Johnathon Lee Pendall: The Renegade Buddhist


John Lee Pendall is a featured columnist, editor, podcast host, and co-owner of the Tattooed Buddha. He’s also a poet, composer, multi-instrumentalist (He’s recorded five albums so far), an amateur photographer/graphic designer and pen & ink artist, and he has a B.S. in psychology. He currently lives between two cornfields in rural Illinois. His errant knowledge base covers astronomy, theology, philosophy, music theory, and quoting lines from movies.

John Lee practices Chan Buddhism as a Lay Buddhist (Upasaka Jing Shen) at the Morning Sky Zen Sangha, a Chan hermitage in the Zen Buddhist Order of Hsu Yun

John’s also a lay Buddhologist (Buddhist scholar), and frequently translates and writes commentaries on Buddhist texts. He’s also drawn to Western philosophies like phenomenology, transcendentalism, and existentialism. “In some ways, I don’t even practice Zen Buddhism anymore, but Zen Continentalism. Those schools were created with the Western mind in, well, mind, with a strong focus on freedom, responsibility, humanism, and the nature of experience.” 

Pendall had a traumatic, isolated childhood, and he wasn’t accepted by his peers until he was in high school. That’s when we developed an incurable case of an almost movie villain degree of rebelliousness. “Order feels like a straitjacket,” he says, “and creativity is close to the meaning of life for me. Rules, set plans, order, and stability are hostile work environments. For life to be a vivid, beautiful experience, I think we have to be a little bit crazy. Thankfully, none of my antics have ever landed me in jail. Mostly, they just confuse and amuse my friends. Unfortunately, I think my manic shifts are rough on readers. I’m apt to change my views, or even my whole writing style, at any time if I think that I’m overdo for an upheaval.” 

John’s main passion is observing, and writing about, the human condition and the ways that we’re influenced by culture. “The things that a lot of Buddhist traditions help us to escape or tame, are the very things that I find the most interesting and moving about people. I love contradictions, overpowering emotions and breathtaking experiences. I have no interest in overcoming suffering—because that feels defeatest to me—but instead trying to see it in a different way and use it to grow.”

Feel free to check out John’s Facebook page and his blog, “Salty Dharma.”

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