Metta is Metal

Posted: 07/06/2010 in Compassion, Love, Metal, Music

**Edit: This is the first of a series of posts I am attempting about how Buddhism is Metal.**

Since I began my practice less than a year ago, I have been contemplating the connection between Heavy Metal and Buddhism and wondering if it is even possible. I have been asked how I can even consider being a Buddhist while continuing to “be metal.” On the surface, Heavy Metal – the music and the identity – seem to be polar opposite of the principles of Buddhism. However, I believe there is indeed a connection between metal and metta, or loving-kindness, and I would like to share a few examples.

An outsider looking in would view the violent lyrics and aggression portrayed at metal concerts as the opposite of the love and compassion that Buddhists strive to exude. But if those that have that judgment spent any time in a moshpit, they would find a great example of compassion that happens there. Yes, there are guys and girls that are violently thrashing into each other (and unfortunately with the advent of hardcore dancing, throwing punches and karate kicks), and pushing each other around. But every single pit I have been in, if someone falls, there are two or three people there to pick the person up, dust them off,  and then get right back to it. If that is not a display of compassion or metta, then I may not understand the definitions. Usually the band playing will even instruct the crowd to “take care of each other out there, we don’t want anyone hurt.” You see, heavy metal fans are a brotherhood. They take care of each other in the pit, they buy tickets to concerts when their friends cannot afford them (case in point: I’m looking at the ticket to Slayer my friend bought me), and when they see another metalhead wearing a band shirt, a connection is made and they end up discussing favorite albums, songs and similar bands. I don’t really want to get into the discussion of lyrics, because I’m a guitar player, not a vocalist and have never paid much attention to them. My point here has more to do with heavy metal as a whole, not just one factor such as lyrics.

Another great example is something I read about one of my heroes, Darrell “Dimebag” Abbott of Pantera fame, and I will try to remember the details and sum it up here because it’s an awesome example of loving-kindness. A few years ago, Dime did an autograph signing in a music store. There was this young kid that came up with his dad to get an autograph and had told Dime he wanted to be a guitar player just like him. After talking to him, Dime took the store manager off to the side and told him to have the boy and his dad hang out for a while. Long story short, when he had signed all the autographs he told the kid to pick out any guitar in the store he wanted and Dime would buy it. I still get choked up when I think of that story, because that is true metta. Here’s a guy who has sold millions of albums and toured the world with one of the most hardcore of hardcore metal bands, and yet he displays metta in such a heartwarming way. That’s just one story of many from that guy, a true metalhead, a rockstar, yet full of metta and no ego.

Here’s another example of the metta displayed in this community of metalheads, and it is from my own experience. Another of my guitar heroes is Zakk Wylde, who played with Ozzy Osbourne for years and has his own band Black Label Society. A couple years ago, Zakk did an acoustic tour at the Hard Rock Cafe, and stopped into our local radio station. I have a friend who works for the station and I was invited to go to the show but had no idea what was in store. I met my friend at the station and not knowing Zakk was still there, followed my buddy right into the conference room where Zakk was giving a guitar lesson to a contest winner, so I had the pleasure of watching that from across the table and just being there was the coolest thing ever. Even though his tour manager and the station manager were chomping at the bit to get going, I got a couple minutes to meet him. I happened to be wearing a Pantera t-shirt, and instead of just shaking hands, this guy grabbed me in a full-on bear hug. We shared a couple quick words about our love for Dime (they were best friends), snapped a couple pictures together, got an autograph, hugged again, and they rushed him off.

These are just a few examples of how I believe a metalhead can be a Buddhist, regardless of the violent stigma attached to heavy metal music and those in the metal community. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue, as there may be other connections I have missed, and I would even like to hear if you think I’m wrong.

Metal metta to you! \m/

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nate DeMontigny. Nate DeMontigny said: RT @metalbuddha: A new post I've been working on: Metta is Metal […]

  2. […] that I NEED to write. It keeps me sane. I had some good inspiration with a series I began about how Buddhism and Heavy Metal are related, but got stuck after two posts, so that’s not much of a series. By racking my […]

  3. Drew says:

    Every mosh pit I have been in contains the same kind of people. I feel they are living in the moment and taking care of one another when it is needed.

  4. […] I know that he had already bought a bunch of tickets, including one for me. I talked about this in Metta is Metal, about how metalheads stick together. Travis demonstrated the brotherhood of metal by buying me a […]

  5. Alex says:

    great topic! I’m glad I got to read this article. I recently wrote a similar article on my blog as well.
    Great to meet a fellow metal buddhist!

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