“I don’t have no fear of death, My only fear is coming back reincarnated” – 2Pac
“Even death is not to be feared by one who has lived wisely” – Buddha
2Pac is Buddha & Jesus, twisted into one body. This may sound heretical to some, or like a “90’s rap fan gone mad” but from my perspective, this makes all the sense in the world when we examine just how impactful 2Pac was and is.
Tupac Amaru Shakur's work is as insightful as it is morbid. In fact, his morbidity was often mistaken for gangster rap and the cry of a nihilistic urban juvenile that had internalized their oppression. But he had no choice but to make death a core portion of his creative motifs. His fictive and consanguine kin were routinely targets of domestic terrorism carried out by local police departments. 2Pac (Tupac) Shakur’s elders were either Black Panther Party members, and were subjects of constant police harassment (i.e. Mutulu Shakur, his stepdad); or they were forced to leave the country with a looming federal felony conviction, decimating their chances of peaceful life on American soil (i.e. Assata Shakur).
Born of a single mother who was on the run from an oppressive government regime, looking to quell civil unrest by killing the male children that could grow to become a Messiah (see cointelpro and National Security Memorandum 46), making friends with derelicts and inspiring the downtrodden all culminating to subsequent attempts on his life and an untimely yet historically impactful demise. Jesus, like Pac, was no stranger to enacting violence. His homeboys were wild and he was also known to flip a table when he felt his crew was being disrespected.
But along with his similarities to Yeshua Bin Yosef, ‘Pac was a bodhisattva. And although those who were inspired by his life and death may have never heard the term “bodhisattva”, Pac was the epitome of a bodhisattva, and has been able to make such an impact because of his commitment to the attainment of Buddahood.
There are 2 basic types of “holy men & women” – type 1 is the person who leads a monastic life and is “up in the mountains” away from society and its inherent constraints. Type 2 are those persons in the village, or amongst the people. Siddartha Gautama, or the most famous of the many Buddha, was not the first to reach enlightenment or “nirvana”. What made him special was that he taught that one does not have to be in the mountains to be holy and attain Buddhahood. Rather one can be amongst the people and still reach nirvana. Before Siddartha, there was really only one type of holy person.
2Pac represented the plight of the “Young Black Male” in America that had only known the American nightmare and had dissociated themselves from the American Dream. He represented those who were never supposed to experience the bliss of simply being, because they had been born into a caste where their birthright was anguish and suffering. But it is the enslaved and disenfranchised that are the most brave, having to plod ahead regardless of the obstacles in their path. And for the forgotten souls that 'Pac represented, everyday life is filled with its own unique struggles and analogous victories.
Arthur Brooks, NY Times writer recently penned a story about living a happier life through giving more thought to your impending demise. He says that Buddhist monks are forced to think about “am I making the right use of my scarce and precious time.” 2Pac died at 25, but had already starred in 7 movies and released 5 studio albums, with thousands of more songs in the vault and plans to star in several other films. But even in all his work, 2Pac is thought to be a master of lyricism and is arguably one of the greatest rappers of all time, particularly while he was alive, which is unusual for artists to receive such accolades while they’re still living. For a moment lets disdain his unmatched work ethic and focus on his compassion towards humanity and those whom America had forgotten.
Is it possible that 2Pac was so influential because he was ever-aware of his demise? Should we all be thinking about when we will die in order to motivate us to reach our full potential? All of the Messiah’s throughout history were conscious that there was existence beyond this physical plane and that our time here is fleeting. For me, one thing I noticed early growing up in the hood is that nothing was certain, except death. And the only thing all sentient beings have in common is their inevitable demise.
As a black man 2Pac’s story is important because I too am under the constant threat of death with police brutalities and incidents of Black men being killed by police being worse than 3rd world countries. And like 3rd world countries, death is always a part of our daily lives. Whether it’s being gunned down on our own block by an “opp” in the form of an opposing urban militia or by police violence. This is the looming and somewhat impending doom that can come about.
And as much enlightenment as I’d like to pursue, I have to be among these people at the bottom of the mountain. So I assertively posit that Pac was indeed a holy man. However, he was among the people, a product of the people and their imagination canonizing him in the pantheon of Black demigods. Its inspirational because I know that I can have the same impact and spiritual austerity and integrity all while being a real "N.I.G.G.A.” – Never Ignorant Getting Goals Accomplished.