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.