The Dalai Lama and lululemon strike a deal

Photo: Dalai Lama and lululemon althelica CEO wave hands at camera
The Dalai Lama and lululemon althelica CEO are all smiles – Courtesy: lululemon atheletics

We have another kerfuffle about the intersection between “yoga business” and high-minded, spiritual pursuits, in this case the yoga gear maker lululemon athletica (branding wants lower case) and the Dalai Lama’s Center for Peace + Education agreeing on three years of funding for the Center’s activities:

The Globe and MailLulu-Lama? Partnership between yoga wear maker, Dalai Lama sparks outcry
They cited the disconnect between a luxury retailer that sells pricey fashions such as $100 yoga pants and the Dalai Lama who preaches a modest life and advocates for the poor. Others said they were offended that “politics” play a part in Lululemon’s marketing, and several said they would stop shopping at the chain.

The original announcement from lululeon, plus the Dalai Lama Center and its press release.  A take on the reaction of the “yoga scene” is in YogaDork. Both lululemon and the Center for Peace + Education are based in Vancouver.

Here are a few of my own knee-jerk  questions:

  1. Given that many yoga hardliners distrust lululemon, is this move nothing more than PR gesture to acquire a spiritual smokescreen for its corporate greed?
  2. Given the poor rep that lululemon has acquired over the past few years, what does the Dalai Lama get out of  this arrangement? Just money?
  3. Should we ask the Dalai Lama to show us his entire list of donors to find more contradictions?
  4. For that matter, who else is lululemon backing financially? After all, it’s tax deductible.
  5. Why do a sizeable part of the reaction see the move as mixing business with political causes? Oh yeah, the Dalai Lama was the head of the Tibetan government in exile before stepping aside recently.
  6. Does this alliance mean that lululemon will change its marketing target to become more encompassing of lower-income yogis and yoginis? Is lululemon going to open more outlets to avoid the criticism that they sell $100 yoga pants? Why do we have to fly to Orlando or upstate New York (Woodbury)?