We explained why we chose the name “Lion’s Roar” when we launched this site — but, given that its meaning (in a Buddhist context, that is) is so potent, we’re not the only ones to have used it. Take, for example, the critically acclaimed metal/progressive music act, Cynic. You can follow along with the words to the band’s song, “The Lion’s Roar,” in the song’s lyric video:
So, what’s the Buddhist connection?.
Well, Cynic mastermind Paul Masvidal has been a committed, thoughtful, artful practitioner of Buddhism for a while now. The title of his band’s latest album is just one manifestation of this. That title, Kindly Bent to Free Us, may in fact be familiar to some of you, being that it’s a slight tweak of Kindly Bent to Ease Us, one translation/rendering of the name of a famous dharma text by the fourteenth-century Tibetan teacher Longchenpa. “The Lion’s Roar,” the first track released off KBtFU, has a fairly strong Buddhism connection, too.
In “The Lion’s Roar,” the track’s narrator seems to be making proclamations about making some new commitment to how he/she relates to reality. For example:
It’s time to take another road / I will / kiss the mouth of reality’s face / I will / annihilate my hiding place / I will fade into the rising smoke / I hear the lion’s roar
This sort of relationship to reality is what the “lion’s roar” in Buddhism refers to, too. As Bhikkhu Ñanamoli wrote in his introduction to The Lion’s Roar: Two Discourses of the Buddha, “there are two kinds of lion’s roar: that of the Buddha himself and that of his disciples.” The first is “sounded” when the Buddha explains his own accomplishments and realization; the second is sounded when aspirants of the Buddha’s way realize Nirvana themselves.
The late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (who founded the Shambhala Sun) talked of a Lion’s Roar as well, saying (in part):
The lion’s roar is the fearless proclamation that anything that happens in our state of mind, including emotions, is manure. Whatever comes up is a workable situation; it is a reminder of practice, and it acts as a speedometer. It is a way to proceed further into the practice of meditation.
It’s often that people write metal off as wild, party-time, Woo! music. But going back all the way to its beginnings (if you’ll agree with me that Black Sabbath’s first LP marks said beginning, or is at least darned near close), metal has also utilized its heaviness as a way to give real weight to the more vexing and meaningful aspects of existence. This track from Cynic is just the latest, and I look forward to hearing more.
Want more of our coverage of music and Buddhism (including lots of metal, as well as plenty of other forms)? Check it all out here.