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Lions Roar : January 2017
JOSH KORDA REMEMBERS driving to a rap gig in Brooklyn with his friend and teacher Noah Levine. Levine had an old muscle car without seat belts, and he was going thirty or forty miles an hour over the speed limit and weaving through traffic. As they were going over the Manhattan Bridge, Korda nervously imagined them careening over the edge and into the water. Levine looked at him and smiled. “Right about now,” he said, “I bet you wished you believed in rebirth.” From the first time Korda heard Levine teach, he knew that Levine wasn’t like any other Buddhist teacher he’d ever encountered. In Korda’s previous experience, Buddhist teachers all had an “element of emotion blunting,” he says. “It was like they con- fused equanimity with emotionlessness and they were without any real big personality. Noah, on the other hand, brought twelve-step full disclosure into his teaching. If he was angry, he didn’t just suddenly pretend that he was serene. He brought whatever mood he was in into the presentation and fully disclosed his own foibles. “A lot of Buddhist teachers say, ‘You should do this, you should do that,’ and they present them- selves as if they were on the other side of some kind of spiritual ravine. Noah disclosed his past issues with drugs and alcohol and of being in trouble with the law. His full disclosure hooked me because I had never heard it before.” With his shaved head and nearly complete body- suit of spiritual tattoos, Levine is true to his punk rock roots—even as he goes beyond them. “Buddhism and punk are both founded on dis- satisfaction,” he explains. “The Buddha’s first noble truth acknowledges the suffering in life. Punk rock comes from that same place of seeing the suffering in the world and reacting to it. But punk rock gets stuck in the first noble truth. It rarely gets around to the second noble truth—seeing the causes of suffering—or to the third and fourth noble truths of seeing that there’s actually a solution, a path. So the beginning place of Buddhism and punk rock is, I believe, the same. But Buddhism is a very practi- cal path that offers a solution to suffering, and punk often doesn’t have much of one.” Above: Levine trained with renowned Insight Meditation teacher Jack Kornfield (right) at Spirit Rock Meditation Center. Right: With Stephen and Ondrea Levine, his father and stepmother. Stephen Levine was a well-known spiritual teacher and the bestselling author of A Year to Live. He passed away in January, 2016. LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 39