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Lions Roar : July 2017
What is your practice tradition? Thai Forest with a secular slant. Primary teachers? Noah Levine, Vinny Ferraro, Ajahn Sucitto, and Tara Brach. Recommended dharma books? Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach, Heartwood of the Bodhi Tree by Ajahn Buddhadasa, Small Boat, Great Mountain by Ajahn Amaro, Against the Stream by Noah Levine. Your favorite virtue? Authenticity and self-disclosure, especially by dharma teachers. Your chief characteristic? Neurotic intellectualism. Your principal poison? I don’t drink, smoke, or take recreational drugs, so I suppose vegan chocolate cake. Your idea of happiness? Watching Arsenal win a soccer match or a good police procedural/ detective TV show; riding my bike to a few art galleries; getting a massage; eating vegetarian dim sum, meditating with my wife Kathy sitting nearby, reading an interesting book. Your idea of misery? A toss-up between passing a kidney stone and listening to talks by teachers who believe their version of the dharma is the “correct” or “true” path. What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Selling stuff at Macy’s during the Christmas season. People shopping for bargains and bloodthirsty zombies have a lot in common. Name your heroes. Buddhist teachers Ajahn Sucitto and Tara Brach, neuroscientist Joseph LeDoux, and musicians Steve Reich and Alice and John Coltrane. Your favorite author? Thomas Bernhard or David Rakoff. What’s for dinner? Vietnamese summer rolls. Guilty pleasure? I’ve given up the activities that make me feel guilty, but I have a number of stupid pleasures. I’ll drop into the Apple store and play with shiny new gadgets I can’t afford and don’t need. I have too many hoodies. I’ve watched virtually everything by Tim and Eric, no matter how base or ridiculous, and they make me howl. Okay, I’ll stop. MEET A TEACHER Josh Korda BUDDHISM ARRIVED IN MY LIFE in 1972. My father, an occasionally violent alcoholic, had recently started attending AA meetings, where you are encouraged to find a “higher power” to help mitigate dependence on alcohol. One afternoon, I returned home from school to find my father sitting, with his eyes closed, on an odd-looking cushion. When I asked him what in the world he was up to, he responded, with great equanimity, “Shut up. I’m meditating.” In college in the early 1980s, I delved into Buddhist stud- ies while struggling with a basic meditation practice—the old close-your-eyes-and-set-a-timer-for-ten-minutes bit. Eventu- ally I wandered into Buddhist centers. Alas, while I loved the dharma, I didn’t hit it off with the folks I’d meet. Everyone looked like a therapist, while I dressed like a member of The Clash. I couldn’t feel any less at home. I stumbled across my peeps, as it were, in the nineties at AA meetings on the Lower East Side. To stay sober I, like my old man, used meditation instead of prayer. I became fasci- nated with the teachings of Thai forest monks. I’d hunt down obscure recordings on white cassettes, which I’d slowly and methodically transcribe. Shortly after 9/11, I met Noah Levine of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. I helped him start the Dharma Punx sangha in Manhattan, and with his encouragement I started teaching at Dharma Punx New York in 2005, where I’ve been the guiding teacher ever since. ♦ LION’S ROAR | JULY 2017 33 CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE