Welcome to Mondo Samu - Questions and Answers about my self-work.

Mondō: "questions and answers"; a recorded collection of dialogues between a pupil and teacher.
Samu: Work service; meditation in work.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: Against The Stream by Noah Levine

I read a LOT.  I also used to work for a band.  So when I saw Noah Levine's first book "Dharma Punx", shortly after having re-read Kerouac's "On The Road" and "Dharma Bums", the book really appealed to me.  You can read my review of that book, here.  While DP was Levine's memoir of his descent in to drug and alcohol abuse (and his subsequent discovery of the Dharma to regain his life), his second book "Against The Stream" was more of a users manual for Buddhism that was targeted to appeal to a certain audience.

Against the Stream: A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries

I have read, and enjoyed, all of Noah's books.  In "Against The Stream" Levine's take on Buddhism, is - rightly - that it's a radical approach to life.  He views, and teaches, Buddhism from the perspective of the Buddha being a radical, Buddhism being a "Revolution" and the practitioner a "revolutionary". 

While I don't personally need Buddhism described in this sort of framework to make it appealing to me, I can certainly see where it would appeal to a younger audience who is looking for a more accessible read.  Luckily, I like his writing enough that this approach doesn't bother me.

He does a great job of stripping Buddhism down, particularly in this book, to it's simple concepts and ways to execute them in your life.  It's very clear and simple, with none of the usual dramatic flare of the books that quote the Buddha so heavily.  Some people prefer that dramatic flare, and might find this book a touch dry.  But for it's intended audience, I think it's a benefit.

One example I LOVED (due to the weight loss theme of this blog) is the part where he talks about Dependent Origination.  He lists out the steps and uses the idea of how much he loves Ice Cream and how he prevents himself from being overwhelmed by a craving for it.  I have cited this example many times to others, since I first read it, because it does a really great job of showing how these steps can help us control any craving in our lives by stopping it between Step 7 (Feelings) and Step 8 (Cravings).

So, the bottom line is that if you are a young person taking an interest in Buddhism and trying to find a brief, simple and clear guide to some of it's core information, this book is perfect.  If you're just in to reading about Buddhism and looking for something a little different from the norm, this book is great.  If you're looking for a scholarly text, this might not be your best choice.  But it's good solid information for anyone interested in Buddhism, and I recommend it.

As a side note, if you're not already familiar with Noah Levine, I highly recommend you check out his audio "Against The Stream Buddhist Meditation Society Podcasts" on iTunes.  The podcasts he offers are numerous and great.  Some of the podcasts are by other speakers.  His are particularly entertaining and informative.  Noah is, in my humble opinion, far more engaging as a speaker than he is as a writer, and that's saying a lot as he's done a great job with his books.  But do yourself a favor and check him out on audio.  You won't likely regret it.  Warning - He's NSFW in pretty much every talk though, so keep the headphones on! 



  1. I am so glad to read a review of this book. I have been thinking about the Dharma Punx guys and how maybe that style would suit me .... I dont think we have anything like it in Australia - I kinda wish we did!! Plus I really get the icecream story. Alas, I really do. Thanks for the review - it helps!

  2. Cool, I'm so glad! I know you've listened to some of the ATS podcasts. I really like the Against The Stream approach. They're kind of in between the two ends of the spectrum that appeal to me most (Thich Nhat Hanh and Brad Warner). Unfortunately, they're not established around here that I know of. I did just hear that they have a facilitator training program. Maybe someone will start something!