Hollywood Buddha not disrespectful to religion
from Hassina Leelarathna in Hollywood

The unanimous verdict of representatives of Sri Lankan Buddhist temples in Southern California who have seen the controversial movie Hollywood Buddha is that the movie is not disrespectful to the religion and does not pose any threat to Buddhism.

At the request of Sri Lankan Consul General Pradeep Gunawardana, the monks were invited to a special screening of the movie in Beverly Hills, California on Thursday evening.

Philippe Caland who produced, directed, and played the leading role in Hollywood Buddha personally greeted the monks as they arrived at the Charles Aidikoff theatre.

Assistant Director Dino Bozikovic and cast member Marlo Gazali were also present.

Local journalists were present to review the movie. Before the screening, Caland in his brief speech apologised to the monks and to all Sri Lankan Buddhists saying he deeply regretted any pain he had caused.

He said his website had recorded more than a million hits and that he had received protest emails from all over the world.

"This movie will show that I have nothing but the highest regard and respect for Buddhism. It was not my intention to hurt anyone and I apologise for any pain I have caused," he said.

The outrage stemmed from an advertising image of Hollywood Buddha posted on the movie's website showing a man sitting on a Buddha statue.

Caland explained that the image in the poster was not from the movie but had been created by a publicist by merging two separate images.

"I did not sit on the Buddha statue. And I did not think that the image would be considered disrespectful by Buddhists," he said. He said he withdrew the poster as soon as he started receiving protest emails.

A new poster will be unveiled at the movie's September 23 premiere which will be shown in theatres in Southern California starting the next day. Hollywood Buddha is a low-budget comedy about a struggling Hollywood yuppie whose life hits rock bottom and then dramatically changes for the better after he turns to a Buddhist guru for spiritual guidance.

"The movie is by no means harmful or disrespectful to Buddhism," said Ven. Kolitha of the Sarathchandra Meditation Center in North Hollywood.

"The message being conveyed in the movie, as I see it, is that there is a universality of religion and that all religions are the same. He (Caland) seems to have respect for all religions." Gunawardana said he was appreciative of the fact that Caland went out of his way to accommodate his request for a special screening for the Sri Lankan Buddhist monks.

"The poster was very damaging. But the movie itself contains nothing that can be pointed out as being harmful or anti-Buddhist. In a way, it promotes Buddhism," he said. Dr. Nimal Samarasundera, former Secretary to the Ministry of Buddha Sasana, who was present at the screening shared similar sentiments.

The monks and Caland parted on very cordial terms with Caland promising to visit the temples to learn more about Buddhism.

The following attended the screening Ven. Dr. Ittapane Dhammalankara Thera, Chief Incumbent of Maithreeviharaya; Ven. Aparakke Punnyasiri Thera; Ven. Katugaha Gnanaratana Thera; Ven. Kurunegala Dhammaloka Thera; Ven. W. Seewali Thera; Ven. Kolonnawa Dhammika Thera; Ven. Ahangama Dhammarama Thera, Chief Incumbent of Los Angeles Buddhist Viharaya; Ven. Nawala Lakkana Thera; Ven. Katugaha Gnanarathana Thera, Ambalantota Kolitha Thera, Chief Incumbent of Sarathchandra Buddhist Meditation Center; Ven. Yatirawana Siriniwasa Thera; Ven. Madawala Punnajee Thera, Dharmavijaya Buddhist Vihara; Ven. Ella Chandrawimala Thera; Ven. Muruthamure Pannaloka Thera; Ven. Pallawela Rahula Thera; Ven Bambarawane Kalyanawansa Thera; Ven. Maitipe Wimalasara Thera, Buddhagaya Viharaya, India; Ven. Mirigama Gunaratana Thera, Chief Incumbent of Chao Chu Temple; Gamini Pemasiri, Consul (Trade), Sri Lanka Consulate in Los Angeles and Cyril Gunarathna, Attache, Sri Lanka Consulate.