A little bit on Beastie Boy MCA’s Buddhism
We’re taking a little sidetrack this morning.
Yesterday, Beastie Boy Adam Yauch — aka MCA — passed away after a three-year fight with cancer. We noted that Eddie Stern had added a remembrance at his website. I think he’s updated it a little. His site is here, of course.
I can’t adequately describe the band’s significance, its impact on a generation or more of kids — many of whom I am sure were fighting for their right to party last night — or the meaning of its hardcore meets hip hop and then branched out from there music. You can find more credible people on all that elsewhere.
Instead, I’m just going to pass on why his passing might matter to an Ashtanga community. It comes down to his being a practicing Buddhist who worked on behalf of Tibetan causes.
Here’s a bit pulled from this Huffington Post piece, which itself links out to other pieces:
In a 1994 interview with Tricycle Magazine, Yauch spoke in detail about his Buddhist spirituality, saying that he had explored “a lot of different religions and spiritual paths and Native Americans for a while” before visiting Nepal and Kathmandu (his second trip to the region) in the early 1990s and being exposed to Buddhism. Upon his return to the United States, he started reading the Dalai Lama’s books.
In the interview, Yauch explained his attraction to Buddhism:
The feeling I get from the rinpoches and His Holiness [the Dalai Lama] and Tibetan people in general. The people that I’ve met are really centered in the heart; they’re coming from a real clear, compassionate place. And most of the teachings that I’ve read about almost seem set up to distract the other side of your brain in order to give your heart center a chance to open up. In terms of what I understand, Buddhism is like a manual to achieve enlightenment—there are these five things and these six things within the first thing, and all these little subdivisions. And despite all of that right-brain information, it’s very heart-centered. At least that’s the feeling I get from the Tibetans. Also the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism have been passed down for a long time now. They have that system pretty well figured out.Speaking in the magazine about his daily practice, he said it “incorporates all kinds of things that I’ve learned. I meditate in the morning and before I go to sleep. These are usually the main times, because before I go to sleep I can get focused on what happened during the day, pull that into perspective, and that’ll make my sleep a little more peaceful. Then I set up what’s going on the next day or get centered for those activities in the morning. A lot of times on tour I don’t get a chance to because it’s so crazy running around.”
The inevitable growing up most of us experience helped move the band from its boasting, over the top MTV video persona to something more. By 1994, the band was including songs titled “Shambala” and “Bodhisattva Vow” on albums. Lyrics from the latter:
As I develop the awakening mind I praise the buddhas as they shine/I bow before you as I travel my path to join your ranks/I make my full time task/For the sake of all beings I seek/The enlightened mind that I know I’ll reap/ Respect to Shantidiva and all the others/Who brought down the dharma for sisters and brothers/ I give thanks for this world as a place to learn/And for this human body that I’m glad to have earned.
Yauch established the Milarepa Fund to help support Tibetan independence, raised money and started the Tibetan Freedom Concert series.
Here’s a final few words from him from an interview in 2011 with Project Happiness:
Everything we do affects other people. One doesn’t have to be doing something that has some huge sweeping change on a lot of people at one time. Every way that we interact with other people, even if it’s like, you’re at the store and buying something, and it’s the way that you interact with the clerk at the store. EVERY action that we take has some motivation of either being selfish or altruistic. All that adds up. I’ve heard the Dalai Lama talk about how it’s important to watch your thoughts. Thoughts are what lead to actions. If you are striving to have more happiness in your life, it helps to guide your mind towards starting to recognize what are selfish motivations and what are constructive motivations. The more you look at that and recognize it, the more that’s going to influence your actions.
Even I, with my thick skull and too many samskaras, can get that.
Posted by Steve