Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionariesby Published 08 May 2007
|Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries.pdf|
Buddha was a revolutionary. His practice was subversive; his message, seditious. His enlightened point of view went against the norms of his day—in his words, "against the stream." His teachings changed the world, and now they can change you too.
Presenting the basics of Buddhism with personal anecdotes, exercises, and guided meditations, bestselling author Noah Levine guides the reader along a spiritual path that has led to freedom from suffering and has saved lives for 2,500 years. Levine should know. Buddhist meditation saved him from a life of addiction and crime. He went on to counsel and teach countless others the Buddhist way to freedom, and here he shares those life-changing lessons with you. Read and awaken to a new and better life.
"Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries" Reviews
Really solid, easy to read introduction to western Buddhism.
This is a wonderful book that covers just about all the basics of the Dharma and more importantly -- PRACTICE! Noah is a really good teacher, and is certainly bringing the Dharma to many folks who may not have ever been open to hearing it, let alone practicing it.
There are a few caveats that have kept me from giving this book a full five stars:
1. I am not convinced that the sometimes militantly aggrssive tone is the most skillful way to go. Case in point: "Meditate and Destroy" while 'punky,' is NOT a message I'd want to pass along to my students! We shouldn't underestimate the hindrances, but rather than emphasizing 'destroying' them, we can see that they are like sparring partners, and that facing them, engaging with them, makes us stronger and more skillful. After all, the Buddha did not destroy Mara; he saw Mara's true nature, and in so doing, usurped any power Mara had over him.
2. I am less than thrilled with Noah's handling of sex. I'm sure it's his orientation to the more conservative, monastic tradition of Theravada Buddhism, but to me it's a bit aversive. I think it's a mistake to valorize celibacy as what amounts to (in his estimation) a more serious, committed approach to practice. The Theravada tends to want to avoid potentially troubling situations, and in this it is open to the charge that it is 'life-denying' or 'world weary.' I think a more sex positive message more appropriate for the lay practitioner -- who is, after all, his targeted 'audience.'
3. A much less serious criticism, but one that certainly plays into my rating, is that Noah passes along some less than accurate information about the historical "Sid." Again, he is not a scholar of Buddhism, so perhaps this is less a 'problem,' but he will be read by many more people than who will read a Peter Harvey, for instance, and thus it would have been good to see him passing along more accurate picture.
That all aside, I heartily recommend this book!
I know people who identify as Dharma Punxs and wondered where that started. So I was interested in getting Noah Levine's spin. I am glad he turned to Buddhist since it helped him climb out of a deep pit he put himself in (see his brief review outlined in this book or his memoir). And I think he has created another space for disenfranchised people to hear the Dharma. That said, I was disappointed with this book on several levels. I give it two stars since the first chunk does cover the basics.
First off, this book needed some editing. Switching back and forth between first person singular and plural (just who is the "we" referred to?) was jolting. Also, when I see quotations used without attribution/citation I infer the statement being made to a fictional character in a novel. Levine doesn't cite or use footnotes. Additionally, he misquotes and falsely attributes comments and sayings.
Secondly I was disturbed several times with comments he made and disappointed with content. Why is he using examples such as a Christian mystic in a Buddhist commentary? Why does he name drop? And how could he state that drug addicts are not really addicted to the substance (drugs, sex, food, alcohol) but to their own minds. As a recovering addict and a with a degree in counseling, he knows that there is a substantial physiological component of addiction; drugs do change the way the body ingests those chemicals. That's not only disingenuous, it's also deceitful.
I think he tries to hard to make Buddhism "cool" and hip. There are plenty of good Buddhist books, read one of them instead of this one.
"Defy the lies, serve the truth, beware of teachers, and question everything." This is the fourfold manifesto that Noah Levine presents near the end of the book. For anyone that has ever had doubts on trying meditation and mindfulness because of its connection to Buddhism, this book shows that what Buddhism is today, is not necessarily what it was meant to be. Buddhism is not a religion, although many treat it in that way. Buddhism is a path, guided by meditation, mindfulness, and reflection. This book presents the practice of meditation as a way to bringing peace, gratitude, loving kindness, and acceptance to ourselves and ultimately the rest of the world. We must begin with ourselves. Forgiving, loving, caring, and being gracious to our inner being. Only then can we revolutionize how humanity exists in this day and age. Noah Levine warns of the dangers of teachers, and even asks the reader not to trust him, only when we have experienced the results of what meditation and mindfulness can do for ourselves should we trust in what is said. This book is a refreshing look at the basics of meditation, mindfulness, compassionate living, and the original teachings of the Buddha without all the Sanskrit that most of these types of books are riddled with. Read it and decide for yourself. Begin the journey gently, and don't rush to conclusions.
Levine is far from a bad writer, and is in fact an amazing human being. The author of Dharma Punx flatlined on me with this book, but its not his fault, its mine. This would be a great book for anyone wanting to get into Buddhism but doesn't know where to start. If you know even the slightest thing about it though, this book comes off as condescending, which again, I think is my own personal problem and not Levine's, but I think other people will feel the way I felt. He is a major inspiration as a person, but hearing him refer to Siddhartha as "Sid" as if to establish the Buddha's punk cred was cringe inducing. His meditation exercises at the end were great, and his information is sound, but if you've read anything on Buddhism already, this book is unnecessary for you. Noah Levine does great work despite the fact, but stick to Dharma Punx and his online works if you want to get literary with him.