Well, continuing with a series of songs I always mightily enjoyed without having the first clue what they were about, I give you Gunning for the Buddha by Shriekback, a band formed out of odds and ends left over from a few of the most entertaining English groups of the late 70s and early 80s, among them Barry Andrews from XTC and Dave Allen from Gang of Four.
As strange as it is pleasing, Gunning for the Buddha includes lyrics like these, nestled within a soothing, melodious soundscape of bongos and steel drums so tunefully Caribbean in its vibe that you just want to pull up a set of palm tress and sit in the sand, looking out over the turquoise sea while sipping a rum punch:
Death and Money make their point once more
In the shape of philosophical assassins
Mark and Danny take the bus uptown
Deadly angels for reality and passion
Have the courage of the here and now
Don’t take nothing from these half-baked Buddhas
When you think you got it paid in full
You got nothing, you got nothing at all
I learn so much researching Songs of the Day! It turns out that the lads are loosely quoting one Linji Yixuan, the Ninth Century Chinese Tang Dynasty founder of the Linji school of Chan Buddhism (!!).
Linji is described as an iconoclast who prodded his students towards what he considered their awakening by screaming at them and beating them about the head and shoulders (thus also inventing modern pedagogy), and coined various provocative slogans, including “if you meet your forefather, kill him”, and “if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him”. Others quote him as saying “when we meet the ghost Buddha, we should cut off his head”, and the premise seems to have been that the path to enlightenment could only be trod when first we abandon the views and ideas we have about all things, including any preconceived ideas about Buddhism and Buddhist teachings. Linji may also have meant that no one can really recognize the Buddha, and no one who would claim to be the Buddha actually is, so if someone has managed to convince you that he’s the real deal, you’re mistaken, because he can’t be, he’s a trickster, and should be taken out.
Don’t ask me, I just work here.
Anyway, here we have a merry pair “on the road and gunning for the Buddha”. They actually spot a half-baked Buddha in a bar downtown, holding forth on nuclear fission and sounding all knowledgeable and shit – phony! Kill him!