HOLLYWOOD, California - The most interesting Buddhists in Los Angeles, and there are many, are in recovery. They tend to congregate on Melrose on Tuesday nights and in Santa Monica near the beach on Thursday nights under the other great sign:
At Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, people feel free to follow founder Noah Levine's example. And Gnarlie runs with that ball, shoots, and scores. He is much more animated and entertaining than Noah, who is the once troubled student but personal family friend of Jack Kornfield (Spirit Rock).
Levine, however, was not the most famous case of drug abuse and redemption in Theravada Buddhism. That distinction might have to go to the American Buddhist monk Rahula, the gnarly author of the drug abusing travel journal through Asia, One Night's Shelter. (Read full text here).
But we have yet to hear the juiciest hard-drinking details of the life of the Irishman who became the first Western Buddhist monk, Ven. Dhammaloka (a.k.a. O'Rourke, Carroll, Colvin). He was a Dubliner who came to America, became a hobo, traveled from the East Coast to Los Angeles and San Francisco before going to on to Asia, and ending up in a Burmese Buddhist monastery rebelling against British imperialism and Christian missionaries.
David Cross (Mr. Show, Arrested Development, Modern Family) on the couch with Dr. Katz
Dr. Gabor Mate, one of the world's foremost experts on addiction and recovery, takes a Buddhist approach to the problem in his book In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. Less literal and more metaphorical in his interpretation, Dr. Mate describes this realm as beset by constant craving and the impossibility of ever filling the void.
The real problem is not drugs -- which are not in and of themselves addictive, or everyone who ever took them would become addicted. The real underlying problem is early childhood trauma that leaves us susceptible to becoming addicts.
It is part of the dysfunction of growing up in dysfunctional families, that lead us to dysfunctional relationships of all kinds. Can Buddhists approach the 12 Steps without "God" as their higher power? Dharma Punx can. And Dharma Punx centers are spread all over the country.
After a hard run of drugs and tattoos, a different Charlie Brown returns.
You, too, can meet Gnarlie Braun, so I'm not speaking out of school, on Tuesday nights in Hollywood. He's the one with tattoos. All are welcome regardless of addiction or lack of addiction. It's a place to find yourself or, as Gnarlie is fond of quoting the Buddha:
yet never find someone more deserving of your
love and compassion than yourself."
According to Dr. Mate, it's a struggle for hardcore sugar, shopping, sex, alcohol, and drug addicts to kick dysfunctional habits because their brains are impaired. He looks at the common roots of all addictive behaviors and what can be done about them.