Against the Stream

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Against the Stream

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:08 pm

I've been reading about this organization, found a link somewhere, and it seems that Noah Levine is the founder.

From what I've read about him, he is.....let's say original. :quoteunquote:
I see his teacher is Jack Kornfield and he teaches Vispana meditation.
I'm just curious to any opinions about him from the great members here. I have had many of the same experiences in life as he has had, and wondered if possibly getting one of his books to read would be worth while.

I've read his website, and he seems to be trying to form more of an American style of Buddhism. I guess in each area of the world where Buddhism has roots, there are slight differences in beliefs for lack of a better term.

Just tossing this out there for discussion.


With Metta, Dave
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby odysseus » Tue Jul 31, 2012 9:40 am

Dave The Seeker wrote:I've read his website, and he seems to be trying to form more of an American style of Buddhism. I guess in each area of the world where Buddhism has roots, there are slight differences in beliefs for lack of a better term.


Hello, it´s allowed to form "American Buddhism", but that will take a looong time I think. I´m looking forward to any acceptable methods that are developing he-he. I´m not sure there are any differences in beliefs from country to country, it just superficially looks like that because of the intermingling with local culture. It´s called "Tibetan Buddhism", "Indian Buddhism" and so on, but the essence is the same everywhere. I have a book about "Nepalese Buddhism" and it´s the same there too, except the expression of Dharma in art for example. Maybe they have exchanged methods that come from various places, but the difference is not in "beliefs".

:popcorn:
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-- Mr. Obama
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby chickenman » Thu Oct 11, 2012 6:46 pm

a dear friend of mine, who got me interested in buddhism, likes noah levine's books alot. "dharma punks" and all that stuff. i read "against the stream" and wasn't particularly impressed by it. he sure likes to use the phrase "spiritual revolutionary" alot. i think the word "revolutionary" or "revolution" appears on every page of the book at least once. his "brand" of buddhism is pretty much the standard zen stuff, except with tattoos and punk-rock attitude. an o.k. read, but i really don't think he's much of a writer.
"don't follow leaders" - b.dylan
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:36 pm

Quick note - I think Levine's other teacher was his father, Stephen Levine a noted Buddhist author.

Read Dharma Punks at least 3 years ago; possibly much earlier.
I don't remember a lot of specifics from the book.
I do remember liking the book somewhat, but not really liking the Levine's approach to things very much.
I had a hard time relating to tales of a junkie - both while still actively using and while in recovery.
I remember the 12 step stuff coming on pretty thick.
Don't remember a whole lot about his approach to Buddhism, but don't remember it impressing me much either.

Recently, I tried watching a lecture given by Levine and found myself turning it off before the half-way mark - as a speaker he just doesn't do much for me.
I tried to listen to an Against the Stream podcast in the last week or so as well.
The topic of the podcast was Pure Land Buddhism and I think I didn't make it through the whole thing before turning it off.
While I did learn that the speaker was correct that Pure Land practice dates back quite a bit earlier than I originally thought, I was not very impressed with the rest of the presentation. Much of the speaker's presentation directly conflicted with the Pure Land Buddhism presented in Thich Thien Tam's books on the topic and represented what seems to be a very surface-level view of the practice. Despite the speaker's claims of an attempt at neutrality towards Pure Land, it came off pretty condescending. I freely admit that I wasn't sold on the Pure Land approach from the get-go, but I have never claimed to be knowledgeable on the topic.

I'm a big fan of punk rock. I feel somewhat compelled to embrace the recent trend of punk-Buddhism ala Levine's "Dharma Punks" & Brad Warner's "Hardcore Zen". Unfortunately, I don't identify much with either one of them. Paul Hedderman from "Zen Bitchslap" is a little easier to listen to, but again very rooted in the 12 step life and I'm not sure I'm big on Zen's presentation at large. Maybe if I finally get around to reading DT Suzuki, Zen will do more for me.

I'm not sure my post helps you at all or is the type of feedback you were looking for.
Can't predict if you'd dig any of the books or not; but if you are looking for material in the general vein of Western Buddhism from punkers, there's quite a bit out there.
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby Dave The Seeker » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:56 am

Thanks a lot for the replies.
I really appreciate the thoughts that have been presented here.
I am a recovering alcoholic and the 12 step stuff doesn't really go well with me. I found Buddhism to be my way out of the horrible situation of decades of drinking heavily. Trying to 'drown my sorrows' as the saying goes.

I haven't got to listen to any podcasts or talks by Noah, was going to, but I think I'll set that idea to rest from what I've read.

Once again thank you all for your helpful replies and insight :namaste:
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby chickenman » Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:05 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I am a recovering alcoholic...... I found Buddhism to be my way out of the horrible situation of decades of drinking heavily.

same here. 3 1/2 years sober. the same friend who turned me on to buddhism was also a hard-core A.A. guy who tried to get me to go to "meetings" but i couldn't get behind that whole 12-step stuff. cold turkey and meditation did it for me. and lots of reading.
keep up the good work!
"don't follow leaders" - b.dylan
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:11 pm

Dave The Seeker wrote:I haven't got to listen to any podcasts or talks by Noah, was going to, but I think I'll set that idea to rest from what I've read.


Actually, I'd recommend trying to watch at least 1 youtube clip and trying to listen to at least 1 podcast so you can judge for yourself.
What's the harm anyway? They're free. :)
My complaint about the Pure Land podcast episode was just that it seemed like someone talking outside of their wheel house.

When it comes to speakers, everything's subjective.
One of my best friends recommended Brad Warner as a guy that he really likes, the last part of Brad Warner's audiobook left a bad taste in my mouth.
It didn't hit me in the same way it hit him and I'm sure my favorite speakers don't hit him like they do me.
Any of these guys might hit you differently than me.

Alcoholism runs in my family and I've had my issues with it, I also have anger issues.
My complaint is not with using a proactive approach like Buddhism to treat alcoholism (or in my case, anger).
I just find that some people in the 12 steps program will only speak of life in terms of their addiction & the 12 steps program, they will filter all experiences through their addiction & the 12 steps methodology, and they will surround themselves only with people who are following the 12 step program.
It comes off as still obsessing over alcohol/drugs/sex/food (ie. whatever they're trying to quit), without actually pulling the trigger.
The Buddhist approach (to me) would advocate: still your mind, notice the craving arising, acknowledge the craving, let the craving go, still the mind (rinse, repeat).
Centering all your body, speech, and mind around denying a specific, constant craving almost seems to be an attempt to deny the impermanent nature of a conditioned arising, giving it more power over you - when the whole point of Buddhism (from my limited experience) seems to be escaping that mentality.

EDIT: Congrats to both you guys on cleaning up! :twothumbsup:
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby Dave The Seeker » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:37 pm

Chickenman, thank you and keep it up too. I know there are times it can be a challenge.

PorkChop, thank you as well. I will give a listen to a talk or two of Noahs.
I appreciate all the input my friends.
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby PorkChop » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:29 pm

Dave
Just found my copy of "Dharma Punx" and surprisingly there was still a bookmark in it.
I guess this means either I didn't finish it or I re-started the book, not sure which looking through the chapters there are definitely passages I remember well after the bookmark.
In either case, you might want to ignore my comments on the book.
I will say that by the end it's a lot more about Buddhism and a lot less about addiction & 12 steps than I originally thought - but there are quite a few chapters on his self destruction.
I didn't mean to mislead, I'm not sure where my impression came from.
I'd sit down and read it cover to cover to give a full, honest review, but on Wednesday I think I'm going to give it to a punker friend that's started meditating and chanting (under the guidance of our muay thai coach).
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby Dave The Seeker » Sat Oct 13, 2012 9:01 pm

Thanks PorkChop, I appreciate it.
I may pick up the book after I get thru the few I have yet to read.
I started this thread to see what the consensus was of Noah and his group. As it seemed interesting to hear about an 'Americanized' school of Buddhism.

I really appreciate all the replies in this thread. :namaste:
Everyday problems teach us to have a realistic attitude.
They teach us that life is what life is; flawed.
Yet with tremendous potential for joy and fulfillment.
~Lama Surya Das~

If your path teaches you to act and exert yourself correctly and leads to spiritual realizations such as love, compassion and wisdom then obviously it's worthwhile.
~Lama Thubten Yeshe~

One whose mind is freed does not argue with anyone, he does not dispute with anyone. He makes use of the conventional terms of the world without clinging to them
~The Buddha~
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby lobster » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:53 am

Always connect with what resonates. Then attune to the good in it. People who relinquish are true renunciates and necessity will keep up our intense practice.
I await a Buddha eating Popcorn with great hope in my heart :popcorn:

Normal service is now resumed :smile:
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Re: Against the Stream

Postby Finnjames » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:07 pm

I recently re-read *Dharma Punx* before lending it to a friend and also have a copy of *Against the Stream*, which I read just after it came out, on my shelf. The latter falls into the 'introduction to Buddhist ideas' category with young people of the punk and (American) counterculture movements as the target audience. *Dharma Punx* is more autobiographical. Since Levine's own life forced him to deal with the break-up of his parents' marriage, drug addiction, crime, attempted suicide and the early death of friends, the autobiographical book might be of special interest to those who face similar challenges.

Levine is, I think, sincere in feeling that meditation turned his life around or perhaps even saved it--and this led to his training as a meditation teacher (with a particular interest to taking meditation to juveniles in youth prisons and similar facilities). In neither book did I have the impression that he was trying to champion the 12-step approach, though he does report having gone through the process himself.

I was a bit surprised to see some of the previous posters linking Levine to Zen. Although he has studied with teachers from many traditions, I believe his own grounding is closer to vipassana.

The YouTube video of a talk Noah Levine delivered to a University of Southern California Religious Life audience in 2009 entitled "Noah Levine on Buddhism" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjhce63L0N4 ) is a good introduction for those who want a taste of Levine's style. (The first person who speaks in the video is the presenter, not Levine).
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