Book Review: Heart Of The Revolution
Appropriately, Noah Levine’s third book is less of a memoir than the first two. His previous books, “Dharma Punx” and “Against The Stream” have become staples in the Gen X Buddhist library.
“Dharma Punx”,his first book, was an in depth look at where Noah came from. From his childhood, teen years and into his adult life we see someone who not only blossoms into a beacon of compassion, but someone who bucks the typical idea of what you or I may have of what a Buddhist “should be”. His tattoos and rough exterior are not every day indicators that we are witnessing a true revolutionary lead his troops into battle. That said, his second book “Against The Stream” is consequently subtitled “A Buddhist Manual for Spiritual Revolutionaries”.
“Heart Of The Revolution” is less of a manual per say, but has a very similar tone to “Against The Stream”. He does get into more of the nitty gritty teachings, and explains them in his own way. His line by line break down of the Metta Sutta defies the established meaning, and sheds a different, and less religious light on one of the most important Sutta’s in Buddhism.
Having struggled recently with issues such as rebirth and karma, I appreciate Noah’s vigor in explaining his view on them. In one section I really liked when he said, “But whether we believe in karma and reincarnation or not, that perspective should not change our relationship to the suffering in this world. We are still responsible to try to help each other. We are still responsible for our actions. Whether the abused child was a real jerk in his last lifetime or not, our heart’s response to suffering should always be a compassionate willingness to protect and forgive. Likewise in relation to the abuser or oppressor: even if she will eventually bear the consequences of her actions, that outcome should not be used as an excuse not to intervene. Ultimately, the trained heart would respond with equal compassion and understanding to both the abuser and the abused.”
His unorthodox approach to the Dharma introduces a topic I’ve not read much about from a Buddhist perspective, and that is mercy. He speaks about it not from a “compassion toward someone that you have power over”, but “to stop hurting, to cease causing harm, to end suffering.” He also doesn’t talk about mercy in a way where we are having mercy for other’s, but having mercy for ourselves. To stop being harmful to ourselves, trying to alleviate the suffering we cause every single day. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have mercy for other’s, but Noah stresses the idea that we need to involve ourselves in these practices.
I’ve always gone along with that idea, kind of like, we can’t help other’s with their own yard if our backyard is a disaster area. It is ok to work on your own stuff, we are in no shape to help others if not.
At the end of each chapter, there are meditation exercises that I am excited to try. Having read them over, I do not believe anyone would have an issue implementing them into a meditation practice. Having attended a talk Noah led, and meditated with his instruction, these are easy enough to understand and focus on.
Even if you have not read Noah’s previous books, he does give a brief look into his life so you’ll see where he is coming from. If you pick this book up before the other’s, they are not written in succession and you will get just as much out of this as you would having read the other’s first.
I always recommend Noah’s books to folks I know would appreciate his outlook on things, and will continue to do so. If you are looking for a different perspective on the Dharma, but one that still invokes the same ideals and core teachings, than I highly recommend getting a copy of “Heart Of The Revolution”.