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Lions Roar : September 2007
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2007 97 CERTAINLY no sect of Buddhism enjoys an association with celebrity like Nichiren Buddhism and its formal organization, Sokka Gakkai International. Some of the newer adherents may surprise you— Courtney Love (1), Orlando Bloom (2), and Go- Go’s lead singer and solo artist Belinda Carlisle (3) among them. Bloom and Carlisle have been relatively quiet about their practices, mentioning them but avoiding details in the press. Love, on the other hand, was characteristically untraditional while dishing to the London Times recently: “I chant for at least an hour a day here. I’ve done five hours before now— with breaks for cigarettes, of course.” • Buddhist items (4) in Target Superstores? Yep. First BY ROD MEADE SPERRY FROM THE WORST HORSE’S MOUTH there was the ancient Buddha face from Angkor Wat on the packaging for Target’s “Global Home” housewares line. (Much of which is made, of course, in not-so -Buddhist-friendly China). Now, the big-box giant is selling Buddha statues, as well as wordless T-shirts featuring Kamakura-style buddhas. A Buddhist might almost have to be offended by the inclusion of these things in the store, but is it possible that it’s cool that just about anyone anywhere in the States can walk into a Target store, be inspired by the image of the Buddha, and take it home and install it on their first altar? After hearing from a friend who said they did just that, I’m leaning toward yes. • Sure, Leonard Cohen’s great, but there’s plenty of Buddhist-inspired music for those with more aggressive tastes, too. For instance, here’s a genre you might not know about: Buddhist death metal. Bruno Fernandes, lead singer of Portugal’s The Firstborn, has become a committed practitioner, and the band’s most recent CD, The Unclenching of Fists (5), is a faithful (albeit LOUD) interpretation of ideas from The Tibetan Book of the Dead. Their next CD is already in the works. “We’ll actually be recording it on your side of the pond with Steve Albini,” Fernandes said. Albini is the legendary Chicago engineer who has recorded Nirvana, the Pixies, Blues Explosion, and uncountable others. So is Buddhist death metal the next big thing? I’m going to gooutonalimbandsayno. But it’ll be great to see a band as good—and as unusual—as The Firstborn getting such top-notch studio treatment. • Here’s a new term that we hope will disappear: “Buddsters” (6). This bit of journo shorthand (for “Teenage Buddhist hipsters”) made its first appearance in a late 2006 article distributed by the Columbia News Service. In it, a thirteen-year-old practitioner named Mary is pigeonholed as “one of thousands of ‘Buddsters.’” Now, don’t get me wrong: it’s wonderful that Mary’s found the dharma, especially at so tender an age. Still, no matter how long it has been A CONFESSION: I’M A MEDIA NUT. I follow pop culture. I devour subcultures. Does that make me a “bad” Buddhist? I don’t think so. It’s about knowing the world in yet another way, which seems pretty Buddhist to a lousy (but committed) practitioner like myself. Because if you search the Internet, the underground, the malls, and the media long enough, you’ll find a whole new set of dharma realms. I’ve set out to find out in how many ways—both “good” ways and “bad” ways—pop- and subculture are mixing it up with the dharma. My website, Theworsthorse.net, is devoted to just that, and in the year-plus since its launch, I’ve been floored again and again by what’s going on “out there.” There are young, earnest people engaging with the dharma in ways that might blow your mind. There are companies, more and more all the time, earning money off Buddhism’s cultural capital. There are Buddhists, and Buddhist messages—intentional and not-so —to be found in movies, hip-hop, TV comedies, and all over MySpace. Maybe you don’t even know what “MySpace” is, but don’t worry. You can consider this your space for finding out about all the latest, coolest, and weirdest. So come on and dive in. Here, for starters, is some of what you’ll find. 1 2 3 4 5 SEPT 72-99.indd 97 SEPT 72-99.indd 97 6/25/07 5:31:16 PM 6/25/07 5:31:16 PM