Why Blues for a Buddha?
And what does Buddhism have to do with the blues, anyway?
This site is dedicated to Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054-1123), the primordial Bluesmaster and expounder of Lojong, the Buddhist method for transforming adversity into joy. The author of Verses of Training the Mind, he perfected the Lojong practice of tonglen, translatable as “taking and giving,” a powerful technique for spiritual purification. To deepen their love and compassion, practitioners of taking and giving imagine that they are inhaling the suffering of others in the form of heavy black smoke, and exhaling joy in the form of pure white light that radiates throughout the universe, bestowing joy on all living beings.
The bodhisattva and supreme bluesmaster was known for his profoundly somber countenance. His melancholic expression came from reflecting on the Deep Blues afflicting all beings trapped in the violent juke joint of Samsara (the endless cycle of contaminated rebirth). This earned him the nickname, "Gloomy-Face." You see similar expressions on the faces of many of the great twentieth century and contemporary bluesmasters, for they realize that the blues is the essence of existence and that their role is to absorb this suffering for others by singing truly Universal Blues.
The existential condition known as the blues was first identified by Buddha Shakyamuni as the dukkha, that pervading sense of unease and the relentless and insatiable craving for things to be different from what they are that pervades human existence.
As any authentic Bluesmaster knows, the only way to fight the blues is with the blues—to take the hardships, insults and catastrophes of life and, like a silkworm spinning a cocoon or an oyster creating a pearl, encase them in a sound so sublime and expressive that all pain is dissolved upon encountering it. When played and sung with the intention to absorb the suffering of all, the blues can be used as potent medicine for those recovering from emotional and physical trauma, as well as less obvious but trenchantly insidious conditions as ennui, weltschmerz, cynicism and even schadenfreude.
Blues for a Buddha is a fluctuating group of artists, writers and musicians who practice the 84,000 teachings of Buddha Shakyamuni, or some reasonable portion thereof. Our intention is to explore Buddhist view through creative expression and to resurrect and revitalize early blues forms and authenticity of expression in the service of cultural and spiritual renewal.
Blues are America’s Haikus. The legendary Beat Generation and Buddhist writer Jack Kerouac famously improvised spoken poetry to jazz accompaniment. When the blues are harnessed to Buddhist mind-training in point of view and outlook, the results can be creatively liberating for performer and audience alike. The blues arose from physical and social slavery, and although in the western world, the formal enslavement of human beings as the property of others may have been banished, it is not an exaggeration to say that mental enslavement has never been more rampant or vicious than it is in these degenerate times.
BfaB is also a spiritually-oriented alternative lifestyle magazine and independent publishing company with forthcoming books, recordings, seminars and events.
We sincerely hope you enjoy our efforts and will join our ranks.
May everyone be happy,
May everyone be free from misery,
May no one ever be separated from their happiness,
May everyone have equanimity, free from hatred and attachment.