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Lions Roar : January 2017
Levine appreciates that Buddhism and punk have the same spirit of rebellion. “Buddhism is about rebelling against greed, hatred, and delusion,” he says. Greed, hatred, and delusion are so common—so mainstream—that most people just mindlessly float in their poison. The path to awakening is subtle and difficult and totally contrary to our shortsighted addiction to pleasure and aversion to pain. So taking up the path is the most radical thing we can do. It is, as the Buddha put it, going against the stream. In 2004, Levine started a meditation group in New York City that became known as Dharma Punx. Josh Korda was thrilled. Over the years, he had attended a lot of Buddhist centers, but he’d never been able to connect with the people he met there. They were not “his tribe,” he says, and they made him feel as if he “had walked into a convention of therapists from the Upper West Side.” Dharma Punx was the perfect fit. In those early days, about 75 percent of the people who came to the meetings were in recovery, and most of them were young and left-wing—punks, vegans, anarchists. When Levine moved to Los Angeles in 2005, he named Korda the community’s guiding teacher, and Dharma Punx NYC has flourished under his leadership. Besides the twentysomethings, there’s a solid contingent of people in their sixties and seventies, and sitting between the punks are people wearing office-appropriate attire. The name Dharma Punx caught on and other groups have adopted it, but when Levine started a new dharma community in California, he wanted a name that could be embraced by people outside the punk world. Borrowing from the words of the Buddha, he called his new community Against the Stream. When asked to characterize his teaching style, Levine says it’s straightforward Theravada Buddhism, made accessible for twenty-first-century Americans. “I believe it’s important for teachers to translate the dharma into the idiom of the people they’re speaking to,” says Levine. “So I do my best to speak to Westerners without a lot of the dogmatic overlays that we sometimes get from Buddhism or to use too much Pali or Sanskrit. I try to translate the dharma into practical, applicable teachings and practices. “I have a tendency toward irreverence and skepticism,” Levine adds. “I encourage everyone to question the dharma—to not take it on blind faith but to develop verified faith or confi- dence based on their own direct experience.” Josh Korda remembers another speed-demon adventure with Levine. In 2015, they were teaching at Joshua Retreat Center in California. One night they went out for dinner and then—driv- ing back through the desert—Levine’s foot got heavy and the speedometer leapt up to well over ninety miles per hour. When Levine’s mobile rang, he didn’t ease off. It was his kids on FaceTime, and they were crying because their mother wouldn’t give them ice cream. Levine tried to placate them as Dave Smith, another Against the Stream teacher who was driving his own muscle car at an even more awesome velocity, passed them. Levine and Smith made like they were going to drag race. Hardcore Noah Among his many activities, Noah Levine writes Buddhist-inspired lyrics for the hardcore punk band Deathless. Here’s a sample of his lyrics from their EP The Gates to the Deathless Are Open. Cushion Revolution Retrain our Minds, So we can see Through its ignorant tendencies. We can’t think our way to freedom, It’s time to take some action! Be Right, Right Now! Right now it’s like This... Quiet The Storm! We Can’t think our way to freedom... Retrain Our Minds! It’s time to take some action! Don’t cling to your mind! SIT! Perfect Imperfections We’re all perfect within our imperfection And I’m an image of your reflection. I see anger I see fear I see rage. I see love I see compassion I see faith! IamwhatIseeinyou I see beauty I see love IamwhatIseeinyou I see Patience I see trust. Adapt and Destroy Adapt! to the only constant, change! Our relationship to the mind Destroy! the suffering caused by clinging. Please Be patient with this metamorphosis. Meditate and destroy, Centuries of handed down conditioning. Break the cycles of ignorance, May we be free, happy, at peace and ease We all suffer I don’t want my suffering to spill out onto you. May I learn to appreciate the joy happiness I experience without Clinging. ♦ LION’S ROAR | JANUARY 2017 41