The Illest Buddhist

UPDATE: The video seems to have been disappeared from the internets (please link us up if you find it), but lyrics are still up here. (Actually, now the video’s back up and here it is on youtube.)

In his over-the-top “Sickest Buddhist” rap parody comedian Arj Barker of “Flight of the Conchords” and “Marijuana-Logues” fame portrays a Buddhist wannabe with an ego the size of Central Asia who joins classes to meet ladies but finds out that he can “kick ass at this pacifist shit.” One site offers a transcript of his lyrics:

Is it my Indian roots
My Guatemalan pair of shoes
My extensive collection of expensive Tibetan flutes
I don’t know how or why I’m so zen
I make the power of now look like the power of then

To hell with Dr Phil, Oprah and Martha
I chill with Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Siddhartha
Buddha taught me to be humble and kind
But I’m so fuckin present I’m like ahead of my time

Enlightenment eludes most til they die
But i opened my third eye on my first try
Why? I don’t know I guess I’m just the bomb
When it comes to modesty I got it goin on

The rest of the lyrics are at YogaDork, a blog with a “Recession Yoga” section of links and “Yoga is my Bailout” tees. A commenter there identifies the setting for the music video as Spirit Rock meditation center in Marin County, California, the same area from where Barker hails. Though the site describes yoga and Buddhism as being comedy targets these days, I am more familiar with the lampooning of yoga, like the cheesy physical jokes in a movie trailer I saw this weekend, than I am with that of Buddhism.

I don’t know much about Buddhism, or Barker’s own religious leanings for that matter, but his parody takes a broad shot at a certain kind of spiritual narcissism or materialism that could happen in other faiths as well and seems like it would be at odds with seeking enlightenment.

To a lesser extent, Barker’s mention of brand names, products like kombucha and sage, his special clothes, his hybrid and oh yes, even the kama sutra made me think of some sort of fashion statement. The Dalai Lama has commented on this aspect of the popularity of Buddhism in the West. He said, “Don’t do it for fashion.”

“In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes,” he said, laughing. “Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. … That is not healthy.” (zenit.org)

I would be curious to hear from readers more knowledgeable about Buddhism and from anyone else what they think of Barker’s Buddhist parody.

25 thoughts on “The Illest Buddhist

  1. That is hilarious.

    Reminds me of when I was on the Blue line from O’Hare, and a woman refused to move her bag which was taking up an entire row for someone on a packed train - when asked politely why she couldn’t move it she responded with a ‘I don’t have to explain myself to you’. I gave her my seat, and when I sat down next to her when the full seat open-ed up, we both could barely control ourselves (eyes rolling and laughter) as the same woman starting talking to her friend about her deep interest in Buddhism and concepts like Karma.

    Many people think the Dalai Lama is like the pope for all Buddhists, yet there are so many different types of Buddhists all over. Ask anyone Sri Lankan Buddhist.

    Buddhism seems to attract a lot of people seeking ‘enlightenment’; and while there is nothing wrong with honestly learning about other cultures, trying to find inner peace and a faith that works from you, you do get a lot of religious scene-sters.

  2. ha ha ha ha ha Brilliant.

    I see this as a send-up of, not Buddhism itself, but flaky Western poseurs who latch onto Buddhist philosophy, and particularly the Tibetan Buddhist cause, to give themselves a veneer of gravitas and sensitivity. I saw these types all over McCleod Ganj during the year I lived there doing research. I suspect some of my monk friends who arrived not so long ago from Tibet may not find it funny, mostly because they would not be familiar with the Western commercial markers (the bottled tea, etc), but they probably wouldn’t be offended. For one thing, most of them were not easily offended, and for another, they would not see themselves in that parody; they would not assume they are the targets of the barb.

  3. This is best read as intra-white cultural commentary; a circling of the wagons if you will, to reject “undue” extra-cultural influence by mocking it. To each their own.

  4. “In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes,” he said, laughing. “Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. … That is not healthy.”

    What’s not “healthy” about it?

    After years of immersing myself in only one very specific sub-sect of a larger sect in India, upon my return to USA and my exposure to its “new age”, I found myself appreciating the openness of it all. I think it is indeed very healthy to incorporate the best from all paths/religions/cultures into our lives and leave the bullsh*t (and they all got some b.s.!) behind.

    Who says we have to stay in only one religion? Who says I can’t take what I like from this one, and what I like from that one and create a synthesis of 2 or more for my own personal practice or ethical model?

    Organized religion has been on the way out for years now. Personal synthesis is where its at.

    I could criticise this Desi dude in the same way he’s criticising “new age” folk. I mean come on, is hip hop a “Desi” thing? What a posuer/wannabe!

    If you go on that SWPL site (stuff white people like), it reads more like “stuff urban Desi yuppies like” than anything else. Are y’all poseurs and wannabe’s?

    Corny as it all may appear, I think the synthesis of the “new age” mentality is very healthy.

    It is far healthier than sectarianism, that is for sure.

  5. I almost missed this!!!…

    “In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes,” he said, laughing. “Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. … That is not healthy.”

    Something, something?!?!

    LOL!

    That is very Desi uncle. Very ACBVSP.

    Shometing, shometing.

    Indeed!

  6. Hilarious! For some reason, it reminds me of Thunder the Ferret.

    blockquote>What’s not “healthy” about it?

    Yoga bands, bricks, outfits, something, something that cost a fortune. That’s what’s unhealthy about it. No self-respecting yoga practitioner needs accoutrements. Just like no self-respecting person needs a pre-packaged lifestyle.

  7. Yoga bands, bricks, outfits, something, something that cost a fortune. That’s what’s unhealthy about it. No self-respecting yoga practitioner needs accoutrements. Just like no self-respecting person needs a pre-packaged lifestyle.

    For your information, “friend” (maitri), yoga props were introduced a looooooooooooong time ago by an authentic Indian yogi.

    And besides, the dude I was qouting was not talking about yoga props, he said;

    “In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes,” he said, laughing. “Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. … That is not healthy.”

    He was saying that taking a bit from this and that religion was “not healthy”. My question still stands, what is not healthy about a person taking what works for them from different wisdom traditions?

  8. Hey Pardesi Gori, The dude is picking on trend-hopping aspect of pop-Buddhism, which is about as deep as a rich Bombay kid calling his friend my n***a.

  9. The dude is picking on trend-hopping aspect of pop-Buddhism, which is about as deep as a rich Bombay kid calling his friend my n***a.

    I’m not saying it’s deep. I’m just asking, what’s not “healthy” about it?

    (since when were most people concerned about “deep” anyway?)

    I’ve gone very deep into one specific sub-sect and I can say that when I lightened up a bit and accomodated and incorporated more views from various wisdom traditions, it helped me – quite a lot. Not too mention I became more pleasant company to other people and made more friends, especially with people from other religious and cultural backgrounds which has been a great learning experience for me.

  10. That is very Desi uncle. Very ACBVSP.

    Skipping lightly to the only positive part of this comment OG budhist syle. Dalai Lama as desi uncle, I can live with that.

    Shometing, shometing.

    Rostam Batmanglij has met the highest lama and his accent sounded fine to to him, okay?

    I’m not saying it’s deep. I’m just asking, what’s not “healthy” about it?

    Let’s see; you just skimmed the surface of Dalai Lama’s comments and trashed him. People doing something similar to an ancient philosophy — what could possibly be unhealthy about it?

  11. I thought this comment;

    “In the United States I have seen people who embrace Buddhism and change their clothes,” he said, laughing. “Like the New Age. They take something Hindu, something Buddhist, something, something. … That is not healthy.”

    ……….

    Was made by the pseudo-hip-hop-wannabe-rap-parody-wealthy-yuppie-Desi-dude “Arj Barker”.

    Re-reading again slowly, I see it’s by the Dalai Lama. Nevertheless, my question still stands, “what exactly is not “healthy” about it?”

    I mean, come on, the Western, new-age, “take something from here and there” attitude has certainly made the Dalai Lama’s bank account “healthy”, wouldn’t you say?

    Where’s the attitude of gratitude, Dalai?

    And the “something, something” makes more sense now too. It was indeed said by a Desi uncle.

  12. “Yoga bands, bricks, outfits, something, something that cost a fortune. That’s what’s unhealthy about it. No self-respecting yoga practitioner needs accoutrements. Just like no self-respecting person needs a pre-packaged lifestyle.”

    Well that’s where American culture is all about buying the proper accoutrement to maintain the appropriate lifestyle… seeking meaning through accoutrements… ends in a bunch of unhappy people with houses full of junk.

  13. How come there was no mention of Richard Gere? Or gerbils? And “when it comes to modesty, I got it goin on”?? Really? Wasn’t that done like 50 years ago?

    That apart, this song really opened my eyes about pop-Buddhism. Thank goodness I am doing something more meaningful with my life, like joining the “Free Tibet” group on Facebook. YEAH!

  14. How come there was no mention of Richard Gere? Or gerbils? And “when it comes to modesty, I got it goin on”?? Really? Wasn’t that done like 50 years ago? That apart, this song really opened my eyes about pop-Buddhism. Thank goodness I am doing something more meaningful with my life, like joining the “Free Tibet” group on Facebook. YEAH!

    Touche!

    And LOL to the folks here who berate me for daring to question the great Dalai Lama. Ooooooh.

    Yoga props are nothing more than tools to make your stretches deeper. They can be bought second hand on E-bay for dirt cheap (or just use stuff from home or the garbage in place of the actual props). There is a way to live in this land on a very low budget and people like me (non-Desi, non-yuppie, non-wealthy) do it everyday. We certainly DO NOT NEED rich Desi yuppies telling us that we are corny consumerists just because we use might use props in a yoga-asana routine.

    Desi, please.

    Now go twitter about this or something.

  15. Why do people keep entertaining pardesi gori or PG or Cult Member Turned New Age or whatever it is that she/he/it is calling herself/himself/itself. It is hard enough to deal with her oozing disapproval of everything that is desi but for the ISKCON induced ideas when she was using a single screenname, do we have to respond to her different online avatars with a thought out response?

  16. It is hard enough to deal with her oozing disapproval of everything that is desi but for the ISKCON induced ideas

    ISKCON induced ideas? Gag.

    I disapprove of them as much as anything else.

    ISKCON is obsessively and aggressively anti new-age.

    Or are you so Desi that you paint all videsis as the “same”? New-age/old-age, ISKCON/PISSCON ???

    We are all the same to you or what, yaar?

  17. Data point. I’ve been practicing Zen Buddhism (in an, alas, intermittent fashion) for 40 years; I thought the video was hilarious. I sent it to several members of my local Zen group.

    We’re in Honolulu, so our group is a mix of haoles (whites) and local Asian-Americans. One desi member, who’s an off-and-on participant. I sit next to him at potlucks and we talk about Indian politics and Carnatic music, about which he knows a LOT more than I do.

  18. This reminds me so much of the film “Darjeeling Express.” What a classic film which typifies rich, white Americans in search of a speedy enlightenment, as if it were some drug fix or 7-step process.

    This guy reminds me of so many things around me: the folks at ISKCON and a Whole Foods shopping spree.

    We have an ISKCON church that’s very inconspicuously located in the heart of Boston on Commonwealth Avenue over here. The folks there – both Indian and non-Indian – are losers! One Indian guy clarified to myself and my white-American friends that ISKCON is NOT Hinduism quite emphatically. One white Brahmin priest there was a former military man, and although he seemed nice, recited too many Sanskrit platitudes that meant nothing to me – in Sanskrit AND in English. But their fennel tea was nice…

    Now, in Boston, we have a Little China, and we have a Little Lhasa called Whole Foods. There, they have successfully monetized the dharmic faiths by selling Karma-this, Buddha-finger lemons, Yogi Tea (created by a New Age Sardar), Odwalla, Moksha-that, Nirvana-flavor-this, and Zen-flavored-that. Folks, all this goodwill to Dharmic religions won’t last my friends. The next “Great Spiritual Thing” will be something like Baha’i or Zoroastrianism. So, soon, they’ll be selling Ahura Mazda goat cheese and Avestan kababs, and our Moksha Milk Chocolate will be so…’90s. And the best picture of the year will be some mediocre Azeri film.

    Finally, I went to one of these cultural fairs that are quite frequent in the Greater Boston area, and I was surprised at how some vendors were selling some products/services from a very disjointed array of indigenous backgrounds. For example, one guy was selling stuff that was inspired by Native Americans, Far East China, Japan, India, and even Africa. It was weird, man. This is probably a reaction/expression against Whitey.

  19. I sat down and watched this mindfully: hilarious!

    The Buddhists I know are quite serious in their efforts to practice (e.g. 2x/day meditation) + they’re often laughing and laugh easily:)

  20. Cult Member Turned New Age aka Pardesi gori,

      I do not think any of your rantings warrant a response. For some one who has been banned from this site, you seem to come back for more trolling. Hopefully the SM intern will ban you again. But then again they probably doesn't have the time and energy to keep track of your screen names and various ip addresses you use. I am writing this comment so that others who might be taken in by your new avatar may save themselves from spending their time responding to you. That is it folks, I am done feeding the troll.
    
  21. As much as I am annoyed by PG, I do think that sometimes we are too quick to dismiss non-Indian followers of Indic faiths. I would be skeptical of non-Tamils who profess devotion to a deity rooted in a specific geography (e.g Muruga stripped of the Skanda-Kumar association, Mariamman). I get annoyed when I see the hipster set piercing themselves in Malaysia for the adrenaline rush. I would expect European neo-pagans to look askance at me for pouring out some mead to Odin. But adherence to universal philosophies (e.g. Vedanta, or Buddhism) should be accepted as genuine (until demonstrated otherwise). Let’s not forget that some of the early patrons of Buddhism in the Gandharan region were ethnically Greek (e.g. Milinda/Menander). And if you count the Tocharians (West Eurasians settled in Chinese Turkestan from at least 1500 BC), Western Buddhists have played a significant part in the transmission of this portable/universally relevant philosophy for some time.