Man With Buddhist Tattoo Deported from Sri Lanka for Disrespecting the Buddha


This shit is so baller, I can’t believe it’s real:

“Antony Ratcliffe, 42, from Nottingham, was turned back at Colombo’s main airport on Friday for allegedly showing a lack of respect for Buddhism. The authorities are tough on perceived insults to Buddhism – the religion of the island’s majority ethnic Sinhalese. But Mr Ratcliffe says the “inoffensive” body art was meant as a tribute.”

“They took my passport and held me there for an hour and a half. All the time they were bringing people in to look at my arm, and they were shaking their heads. I was explaining my case, pleading basically, and the chief officer just told me to ‘shut up, shut up’ and he refused to talk to me. I like the artwork in tattoos obviously and, due to my belief in Buddhist philosophy which I have followed for many years, I thought a quality tattoo of the Buddha was rather apt. It wasn’t something I took lightly or did on the spur of the moment.”

While, obviously, us being a bunch of wily anarchists are rather flummoxed by any form of State-sponsored censorship, we can’t help but feel a little tingle in our britches over this clash of cultures.

“Despite having a valid two-day tourist visa, Mr Ratcliffe said he was frogmarched to a detention area after immigration officials spotted the Buddha’s head tattoo poking out from the sleeve of his T-shirt. As soon as he saw it the chief officer went crazy. You could see it on his face, he looked really angry and said I would have to go back to London,” Mr Ratcliffe told the BBC.”

And, while it doesn’t match the level of idiocy we witnessed last year when an image of prominent NYC yoga instructors showed them planting their colonialist feet all over statues of Ganesh in India, it’s still something to consider. Especially when doing so might get your ass thrown in the clink.

“Last year, three French tourists were given suspended prison sentences for taking photographs that showed them pretending to kiss a statue of Buddha at a temple.”


So, here’s a word of note: Westerners, just because you “mean well” doesn’t mean you aren’t at the same time being a total blubbering cultural dumb-dumb. For better or worse, having good intentions and being a jerk can exist very much simultaneously. Life is big, and it includes the whole range of experiences.

As for Sri Lanka. Stop being so fucking stupid, and start dealing with your anti-Muslim hate problem.


Your “Buddhists” are starting to annoy me.


Many thanks to one of our gracious readers for the tip.


  1. Linda-Sama

    I would also suggest that they stop shooting at Tamil fisherman.

  2. This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of tourism and cross-cultural stupidity. I’ve seen Russian tourists rubbing Egyptian hieroglyphics with their fingers or Dutch tourists stroll into ancient monastaries in bikinis. A few years ago Karl Lagerfeld sent Claudia Shiffer down the runway in a dress embroidered with Arabic text from from the Koran and all hell nearly broke loose given that the largest continengt of buyers for haute-couture these days are wives of Saudi princes. Some British couple were jailed last year for having sex on the beach in Dubai. I wish some people would just read a teeny-tiny bit before renewing their passports.

    • You know, it’s truly one of those tricky things. On the one hand Westerners (and specifically US citizens) need to do some serious checking of their own assumptions about what constitutes “respectful behavior” in other countries, and how their behavior as “Children of the Empire” is translated. And yet, at the same time I simply have to fault cultures when their own belief systems don’t allow for contrary expressions, which many many do not. I also believe there is NO answer to this issue, as belief is interwoven within so many signs and signifiers as to make it a veritable minefield to unpack.

      And, as a nod to my comrades in the service industry, we tip 15–20% in the US. Is this impossible for Europeans to understand??? Check it here.

      • As a Euro, I understand, but usually over here service is included in the price so we don’t need to tip 15-20%, that sounds huge to me. That said, one does not need to be an ass and one does need to check assumptions before traveling anywhere, US + Euro alike 🙂

        • I totally hear ya, emm. It’s kinda like what I tell US peeps traveling overseas: Just because you think yre the greatest and that talking super loud while wearing a hippack is an attempt to convey as such, doesn’t mean it’s true or that you should wear said hippack.

          Now, that said, I’ve recently become interested in the hippack as a signifier of humanity’s greatest innovation. So, go figure.

        • Garuda

          Check assumptions or not. When traveling through Guatemala, I wasnt charmed by the driver who culturally promised us that we’d make our boat connection then arrived two hours late to pick us up. Needless to say, we missed our connection and were stranded is a shithole port town till dawn. Cultural charm aside,,,bullshitters are bullshitters universally. Tourists become easy marks for opportunistic service workers. I say tip em. If you can afford to travel, you can kick down a little cabbage.

      • Tricky is the key word here.
        I think cultures which display the lack of flexibility which you rightly point out come from a different baseline than say Eurocentric countries. I’m seriously generalizing, but I mean from Southern Italy on, to South Korea, the family unit is extremely important and the individual, not so much. That has a huge impact on conformity vis a vis nonconformity and tradition. It gets even more rigid in instances where you have cultures of uninterrupted history like say China.

    • You know it would be great if all people would do just a little bit of research before traveling abroad, however I think that is just too much to ask. I think it is pretty much expected that a tourist makes an ass out of themselves anywhere they go. Heck, even in The U.S. you see tourists from other states doing it. It is the nature of the tourism industry.

  3. Greenpoint

    Disappointed that the “tatt” from thumbnail picture to the article didn’t somehow make it into the story…

  4. Yoga Whelp

    I think there’s probably a larger issue here of “religious idolatry” – including the use of deified images as icons — which, of course, Buddha himself condemned in all its forms, but which Buddhists the world over – and certainly not just Buddhists alone – are guilty of. Apparently, there were no images of Buddha anywhere until the Bactrian Greeks conquered the Indian sub-continent back in the day.

    But even allowing for public or private displays of Buddha as an icon, or quasi-saint, there may be entirely different issue involved in emblazoning his image on your body for display. On the other hand, plenty of Catholics wear medallions or crucifixes, though here there is usually quite of bit of discretion involved, and moreover, wearing these emblems is usually related to a quest for spiritual protection — not display. (And they are not tattoos).

    Has any yogini tried to enter India with a tattooed image of Shakti and Shiva on each breast? Something tells me the border guards might either repel – or jump – these women. I don’t really care if people feel the need to become human billboards for their inherited, adopted or simply flaunted faith choice. I do think though that wearing the image of Elena Brower — anywhere, even in the privacy of your own — should be considered a capital felony punishable by stoning.

    • Garuda

      I have a Buddha PEZ dispenser…It is full of emptiness.

    • Yoga Whelp

      I think it probably comes down to, and refers back to our recent discussion about, “spiritual materialism.” People who tattoo such images may be expressing some perverse and obsessive desire to merge on the physical plane with a spiritual figure – as an emblem of devotion or as a form of bodily sacrifice to the world (they think) — but in fact, they are also formally advertising themselves publicly as a “devotee,” and appropriating a sacred image for literally “corporate” purposes – the sale and marketing of their own body, “persona.”

      It’s definitely;a look at Buddha through me and a look at me through Buddha. Isn’t Buddha cool? Aren’t I cool?

      • Garuda

        Permanent reminders of temporary feelings…Or as my geology prof used to say. “It seems kinda silly to seek individuality through conformity”.
        When I teach, I work in front of a computer graphics image projector that changes the emblazoning with every passing yoga pose. So instead of me projecting my shit on my students with my words, I simply make it a trick of the light and sell it to the suckahs baby..
        Now on Blue Ray… ‘Garuda Live’.

  5. (sigh)

    Your glee at Mr. Ratcliffe being booted out of the country is not mitigated by your cursory criticism of state sponsored censorship.

    Cause the viewpoints that lead to State goons with guns clucking their tongues at some aging London rude boy with a stupid tat are the same viewpoints that lead to ALL sorts of “culturally” justified behaviours.

    Slippery slopes…

    • Our “glee,” to use yr word, comes from witnessing the actual very real cleft that exists between cultures, despite all the noble efforts of the “connected” cyber world. Which is not to say that we like people misunderstanding one another, it’s simply that we like that people can still misunderstand one another. More to come.

  6. TheBurnerman

    I do believe it is a sad thing that the majority of the western world use Buddha statues/photo’s merely as home decoration and fashion. Not to mention about the fact almost everyone don’t know Budai and think he is Buddha who becames fat…..


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