Monday, May 30, 2011

Meditate & Destroy: Dharma Punx

I'm a late-comer to the Dharma Punx phenomenon: the socio-cultural-spiritual movement sparked by Noah Levine's memoir by that name. Published in 2003, Dharma Punx recounts his personal transformation from a life of self-destruction - culminating in a suicide attempt and incarceration in a padded cell - to his current incarnation as a spiritual teacher and author.

Although the punk ethic and sub-culture provided a framework for Levine's early disenchantment with the dominant culture in the U.S., the nihilist ideology represented by his favourite punk bands promised no future. It was the simple meditation instructions offered by Levine's father, the prominent Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine, that helped to bring him back from the brink.

The book succeeds as a memoir, with lots of detail about the author's internal and external struggles to turn his life around. We're with Levine as he strives (and stumbles) toward developing the discipline that will support his recovery from addiction and guide him in learning how to live a meaningful life.

Although some reviewers consider the book somewhat repetitive, Levine's accessible writing style, his openness, and his punk credibility have attracted a following in the United States and around the world, (including right here in Halifax). Kids like Levine's younger self, who reject dominant cultural values (e.g., conformity, consumer capitalism) have, through Levine's book, been introduced to an ethic with the same anti-authoritarian, experimental spirit as punk. While both punk and Buddhist Dharma (in Pali, Dhamma) point out the problems with conventional thinking, Levine argues that only the Dharma offers hope for lasting happiness, now and in the future.

The Library has recently ordered Dharma Punx as well as Noah Levine's most recent book, The Heart of the Revolution (2011). Levine's DVD, Meditate and Destroy: A documentary on punk rock, spirituality and inner rebellion (2009) is currently available through the Library's catalogue.

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