A Charnel Ground Mandala?

So I went to see Metallica play last night in Vancouver, which was super fun (re-living my adolesence a bit) and the stage show was quite spectacular (I’m not going to recount the entire thing here though, go google it if you’re interested).  But the show actually got me to thinking – which is not generally the sort of thing that one should be doing at a rock concert.

There were these prop coffins that lowered from the ceiling which had video screens on their ‘lids’ that showed ‘inside’ the coffins.  There were people who appeared to be RIP-ing but who woke up and appeared confused about where they were.  Naturally, when they discoovered that they were trapped, they started panicking (as one would upon waking up in a dark, confined space, not knowing how one got there).  Meanwhile, the stage beneath all this – which itself was a giant walk-on video screen – show images of maggots writhing.

Now, of course I may not be interpreting these images quite as the band intends them to be interpreted (although I don’t imagine that I’m wrong), but it struck me that the point was the horror at the inescapability of death – that it is we who are trapped in the coffins and that all of our struggles are just as panicked and fearful as those of the actors on the screens.  (The feeling of powerlessness and being trapped or cornered by death is a theme running through their entire oeuvre.)  And all this made me think of Buddhist charnel ground practices like Chod.  Perhaps Metallica’s stage show is a large-scale charnel ground mandala/practice of sorts, looking at death in the eye and not flinching – which would mean that there already is something like Tantric practices at work in the West.

It’s not too insane an idea – when the lights go down the whole world shrinks to the size of the room, all centred on the stage, which is itself a visual representation of meditation on death, as seen above.  And it’s certainly in the realm of possibility – Kirk Hammett is apparently some variety of Buddhist.  But that is enough for now, just a quick thought I had.  I now have to go help tidy the kitchen and deal with this weird neck pain that showed up this morning (can’t imagine how that might have happened).  But check it out, the stage is even shaped (sort of) like a vajra:

A vajra?!


About AtaraxJim
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2 Responses to MetalliCharnel

  1. Sabio Lantz says:

    David’s articles (the links you made) are good. Interesting about the concert — have you read reviews that confirm an intentional Vajra Buddhist Chod mock-up?

  2. James says:

    No, not that would indicate that it was intentional, but I wouldn’t expect the rock and roll press to pick up on it either. Even if it was just unintentional, I still find the symbolic similarities interesting!

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