|It's very striking, and it looks like this.|
Image and design courtesy of (and copyright by) Mark Defrates,
So for this reason of economic due diligence, prior to my purchase of this pendant, I did extensive internet research trying to find a nonprofit organization or other craftsman-type outfit that was engaging in "fair trade" style of production of Buddhist symbols and meditation supplies. I was particularly interested in finding the type of micro-business that (for example) was helping to develop revenue-generating skill sets for Tibetans living in exile. Or some other group of disadvantaged people who needed income from their self-sufficiency work.
I was not successful in my search. Apparently Buddhist homelanders have not yet realized their own potential to tap into the vast ocean of American disposable income. All I found were a few websites that were offering for sale the types of mass-produced merchandise that one would find at a roadside trinket stand. Occasionally there would be a group that appeared to be selling trinkets to raise money for a legitimate cause, but it looked like re-purchased "Made in China" type stuff that they were simply marking up by some extraordinary amount. This was not the value-added, self-empowering production model that I had in mind as being the type of micro-business that I aimed to support with my patronage.
The Buddhist prohibition on jewelry and immodest self-adornment may have something to do with this gaping market supply hole. But a Dharma wheel is the type of item that people wear not for the purposes of cosmetic self-enhancement, but as a statement of beliefs, analogous to a Crucifix. I don't label myself as a religious Buddhist, but I am in strong agreement with Buddhism's secular tenets. Plus, I find it absolutely fascinating to be in some public place such as a crowded airport and to be identified visually at a distance by a like-minded individual who actually understands the meaning of the symbol. Most Americans spot this pendant and instead assume that it's a ship's wheel and therefore I must be a sailing enthusiast.
|It's not one of these. Really.|
Screengrab from Wikipedia.
But back to my story. The fair-trade, Buddhist-homeland-based purchasing intention having been a complete failure, I then pursued what I consider to be the next best thing: an American micro-business owner supporting himself or herself via good old-fashioned hard work and creativity. Mark Defrates in Florida appeared to be such an individual and his collection of Buddhist symbols I found to be some of the best quality work on the internet.
So there you have both the source and the story behind that curious item I am often seen wearing around my neck. If anyone in the ethernet stumbles across this post and happens to be fostering the type of indigent self-sufficiency I've referenced above, please either comment below or contact me by email. I would love to develop a roster of genuine, vetted fair-trade-style purchasing options for Westerners who are searching for products such as Buddhist jewelry.