Buddhism and Death Metal

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February 5, 2009 –
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Raj asked Buddha, “Reverend Sir, how come my mind wanders around to forbidden places and yours does not?” “Sir, how come I do back-biting and you don’t?” “Sir, how come I don’t have compassion for others, while you have?” All the questions that Raj asked were of similar nature.

Buddha replied, “Raj, your questions are good, but it seems to me that in 24 hours from now you will die.”

Raj got up and started getting ready to go.

Buddha asked, “Raj, what happened? You came with such vitality now you are totally dismayed.”

Raj said, “Sir, my mother told me that your words are true and are to be held in high esteem. So please let me go so that I may meet my family members, friends and others before I die.”

Buddha said, “But there are still 24 hours. Sit, we will talk more.”

Raj said, “Reverend Sir, please let me go. I must meet my people before I die.”

So Raj left and went home. Met his mother and started crying. The word spread. His friends came; other family members came; neighbors came. Everyone was crying with Raj. Time flew.

Raj was busy either crying or counting the hours. When only 3 hours were left, he pulled up a cot and lay down. Although the Death had not yet arrived, poor Raj was kind of dead.

When only an hour was left, Buddha walked in.

Buddha said to Raj, “Raj, why are you lying down on the cot with your closed eyes. Death is still an hour away. And an hour is 60 minutes long. That’s a lot of time. Get up, let us talk.”

Raj: “Sir, what is it now that you want to talk? Just let me die peacefully.”

Buddha: “Raj, there is still time and our talk will get over before the ‘ordained’ time.”

Raj: “Okay, Sir . . . say what you have to say.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you curse anyone?”

Raj: “How could I curse anyone? I was all the time thinking about death.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you think or wish ill for anyone?”

Raj: “How could I do that? I was all the time thinking about death.”

Buddha: “In the past 24 hours, did you steal?”

Raj: “Sir, how can you even ask that? I was all the time thinking about death.”

Finally the Buddha said, “Raj, I don’t know who has to die and who has to live. But understanding the ultimate truth — i.e. death — can be very enlightening. All the questions you posed to me have been answered by yourself because of the awareness of death that you experienced during the past 24 hours. The difference between me and you is that you were aware of death for the past 24 hours, I have been aware for the past 24 years.”

Amerika

Contrast this to the founding statement of death metal, and the same idea it echoes through its fascination with death, disease, morbidity, horror, sadness, misery and apocalyptic destruction — that we and our thoughts are temporary and insignificant, and that reality itself determines outcomes more than our wants or needs:

Only death is real. From Black Sabbath onward, metal bands have been telling people that they are helpless against forces greater than them that cannot be controlled with (a) technology and (b) social rules (play fair, don’t be evil, etc). Buddhism has been telling people the same thing: all of what society endorses is drama but, once you get outside the dogma and the misery, there’s a world of truth out there and the entrypoint is accepting mortality and the literality and supremacy of natural forces.

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  • Jack Daw

    YES! Beautiful! WE need Buddha-metal. Someone get on this. Great post. Buddhism is death, meditation on death and realization of death but many practitioners choose to ignore this. Maybe some Metal will help.

    Cheers,
    Jack

  • Amit Nihal

    The idea is true for now but going by the developments in genetic engineering immortality doesn’t seem as far fetched as it did earlier

  • Krahan

    I disagree with the idea that Metal is "about" anything, but were it to be, I feel the predominant lyrical stance most bands take is that of not allowing fear of the inevitable to govern one’s life. There is a strong trend of Anti-Theism within Extreme Metal, partially because theistic belief is a psychological response to the prospect of death. Buddhism and other eastern, "spiritual" religions seem to avoid much of the criticism that the Judeo-Christian religions evoke, but that isn’t to say the arguments proposed by bands such as Immolation aren’t valid in a Buddhist context too.

  • Heavy Metal Merchant

    Very interesting the Buddism notion of impermanence, mindfulness, non attachment etc are deep spiritual concepts. Not sure many bands of the death metal genre have touched on them yet so directly.

    The Dalai Lama says “Impermanence means that as soon as something comes into being, it has already started to decay.”

  • Heavy Metal Merchant

    According to Buddha’s own word, his teaching will last here for 5 thousand years. At the end of that five thousand years, it will finally be destroyed by someone who is a reincarnation of Buddha himself, since when that day comes there will be no further value in the teaching.

    A death metal armageddon concept album in the making perhaps?

  • willi

    while the revealed religions talk about demons and gods, good and evil, Buddhism considers such things as kids-things. Buddhism is more focused on cause and effect, the self itself is decisive