Like any pop star, Shidaoxin records albums, poses for the cameras and blogs to stay in touch with his fans. But this Chinese singer and Buddhist monk is making music for a higher cause.
The 26-year-old, who calls himself a “singer monk,” says he is trying to promote Buddhism in a modern way to capture people’s hearts and souls.
He has so far released one album and two singles since coming to Beijing two years ago to launch his music career, and his songs, which feature lyrics taken from Buddhist teachings, are played on Chinese national television and radio, as well as receiving thousands of hits on the Internet.
“In cities, in the secular world, we need music that touches our souls. When we are in a bad mood, this kind of music will make us calm, relaxed and help us forget about our troubles,” Shidaoxin, who only goes by one name, told Reuters.
With his trendy sunglasses, music player headphones in his ears, the robed Shidaoxin inevitably attracts the attention of passers-by when he walks through downtown Beijing.
While some people praise his methods, some members of China’s conservative Buddhist community have criticized him for dragging their faith into the spotlight.
Some call him a disgrace to the faith and accuse him of simply chasing fame. But Shidaoxin says he is just trying to modernize his religion through using music and other media to reach out to young people.
“I think how Buddhism evolves in the future is very important,” he said.
“Will it remain the same as in old times, with monks preaching at temples, or will it keep up with the modern world by using multimedia or the Internet to reach out to more people? I am the first person to do it.”
The monk is planning to release his second album this year, featuring easy-to-understand Buddhist songs. Proceeds from the sales of the music will be given to charity, he said.
Shidaoxin, who has been a monk for 10 years, prays and chants sutras for one hour every day at a small temple near his rented apartment in Beijing. And this daily routine has helped increase his fan base.
Buddhist Wu De said she was overwhelmed when she met Shidaoxin in person and went out and bought his album.
“Everyone in my family practices Buddhism,” she said. “I heard the monk sings very well, so I bought his album to play for them. We will listen carefully and learn from him.”