|Tattooed Noah Levine|
“Now bring your awareness to your breath,” began the Buddha in the Bad Brains T-shirt, who happens to be one of the most influential Buddhist teachers in America.
|The American Buddhist punk reforming drug rehab - Noah Levine (The Daily Beast)|
|Punk ethos of Rage Against the Machine|
“I don’t feel like this is bringing a punk rock corruption into Buddhism,” Levine said. “I think that that anti-establishment ethic is a part of [the] Buddha’s teachings.”
Both punk rock and Buddhism, according to Levine, began as a rebellion against the status quo.
“The first noble truth of Buddhism is that there is suffering [dukkha, disappointment, lack of fulfillment, unsatisfactoriness] in life, that there is an unsatisfactory quality to living in a world where everything is constantly changing, and to living in a world where there is so much greed and hatred and delusion,” he said.
“Punk rock’s foundation is dissatisfaction, acknowledging greed, hatred, and delusion and rebelling against sexism, racism, political corruption, and war.”
By bringing punk and Buddhism together, Levine has reached a mostly untapped demographic.
|Meditation teacher Gary Sanders|
The movement gets its name from Levine’s 2003 book Dharma Punx, which chronicles his involvement in the Santa Cruz punk rock scene, his recovery from addiction to crack, heroin, and alcohol, and his turn to [his culturally Jewish father's] Buddhism.
Levine, whose father is noted Buddhist writer Stephen Levine, first tried meditating in 1988 while locked up at a juvenile hall in Santa Cruz (for trying to steal a car radio to score some drugs). At the time, he was a homeless 17-year-old dropout, an angry kid who had spent his whole life rebelling.
At a young age he had found an outlet for his anger in the punk scene -- in the fury of the music and the anarchy of the mosh pit -- but when he slid into addiction, he traded his mohawk, Doc Martens, and leather jacket for a crack pipe.
Sitting in a padded detox cell, Levine at first felt suicidal. When he started meditating, he found a kind of peace. “My early life’s external rebellion had only led to more suffering,” he wrote.
Continuing to meditate, he got sober with the help of a 12-step program. He attended his first meditation retreat in 1991 -- with Jack Kornfield, an influential America Theravada Buddhist teacher who trained as a monk in Thailand and Burma [with friends who were to become very influential American Buddhist teachers in their own right, e.g., Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg].
Levine liked Kornfield’s message -- and he went on to study with him -- but he said he felt a little out of place.
“I was the only 20-year-old there and certainly the only punk rocker,” he writes. “Looking around, I didn’t see anyone even close to my age. This was my father’s scene, not mine.”
(BlankTV) Early L.A. hardcore punk from Venice Beach, Suicidal Tendencies "Institutionalized"
After 10 years of studying Buddhism, Levine was certified to teach by Kornfield. But he wanted to create a new scene -- for people like himself, the kind who liked to rock out to bands like Suicidal Tendencies and slam-dance in mosh pits.
So he began leading meditation groups in Santa Cruz and San Francisco and in 2003 launched a Dharma Punx group on New York City’s Lower East Side. He moved to Los Angeles three and a half years ago and founded Against the Stream last year.
Levine lives in Highland Park with his wife, Amy, and his infant daughter, Hazel. He earns a living as a psychologist [drug recovery counselor] but travels frequently to lead meditation workshops and retreats around the world.
He founded and sits on the board of the Mind Body Awareness Project, an Oakland-based nonprofit that teaches meditation to at-risk youths in juvenile halls, clinics, high schools, and group homes.
His twice-weekly meditation sessions at Against the Stream [which are very LGBTQ-inclusive] are among the best-attended in Los Angeles, and they attract a diverse crowd not limited to punk rockers. More