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Dharma Punx: A Memoir
by Noah Levine
2003

dharma punx by noah levine Anyone looking at punk rock from the outside must wonder how it can have anything in common with spirituality, especially the peaceful practices of Eastern religion. The music is loud and abrasive, kids are writhing around, slamming into each other, stage diving and generally behaving in a manner that seems closer to violence than serenity. But punk rock has bred quite a few very serious truth seekers, and in fact there are a number of hardcore bands, the most prominent being 90s group Shelter, that have embraced Eastern religion and expressed their beliefs in lyrics and visual imagery. When common teenage rebellion gives way to the ultimate rebellion — rebellion against self, ego and materialism — it makes for some interesting insights. Dharma Punx is the story of one punk rocker's spiritual journey and if the book is not wholly satisfying, perhaps it's because Levine, who is barely in his mid-30s, is still only partway along his path, and still quite a distance from the perfection aspired to by all seekers.

That Levine has gotten as far as he has is a miracle in itself. The son of hippie parents — his father is author and seeker Stephen Levine — Noah grew up with the realization that his parents' generation had failed in its quest to change the world. So, like a lot of other disaffected kids in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he turned to punk rock, and then to alcohol, hard drugs and crime. In and out of jail before he even turned 18, it seemed doubtful that he would survive very far into adulthood. But during one of his periods of incarceration, he decided to follow his father's basic instructions on how to meditate. The simple exercise turned out to be a new beginning for him. Having hit his bottom, he cleaned up, joined a 12-step program and began searching for the truth that was buried underneath his anger. Through the ensuing years, Levine has studied Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, explored Sufism through a couple of his friends, visited India, Thailand and Burma, attended punk shows from coast to coast, watched friends destroy themselves and continued working the program that keeps him sober. He's had close encounters with the Dalai Lama and attended Ram Dass after his stroke. He's had heart-breaking relationships and friends who have died. Clearly Levine has had a few different incarnations in one lifetime already. The book ends where Levine's salvation began - he explains the meditation technique that his father originally taught him.

Purists who read Levine's memoir might be disappointed that he does not stick strictly to one discipline — instead he seems to go wherever his search takes him. If that keeps him, and his book, a little less than focused and a little bit shallow, it also keeps dogma out of his tale. Real seekers understand that all paths lead to enlightenment because they are actually the same path. And in an odd sort of way, Levine has stuck to one particular path — the punk rock path of rebellion. The same fire that sears the soul also cleanses it. If this book carries any particular message, this one is the most interesting.

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