July 05, 2011

Q&A with "The Reformed Buddhist" blogger Kyle Lovett

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:

Full Contact Enlightenment
Precious Metal
Fly Like a Crow
American Buddhist Perspective
Wandering Dhamma

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.

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jshanson's picture

All religions are the same, especially Buddhism. Ken Wilber

Love his take on boomeritis Buddhism and he does, of course, live near Boulder, CO where chic, cool and trendy, strike a pose and do as your told Buddhism is popular. Get a lama or guru and put him in the garage by your Lexus, all your friends have one and you need to keep up with the spiritual Joneses. :) Come on folks, Buddhism in America is still in its infancy so we're making all the mistakes and grasping after the exotic nonsense - vajrayana, crazy wisdom, sacred tantric sex, gurus - and we should laugh or as a Cambodian woman I know who has practiced for over 65 years calls it, "utterly ridiculous." We try too hard and should lighten up about the dharma and practice - its a path of joy or its no path at all.

BTW, I don't disrespect the Vajrayana, I just know there are way too many people practicing it who have no right, training, wisdom or preparation too, they just do it for the wrong reason - its exotic.

Sareen's picture

Humour is skillful means...the body relaxes, the mind opens and holding the paradox usually present in humour widens our perspective.

Kyle's picture

This is exactly how I think pooping works. Except replace mind with butt.

Dominic Gomez's picture

"replace mind with butt"
It happens.
Time to move on.

Sareen's picture

"replace mind with butt"

Did you mean "Sh@t happens"?

In both scenarios there is a moment of relief.

Okay, now I am ready to move on.

Dominic Gomez's picture

But only for one moment. C'est la vie. "It" (la vie) goes on and on, never ceasing even one nano-second. The question for Buddhists is: Are you keeping up by moving along with it?

gwallis's picture

I was thrilled to discover Kyle's blog. It is a welcome addition to contemporary Buddhist discourse in many ways. Unlike everyday Buddhist fare (of which Tricycle is, yes, sadly, a leading example), The Reformed Buddhist is, namely, well-written, funny, incisively honest, playful, irreverent, tongue-in-cheek but hammer-in-hand, and--did I mention?--funny.

To paraphrase another thrasher of the houses of the holy: it is not a blog – it is dynamite. An apt analogy so near the Fourth of July. Boom! Let us celebrate!

(Don't worry: the real will survive detonation.)

Glenn Wallis

ANDREWCOOPER24's picture

What a good idea, interviewing Kyle. I really like The Reformed Buddhist. Even when I find Kyle wrongheaded, his lack of pretentiousness and pomposity is bracing, as is his often obsene sense of humor. He can be very, very funny. Please do more interviews like this. Try Nella Lou, for example, and, yes, Arun, the Angry Asian Buddhist. Oh, and the guy at American Buddhist Perspective. And . . . well, there is no shortage of good interesting folks to talk to.

paul6316's picture

Kyle's blog is one of the few (which does not include Tricycle's, sadly) that often has me nodding vigorously in agreement and delight. I especially like the fact that he gets death threats and vicious anonymous comments from other Buddhists.

Kevin S's picture

I've encountered The Reformed Buddhist first through Twitter and have found his humor to be a welcome antidote to what can sometimes be an oppressive earnestness within many Buddhist tweeters and bloggers.

As a person who blogs/tweets within both the Buddhist and the recovery communities I find any break from the most devotional of posts/tweets to be a welcome and often necessary wake-up from what can become a blur of pixels....

moonaysl's picture

Would love to see a counterbalance to this blogger getting so much attention by seeing a Q&A with the Angry Asian Buddhist, or someone else equipped to discuss the experiences of people of color confronting racism from white Buddhists. It's quite relevant, I think. And a good way to ensure that POCs who are familiar with online debates in the Buddhist community know that Tricycle wants them to feel included and safe in this community.

samitchell's picture

I would like to second this comment. If you're going to do Q&As with every marginally popular blogger who's popularity comes from his (or her) "controversial" postings, then you should balance that with some other controversial bloggers. Particularly the ones who Kyle's regularly pisses off -- or more often, the ones who piss him off. There seems to be no shortage of those!

paul6316's picture

It should be easy enough with Kyle: he appears to only piss off one really cranky guy named "Anonymous."

Monty McKeever's picture


Kyle's picture

I would agree! Indeed I already challenged the Angry Asian Buddhist to an Ice Cream eating contest. But I am not popular, and please don't call me Margie.....(wonder if they will get the pun and movie reference)