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“Buddhism and the Banjo” by Trish Carr

Posted March 2013

Buddha & Banjo“It is necessary to combine knowledge born from study with sincere practice in our daily lives. These two must go together.” Thus saith H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama (assuming the “Buddhist Quotes” website where I found it is on the up and up.)

What does that have to do with the banjo? It's the utter reality that strikes a student of the instrument as soon as she begins to dream of playing it. You can listen to as many Flatt and Scruggs records as you can fit into every waking moment. You can read how-to books (and watch the accompanying DVDs) until the cows come home. You can put the pretty thing in its instrument stand and just admire it. You can learn all its history and know everything about musical styles using it. But without practice, you won't play it worth a dern.

This is a really good point to make to a person who will drop her dime on any book that catches her eye, but who doesn't necessarily get around to reading them all.  (Are you listening, self?) You should see the bookcase my guy and I dubbed my religious studies section. Chock full and covering just about all of them, from ancient civilizations to contemporary Paganism, with the as-taught-in-school major religions sandwiched in between. There's a pretty respectable selection of Buddhist titles. I've started most of them, too. I might get away with calling them works in progress if I said that to someone who doesn't know me very well. Everyone else politely changes the subject.

But even if I did read them all, and in a timely fashion, that still isn't going to get me up to the Buddhist knowledge version of slow-jam speed on the Foggy Mountain Breakdown anytime soon. Practice isn't just about knowledge. It's about doing it. And I'm approaching my practice, both Buddhist and banjo, in a lackadaisical manner. I have a demanding job that tends to suck up a lot of my time, so I squeeze in practice when it's convenient. That doesn't happen too often. I'm not making much progress on “The Ballad of Jesse James” in clawhammer style, and unless I'm in the Zen Center I'm not meditating much.

So. Noted. I'm not beating myself up about it – I've got that much mindfulness under my belt – but I want to look honestly at practice and keep working with it. Fit in meditation by moments, if I have to. And pick up that 5-string a little more often.