“Shallow” by Lady Gaga

By Rev. Marvin Harada

Recently I gave a Dharma talk at the Sacramento Betsuin and also at OCBC that was based on the recent popular song, “Shallow,” composed by Lady Gaga.  It received an Oscar for best song at the Academy of Awards this year.  The song featured a duet with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, and was in their movie, “A Star is Born.”

            Many of you heard Ellie Mizushima sing at our Hanamatsuri service this year.  Ellie recently sang this song, “Shallow,” with a high school friend in a talent show.  I saw the Youtube video of it and asked them to sing for the service at Sacramento.  It was really amazing.

            I came to realize that the lyrics to this song are quite Buddhistic, and I would like to share it with you in my article for this month. 



By Lady Gaga


Tell me somethin’ girl

Are you happy in this modern world?

Or do you need more?

Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?


            We are all searching for something but we don’t know what we are searching for.  We think we know what we are searching for, happiness, material wealth, the love of our life.  But even if find those things, we aren’t fulfilled.  This was the case with Shakyamuni Buddha.  He had every material thing and social status that anyone could ever ask for.  But yet, his life was not fulfilled.  He was searching for something. 

I’m falling

In all the good times I find myself

Longin’ for change

And in the bad times I fear myself


            Sometimes in life we fall into a funk, a depression.  Even when things are going good in life, we might feel depressed for various reasons.  Sometimes it can be caused by loss…the loss of a loved one or the loss of a job.  With that depression brings fear.  Fear of failure.  Fear of greater loss.  Fear that we might never get out of our funk or depression. 

Tell me somethin’ boy

Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?

Or do you need more?

Ain’t it hard keeping it so hardcore?


            We might also feel a sense of emptiness, a void, as if there is something missing in our life.  We don’t even know what it is we are missing.  We just feel like there is a hole in our heart or a void in our life.  We try to maintain an appearance that “everything is okay.”  We try to keep a stiff upper lip, to appear “hardcore”, “tough,” but others can see through it.  They can see that we are not ourselves.

(repeat of previous verse)

I’m falling

In all the good times I find myself

Longing for change

And in the bad times I fear myself


            And in this final verse I see the dramatic conclusion to this song. 

I’m off the deep end, watch as I dive in

I’ll never meet the ground

Crash through the surface, where they can’t hurt us

We’re far from the shallow now


            To go into the deep end means to go into the depths of the Dharma.  We start out in the beginning in the shallow water.  Our understanding is not yet mature or deep, so life presents many challenges to us.  We have fear, we have depression, we have emptiness.  But if we continue to listen to the Dharma, if we continue to seek and learn, without fail we will enter the depths of the ocean, the depths of the teaching.  It is there that we find a teaching that fulfills the emptiness in our life.  We find a teaching that alleviates all of our fears, whether it be the fear of failure, the fear of loss, or the fear of death, they are all transcended. 

            When we “dive in” to the depths of the Dharma, we “never meet the ground,” meaning we have gone beyond a shallow understanding.  We have touched the unfathomable depths of the Dharma.  It is there that “nothing can hurt us.”  Nothing.  Nothing in life is insurmountable.  We live a dynamic life.  We live a fulfilled life.  We live a meaningful life.  We live a fearless life. 


In the shallow, shallow

In the shallow, shallow

In the shallow, shallow

We’re far from the shallow now..


            This is the kind of life that Shin Buddhism offers us.  This is the life of Namuamidabutsu. 



                                                            Rev. Marvin Harada