Going Mad With Wild Rock Tunes

A few days ago a guy named Tharinda Lasitha  posted a tweet on my Twitter account that said “Dear Brad, this is for you” and had a link. When I clicked on the link I found the essay I have reproduced below.

I was just told that I “always post things that people send (me) and then make fun of them.” I swear to Buddha as far as I’m concerned I have never done that and never would. I feel bad that it’s perceived that way. So before we begin, please note I am not trying to make fun of this guy.

He posted this to my Twitter feed because, I have to assume, he wanted all of my Twitter followers to see it. Therefore I feel it’s safe to assume it would please him to get an even wider audience. I will make some comments about the contents of his statement afterwards. But I’m doing so because it’s interesting, not because I want to make fun of the guy.

Let’s begin. Here is his message:

I have seen your tweet at https://news.vice.com/article/your-buddha-tattoo-is-hurting-sri-lankas-feelings-and-will-get-you-deported (about a British woman deported from Sri Lanka for having a tattoo of the Buddha)

Thank you for your comment. But I have to clarify few things as a Sri Lankan and a Buddhist.

1. Sri Lankans have no hyper sensitivity related issues. Most of us are Buddhists. We do not have such issues.

2. We do not have a religion. We have a philosophy. Lord Buddha is the greatest among them and we know that a statue itself does not hold anything. But insulting with sense is beyond the level of freedom of anyone. Anyway we do not accuse people as they will take what they do. I have a question. People say that there is nothing to do with a statue and Buddhism. Then why is this person tattooed it? Quoting: ‘I like the artwork in tattoos obviously and, due to my belief in Buddhist philosophy which I have followed for many years‘. Now my question is for the hypocrites is that where is the PHILOSOPHY in that comment? Has any philosopher ever told someone to tattoo his or her face? People should thing before speak. And also, lord Buddha have already spoken about wearing those tattoos and other adornments.

3. We as Buddhists, do what we tell and tell what we do. We do not disrespect anyone but, we want others to do the same. Work with a sense. People have just defended what they follow and there are no offence shown as we do not want to be aggressive.

4. All these hypocrites have invaded nations, corrupted their values, habitat and many other things, engaged in wars, mass murders and many sins. Yet point fingers at us. The sins people have committed will come back eventually. Therefore, we have a pity on them. No hatred. I’d like to point out a saying. Jesus, another philosopher (most of the people got it wrong) once said, to throw a stone you have to earn the right. Eventually similar gang of hypocrites killed him in cold blood. This is what we do not want to happen. Now I am asking where the rights these people have earned? We have just defended our people recently and stopped a civil issue and during the combat a Nazi type leader got killed. And everyone is trying to act god and point fingers to us. We have just defended our people including Tamil citizens. To let anyone kill humans or insult any religion is not Buddhism. I don’t know where you have learnt it from. Where and how did these people including pirates (the people who used to invade countries and also remember that Brits are the only ones that we could not defend from because they had used guns and weapons of mass destruction with respect to that period and we Buddhists did not want to create those and we still don’t) earn the rights to point finger at us?

5. We do not carry past issues onward and stay dark. We are open to friendship and humanity, and we Buddhists know, follow and practice these things for thousands of years. Therefore, we request anyone who overuses the freedom of humans and who insults any religion, not to enter this nation (Sri Lanka). We will ban the person immediately from the country to uplift the humanity, freedom (not the freedom to do what ever you want, that is not a freedom, its called abuse) and religions harmony. Not because of hatred, not because it hurts us, because it cracks people’s religious harmony around the globe. This is the reason and we are not hypersensitive to foreigners. The person will learn a lesson of his or her lifetime. And even during afterlife if she or he committed such actions with a sense (intention).

And a word of advise. You are a Zen teacher as I heard. I do not know if you are a Buddhist or teaching Buddhism. I have seen the charges set by membership sites. You probably earn by spreading word.

However, note that Buddhists do not charge for their teachings. So as Zen teachers if you want to be enlighten practice to give up rather than earn money from it. As an example Austin Zen center has several membership levels and you my friend is one of the speakers. Learn to follow and practice first. You cannot have 2 lives if you are a true follower. As an example, you cannot go mad with wild rock tunes while practice Buddhism. You cannot definitely earn money from teaching Buddhism. If you do, you are not qualified as a Buddhist. It is all about giving up this dillusion and nonsense. Slowly but in a stable manner. Try to share and feel the freedom. That is what we do. If you are already on the right track, I wish you success!

May triple gem bless you!

The first thing I should point out is that Mr. Lasitha is reacting to an article that I did not, in fact, write. The Vice.com article he links to is credited to Alice Speri. But at the end it includes a reproduction of a tweet by me that says, “If you’re offended by a tattoo of Buddha, you clearly do not get anything the Buddha ever said.” I later wrote a blog about one of the responses that tweet got, but nothing in the essay above indicates to me that Mr. Lasitha ever read that blog.

I find his statement that, “you cannot go mad with wild rock tunes while practice Buddhism,” intriguing. I understand the sentiment. I, myself, have often wondered whether it’s true. I would say that this is an area in which Western Buddhism differs quite markedly from much of Asian Buddhism.

I say “much of” Asian Buddhism because in Japan it would not be considered any more bizarre for a Buddhist to “go mad with wild rock tunes” than it would in the US. Just like in America, such a thing might seem a bit eccentric but wouldn’t look like a complete violation of Buddhist ethics. This would probably be the case in Korea and China as well.

Yet in much of the rest of Asia, it seems like Buddhists are expected to be sort of like the Amish or Mennonites in America. There’s nothing requiring them to avoid technology the way the Amish and some Mennonites do. But they are expected to live a life free from the noise and distraction modern forms of entertainment and spectacle offer. The Vietnamese Zen teacher Thich Naht Hanh advises his followers to avoid what he calls “poisonous” forms of entertainment.

On the other hand, most Western Buddhists who I know in the Zen and other traditions go see movies and rock concerts and maybe even play in bands where they might occasionally “go mad with wild rock tunes.” The emerging consensus appears to be that it is not these forms of entertainment in and of themselves that is the problem. It’s how we respond to them.

I tend to agree that there is value in avoiding some of the more lurid forms of distraction available these days. I’ve spent extended time away from such things and found the experience extremely useful. But I side with practicality here. If we tell people they have to give up this stuff completely in order to be Buddhists, not many people are going to be willing to do that. So a more tempered approach is the better one to take, I think.

And may triple gem bless you!

*   *   *

Unlike monks in Sri Laka’s Theravada tradition, I do handle money. Unfortunately not very much! So your donations help out a lot. Thank you!

*   *   *

Here’s my upcoming events schedule:

Oct. 1 Turku Panimoravintola Koulu, Finland– Movie screening

Oct. 2 Helsinki, Finland — Lecture Event

Oct. 3-5 Helsinki, Finland Zen retreat at Helsinki Zen Center

Oct. 6 Movie Screening in Espoo, Finland

Oct. 8 Lecture in Munich, Germany

Oct. 10-11 Retreat in Munich, Germany

Oct. 12-17 Retreat at Benediktushof near Würzburg, Germany

Oct 18-19 Retreat in Bonn, Germany

Oct 20 Hamburg, Germany

Oct 24: Lecture in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 25: Day-long zazen in Groningen, Netherlands

Oct 26: Movie screening in Eindhoven, Netherlands at Natlab

Oct 27: Evening zazen in Eindhoven, Netherlands

Oct 28: Evening zazen in Nijmegen, Netherlands

Oct 29: Lecture in Amsterdam, Netherlands  at “De Roos” bookstore from 19.00-21.00  (P Cornelisz Hooftstr 183)

Oct 30: Lecture in Utrecht, Netherlands at “De wijze kater” bookstore from 19.00-21.00 ( Mariaplaats 1,  Utrecht)

Nov 1-2: Retreat in Utrecht, Netherlands

Nov. 2: Movie screening in Utrecht, Netherlands at ACU

Nov 6-8: Retreat in Hebden Bridge, UK

Nov 9: Noon — 5pm  Manchester, UK

25 Responses

Page 1 of 1
  1. Mumbles
    Mumbles September 17, 2014 at 9:51 am |

    El Numero Uno!

  2. A beginner in Texas
    A beginner in Texas September 17, 2014 at 10:51 am |

    I think we can sympathize with Tharinda Lasitha’s mis-attribution. Your name featured in the quoted Tweet at the end. I know you are not trying to make fun of the guy for making a simple mistake.

    At the core of his laundry list, mis-aimed at you, of charges is a sense of “your Buddhism is not ok”. He bases a lot of that on assumptions about your outlook and your life without taking a look at what you’ve actually taught and done.

    I feel pity for the man and hope he has the curiosity to learn what you are really about.

  3. shade
    shade September 17, 2014 at 11:39 am |

    Curious how this cat emphasizes that Buddhism is a “philosophy” and not a “religion” and then gets all doctrinaire about it. I.e.: The Buddhism I practice is real Buddhism and if you’re not doing it my way then you’re – what, a poser? A heretic? And for claiming that Sri Lankans have no “hyper-sensativity related issues” he definitely strikes me as someone with something to prove.

    Anyway, apart from the obvious language issue this is pretty wildly incoherent. And if you ask me – yes, the phrase “wild with rock tunes” is hilarious (also, from what I’ve heard, the Amish and Mennonites go wild with rocks tunes sometimes too.)

  4. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer September 17, 2014 at 11:51 am |

    The essay has a lot to unpack, certainly more than I’m willing to do. And I fear that the end result of such an unpacking would a long form of “nah-nah you’re another”.

    The sense I get is of someone who is (defensively) reacting to a threat to their orthodoxy. And I generally avoid getting into those kinds of discussions.


  5. justlui
    justlui September 17, 2014 at 12:27 pm |

    Maybe I’m wrong, but it’s so hard for me to take any seriousness in Buddhism that seriously.

    Yet, it’s important to allow other cultures their rights as well. Recently there was an article about kids wearing the “Hipster Headdress” at festivals and how offensive that can be to some native tribes. As a musician/installation artist I’ve been a part of a lot of festivals and have seen this one many times. The argument (made by urban white kids) is always “but it is just in fun, we don’t mean disrespect, I don’t care if natives dress like catholics nuns so what’s the big deal blah blah”. I’m from the kill the Buddha camp, and don’t care either way about taboos, but I think that if it hurts one group of people, then you shouldn’t do it around them. I think buddha tats look cool if done by a proper ink artist, but I guess I’d stay clear of Sri Lanka and possibly Thailand (Thailand wants to ban tat artists from doing Buddhas) if I had one, or at least I would hide it. Just to not fuck with people who could be hurt by it, you know?

    I used to live in Taiwan and you can walk into a Taoist temple wearing whatever and doing whatever you want, but in Chan Buddhist temples it’s shoes off and ladies you best cover that skin! And that’s their deal, you do it if you want to check it out. You’d be a dick if you wore only underwear and muddy boots in a Chan temple in that country, you know?

    The dick in me thinks this dude is a nutcase for caring about Buddhist tattoos, but I do at least know that’s just me being a dick about it.

    Here’s the headdress link:


  6. Fred
    Fred September 17, 2014 at 3:44 pm |

    “— yes, the phrase “wild with rock tunes” is hilarious (also, from what I’ve heard, the Amish and Mennonites go wild with rocks tunes sometimes too.)”

    Yes, especially when they are fornicating at their wild orgies.

  7. Harlan
    Harlan September 17, 2014 at 11:19 pm |

    Well the man has a point, and like Jesus said, when you throw a stone you had better not miss..


  8. jason farrow
    jason farrow September 18, 2014 at 12:26 am |

    There is an issue going on in SriLanka right now. Like, on one hand, SriLanka interests me in that it is a very Buddhist country. I’ve never been a Buddhist country. Thailand is supposedly very Buddhist too, but then it seems like may be not as well. That really interests me. How is Buddhism applied to oneself and society. It’s easy to give my opinion of it, but that may not be the right opinion. But at the same time, it cannot be ignored that there is an issue with Buddhists in SriLanka.

    It’s interesting to note that parts of the world Muslims make up the majority of peoples. Like in Jakarta in Indonesia, Muslims make up about 90% of the population. And in Indonesia, there have been mass riots, raping and pillaging of Muslims towards other non-Muslims peoples. My understanding is that in the riots in Indonesia in the 90s, a lot of Chinese females were raped. I knew one Indonesian woman who said that she saw people being killed around her. In SriLanka, you have Buddhist killing Muslims.

    When I started getting into Buddhism, it was because I found little value in other religious practices, but I found great value in meditation. The value I found in meditation lent to my finding value in Buddhism. I saw this as different then other practices. I still do….and yet…apparently in the height of it’s zealousness, it is no different.

    It’s interesting that just hours ago I was reminiscing on something my first teacher said to me. “We point the finger of Zen at the self.” I still feel like this is a really valuable practice that I am trying to put into effect in my life.
    Shakyamuni Buddha is often thought of teaching other peoples to not search outside of theirselves….Religion is an intoxication. In relation to the Chinese Communist Party invading Tibet and attempting to destroy the statue of HuiNeng, where the CCP says that religion is poison…To attempt to stomp out religion is also obviously poison….

    It’s a very human condition to be zealous to the point of being zealous against zealousness. Like, look the msg to Brad; it starts off friendly, and quickly goes into fanaticism. How does Buddhism combat fanaticism? How does Buddhism combat the intoxication that it generates….Or does it generate intoxication?

    Does zealousness have anything to do with Buddhism?

    When I found this video, I thought I should just keep this to myself. So, it’s been rolling around in my head for months now.
    After I read the tweet to Brad, I realized that may be this a good time to share it.

    I’ve thought that may be this video might influence other people to do the same crazy shit as the dumbass in the video. But then dumbass people are going to do crazy shit anyways. People who are not so crazy would see a video like this and say, “Wow. Buddhism is kinda crazy.” Yeah…Buddhism, or anything for that matter, can be kinda crazy. I think that is a damn good thing to keep in Mind. Buddhism can be bloody insane.

    I think sharing it, is a good thing. I think it may influence people for the better. I think it displays that Buddhism can be so zealous that it is a great intoxication.

    I think it’s interesting to note that a lot of the people standing around the crazy bhikshu are wearing white dress shirts. My understanding is that in traditional Indian Buddhism, the laity dress in white.



  9. jason farrow
    jason farrow September 18, 2014 at 12:36 am |

    I give one bow to the Buddha, Living beings are numberless, I vow to save them.
    I give one bow the Dharma, Afflictions are endless, I vow to cast them off.
    I give one bow to the Sangha, The Dharma doors are immeasurable, I vow to entre them all.
    Ten Thousand Dharmas return to the one.

    What does the One return too?

  10. jason farrow
    jason farrow September 18, 2014 at 12:38 am |

    There is my stone. I threw it.
    I wonder if it will end up in SriLanka?
    Did I miss?

  11. The Idiot
    The Idiot September 18, 2014 at 2:32 pm |

    Yes, the one returns too.

    1. Fred
      Fred September 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm |

      Yes, the one returns two

  12. Andy
    Andy September 18, 2014 at 10:34 pm |

    So, Scotland have voted to stay in the Union. As English subject/citizen, I feel some relief, even though my heart and head were as divided as the Scottish vote. Although I had no vote, of course, it was exciting and refreshing to feel in such close proximity to something so vulnerably and sincerely democratic.

    I hope this will energize the electorates all over these little islands. My dream is for a federal union, with England’s main regions devolving too, with less power and focus on Westminster and the class structures weakened. At the very least, I hope this revivifies much of the English electorate and that we wake up from our neoconservative numbness.

    I have some haggis in the freezer. Time to crack it open.

  13. justlui
    justlui September 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm |

    Andy, posting that on this blog makes about as much sense as the Blue Cliff Record. I like it! I have a work colleague who is Scottish so I have been thinking about this whole issue quite a lot lately. Quite exciting. I am disappointed a little, but really not up on all the internal issues involved to really have too much of an opinion.

    One of the reasons I am a fan of Brad Warner’s books is that he got me to finally start reading Shobogenzo instead of just reading other peoples writings about it. There’s a lifetime of goods there, and like other old really cool things I have in my life, I think this Dogen malarky is going to stick around me for a while.

    1. Andy
      Andy September 19, 2014 at 12:51 am |

      Hi, justlui.

      “Realization is the state of ambiguity itself” – Genjo-Koan (trans. Nishijima/Cross)

      I think that the above has been reflected in the weeks leading up to and including the vote. The vulnerability and sincerity I mentioned has been very palpable, as the Scottish, especially, engaged with and realized their democratic voices. This time people were really encouraged – by each other – to think beyond (which includes) their mortgages and beyond (which includes) their own life-spans. The atrophied at the Westminster establishment were clearly rattled, as the campaign climbed its hundred foot pole and the ancient bones of independency on these islands teetered on a very blue cliff – and then leaped clear.

      The vote came through at dawn, and a small energized mixture of tension and relief remains with me. The effect has been quite a surprise. Sometimes what happens in a small state (1914 – 2014) can have significant reverberations far beyond its own borders.

      This is the sense I make of it.

      1. justlui
        justlui September 19, 2014 at 9:05 am |

        “Realization is the state of ambiguity itself” – That’s an interesting quote. I think I will google it and then chew on that one this morning.

        I did like your post on Scotland Independence and how it totally came out of nowhere with a human quality and a real observation to it.

        I sometimes struggle with liking some of the other posts above yours, just this Koanish speech that’s always on zen forums. When a person writes a thought piece on a topic and then people have to post things like “KATS! The arrow has flown past Korea!”. It feels so, well, no need to be too judgmental. Then you jumped in from the left side with Scottish Independence. Good.

        My friend from Scotland’s take on the issue fascinated me, so I had been tuning into it quite a lot lately.

        1. Alan Sailer
          Alan Sailer September 19, 2014 at 9:19 am |


          “I sometimes struggle with liking some of the other posts above yours, just this Koanish speech that’s always on zen forums. ”

          I completely agree. I used to read many of the cryptic posts on this forum but now I usually skip over them. They may contain great wisdom or total rubbish. I can’t tell…

          One of the infuriating things about zen quotes is that they usually make no sense at all. It’s only after spending a lot of time with sitting practice that I can sometimes look at them again and say “Oh yeah, that’s what that means”.

          It’s one of the most wonderful things about zen quotes, that they do slowly evolve from dead statements to living descriptions.


  14. Alan Sailer
    Alan Sailer September 19, 2014 at 9:25 am |


    I found myself inexplicably interested in the whole vote. I have no skin in the game that I can identify, but I got the sense of a group of people waking up to the possibilities posed by an interesting idea.

    It all seemed very positive. I hope that the outcome of the vote doesn’t upset too many people.

    “I have some haggis in the freezer. Time to crack it open.”

    It might be easier if you let it thaw out first.


    1. Andy
      Andy September 19, 2014 at 10:12 am |

      Hi Alan

      I think there’ll be much interest beyond these islands. Some subtle effects and even perhaps some not so subtle ones might result in what has only just begun in earnest. Britain’s colonial past has left such an imprint worldwide that its last firm vestiges being challenged and reconfigured might have at the least quite a significant symbolic effect.

      I’m sure there are quite a few Scots who are feeling deflated, and it might’ve opened up some old divisions that the Union tempered. The next couple of years for England is going to be very, very interesting. Identity politics in this country is a hornets nest waiting to be kicked – and it just got a nudge. And the North of England is soon going to rumble some of its own ancient and not-so-ancient gripes up. Infinitives are going to be split all over. Ethnic nationalism is going to be roused by a combination of Islamophobia, the referendum on Europe in two year’s time, as well as the devolution debate. I hope we find the best in our inclusive hearts.

      Hi, Justlui

      Thanks for getting back – hope you enjoy the genjokoan.

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote September 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm |

    I tuned in the news this morning expecting the outcome of the vote in Scotland to be the lead story, but it was the last story and the newscaster mumbled the one sentence about it. Finally got the result from a newspaper I picked up along the way.

    Last night the Ken Burns documentary about Roosevelt showed photos and told stories about his first few months in office, on election in 1932. How he did his first fireside chat over the radio at the end of the first week, advising people to put their mattress money back in the banks so that the economy could start to build again. They did! Imagine that happening today…

  16. Fred
    Fred September 19, 2014 at 4:40 pm |

    “I sometimes struggle with liking some of the other posts above yours, just this Koanish speech that’s always on zen forums. When a person writes a thought piece on a topic and then people have to post things like “KATS! The arrow has flown past Korea!”. It feels so, well, no need to be too judgmental.”

    The self is looking for concrete ground to stand on, and the Koanish speech is
    pulling the rug out from under its feet.

    With no place to stand, and nothing of substance to hang onto, the illusion of
    self begins to crumble.

    The self seeks to attain an exalted state, and yet this state means the dissolving
    of a separate self. Thus the ambiguity.

    1. justlui
      justlui September 19, 2014 at 5:55 pm |

      Dragon head, snake tail, homie.

  17. justlui
    justlui September 19, 2014 at 6:36 pm |

    If you skip ahead to 1:47:35 of this incredibly cool movie, you’ll some proper koans getting rocked as they were originally rocked. I really think that’s all there was to it back in the dirty day.


    Of course I could be wrong, as I am a proper fool 😉

    1. Fred
      Fred September 20, 2014 at 8:13 am |

      Die at the time to die

Comments are closed.