By Sensei Alex Kakuyo
Cardi B is a Bodhisattva who appeared on the VH1 Reality TV series: Love and Hip Hop New York from 2015 to 2017.
In June of 2017, Atlantic Records released her first commercial Hip Hop single, Bodak Yellow, which reached number one on the Hot 100 chart. The rest, as they say, is history. Cardi B is now a well-known name in the Hip Hop/R&B community, she goes on world tours, makes frequent appearances at awards shows and has an estimated net worth of $8 million according to Forbes magazine.
That being said, she’s not what one normally thinks about when it comes to Buddhist teachings.
Her music is raw and sexual, using both metaphors and graphic language to describe the things she likes to do with men. This is on full display in her newest video, WAP, which she did with Megan Thee Stallion.
In the song, Cardi raps lines like: I don’t cook, I don’t clean, let me tell you how I got this ring.
Both the video and the song are pure spectacle—a catchy beat and bright, primary colors grab our attention while Cardi B and Megan writhe across the screen; twerking and doing the splits as they use an impressive vocabulary to describe their desires.
Every scene is a metaphor for sex, whether it’s a mansion with water running out of the front door or Cardi and Megan lying together on the floor; surrounded by snakes. We’re simultaneously confused and enthralled as we wonder what’s going to happen next.
And then it’s over. The song ends, our brain turns back on, and we try to make sense of everything we saw. And this is where Cardi B earns her Bodhisattva status by teaching us a valuable lesson. She reminds us that some things don’t need to be understood. Some things are simply meant to be experienced.
The medium is the message. The spectacle is the purpose.
And when the music ends, our only job is to get up and move on with our lives. This is an important lesson because Buddhism teaches that our world is nothing but spectacle. Cars, money, houses, etc. are illusions designed to arouse the senses and hold our attention. The status we attain from our job or the special feelings we get from meditation are fun, but we’re not supposed to hold onto them. We shouldn’t try to understand them. Rather, we must see for what they are and practice acceptance when they’re gone… like Kylie Jenner walking down a hall way.
It’s a simple lesson, but it’s hard to put into practice. And that’s why Cardi B, in her compassion, was so explicit with her message. Because the illusion of our daily life feels real. We don’t compartmentalize it the way we do a music video.
And we suffer as a result.
The boss who doesn’t appreciate our work, the politician who betrays us, the society that treats us as less than human; these things are all painful, but they’re also illusions. And we can lessen the hurt they cause by remembering to let them go; by remembering to not look to them for happiness.
Instead, we watch the show, feel our feelings, and move on with our lives.
Namu Amida Butsu
Editor: Dana Gornall
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- Cardi B a Bodhisattva? Dharma Lessons from Her Latest WAP Video - August 17, 2020