In the Stillness, Space for a Rebellious Spirit

May 4, 2009

Author: Kate Linthicum

Source: The Los Angeles Times,0,5633757.story

Except for his bald head, there isn't much monkish about Noah Levine. His body is covered with tattoos, his speech is spiked with profanities, and his style (T-shirts devoted to his favorite bands, lots of black) is a throwback to his days as a hard-core punk rocker.

So it looked a bit unusual to a newcomer when, on a recent evening, Levine, 37, sat cross-legged at a Buddhist center in East Hollywood to lead several dozen people in a guided meditation.

"Now bring your awareness to your breath," began the Buddha in the Bad Brains T-shirt, who happens to be one of the most influential Buddhist teachers in America.

Levine is the founder of the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society, which has centers in East Hollywood and Santa Monica and more than 20 affiliated groups nationwide. He and his students practice a unique incarnation of Buddhism infused with punk rock's anti-establishment ethos. They call themselves Dharma Punx.

Dharma Punx don't wear robes and they don't bow to statues of the Buddha. Anyone can form a group -- as long as he checks with Levine first -- and there isn't the emphasis on hierarchy found in many forms of Buddhism (there are no Zen masters or Tibetan lamas). The idea, Levine said, is to make Buddhist teachings accessible to punks -- and to reconnect Buddhism with what he sees as its radical roots.