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Lions Roar : March 2013
SCULPTURES OF SOUND SAN FRANCISCO ZEN CENTER OPENS THE MUSICAL GATES In the public mind, Zen temples are envisioned as bastions of quietude and order. But the practitioners at the famed San Francisco Zen Center—which just celebrated its fiftieth anniver- sary—see something more. They see a realm where statues of bodhisattvas can collude with sculptures made of sound. Hence Zen Center’s adventurous musical programming that, more and more, is bringing in respected avant-garde acts. SFZC’s program director, David Zimmerman, explains that a member of local arts-and-events collective The Bold Italic began sitting at Zen Center and suggested that meditation and music programming might go hand in hand. It’s proven to be, Zimmerman says, “a wonderful dharma-gate outside the traditional.” Soon enough, the celebrated drone-metal duo Barn Owl was performing at SFZC, followed by August’s Soundwave Festival, featuring semi-electronic soundscapers En. At Soundwave, sessions of guided meditation, kinhin (walking meditation), and chanting led directly into band performances. This made for one-of-a-kind shows, and the musicians appre- ciated the heightened quality of presence in their audiences. Zimmerman says the public can expect more such collaborations in the future. K.D. LANG SINGING IT LOUD “‘Constant Craving’ is all about samsara.” Ask people about Buddhism and modern music, and you’re almost certain to hear that comment about k.d. lang’s lush and enduring 1992 hit, with its lyrics of longings never fulfilled. Even Buddhists who don’t know that lang is a dedicated practitioner herself seem to make the connection. And a dedicated Buddhist she is. Finally off the road after some nineteen months of touring to support her latest album, Sing It Loud!, lang has new songs brewing but is currently focused on another passion: furthering the practice of dharma as expounded by her late teacher, Lama Chödak Gyatso Nubpa, a master of the Nyingma or “old school” of Tibetan Buddhism. “I think dharma has been a part of who I am, in this lifetime, since before I found my teacher,” says lang. “When I met Lama Gyatso Rinpoche, I felt immediate connection and devotion, and then dedicated the next ten years, until his passing, to him. I still continue giving my ‘civilian life’ to dharma.” Before his passing, lang says with a little laugh, her teacher gave his student “a to-do list that was almost infinite.” There was a general mandate to build a strong, functioning sangha in Los Angeles, as well as all manner of other initiatives: “We started Ari Bodh, the American Foundation for Tibetan Cultural Preservation, a sort of umbrella for various things like Kickin’ It Old School: Though performing in an idiom wholly different from lang’s, Sir Richard Bishop (of Sun City Girls and a huge catalog of solo work) and W. David Oliphant (of Life Garden, Maybe Mental, and his own solo catalog) have released Beyond All Defects, an album inspired by Dzogchen (“The Great Perfection”), the main teaching of the Nyingma school. The album seeks to evoke a spiritual journey through programming, droning guitars, and what Bishop calls “big-ass Tibetan horn sounds.” Tools for Peace, the mindful program that we’re bringing to schools now. We have cultural preservation, text translation, thangka painting, statue-making. Everyone should have an opportunity to integrate the dharma into every aspect of their life and make their everyday life a practice. Rinpoche taught that over and over and over again.” Meanwhile, lang’s fan base seems at ease with her devotion, just as they were when she came out in ’92 (not such a common pop- culture occurrence back then) or when she’s been vocal about her activism for human and animal rights (although her very public vegetarianism has not gone down well in her native Alberta). “I want to be all inclusive,” she tells me. “I’m interested in having an extremely diverse audience. It’s a worthy aspiration to appeal to everyone and not sell out.” To keep up with k.d.’s work, visit her online at kdlang.com and at aribhod.org. A poster from the Sunwave Festival. PHOTOBYJERIHEIDEN SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2013 65