Be Pure and Tell the Truth: Our 5 Favorite Musical Buddhists

Today His Holiness the Dalai Lama turns 77. Although he didn't officially become the temporal head of Tibet until he was 15, he's made the most of 62 years in the position. He's won a Nobel Peace Prize, advocated for his country and countrymen, and amassed more than 4 million Twitter followers.

He's also the most famous Buddhist in the world, and perhaps the most famous Buddhist of all time. Although he's not solely responsible for the rising number of Buddhists here the U.S., he's certainly helped.

With its focus on wisdom, virtue and meditation, it isn't much of a surprise that many a famous musician has found comfort in Buddhist teachings. After some meditation and taking a deep look inside ourselves, we've come up with a list of our favorite musical Buddhists.

5. Kirk Hammett (Metallica)

Give their early albums a listen and it's hard to imagine anyone in Metallica as peaceful. Even in a post-Some Kind of Monster world, it's still a little weird to think about the softer side of Metallica even though we know it's there. The idea that Kirk Hammett is a Buddhist makes a lot more sense when you look at the big picture: you'd have to really know inner peace to deal with the other personalities in the group.

So while James may be the face on the band onstage and Lars the outspoken one offstage, Kirk is content to be laid back and just go along for the ride. What else can you do when you're the lead guitarist in band and the rest of the guys say they don't want any guitar solos on the album?

4. Alanis Morissette

When we first met Alanis, it was as the jilted lover and the potential new face of female rock. Jagged Little Pill sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and a new star was born. Anticipation was high for her second record, but when "Thank U" dropped it alienated some of her fans. India might have been good for her spirit but not necessarily her album sales.

With a cover referencing the Eight Precepts of Buddhism and significantly less anger, it was clear that she was finding at least some sense of inner peace. She'd later meet the Dalai Lama and play a series of shows for Tibetan freedom. While we may secretly want another "You Outta Know" we can't fault her for seeking enlightenment.

3. David Bowie

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Before the Beatles ever made it to India Bowie had Tibet on the brain. A chance meeting with a Tibetan lama in the mid-'60s set him on his spiritual path before he hit 18. Before there was Ziggy, there was a man named David unafraid to mix Buddhism in to his work.

While a young Bowie may have dreamed about running to Tibet and becoming a monk he settled for a career in music and the occasional reference to yak butter statues. He'd eventually revisit "Silly Boy Blue" thematically 3 decades later with "Seven Years in Tibet". We can only hope to be so lucky as to get another part of the story in 2027.

4. Tina Turner

While His Holiness may be the most famous Buddhist in the world, Tina Turner finds herself pretty high up on that list and is easily the most high profile female Buddhist in the world. A follower of Nichiren Buddhism, she's famously chanted on Larry King's show and introduced the world to her beliefs via the film What's Love Got To Do With It.

For Turner, Buddhism was a source of strength for the troubles in her life, a strength that eventually gave her the power to break free from her abusive relationship with Ike and become her own woman. In 2009 she worked on a project called Beyond, which helped to bring together both Buddhism and Christianity. For Turner, the Lord's Prayer and a Buddhist chant aren't that far apart: the path may be different but they'll get you to the same place.

1. Adam Yauch

It goes without saying that there was no musician more closely linked to the Dalai Lama in the minds of music fans than Adam Yauch. It was Yauch that pushed the rest of the Beastie Boys to organize the Tibetan Freedom Concerts and found the Milarepa Fund. For many it was their first exposure to the Free Tibet movement.

Born to a Jewish mom and a Catholic dad, Yauch was a Buddhist long before the cancer invaded his body. Even after he got sick he still believed in the power of mind over matter, partaking in meditation and encouraging his fans to do the same.

Yauch may be gone, but for fighting the good fighting both around the world and inside his body he'll always have a special place in our heart.

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