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Dharma Punx by Noah Levine
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Dharma Punx (edition 2004)

by Noah Levine

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321None34,459 (3.72)6
Member:misericordia
Title:Dharma Punx
Authors:Noah Levine
Info:HarperOne (2004), Paperback, 272 pages
Collections:My Library
Rating:*****
Tags:punk, Buddhism, meditation, non-fiction

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Dharma Punx by Noah Levine

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
At 17, Noah Levine was a mess. A drug addict and minor felon, he was in juvenile hall again. It was then that his father suggested he meditate to escape from his shame about his past and fear about his future. Levine's book is a spiritual autobiography of how he went from an angry and rebellious punk rocker to founder of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society. It's a quintessential American story, an example of how the Dharma looks in the context of Western phenomena like punk rocking. Levine sees the same thread in Buddhism and punk culture, both of which are dissatisfied by the mainstream and seek to change. But the punk culture of his youth wants to change it with anger and violence, while the Buddha wants to change it with mindful compassion. Levine is also an example of the frequent mixture of Buddhism and 12-Step, which was hard for him to accept because of its teachings on a Higher Power. It was a great read, and it was very sad to see how many of Noah's young punk friends died of drugs or suicide. ( )
1 vote JDHomrighausen | Sep 8, 2013 |
Poorly written and seemingly contrary to Buddhist practice. I initially thought Levine was writing from the perspective of the kid he was. When it dawned on me that the narrative voice, accented with a lack of self awareness and surplus of self entitlement, stayed the same throughout, I put it down. ( )
  smlyniec | Jun 19, 2013 |
Noah Levine (son of author and spiritual teacher Stephen Levine) describes his chaotic childhood and journey toward moderation and purpose. Crime and drugs are liberally intermixed with Noah's discovery of and deep identification with punk. After much alienation, anger, and despair, he recounts gradually moving to a primarily Buddhist perspective, incorporating spiritual practice into his life, and reintegrating himself internally and in his community and intimate relationships.

As I understood it, the book's promise was to describe the integration of the punk ethos with Buddhism, but this was discussed only superficially. Why punk was meaningful to Noah and how he saw (and sees) himself as a punk in relation to society and culture is named but not well-articulated. To put it another way, it's told but not adequately shown, so it remains an assertion rather than something the reader can really engage with. Similarly, there are many points of convergence between punk and Buddhism, and Noah names some (e.g., seeing much of life as illusory), but without exploring them or identifying points of divergence as well.

Nonetheless, the book is interesting and sometimes moving. It provides a terrific contrast to something like Eat, Love, Pray's vapid spiritual tourism that so easily removes itself from the context of the people who populate the country in which one's resort-like retreat is situated.

The "dharma punx" of the title appears to refer to a group that Noah leads, but this is never made particularly explicit. I'd have liked to know more. ( )
1 vote OshoOsho | Mar 30, 2013 |
The spiritual rags-to-riches genre is an ancient and venerable one. The earliest example may well be St. Augustine’s Confessions, in which he writes of his misspent youth as a sexually active “pagan” (the Latin word meaning “redneck” or “country bumpkin”), and his conversions, first to the wrong brand of Christianity (Arianism), then, finally, to the correct brand, now known as Roman Catholicism.

Noah Levine’s Dharma Punx is a fascinating, if somewhat repetitive, account of growing up as a punk-rocking drug addict. As the son of Jack Kornfield, the noted Buddhist teacher, Levine was exposed early in life to the “dharma”, the law of Buddhist spirituality and right living. But his early years were also marred by his parents’ divorce, his mother’s multiple and sometimes abusive boyfriends, and the drug use of all these adults. Levine, filled with anger as a boy, stole pot from the adults in his home, traded the pot for harder stuff, and just generally indulged in the “underworld that fill[ed]” his “dreams”.

Levine isn’t a great writer, but he has a great story and he tells it competently and passionately. He doesn’t preach in Dharma Punx; he simply recounts the facts as he recollects them. Indeed, it’s amazing he remembers as much as he does, considering the variety and quantity of dope he’s done. From a dope-addled youth he headed downhill: he stole; he got busted several times; he spent time in jail. He nearly overdosed several times. Death is the great provocateur, he discovered. He found Narcotics Anonymous and began to bootstrap himself into sobriety. As so often happens to those of us of have fallen so far down it looks like up, Levine found religion. The amazing thing is that it was Buddhism he found. And that’s what makes Dharma Punx so compelling and unusual. Where so many recovering addicts become narrow-minded Christians, Levine found the dharma, the four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold Path.

The Buddha said that life is suffering because we are so attached to the things of this world. Chemical attachment is one of the hardest to let go of, but then, so is sobriety and the desire for spiritual attainment. Levine traveled to Asia looking for answers from the spiritual masters in the Buddhist monasteries of Thailand. But no one, he learns, can give us the answers: there are no answers, only the ongoing work of meditation and service.

Levine is now working for others who have fallen. He leads mediation groups, works in criminal facilities, and, to anyone who will or has a need to listen, tells his story of the depths of depravity and the heights of redemption. Through it all, he finds solace in his music, punk rock, and Levine’s story in some ways parallels that of punk. From anger and violence and nihilism to political and spiritual engagement, punk has matured, mellowed and come to serve the world it once so deplored. Hat’s off to Noah Levine for pulling it together and providing us with this account of the great elasticity of the human spirit.

[Originally published in Curled Up with a Good Book] ( )
1 vote funkendub | Sep 30, 2010 |
Noah Levine supposedly set out to write a book about bringing Buddhism to street punks; instead he wrote 249 pages of self-congratulatory autobiography. Like many autobiographies, this one fails to portray an accurate image of the subject. When writing about one's self, most of us tend to include our accomplishments rather than our negative impacts on life; Levine is no exception.
The first few chapters are only moderately inspiring. Levine takes us through the dysfunctional, privileged upbringing of a child born to hippies. Instead of teaching young, bratty Levine right from wrong, his parents took the approach of allowing him to run wild in an attempt to "find his own way." This led to a life of crime, heavy drug use, dropping out of high school, and violence. Instead of enlightening the reader as to what Levine and his friends were so dissatisfied with, Levine regales adventures he and his friends had breaking into the homes of their rather well off families in order to obtain money for drugs.

Levine's famous father, Stephen Levine, often comes to Noah's rescue, showing the reader how easy it is to be a criminal, broke punk, when your father has influence and money. Once the younger Levine discovers meditation while in juvenile hall, the reader is mislead into believing that he will start down a path of righteousness. While Levine clearly believes that, nothing could be further from the truth. Noah spends the rest of the book boasting of his various spiritual accomplishments, claiming that because he has apologized and made amends for all his youthful trespasses, that he is forgiven and free of that karma. He focuses entirely upon every self-gratifying situation, and avoids or gives little attention to the times when he acted like a blatant jerk. Similarly, his treatment of his former fiancé, for which Levine makes multiple excuses, is dismissed by saying that he was in love and foolish. He then makes sure that we know that despite his emotional abuse and contribution to her suicide attempt, that in the end she sought psychological help and forgave him.

His lack of detail regarding relationships with other people, are just as self-involved. While he admits to having treated his original Asian traveling companions, Vinnie and Micah, with ill regard, he addresses this in one sentence, while complaining about their actions in several paragraphs. One can only wonder how his surviving friends reacted when having read his portrayal of them. Levine expresses even less emotion and sympathy for his deceased friends than he does for the surviving ones. When his childhood friend, a former addict, is found dead years later, Levine immediately assumes he died of an overdose, though, "they hadn't found any dope or needles" (Pg. 236). Levine then spends the next five and a half pages moaning about how the lack of this friendship affects his life, and feels robbed and betrayed. He even goes so far as to say "My oldest friend in the world was dead. And with him died the only witness to see me both shoot dope and teach meditation. Now I was all alone, surrounded by people who I could tell about my past but who would never really know what it was like" (Pg.238). Levine fails to give thought to his friend's family - his new daughter, girlfriend, parents and friends - and instead focuses upon himself. Perhaps the ultimate sin in his account of his friend's death is the hypothesized charge of death by overdose, without ever mentioning the results of a toxicological report. The reader is instead left to think the worst about his friend, and to be inundated with Levine's woe-is-me account of the giving of his friend's eulogy.

Levine's self-pitying attitude and sense of entitlement are prevalent throughout, and though he fails to call his life what it is, the holes he leaves in the reader's knowledge are easily filled. When Levine and his friends decide to pack up their belongings and travel to Asia, it takes them only a few months of planning before they are on a plane. Though he and his friends were working retail jobs and he had an occasional stint as a counselor, they all mysteriously have the funds to bum around Asia not once or twice, but three times. They also manage to maintain lifestyles of week long Buddhist retreats in the mountains, traveling into San Francisco for punk shows, and renting apartments in well off areas, all while sporadically working and in Levine's case, occasionally pursuing a degree. His parent's financial support, while obvious, is never mentioned and must be the only way he would be able to live the opulent life that he lives. Levine's wish to reach the young gutter punks through his memoir may only result in alienating them due to his obvious financial status and inherited social advantage.

"Dharma Punx" reads like one giant pat on the back, a story of privilege and so-called enlightenment. While much is made of Levine's spiritual growth, he devoted only three pages, found after the epilogue, which explain his practice of meditation. Though this book is found in the "Eastern Religion" section of stores, the book gives little attention to actual religion and instead reads like a who's who in modern Eastern philosophy. When Levine describes his attendance to Ram Dass, he makes sure to let the reader know that Dass is a friend of the family and helped teach the young Levine while growing up. His treatment of famous others such as Jack Kornfield, Norman Fischer, etc., is much of the same, so it is of little wonder that such figures in Eastern teachings gave positive reviews of their friend's son's book, which can be found gracing the back sleeve in large, bold print. Nepotism is rampant in Noah Levine's life. As neither conceit nor nepotism are Buddhist or punk, one must wonder how it is that Levine feels he has the right to portray himself as an example of either community. ( )
  agentrelaxed | Mar 14, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060008954, Paperback)

Fueled by the music of revolution, anger, fear, and despair, we dyed our hair or shaved our heads ... Eating acid like it was candy and chasing speed with cheap vodka, smoking truckloads of weed, all in a vain attempt to get numb and stay numb.

This is the story of a young man and a generation of angry youths who rebelled against their parents and the unfulfilled promise of the sixties. As with many self-destructive kids, Noah Levine's search for meaning led him first to punk rock, drugs, drinking, and dissatisfaction. But the search didn't end there. Having clearly seen the uselessness of drugs and violence, Noah looked for positive ways to channel his rebellion against what he saw as the lies of society. Fueled by his anger at so much injustice and suffering, Levine now uses that energy and the practice of Buddhism to awaken his natural wisdom and compassion.

While Levine comes to embrace the same spiritual tradition as his father, bestselling author Stephen Levine, he finds his most authentic expression in connecting the seemingly opposed worlds of punk and Buddhism. As Noah Levine delved deeper into Buddhism, he chose not to reject the punk scene, instead integrating the two worlds as a catalyst for transformation. Ultimately, this is an inspiring story about maturing, and how a hostile and lost generation is finally finding its footing. This provocative report takes us deep inside the punk scene and moves from anger, rebellion, and self-destruction, to health, service to others, and genuine spiritual growth.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:48:27 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

This is the story of a young man and a generation of angry youths who rebelled against their parents and the unfulfilled promise of the sixties. As with many self-destructive kids, Levine's search for meaning led him first to punk rock, drugs, drinking, and dissatisfaction. But the search didn't end there. Having clearly seen the uselessness of drugs and violence, he looked for positive ways to channel his rebellion against what he saw as the lies of society. Fueled by his anger at so much injustice and suffering, Levine now uses that energy and the practice of Buddhism to awaken his natural wisdom and compassion. He finds his most authentic expression in connecting the seemingly opposed worlds of punk and Buddhism. Ultimately, this is a story about maturing, and how a hostile and lost generation is finally finding its footing.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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