Kurt Cobain's ashes, Former Site of Namgyal Monastery, 412 N. Aurora St

Ithaca LGBTQ History Walking Tour

Kurt Cobain's ashes, Former Site of Namgyal Monastery, 412 N. Aurora St

Ithaca, New York 14850, United States

Created By: Center for LGBT Education, Outreach & Services, Ithaca College


Musician Kurt Cobain of the grunge alternative rock band Nirvana died by suicide in 1994. Cobain's well known songs include Smells Like Teen Spirit and Lithium, which resonated with millions of listeners. In one of Nirvana’s most beloved tracks All Apologies, Cobain tells us "Everyone is gay." He often told people to not buy his music if they were homophobic, and actively worked to dispel homophobia and to support LGBT rights. In a 1993 interview with The Advocate, Cobain said he was "gay in spirit" and "probably could be bisexual."

Amy Dickinson wrote for Esquire after Cobain's death, "Cobain was first brought to Ithaca in the summer by his widow, Courtney Love, and packed with her wedding dress in a small knapsack shaped like a teddy bear." Courtney Love conferred with monks from Namgyal Ithaca several times, culminating in a trip to Ithaca along with some of Cobain's cremains.

Love prayed and chanted with the monks as part of a ritual consecration of the ashes. Dickinson continues, "The teddy bear was opened, and the monks emptied the ashes and the wedding dress onto a table...As they shook out the dress, some of the ashes drifted up into the air. "We inhaled a little bit of Kurt that day," says someone who was there. The ashes were brushed into a container and put onto the altar at the monastery."

Some of Cobain's ashes were left with the monks here to complete the consecration process. Then they were formed into tsatsas, Buddhist images made of clay. A Tibetan Buddhist artisan crafted a small nirvana stupa shrine to house them.

Ithaca has served as the Dalai Lama’s American base for many years. Formally known as the North American Seat of the Personal Monastery of the Dalai Lama, Namgyal Ithaca was founded in 1992 as a branch of the main Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India.

"Wearing a dress shows I can be as feminine as I want," Cobain told the LA Times. "I'm a heterosexual... big deal. But if I was a homosexual, it wouldn't matter either." He also admitted to spray-painting cars with "God is gay."

Cobain said "See I’ve always wanted male friends that I could be real intimate with and talk about important things with and be as affectionate with that person as I would be with a girl. Throughout my life, I’ve always been really close with girls and made friends with girls. So I thought I would try to be gay for a while, but I’m just more sexually attracted to women. But I’m really glad that I found a few gay friends, because it totally saved me from becoming a monk or something. I mean, I’m definitely gay in spirit, and I probably could be bisexual. But I’m married, and I’m more attracted to Courtney [Love] than I ever have been toward a person, so there’s no point in trying to sow my oats at this point. If I wouldn’t have found Courtney, I probably would have carried on with a bisexual life-style. But I just find her totally attractive in all ways."

Namgyal Ithaca’s central mission is to provide students with the chance to study authentic Tibetan Buddhism in a monastic setting. Its new, expanded location is just past Ithaca College.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Ithaca LGBTQ History Walking Tour


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