Is Spirituality + Fashion “Mindful” or “Materialism”?

Via Waylon Lewis
on May 9, 2011
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Unravel this one for us: a Hindu Goddess on an Australian bikini enrages conservative Indian men.

We’ve covered this sort of thing lots before. It—and by it, I mean the intersection of spiritual materialism and, say, conscious consumerism—might just be the thesis or crux of our mission here at elephant journal. Is infusing materialism with mindfulness a good thing? Yes. Is using spirituality to bolster the ego counterproductive? Yes?

We’ve talked about spiritual tattoos, wrist malas sold in shopping centers, we focus on ecofashion and we’ve done plenty of straight-up coverage of Spiritual Materialism by the gentleman who coined the term, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche.

This latest chapter finds a controversy that pits men against women, fashion against spirituality. Is wearing a goddess on your yinyang sexy, meaningful, a way of preserving the everyday relevance of faith? Or is it desecration? If the genders were reversed, in this case, would women be so worked up about a man modeling Shiva or Vishnu or Ganesh as sexified fashion?

A swimsuit featuring a print of Hindu goddess Lakshmi has caused quite a stir among Hindus, Fashionising writes.

Lisa Blue recently sent the number walking at Australian Fashion Week. It features a vibrant image of Lakshmi across the front and along the rear.

For the story, click here. Photos:

Indian activists of the right-wing Hindu organisation Shiv Sena hold photocopies of models wearing swimwear featuring Hindu goddess Lakshmi during a demonstration in Amritsar on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images

Lisa Blue promptly ceased production:

We would like to offer an apology to anyone we may have offended and advise that the image of Goddess Lakshmi will not appear on any piece of Lisa Blue swimwear for the new season, with a halt put on all production of the new range and pieces shown on the runway from last week removed.

Lisa Blue has been born out of a love of conservation, spirituality and a respect for all people. At no time would we ever have intended that the brand would cause offence. The use of images of Goddess Lakshmi was not in any way a measure of calculated risk taking, simply it was a desire to celebrate different cultures and share that through our brand.


About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


29 Responses to “Is Spirituality + Fashion “Mindful” or “Materialism”?”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Seems to me, at the risk of sounding New Agey, that it's simply all about intention. If the intention is to honor said spiritual tradition through fashion, humor…great.



  2. Natalie says:

    btw, the bathing suit is badass. such a shame she quit production. i vant one!

  3. steve says:

    I think Lakshmi never looked so good! and in reality those Indian men are probably beatin' their meat like it owes them money while droolin' over the photos.

  4. Pishi says:

    It is disrespectful to place anyone's worshipful goddess on a piece of clothing that goes on your bottom regardless of your own beliefs.

  5. Kinda agree with Steve here. Perhaps the reason for the outrage is not because the goddess Lakshmi was on the bathingsuits but because of where their minds went when they SAW the bathing suits. But, in all fairness, I am a Christian and certainly wouldn't want to see Jesus plastered all over a sexy swim suit. So……all in all , it was a good move to quit production- I think. We must honor and respect the beliefs of others and if what we do offends others- well…..then we need to stop!

  6. AlpineLily says:

    There are TONS of merchandise products that already exists with Jesus' image on it, just go to any Urban Outfitters, but have you noticed that even though many people very much dislike it but nobody steps up to defend them because they are Christian and not a "cool" religion…..
    If the conservative Indian men have such an issue the differing Australian values why don't they move back to India? Having lived in 3 countries (including Australia for 12 years) I will never ever understand those who move to a new place (KNOWING they have a different customs/beliefs) and then protest when things are not they way they believe it should be?

  7. Joyous Living says:

    the goddess of prosperity, wealth, purity, generosity, and the embodiment of beauty, grace and charm.

    Selling the suit could make the designer wealthy, prosperours — the model, the suite could be seen as the embodiment of beauty grace and charm…not sure what the problem is? Just sayin…

    I get it, disrespectful …but to whom? and why do those (conservative) men get to decide how the godesses are worshipped…as a woman I like the idea that goddesses of all cultures are a representation of the same divine feminine…I think we get to choose how we identify with that… times change, ideas mature — don't let the eve debate fool you…it's all just about oppressing women 'cause these guys are having dirty thoughts… tired, old, same story….

  8. Katie says:

    If you don’t have a problem with it, why not print a bathing suit with your mother’s picture on it and have it displayed in this manner? If the thought of that makes you a little uncomfortable than there is some understanding.

    Some people spend their lifetime doing a particular deity practice and they have a very special relationship with the image because their relationship with that particular meditation practice is very alive. I’m with Pishi. It’s just plain disrespectful to put deity images on one’s rear or on any article of clothing.

  9. David says:

    This is part of a much bigger nad more important story that includes incidents of Indian women being beaten in the streets for crimes such as going to a bar and a fundamentalist Hindu movement.
    Religious extremism from the Christian right in the States and Uganda, to Muslim fundamentalist, and Hindu extremist in India and beyond are all a part of these seemingly unstable times, and largely based on political systems collapsing and grasping to enlist the most ignorant and disenfranchised in a last ditch effort to retain control.

  10. elephantjournal says:

    # About fashion, but pretty much unrelated, Padma Lakshmi on the beloved Bill Cunningham:
    10 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Christina Davis Courtney I could see why this could be offensive to them.
    In fashion not much should be taken seriously.
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Tim de Phan It's not very Hindu of them to burn the Australian flag though.
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personLoading…
    Emily Alp I'm sorry, but Lakshmi is already on countless yoga products and shirts and if you ask me her image deserves to be anywhere … success in fashion, success in figure, any success is a product of her guidance if you truly believe in what she stands for … I wish there was a religion that put a light heart above most things … look into the eyes of any image of her and you will see this very thing.
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    David Bogle
    This is part of a much bigger story that includes incidents of Indian women being beaten in the streets and a fundamentalist Hindu movement.
    Religious extremism from the Christian right in the S…tates and Uganda, to Muslim fundamentalist, and Hindu extremist in India and beyond are all a part of these seemingly unstable times, and largely based on political systems collapsing and grasping to enlist the most ignorant and disenfranchised in a last ditch effort to retain control.See More
    9 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Kathleen Starr Warren Fashion clothes accessories are material. The person that wears these things is what they are. The clothes do not make the human. The human makes of their life what they feel is necessary for them. Inner peace or something else. It's our choice.
    8 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    David Peters Looks beautiful and brings more awareness.
    I don't see an issue. Some people might want to lighten up a bit. 🙂
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Pishi Webster-Scott ummm wearing Lakshmi Devi on a T-shirt and on your ass are two different thing in my opinion.
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike · 1 personRicky Cintron likes this.
    Lisa D Snow Not to be worn in India ( out of respect) on either tshirt or ass- otherwise, I say rock it!
    4 hours ago · LikeUnlike
    Jay Neal Context is everything… Context provides meaning… Understanding context always ends up in yes and yes. The Hindus are offended? Of course they are. It's a rockin' swim suit? Ubetcha!

  11. Leslie says:

    By the way great article. Who else would cover this in this way? Thank you, Waylon.

  12. Jhon says:

    i hope may one day mother marry will be on mans underwear close to penis ans Jesus will close to vegina on womans underwear…..sick people who killed their own Prophet Jesus….and these comments…. are you a human or pig?

  13. Jhon says:

    these so called free people who dont have any identity ..first know your self who you are and where you are..
    look big problems in your own life and then comment on and culture …

  14. fxgeorges says:

    Thank you for this very thought provoking topic and you all have expressed yourselves so well. I have wondered if there is a difference between physical poverty and spiritual poverty. In other words I think you can have enlightenment and not be in a state of physical poverty. It's all in how you view things you have in your life. I think to deny yourself isn't necessarily enlightened. Being enlightened very well could be the ability to fit into society with a deep sense of belonging and also have your physical needs well met.

  15. One earth says:

    i hope lord will give them idea to better for humanity ….our christian civilization is completely lost …
    at least these Asian they have some cultural background and about woman beating things we are much advances then India,we have to think honestly where we are going….who is leading..its fake idea that we are free or we have freedom ..

    love for all

  16. RAFAMELAO says:


  17. ARCreated says:

    The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials. ~Chinese Proverb

    and what "spiritual" people fail to realize that it isn't about the world catering to your needs but you being able to stay in your higher chakras no matter what.

    What you fail to realize that beauty only turns to sexual in the mind of the observer…I didn't Lower my chakras seeing a woman in a bathing suit…I felt empowered — so the trouble isn't with the suit but the perception.

  18. ARCreated says:

    Uhmmm actualy I'm not offended by my mom's picture in concept.. actually if they used one of her old pictures from her beauty pageant days …in say black and white, I think that would be awesome…

    I love the idea of celebrating… Jesus has been put on everything from bumper stickers to action figures…each person has a different connection and perception…when political correctness leads to inclusion rather than exclusion the world will be a better place.

    I'm sorry it offends you — my perception of lakshmi says it an honor…who's right? NO ONE.

  19. sonia says:

    You are not a woman …you are physically a woman not from heart….and what about chakras and spirituality you are speaking about …you just read or had little time with those people who are selling these arts..and then you your self is in this money making blind race..what are you suggesting to people here your self nowhere…you people insects from books….not from experience…people like you spoiling life on planet…..

  20. sonia says:

    it means you are so happy to put Jesus on your vagina……..and you are saying who is right? no one..
    No at least its sure that you are a idiot.

  21. ARCreated says:

    well actually I wouldn't wear jesus at all, personally…on my vagina or anywhere…'cause I dont' connect with jesus per se. … and yes I am saying NO ONE has the corner on correctness. If one person feels it is uplifting to experience their diety in one way and the other has a different perception, they are both correct…because it is and always will be a personal connection… I am sorry you think I am an idiot because I believe that we can all have our own connection with our own gods…

  22. ARCreated says:

    sounds good to me…it's all just images anyway…it's what in your hearts not on your underwear that matters.

  23. […] Jet Blue’s Lakshmi bikini unleashed a small storm of controversy. For background, see this post. […]

  24. […] For those of you who missed it: here’s the original story. […]

  25. Virginia says:

    Why should a swimsuit be a dirty thing when it has something sacred on it, and not when it doesn’t? People need to decide which a swimsuit is, dirty or not. People also need to understand that a woman’s body is not dirty but also sacred and beautiful. Something sacred on something sacred, not something dirty on something dirty.

    Yeah, I’d think it was weird to have maybe Jesus on a swimsuit, but maybe it shouldn’t be so weird. Mother Mary, however, many woman look up to her as sacred. They should see their bodies as the same, not as disgraceful and dirty.

  26. […] about the spiritual and metaphysical value of travel? Is it about supporting charity? Is it about selling an image of how we wish to be viewed? Or…is it about selling […]

  27. lal says:

    It is offensive and culturally insensitive. I'm of a sect of the Hindu faith and part of our teachings focus around respect for sacred images and iconography ( we don't even face our backs toward an alter or our feet toward certain people out of respect). It's against our teachings to specifically wear sacred images on anything below the waist as well. It's not offensive to show the midriff, but giving that this image is sexualizing that is disrespectful. Also, the anger stems out of culturally appropriation.Who is this artist/designer to appropriate a sacred image? I know plenty of people have unfortunately but it is tiresome as a Hindu to see these types of displays. It all links back to legacies of colonialism and orientalism.

  28. Raindancer says:

    I agree with you completely, fully, and totally. Too bad the swimsuit maker listened to men whose thoughts are anything but spiritually minded…..

  29. Wayne Burger says:

    …Namaste…Wisdom In The Midst…I Am Humbly Grateful…One love…