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This Monk Uses Hip Hop to Impart Buddhist Wisdom

Given the loud tuneless declarations of devotion, calculated to bleed ears, which most of us Indians have been hearing in the last month or two during this festive season, we'd sure like a more mellifiluous route to religion, with some cool factor thrown in. India may not be ready for it yet, but we hear that the Japanese are having a pretty good time with Buddhism.

Gomyo or Kevin Seperic, an American Buddhist priest living in Japan heads this secret underground sect of Buddhism called Hoodie Monks in Japan, which actually marries Buddhism with Hip Hop!

Born Kevin Seperic, Gomyo began rapping in the 90s and got introduced to Buddhism when he moved to Japan in 1994.

'By expressing Buddhism through hip-hop culture, we hope to do two things: introduce people to Buddhist thought who might not otherwise be exposed to it, and offer an alternative to mainstream hip-hop, which is often preoccupied with materialism,' Gomyo told The Japan Times.

The group's name originated from the nickname which Gomyo was given, by a graffiti-artist friend who noticed that he often wore a hooded sweater under his samue, or monk's work clothes, during the winter months.

Gomyo, 45, who moved to Japan from his native Michigan in 1994, says the idea of using hip-hop to express Buddhist thought and teaching came to him after hearing the Beastie Boys song 'Bodhisattva Vow' back in the 90s.

'After hearing that song, I thought, ‘I should write lyrics like that!' ' he says.

Gomyo became an ordained priest in the Shingon tradition in 2004, marrying it to the other important thing in his life - hip hop - seemed like a natural progression.

'These elements of hip-hop do have a nice correlation with elements of Buddhist practice,' Gomyo says. 'The MC rapping is represented in Buddhism by chanting. The DJ or producer keeps the beat going; in Buddhism we use taiko drums or wooden blocks to keep the beat when chanting in a group.'

His first hip hop album was released in 2014. Check out some of the Hoodie Monks' hip hop works of Buddhism, in this video.


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