David Bowie’s Tryst With Religion — Was He Really A Buddhist?

David Bowie has asked for his ashes to be scattered in Bali, the 20-page will filed in 2004 has stated, reports Vanity Fair. What does that say about the religious and spiritual beliefs of the great musician? Was he a Buddhist as many reports have claimed?

Bowie’s will stated that he wanted his body taken to Bali and cremated there “in accordance with the Buddhist rituals of Bali.” He also added in the will that if it was not possible, he wanted his ashes scattered in Indonesia. His death certificate states his body was cremated in New Jersey on January 12, the New York Times reported.

Bowie was certainly fascinated with Buddhism, which led him to build an Indonesian-style house on Mustique in the Caribbean.

“I wanted something as unlike the Caribbean as possible, because it’s a fantasy island, Mustique,” he told Architectural Digest in 1992.

However, he sold the house several years ago.

Bowie’s tryst with Buddhism goes back to 1967 when Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche was at Samye Ling Monastry in Scotland. He was already attracting followers from across the Atlantic and elsewhere. One of the followers was David Bowie, says Lions Roar.

“I was within a month of having my head shaved, taking my vows, and becoming a monk,” Bowie said when questioned about that period of his life.

This would lead him to study the religion that he hoped would bring him peace and answer the unsettling questions of god and life.

David Bowie Buddhist
Adoring fans reaching out to touch the hand of the English pop star, David Bowie, during the concert at the Hammersmith Odeon where Bowie announced that he was retiring his alter-ego 'Ziggy Stardust' on July 3 1973. [Photo by Steve Wood/Express/Getty Images]

After studying Buddhism for a few months in Tibet House in London, Bowie was told by a Lama, “You don’t want to be Buddhist…. You should follow music,” Newsday mentioned.

Before Lama Chime Yong Dong Rinpoche told Bowie to follow music instead of Buddhism, there is a story that takes us back to a teenage Bowie, then David Robert Jones. When he was 13, he developed an interest in Buddhism after reading The Rampa Story by T Lobsang Rampa. For the next four years, Bowie visited Tibet House in London up to four times every week.

One story states, “One day, I walked into the office and it was empty. I went down the stairs and saw a man in saffron robes. He said, in very broken English, ‘You are looking for me.’ I realized years later that it was a question, but as a 16-year-old, I took it as a statement: ‘You are looking for me.'”

David Bowie Buddhist
British rock singer and actor David Bowie (R) has a drink backstage with Paul Simonon, the bassist from British punk rock band The Clash, following the group's concert at Shea Stadium, Queens, New York City, circa 1982. [Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]

The man in the saffron robes, Chime Yong Dong Rinpoche, became David Bowie’s guru for several months.

By 1975, Bowie admitted, “I felt totally, absolutely alone. And I probably was alone because I pretty much had abandoned God,” says Exploring David Bowie.

Fast forward to 1992, when Bowie married Iman in a church in Florence. During the same year, he knelt on stage during “The Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert” and recited the “Lord’s Prayer.” This was televised and reached an audience of up to a billion people.

In 1993, Bowie said he had an “unquestionable” belief in god.

“Well, I’m almost an atheist. Give me a couple of months… I’ve nearly got it right,'” he said in the book Artists Talk about Life and Work.

“Certain experiences, like spiritual messages, float through your life,” Bowie said. “Probably in the last year I have become more aware of that, not from a spiritual standpoint, really, but from the teachings. I have always followed some of the tenets of Buddhism, especially the one about change. What came from my Buddhist bumblings is that change is our river. I keep coming back to that, and it means an awful lot to me.”

While it may not be clear whether he was a Buddhist, as he said, he certainly followed certain tenets of the religion. But what’s most important is that David Bowie found his peace in whatever religion he chose to follow.

[Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images]