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Punk Culture

Punk culture emerged during the mid-1970s in the U.S., U.K., and Australia on the heels of the demise of the hippie counterculture

Punks rejected hippies as unrealistic, not understanding what was required for systemic change.

Punk culture objective: replacing capitalist society with a social order built around decentralized, autonomous, egalitarian communities.

Punk culture characteristics:
• Overwhelmingly white
• Built around punk rock, a reaction against conventional society and the commercialization of rock music
• Loose communities built around punk bands
• Oppositional values: anti-authoritarianism, non-conformity, individualism, opposition to a range of conventional values and institutions (militarism, capitalism, racism, sexism, nationalism, consumerism), and promotion of alternative values (animal rights, vegetarianism, environmentalism).
• Punk culture values: strong individualism, egalitarianism, personal autonomy and authenticity, the DIY (Do It Yourself) ethic, and aversion to “selling out.”
• Tattos, piercings, jewlery, distinctive hairstyles and clothing, wearing underwear as overwear, X or XXX tattoos

Punk rock characteristics:
•Relatively short, intense, fast songs with strong anti-establishment messages.
•Shouting of song lyrics, DIY chorus, storming the stage, gang vocals, mosh pits, and slam dancing

Straight Edge Punk

Straight Edge originated in 1981 when Ian MacKaye wrote a song by that title for Minor Threat, a hardcore punk band. In the song he asserted that he was claiming “the straight edge” by rejecting drugs, alcohol, and casual sex.

Many straight edge punks also support vegetarianism, feminism.

Straight Edge has a more positive orientation than Hardcore Punk: "Make choices in one's life that produce positive outcomes."

Noah Levine

Noah Levine was born to Buddhist parents Stephen and Ondrea Levine in Los Angeles, California in 1971.

Levine struggled as a child and teen, having suicidal thoughts, using alcohol and drugs from an early age, and dropping out of high school. He was arrested on several occasions. In 1988, Levine was incarcerated in a juvenile hall detoxification program after stealing a car to get money for drugs..

Levine tried rehabilitation through Alcoholics Anonymous but then began experimenting with using Buddhist meditation techniques. In 1991, he began a ten year period of study with Jack Kornfield at Spirit Rock Meditation Center.He also earned a Master's degree in Counseling.

Between 2000 and 2014 he founded a number of organizations around a melding of Buddhism and punk culture (Dharma Punx).


Levine draws primarily on Vispaassna Buddhism (seeing the world as it actually is) and melds Buddhism and Punk culture into Dharma Punx.

Levine allies himself with emerging American Buddhism, which emphasizes relevance, accessibility, and applicability for contemporary Americans.
• He rejects Asian Buddhism as racist, sexist, classist and locked into irrelevant mythology
• He rejects the hippie protest culture as unrealistic.
• He rejects hardcore punk as overly negative and affirms straight edge punk.

Levine refers to Siddhartha Gautama as “Sid,” a revolutionary who taught anti-establishment rebellion and advocated a path of “Patisotagami” (against the stream). His motto, is “Meditate and Destroy” (dark thoughts).

As a Straight Edge movement, ASBMS has three primary distinguishing tenets,
• Abstinence from alcohol
• Abstinence from drugs (tobacco included)
• Abstinence from casual sex

Claiming an edge involves making an irrevocable commitment both to oneself and to the community. • • • Adherence to those tenets is achieved through ongoing self-monitoring and self-regulation.
• Many straight edgers also support vegetarianism/veganism and anti-consumerism lifestyles.

ASBMS centers its teachings around the Four Noble Truths: the truth of dukkha (anxiety or suffering), the truth of the origin of dukkha, the cessation of dukkha, and the truth of the path leading to the cessation of dukkha.

Precepts that guide liberation:
• Addiction creates suffering. There are many forms of addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling, money, food, other people) and many forms of suffering (greed, hatred, delusion, endless craving, shame, lying, fear, hurting others or ones self, isolation, jealousy).
• Addiction is not all your fault. Craving, the source of addiction, is natural Individuals therefore are not responsible for the underlying causes of addiction, but they are responsible for the behaviors that sustain addiction.
• Recovery is possible. Individuals have the capacity to restore themselves to meaningful lives in which they experience well-being
• The path to recovery is the based on Buddhism's Eight-fold Path.

The Eightfold path to recovery is
• Understanding: We come to know that everything is ruled by cause and effect.
• Intention: We renounce greed, hatred, and delusion. We train our minds to meet all pain with compassion and all pleasure with non-attached appreciation.
• Communication/Community: We take refuge in the community as a place to practice wise communication and to support others on their paths. We practice being careful, honest, and wise in our communications.
• Action/Engagement: We let go of the behaviors that cause harm. We ask that one renounces violence, dishonesty, sexual misconduct, and intoxication. Compassion, honesty, integrity, and service are guiding principles.
• Livelihood/Service: We are of service whenever and wherever possible. And we try and ensure that our means of livelihood are such that they don't cause harm.
• Effort/Energy: We commit to daily contemplative practices like meditation and yoga, exercise, and the practices of wise actions, kindness, forgiveness, compassion which lead to self-regulatory behaviors in difficult circumstances.
• Mindfulness/Meditations: We develop wisdom by means of practicing formal mindfulness meditation. We practice present-time awareness in our lives.
• Concentration/Meditations: We develop the capacity to focus the mind on one thing, such as the breath, or a phrase, training the mind through the practices of lovingkindness, compassion, and forgiveness to cultivate that which we want to uncover.


ASBMS offers meditation practice as well as a variety of talks and classes on Buddhist practice with the larger goal of making Buddhist meditation as accessible as possible.

Some classes involve Guided Meditation supplemented by a Dharma talk

Other classes involve a specific type of meditation, such as relational mindfulness, which emphasizes the importance of intimacy in a community.

Classes are egalitarian


In 2000, Levine and others established the Mind-Body Awareness Project to assist troubled youth.

In 2003, Levine launched a Dharma Punx group in New York City on the New York City Lower East Side.

In 2008, Levine founded the ASBMS to make Buddhist teachings accessible to everyone.

In 2014, an outpatient facility opened in Los Angeles and a sober living facility opened in Hollywood.

Levine symbolizes and embodies his oppositional stance and Buddhist commitments in part through extensive tattooing, which includes a large image of Buddha on his abdomen and a Buddhist wheel of existence covering his entire back

Levine rejects hierarchy in ASBMS affiliated groups.

ASBMS teachers operate under a defined Code of Ethics:

• We undertake the precept of refraining from killing.

• We undertake the precept of refraining from stealing.

• We undertake the precept of refraining from false speech.

• We undertake the precept of refraining from sexual misconduct.

• We undertake the precept of refraining from intoxicants that cause heedlessness or loss of awareness.

ASBMS is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and relies on suggested donations (dana) and class fees for operating costs.

ASBMS centers offer weekly classes on American Buddhism and meditation, half-day and day-long programs, retreats, and ten month-long intensive programs in meditation. The facilitators offer a Women's Group, and a Young People's Group monthly

ASBMS has continued to grow and diversify beyond recovering addicts.


New Buddhism has not been enthusiastically embraced by more traditional elements of the Buddhist community.

Levine, given his personal style, has both admirers and detractors

The organization is constrained by its reliance on dana.

The organizational niche will have to expand beyond recovering drug addicts

One wing of the Straight Edge Movement has become involved in violence and has been labeled as a gang by some police agencies