Apocryphal Zen Stories – Part 2

Bodily Needs

One morning, Hongren and Mazu the nine-fingered disciple sat side by side at the banks of a lotus pond in silent meditation. Slowly, Hongren began to hum. The humming grew in volume, until Hongren’s entire throat began to vibrate in sympathetic resonance. Gradually, the sound of the humming subsided, until they were once again sitting in perfect silence at the banks of the lotus pond.

Finally, Hongren spoke.

“When you feel the need to defecate, do you defecate?”

“Yes, master,” replied Mazu.

“Then the Buddha is a misshapen turnip!”

At this point, Hongren took a sip of tea.

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Apocryphal Zen Stories – Part 1

A Rotting Horse Carcass

One day, a young monk came to Master Hongren’s monastery to seek enlightenment.

“You will achieve enlightenment if you can answer this one question: What is Buddha?” asked Hongren. The monk could not think of an answer, and stood before Hongren in silent contemplation.

“Master,” asked the disciple, “Is there one answer, or are there many answers?”

Hongren slapped his disciple violently across the face. “A rotting horse carcass!” he exclaimed, answering his own question.

At this point, the disciple achieved enlightenment.

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A Thoughtful Analysis of Brand Nubian’s “Allah U Akbar”

In 1993, the rap group Brand Nubian released their sophomore album, In God We Trust. Two members lighter after the departure of Grand Puba and DJ Alamo, the group returned with a more aggressive, militant edge. But unlike the namesake of the departed DJ Alamo, I cannot remember most of these songs, even after repeated listens.

The album closer, Punks Jump to Get Beat Down, is a brilliant song with lyrics so problematic that some lines had to be rerecorded for release on their subsequent Greatest Hits compilation. Still, it is an undeniably potent evocation of the guilty pleasures of beating down punks who jump up for that very purpose. It also features an amazing beat from peak-era Diamond D, with a sample of “Gonna Fly Now” from the movie Rocky that dazzles us with its sheer hubris.

The album opener, “Allah U Akbar” (sic), is equally impressive in its own way. So impressive, in fact, that it deserves a detailed chronological analysis –  If not for its lyrical details, than at least for its weird sonic world and overall concept, or lack thereof.

Listen to the song on YouTube – But check out the timestamped links below for detailed analysis!

Read the lyrics on Genius

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