27 tweets on the Lakshmi Bikini.

Via yoga 2.0 lab
on May 31, 2011
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by Matthew Remski with Scott Petrie

For those of you who missed it: here’s the original story.

1. Some said Hot! – those conservatives should stop whining! Some said Poor taste! – the designer should have more respect!

2. Some said Blasphemy! (They think that spirit and matter are at war in this world, and we should all choose sides.)

3. Nobody noticed that the waxed buttocks of the model expressed the same symmetrical perfection as the icon itself.

4. Nobody commented that the image of Lakshmi is now as ambivalent as the Indian heritage of the model.

5. Those most upset by Lakshmi on symmetrical buttocks grew up with the idea that the icon IS the goddess herself.

6. They feel she only blesses them if her context is pure and her proportions perfect. Buttocks defile one and distort the other.

7. The buttocks wiggle, distend, and perhaps silently fart Lakshmi away. This enrages those who need her to stay centered.

8. Pomo people attracted to this rage may think: I used to believe in something with such passion. What happened?

9. Pomo people attracted to this rage may think: Here’s a place where things are real. If I take a yoga holiday there, I’ll feel real too.

10. But Lakshmi has not left because of the buttocks. She evaporated through the mass production and distribution of her image.

11. It used to be that only a wealthy person could own an icon. The rich icon attracted Lakshmi, who blessed the owner with more riches.

12. But the simulation of mass production erodes the value of the real and the original. A sacred image now costs about a rupee.

13. The rupee itself was a sacred image now valueless through inflation. They used to mint rupee coins emblazoned with Lakshmi’s name.

14. Countless copies of the Mona Lisa mean you do not have to go to the Louvre. Countless Lakshmis make divinity banal.

15. Hindu iconographers in their devotional zeal ironically hollow out the icon by making it disposably cheap.

16. The technology of production has exchanged the sacred for the kitsch. The pious printer is enraged by his devotional deicide.

17. Thus, “Lakshmi” is now a goddess, a bar of soap, hair oil, and the name of several movie stars, all accessible in under 10 clicks.

18. Pomo people have perfectly symmetrical icons too. They come from IKEA. Some have Lakshmi. Others have LEKSHMÜ.

19. Lakshmi’s icon holds divinity. The LEKSHMÜ wall-unit holds tchotchkes, plus the values of efficiency, social equality, and democracy.

20. Lakshmi enters her icon through mantra. The values of LEKSHMÜ manifest through hex-keys and Swedish spells.

21. A globalizing religion will become heterogeneous. Its imagery and meanings will be impossible to control.

22.Things can be used for anything because they have no stable meaning. This is as true for images as it is for nouns.

23. The non-Hindu viewer of Lakshmi has no cultural software that tells her the image is an actual god. Can we blame her?

24. Many found the bikini to be a sincere collage of physical beauty and mythic allusion. Can we say that they are wrong?

25. The conservative says: If you love this image, you must see and use it the way I do. Become a religious person, like me.

26. The protesters have computers, wifi, and printers. They’re the same as all pomo people who feel the emptiness of images.

27. Maybe that’s why they’re angry: yelling to hear a vanished voice, protecting something they feel is gone, or never was there.


You can read the essay-form of this article, “Now You Too Can Own This Holy Bikini”, on the yoga2point0 site. We encourage you to tweet any of these tweets, if you are so moved. Most of them have enough characters left to short-link to the article: http://bit.ly/jGV6g9, or to anything else you please. “Pomo” is bit.ly for “postmodern.”


About yoga 2.0 lab

Matthew Remski is an Ayurvedic practitioner and Yoga Teacher Trainer in Toronto. His latest book, Threads of Yoga, is gathering international acclaim. He's teaching this online course starting 1/7/14. It's currently full, but there is a reduced-tuition option for auditing. The 12 weekly lessons will be available online for six months following the course. Participants receive a 130-page manual of notes.


22 Responses to “27 tweets on the Lakshmi Bikini.”

  1. Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

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  2. Theresa says:

    I NEED this bikini. I am manifesting this bikini…I'm excited!! xoxot.

  3. Ramesh says:

    Jai to the Bikini Sutras!!

  4. Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

  5. Carol Horton says:

    Cool set of posts but I don't find the basic premises convincing. The argument seems to be that the protestors are upset because they want to believe that the goddess literally resides in the image, and that this is impossible in this new age of rampant mass production of images, as postmodernity makes it all too evident that no fixed meanings reside there.

    I would counter that 1) I'm not convinced that the real reason the protestors are upset is because their belief that the goddess resides in the image is being challenged. While I don't know (and wouldn't assume to have a good theory without some solid research into the question), my assumption would be that they are upset because the sight of a Amazonian semi-dark skinned woman proudly striding down the runway barely clothed – and with the only clothing being a strongly culturally resonant image of pious femininity – is a threat to their culture and way of life. It is an image that screams globalization-of-values-of-capitalist-consumerism – as well as the value that women should be empowered to be powerful players in this new system.

    In other words, I would assume that the real image in play is not simply "bikini on model" but rather the entire mix of business, power, money, fashion, women's role, consumption, etc. that the event itself represents.

    And, if this is a reasonably accurate reading, then there is actually a lot of concrete power relations tied up in that image, and it does symbolize a challenge to more traditional ways of life.

    2) If you want to argue that the proliferation of images destabilizes traditional meanings, it's not convincing to me to tie it to post-1970s post-modernity – I think that you need to go all the way back to the invention of the printing press. That is really when it first because relatively easy to proliferate written words and printed images.

    3) Clearly symbols and images do have meaning and I believe that they will continue to until we are all enlightened beings who see beyond culture, which is not going to happen anytime soon. If the proliferation of images made them meaningless, consumerism wouldn't work. Advertising and marketing status items in particular works because so many individuals can feel (temporarily) special by buying the same product. Just because millions of people own BMWs doesn't mean that I don't feel more cool and important driving mine down the street (hypothetically – actually we own a VW).

  6. Don't know about anyone else, but if I saw that swim suit at the store (in my price range) I'd probably buy it….just saying 😉

  7. matthew says:

    hey tangled, i'd snap it up. they stopped production. it'll be worth a mint!

  8. NotSoSure says:

    What I find offensive is the red dot on her forehead, a thoughtless reference to the Indian caste system. Lets not forget that the caste system is about systematic degradation, rape and murder of disenfranchised peoples. The red dot, for me, kills any internal dialog about the use/misuse of cultural icons.

  9. Ramesh says:

    NotSo Sure,
    the red dot or Bindi is not caste related as far as I know; it is worn by men and women and thus refers to the third eye, but if worn by women it generally means they are married. So it has religious as well as social symbolism, but is not related to caste.

  10. NotSoSure says:

    I had an Indian friend at one time who said/implied it was related to caste. But between him and you, I believe you. He was not a very serious guy and got a kick out of making fun of his native culture. He would monologue about Brahmans with red dots and it was freaking hilarious. Thanks for setting me straight.

  11. NotSoSure says:

    BTW,in his monologues Brahmans with red dots invariable fall in love with members of the rat catcher caste. That's probably why the red dots were in his stories. But he had his serious side also. He highly revered Gandhi and I believe that his monologues were his way of furthering the Gandhian opposition to the caste system. The best humor often has its roots in something much deeper.

  12. matthew says:

    sorry about that. it makes the tweet work.

  13. Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  14. Lawrence says:

    Just so you know – Lakshmi is the fashion line – Krishna is the image on the "Lakshmi" brand swimsuit in "question"…

  15. matthew says:

    Really? Well that would be embarrassing! Can you post links to that same murti clearly identified as Krishna?

  16. Thaddeus1 says:

    I find this a highly dubious claim given that none of the "weapons" associated with Krishna are pictured on the bathing suit and to my knowledge Krishna is rarely depicted in his four-arm form….in addition, the money falling from the deities right hand is clear indication that it's Lakshmi…

  17. matthew says:

    That's what I was going with, but I'm not a iconography specialist…

  18. Seems it is all about materialism and product. I don't think having a picture of the Devi on a backside is cool, but that's my opinion. I suppose people dress up as Jesus and Buddha for Halloween, although I think coming as Caesar Salad is funnier. When we first moved to this country from India, my mother was horrified my father bought a metal trash can with the all the U.S.presidents' faces embossed on it. I secretly laughed at my mother and learned who all the presidents were. In the last decade, I have been given two lunch boxes with all kinds of recognizable and unrecognizable Hindu gods and goddesses on them, and I have a bunch of postcards of Indian matchboxes featuring the iconography as well. Schoolchildren in India used to take notebooks with images of ,say, Saraswati on them, and it goes on and on. I know I can buy a Jesus nightlight. I just like the spaceship one better.

  19. matthew says:

    It's the mystery of the image, isn't it? What does it mean on the body? On a body part? Thanks for writing…

  20. matthew says:

    Thanks, Indira. I think this is a very common contemporary experience: feeling the sacred somehow disperse and transform. I think the negative reaction comes partly from feeling that meaning itself is being lost. But I think we're simply investing it in other forms, other media…

  21. […] seriously because: I have 10 pairs of Lululemon pants, a Manduka mat, drive a Prius, and have a Lakshmi tattoo on my […]