Bald Guitarist

02005-01-28 | Uncategorized | 9 comments

Matt Callahan said…The beard suits Jon. Will you be playing the role of the bald guitarist for awhile?

I started meditating when I was 15. When I was 17 I saw myself as a monk without a monastery or religion and shaved my head. When I was 19 I considered living in a Zen temple in Japan, but decided to stay in the world and be a guitarist. I have shaved my head many times in the last two decades. Sometimes I shaved to mark an important moment for me, and sometimes just for the hell of it. I shaved it in Singapore in 1994, which is why my hair was still quite short on the cover of Viva! I shaved it in 1997 in Pompano Beach, just before a performance with the 9 piece XL band. I shaved it a few times during the last few years, but usually let it grow back a little before touring.

Now I shave it every five days – like the monks in a monastery. I don’t shave it smooth because I don’t much like shiny objects. Doesn’t seem very wabi-sabi – more on that concept here, here + here. I use a Panasonic beard trimmer without the guide-comb attachment, i.e. as short as it will go. Another reason for not shaving smooth is that my skin is quite sensitive and gets irritated easily.

This shaved head marks two occasions for me. One, I have found my Roshi and am a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist. Two, I want to shake off all compromises in my work. No longer will I keep songs short for radio. No longer will I consider anything other than my inspiration. I am working for a great record label now and my boss is 100% behind me…

I am afraid I haven’t answered your question at all, have I?

PS: I am adding some information about the term monk as it means something different in Japan than in the rest of Asia. Many Buddhists in Asia do not consider japanese monks monks… The first reason is this:

Saicho, an important abbot of a large Tendai Buddhist monastery and head of the Tendai movement in Japan at that time, petitioned the Emperor in the 8th century asking for permission to ordain monks using only the Sixteen Bodhisattva Precepts instead of the 227 Patimoksha Precepts that were ordinarily used.

And for female monks there were originally 348 Precepts! I personally find that one needs only two:

1. Be Mindful
2. Act appropriately

And the second reason is this:

After Japanese ports were finally opened to foreign ships in about 1868, the Japanese government mounted a campaign to establish a state religion to help prevent foreign religions from entering the culture, and the indigenous Shinto religion was chosen over Buddhism. The authority of Buddhist monks at that time was undermined and eventfully Buddhist monks were allowed and even encouraged by the government to marry. This is why in Japan today, most Buddhist clerics tend to be priests living as householders taking care of temples where lay people practice rather than living in monasteries as celibate monks.


  1. djalisgypsy

    I think the shaved head suits you very well. Mostly because you are following your true spiritual path. You can see it not only physically, also hear it in your music, in your voice I could hear it during the woodsongs interview. That is why I saw that zen chair at zen by and thought of you, I was looking for a tantric chair, they are great to meditate and relax on. I am very spiritual too, not zen however, it is truly fascinating. I am a very sensitive person and pick up things easily. Being a child of the eighties, I loved when you had the long hair also, it was very attractive, but the shaved head look suits you just as well, because the attractiveness is coming from the inside out,it’s not a vanity thing, it resonates from your spirit.

  2. Matt Callahan

    No my friend, your answer is crystal clear. My most sincere congratulations on your new beginnings.

  3. Adam Solomon

    That boss at that wonderful record label also happens to be a very good guitarist, too :) hehe…very interesting, I didn’t realize you were so into Zen from such a young age!

  4. Yumiko

    A natural progression for the artist to grow/search for higher mind/consciousness if open and aware.

    It’s good to have higher management backing you..,

  5. Borya

    Don’t you worry, it’s a wonderful and informative answer.

  6. Panj

    “””I have found my Roshi and am a practicing Soto Zen Buddhist”””

    Congratulations!!!…God Speed!

  7. Borya

    I like this no compromise attitude. Shaving the hair. Getting rid of the carpets. What remains is this wonderful Luis Barragan-like architecture.

  8. salma

    It’s all about being true to yourself and also to everyone else. Thich Nhat Hanh expresses this very well ‘the greatest gift we can offer anyone is our true presence’.
    Ottmar presents the world with this great gift everyday!!


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