When people ask what American Buddhism will look like, maybe instead they should ask what it will sound like. Heng Sure, an American Buddhist monk in the Chinese Mahayana tradition, offers us one answer with his recent CD, which blends classic and contemporary Buddhist teachings with American folk and blues tunes. With charm and humor, Heng Sure gives these tunes an uplifting feel even as the lyrics explore the most profound topics of karma, death and freedom. In the delicate opening ballad, “Craving Is the Builder of This House,” he pairs the blues and the Buddha’s “song of liberation” from the Dhammapada to express the truth of human suffering. The stark field-holler “Another One Done Gone” turns the idea of death as loss upside-down by celebrating the death of ego, closing with the Heart Sutra mantra sung in chorus to create an eerie mix of cultures. The ragtime “American Beef Cow” is a critique of the meat industry that evokes the Theravada meditation on foulness of the body. The CD’s impeccable musicianship and recording quality make for a wonderfully entertaining listening experience to go with the deep wisdom of the Dharma.
While the CD can be purchased, it is also offered freely at www.dharmaradio.org.