Kyle Lovett, the Zen practitioner behind the blog “The Reformed Buddhist,” has for the past five years pissed off and freaked out the Buddhist blogosphere with posts that range from the off-color to the obscene. (One of his most popular posts, “And Not A Single F*ck Was Given That Day,” is a good example.) As a Buddhist-blog enthusiast and intern at Tricycle, I am an avid reader of “The Reformed Buddhist,” and as controversial as Kyle may be, he always seems to know how to get a discussion started. I had the opportunity to chat with him via email recently about his blog, his hate mail, and why he enjoys provoking what he calls the “Warm Hugs and Rainbow Lovers,” “Eccentric Guru Worship Clubs,” and “‘Most Original’ Theravada Defenders” that populate the online Buddhist world.
You write on the “About” section of “The Reformed Buddhist” that you grew up in rural Virginia in a conservative Catholic household. How did you find and become interested in Zen? Pain. Lots and lots of pain, followed by a mundane trip to the bookstore where I happened to pick up a book on Buddhism in the discount bin, and began reading it right there in the store. Before I left the store that day, I knew I had found something special. I also picked up a copy of Cosmo that day too. It was a good day all around.
What made you want to start a Buddhist blog? Besides my Zen teacher, I wanted to connect with other Buddhists out there who may be going through the same things I did. I also enjoying writing and pissing people off.
What are your favorite (Buddhist or otherwise) blogs to read? What, besides Tricycle’s? See what I did there? No, here are some of my favorites:
A lot of other bloggers have kind of disowned me because I can be an asshole sometimes, but I usually have a reason.
You mention in your editorial policy that you do have a target audience—who is your target audience? It’s actually more of a statement than a who. What I mean by all that is “Hey if I can be a Buddhist and follow a Buddhist path, anyone can.” You don’t have to give up your identity, and take up some persona (which is ironic because I write often in a persona, but I’d be damn boring if I didn’t sometimes) that one thinks they need to be to take up a Buddhist path. You can eat meat, be politically moderate or conservative, cuss, tell dirty jokes, be a troll and still follow the Buddha’s teachings. I felt like most other blogs did a great job talking about the dharma and social issues and the like, but I thought the web could use a good ole fashioned fart and dick joke Buddhist, with a smattering of rants and dharma.
Besides, I’d hate for those who are interested in Buddhism to come online, which many times where their first interaction with other Buddhists are, and think that it’s a bunch of hippies, sitting in a circle, holding hands, singing love songs and then confessing how much they love each other. Because, yeah, that’s what a lot of online Buddhists come off as; that or ranting Marxists, who have grand social theories that they want to tie up into the dharma. As if!
Why do you think you get so much hate mail? You make fun of it a lot on your blog, but does it ever bother you? Only the few death threats I got bothered me. None of the hate mail does. I think of it as fodder most of the time, as a lot of it comes from holier-than-thou Buddhists who don’t know I’m going to post it, then make fun of it. People like to say they are controversial or rabble rousers, as if it were a badge of honor. It’s actually a lot more fun than it is honorable. I don’t mind challenging jerks who think they are a better Buddhist than other people, because they wear a robe or because they don’t drink or because they can read Sanskrit. No such thing as a better Buddhist, so I don’t mind one bit.
Would you consider yourself to be an Internet troll? Do you think trolling has any connection with your practice as a Zen Buddhist? Yes. Yes, I am a troll…sometimes. Have you ever met a Zen master or a Tibetan Lama? They are some of the biggest trolls I know. My old Zen master trolled me so hard, I think he made me cry a couple times. So yea, it is part of my practice and I also think of it as a tool, like I explained above.