Quite a number of years ago, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche was giving a series of talks at Naropa Institute about art and dharma. During the question and answer session after one of these talks, Trungpa had the following exchange with Allen Ginsberg.
Allen Ginsberg: Do you relate to American jazz, blues and rock and roll as having possibilities of Great Eastern Sun? (Great Eastern Sun is a phrase Trungpa used to refer to a quality that expresses the perfection of dharma.)
Trungpa Rinpoche: In some sense I do. Maybe jazz and blues have more possibilities, but rock and roll has less possibilities.
AG: Why do you feel that?
TR: Well, it is a question of rock and roll actually indulging the individuals’ sense perceptions. That has been a very problematical situation because there’s no sense of dignity involved. Everything that is expressed by jazz and blues may be okay, but in rock and roll, everything that is expressed purely takes advantage of your subconscious gossip, all along. It actually jazzes up, builds up all of that. In fact, it has the completely opposite effect of sitting on your zafu. You can’t listen to music and sit on your zafu at the same time. Maybe you can do that with the blues or with jazz, but not with rock and roll. It is too Coca-Cola oriented.
AG: Well, have you had the experience of majesty, a sense of majesty and calm and centeredness in any rock and roll you’ve heard?
TR: Unfortunately not. I’ve tried very hard, haven’t I. I’ve tried very hard. I thought at some point that I was missing something (Laughter) but it turned out that I wasn’t missing anything at all. (Laughter)
AG: I have experienced some of that in Mick Jagger’s work. I am particularly impressed by his attention to time, his precision in the timing of his singing, a technique which he’s brought from black blues into white music and then amplified, so that everybody could hear more clearly. Have you heard that at all in him or, say Dylan?
TR: I’ve listened to a lot of Mick Jagger because at one point he was about to become my student, in England. Instead he began to turn to black-magic music . . . He has tremendous interest in Alistair Crowley.
AG: I’ve been impressed by his curiosity and inquisitiveness . . .
TR: That is good actually. Jagger could make a good Buddhist. But unfortunately, it is not so. And my vision of rock and roll is not purely from him: Whenever they hear “Saturday Night Fever,” my students and friends go wild. (Laughter) They become undharmic on the spot. They become somebody else. They become somebody else. I can’t talk to them, absolutely not. (Laughter.)