punk rock buddhist teacher noah levine comes to montreal


Well, there’s been an unintentional theme of evolution vs tradition this week and astute spiritual practitioners know that yoga isn’t the only practice that experiences this. Buddhism, for example, comes up against the tension between adhering the traditional expression of the practice while being relevant to the lives of modern practitioners (it has a little advantage, though, because it’s not as easy to commercially exploit since it doesn’t guarantee a sexy hot physique).

One teacher who walks the line with authenticity and integrity is Noah Levine, whose Dharma Punx movement is drawing in a new generation of Buddhists by approaching the ancient teachings with a punk rock attitude. And those of us in Montréal are lucky enough to have the opportunity to study with him in a couple of weeks, thanks to the hard work of the Dharma Punx Montréal sangha.

Noah Levine will be in Montréal on September 25 and 26, offering an evening discussion (Friday night, 7 – 9pm) and a day-long workshop (Saturday, 10am – 5pm). And as a special bonus pre-event event, there’ll be a screening of Meditate and Destroy, a recently released documentary about Noah Levine’s life and work, on Sunday, September 20, 5 – 7pm at Casa Del Popolo.

Here’s a little of what Noah has to say about the parallels between Buddhist meditation and punk rock:

As I began to meditate and it really worked, I thought, “Actually, most people aren’t doing this. This isn’t mainstream! This isn’t selling out. This is the punkest thing I’ve ever done.” To learn to tell the truth after living a life of lies, to learn how to be kind to myself and to other people, that was the most rebellious and difficult action I have ever taken. This isn’t buying in. This is waking up, waking up from this delusion that I have been in. And it is rebellious to do it.

I found a teaching where the Buddha said that practice is “against the stream,” or an act of rebellion. Most people are suffering and don’t even know it. They are so attached to pleasure and seeking pleasure all of the time that they will never wake up. So, I understood that teaching, because my whole life has been against the stream! There was a resonation, a deep knowing and reminder of something that I already knew. So I began integrating the punk ethic – that anti-establishment acknowledgement of suffering in the world – with the Buddhist philosophy that awakening, happiness and freedom are possible by acknowledging suffering and its causes, and cultivating awareness, morality and wisdom. [via an interview in ascent magazine, 2004]

  1. love him! he could totally be my son!

  2. Noah Levine is cool…I keep seeing his words in different places, and get more and more impressed each time…

    Buddhism doesn’t work for the sexy hot physique, but it certainly has terminology that can be exploited–i.e. “dude, I did a couple bong hits of kind, threw back a sixer of Corona, and popped three vicodin and got totally zen…”

    • Yes, too true Dr Jay! Buddhist imagery and language has also been exploited in advertising ~ I can’t even count how many ads I’ve seen featuring cross-legged “zenned out” meditators selling cars, breakfast cereal, appliances, clothes, computers… The promises of Buddhist teachings are being watered down and simplified all over the place.

      NL is cool, and if he comes to your neighbourhood definitely check him out.

  3. Buddha’s likeness is used to advertise everything and I absolutely refuse to wear anything with Buddha on it.

    NL’s father Stephen Levine wrote one of my favorite dharma books, A Gradual Awakening. check it out.

  4. Thanks, girlwarrior.

    I think it’s great that you’re bringing your very deep background from Ascent to us lucky blog readers here.

    This one is very timely, because I just started reading The Dhammapada this very day! I’m reading it because my favorite tranlator/commentator, Eknath Easwaran, presents it as one of the big three “Classics of Indian Spirituality”, along with the Upanishads and the Bhgavad Gita.

    I tried to draw tenuous connections, mostly in jest, between my flamenco guitar playing and Yoga. (e.g. Gypsies reportedly came from India originally, and you can see mudras in the hand motions of flamenco dancing.)

    The rebellious anti-establishment gypsy angle never occurred to me. Hmmm…

    Bob Weisenberg

  5. Forgot to mention that I have occasionally used the term “punk flamenco” to describe my sometimes a little wild style of guitar playing!

    And I once wrote a piece called “Flamenco Guitar as Yoga Philosophy”:


    Thanks again for your blog.

    Bob W.

  6. I’m an ambivalent user of Twitter and one of the things that drives me especially crazy about this particular social media is that every time I publish a yoga-themed Tweet, I am instantly contacted by yogi tweeters with big OM symbols as their page background image and something to sell.

    It’s refreshing to read about NL – some may think he’s as gimmicky as the rest but he feels authentic to me.

    • I know what you mean, ad. I’ve just decided that the benefits of Twitter outweigh the irritations. I’ve just learned to ignore or block these people. If you do routinely block them, they do diminish over time.

      • There are a few good Tweeters, but like you Bob, I’m learning to be selective 🙂