist might look at it differently, though.

    • Since a computer's hard disk spins hundreds of thousands of times per hour, and can contain many copies of the mantra, anyone who wants to can turn their computer into a prayer wheel.

      What if you have a solid state drive [wikipedia.org]?

    • by synthesizerpatel (1210598) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:32PM (#28102585)

      Three Zen Buddhist monks standing on a hill on a breezy day observe a prayer flag flapping in the wind.

      The first monk says "Flag is moving."

      The second monk says "Wind is moving."

      The third monks cell-phone plays the crazy-frog ring-tone as he gets spam SMS'd by his provider.

      All three monks fail to achieve enlightenment.

      • Re:SMS! (Score:3, Funny)

        by TaoPhoenix (980487)

        The monastery provides the local service.

        The SMS reads:
        "Your Phone is Moving."

      • I believe the correct answer was that the wind moves the flag.

        • The flag and the wind are still. The monks' perspective through time is moving.
        • by MadLad (1331393) on Wednesday May 27, 2009 @06:32AM (#28107243)
          That would be the answer according to a dualistic, naive conception of reality and causality (which most of us have, most of the time) but it's not the correct answer in the Buddhist version of the story.

          In the traditional story, the 'third monk' is actually the teacher of the other two monks. Following their two inadequate answers, he rebukes them and says:

          "It is the mind that moves."

          The monks' answers are deemed inadequate because they are dualistic: they make a distinction, in a fundamental way, between the wind and the flag (and, in fact, movement as such), and then try to think whether movement begins with the one or with the other, or whether movement can be considered apart from that which moves.

          But to distinguish 'movement', 'flag', or 'wind' as particularities of what is, beforehand, an unparticularised situation, is a movement of the mind. It is the monks' dualistically inclined minds which move towards a view, and any particular view is partial and therefore inadequate. So the master's answer is the 'correct' one, as it's the most accurate and apposite statement of what's happening.
    • >A Zen Buddhist might look at it differently, though.

      Heck, any Buddhist might look at it differently. Or agree. Or both. Or neither. :)

      The phrase 'herding cats' springs to mind. Just as it should be.

      This one thinks that prayer wheels are probably a bit silly, but they do look cool - 'rich and diverse cultural shiny stuff' and all that.

      Not a patch on sorting out your own personal mind-junk, habits and general daftness*, though.

      (*not the good daftness. Please leave that alone.)

      (ps. why is proper formatting

    • by drolli (522659)
      And if you are talking about Japanese Buddism, which is half-merged into shintuism at some points, then it really does not matter. I have seldom seen a place (i live in Japan) where religion is lived in such a flexible way as here.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It was in the days of the rains that their prayers went up, not from the fingering of knotted prayer cords ... but from the great pray-machine in the monastery of Ratri, goddess of the Night.

      The high-frequency prayers were directed upward through the atmosphere and out beyond it, passing into that golden cloud ... which is seen as a bronze rainbow at night and where the red sun becomes orange at midday.

      Yama tended the pray-machine and the giant metal lotus he had set atop the monastery roof turned in its so

  • Not really (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    From a Buddhist perspective the physical act of doing their rituals is rather arbitrary, as the reality in which we live is an illusion. Thereby it's the end result on a spiritual level which is what is important. If you approach your rites on a physical altar, digital altar, or on an altar even in your own mind, it's all the same.

    • Not all Buddhists think reality is an illusion. Now, if you want to talk about how our perception of reality through our senses and mental constructs can be illusionary... Perhaps that is what you meant, but the wording you used can often be misinterpreted as another school of thought. I agree about the rest of your point, though.

  • A niche market for religious 'phones, A phone that uses GPS to point to Mecca? a phone that changes background colour to suit the various festivals and seasons? First one to the patent office gets the prize.

  • Polly McPee (Score:5, Funny)

    by dissy (172727) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:49PM (#28102803)

    You can simulate incense burning, purification rites and play music to help you meditate wherever you happen to be.

    You could, but only once, then you need to buy a new Buddha phone.

    • Why didn't Sony think of that? Your battery isn't on burning, it's simulating incense. They could have saved a fortune!
  • by hdon (1104251) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @07:51PM (#28102837)
    It offends me more than it would most Tibetan Buddhists! How can you market this "phone?" It looks to me like a phone with some very simple software installed. The controlling powers that make a phone with specific software on it into a commodity worth seeking after are people I find very offensive indeed!
  • A Jewish version (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sageres (561626) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:16PM (#28103097)
    As a Jew, I am supposed to pray three times per day, so thanks to the collections of programs like these: (http://www.pilotyid.com/hebrew-texts.php) -- I now pray from my Treo. Beats carrying a book around with me. Except for Shabboth of course, when we are not allowed to use a phone. But I found that lots and lots of people are doing it, and hey -- just like the printing press invention revolutionized publication of religious literature around the world, from Bible to Koran and Talmud, the same way the technology revolutionizes an aspect of religion, that one hundred years from now we'll look at as a standard practice... And who knows what other inventions will revolutionize it farther?
    • And who knows what other inventions will revolutionize it farther?

      I'm looking forward to Akoonahs [memory-alpha.org] and embark on my own iVision-Quest.

  • by Bushcat (615449) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:16PM (#28103099)
    It's a Chinese-made phone available in China and Hong Kong. Submitter should comprehend what s/he reads. CNET reporting CNET Japan reporting on a Chinese product does not make it a Japanese product or a Japanese launch.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Zalbik (308903)

      Submitter should comprehend what s/he reads.

      From TFA:
      "Japanese 'Buddha phone' launches"
      "The Odin 99 has landed on the streets of Japan"

      Unless the submitter could read Japanese, how exactly were they supposed to be aware that this was a Chinese product? TFA clearly indicated it was Japanese.

      This was a screw up by CNET (no surprise), NOT the submitter.

  • by RobotRunAmok (595286) on Tuesday May 26, 2009 @08:16PM (#28103101)

    Other Models On Deck If This One's a Success:

    1. The Muslim Phone: All Voice Mail Self Destructs in 5 Seconds

    2. The Catholic Phone: Reaches Out And Touches... small children.

    3. The Jewish Phone: Features downloadable "whine-tones"

    4. The Hindu Phone: Comes in only Bright Blue, but six different models, one for each hand.

    5. The Wiccan Phone: You can't actually answer it, it just has one big "ignore" button

    6. The Jehovah's Witness Phone: Can be programmed to also ring your doorbell.

    7. The Mormon Phone: Comes in His and Hers... and Hers... and Hers... and also Hers sets.

    OK, that's top of the head, low-hanging fruit... the rest are up to you...

  • i want a cellphone with a evolution theme, you know like dinosaurs on it or maybe a Fred Flinstone wallpaper
  • The handset is called "Odin 99". Odin, or Wotan, also happens to be a Norse warrior god that Germanic tribes worshipped by hanging people in trees and impale them by spears:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Odin [wikipedia.org]

    Coincidence?

    --
    Regards

  • The idea of meditation is to watch the mind. What, if any, difference is there from a mind that is upset from being on a really high ladder (fear of heights) and a mind that is upset from watching the Star Trek scene where Kirk and Sulu fight Romulans on a 20-foot round platform that is about 5 miles up in the sky? I am so afraid of heights that I could not watch that scene. Could not actually open my eyes. Degree of FEAR would obviously be wildly different if it were actually me on that platform. (I probab

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