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DHARMA PUNX by Noah Levine


A Memoir

by Noah Levine

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-06-000894-6

A punk-rock fan and practicing Buddhist records his transition from rebel child to meditation teacher.

Growing up in Santa Cruz in the late 1970s and early ’80s, the author loved to skateboard, get high, and attend punk-rock concerts. Shuttling between his divorced parents’ homes in California and New Mexico, he tried everything from alcohol to heroin to cocaine. By the time he was in junior high, Levine had been arrested repeatedly for drugs and assault. By age 16, he had dropped out of school, was living on the streets, and stealing to support his crack habit. During one of his frequent stints at juvenile hall, Noah telephoned his father, Buddhist teacher Stephen Levine, who recommended mindful meditation. The conversation was a turning point for the author, who began a 12-step program while in custody and later attended meditation retreats. Over the next few years, Levine worked hard on his spiritual growth, even practicing celibacy and taking a pilgrimage to the Far East in search of enlightenment. Unfortunately, while his story is dramatic, his writing is pedestrian and the narrative extremely tedious. The author either records excruciating minutiae (“At the airport we got picked up by a Thai family that Micah knew from New Haven. We arrived in Bangkok at midnight and this lady, named Tim, whom we had never met, was at the airport waiting for us”) or embarrassing detail (“Oral sex in India! Of course I had gotten sick, I had probably picked up dysentery”). One ashram or monastery blends with another as Levine continues to seek enlightenment at home and abroad. With a start, the reader discovers that ten years have passed. The author gets a degree, enters graduate school, and teaches mindful meditation at the very facility where he was once held as a teenager, providing a neat wrap-up to a very rambling story.

Best for young teenage boys who don’t often read books.