Dharma Punx :monastic:

In the late 80’s, I was a punk rocker. I have no more pictures of those days because I burned all pictures in a large fire, but I looked a lot like Siouxsie Sioux, of whom I was a great fan.

punx Recently, I met Tom Scandura, drummer and founding member of “The Molecules”, a fairly famous 90’s punk band, who toured the US, Europe and Japan. He is married to Maw, Ayya Gunasari’s daughter, who herself was a drummer in a punk band. Naturally, the conversation came to the Dharma Punx movement, also because another lay supporter, who frequently comes to meditation at the monastery, is a member.

What is it about all these former punks who turn to Buddhism? I also know a few monks in Germany who used to be punkers before they became monks.

The punk movement went against the stream. It was a rebellion against the world of our parents and the unfulfilled promise of the sixties, seeing no point to the “household” life as we were told we should live, fueled by anger at the injustice and suffering we saw around us.

Noah Levine, now an author and Buddhist meditation teacher, writes about his book Dharma Punx:

Dharma Punx is not just a book it is a way of being, it is how we have come to integrate our political and spiritual beliefs. we sought a different path than our parents, the once idealistic hippie generation that had long since cut their hair, left the commune and bought in to the system. Peace and love had failed to make any real changes and in response to the despair and hopelessness we felt came the punk rock movement. Seeking to rebel against society’s fascist system of oppression and capitalist driven propaganda the kids responded in our own way, different from those before us, a new revolution for a new generation.

But the ways we used were rather destructive and Buddhism offered a natural and positive alternative. The same energy that went into our rebellion is now channeled towards the practice of Buddhism to awaken a compassionate way of being, while turning away from the mundane, “crowded and dusty”, household life we grew up in.

Noah Levine started Against The Stream and has several centers in California.



Fellow former punk here (late '80s-early '90s)

I have pictures, but I’m not sharing them :wink:. Those years foreshadowed a willingness to shave my head. Parts of it, anyway.


So awesome, Ayya, you just have to write your biography one day. I keep discovering cool new things about you.

I was never a punk as such. I guess I came along in the post-punk era; I loved the attitude and (some of) the music. But I always liked things that were a little gentler, and maybe a bit more complicated. I loved The Clash and Nick Cave; but I also loved Tom Waits, Stravinski, Astor Piazzolla, and Mingus.

I was an anarchist, and hung around with a bunch of punk friends; straight-edge hardcore vegans. But I don’t know, I never felt like I belonged to any group I guess.

But I think it was a moment that had at its heart something really pure; crazy and destructive, sure, but reaching for some kind of meaning.


I am sure this help you to shave your head more quickly on your ordination day.
By the way I was into heavy metals to a point now I got tinnitus.
I am completely away from music now days.



Have you seen Siouxsie Sioux’s hair :smile: ?

Yes, I had a hard rock phase too, but slowly moved on to very different styles of music until I ended up in a Celtic band. After that I moved to live in a meditation center so that was the end of music for me.




This very much reflects the experience of myself and my friends as young adults.

This very accurately reflects where I am now. Some of my friends escaped the years of anger, others have not, yet. I’m still hoping for them.


Bhante Mudito and other Bodhinyana monks also started out with Dhamma Punx. He talks about it in this talk. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=8Qr7BUYj4us


He doesn’t seem authentic.
Where is his tattoo?


Too funny. I am a former punk rocker too (90s mostly). I put on concerts, made fanzines, was in bands, all sorts of stuff. I was involved in Against the Stream/Dharma Punx in San Francisco maybe 10 years ago. Vinny Ferraro was my 2nd teacher.
I’ve noticed the high numbers of punks or former punks in Buddhism (particularly theravada/vipassana circles) and I guess all I can figure is the common denominator is we saw that “conventional” society is wrong headed and leads nowhere. Now, my own conclusion was that the “punk” life such as it was also led nowhere and had major drawbacks (anger, substance abuse, political myopia, intra-counter-cultural conformity etc).
As I began to let go of some of those drawbacks, got sober, etc, and started meditating, I think the dhamma naturally made sense as something to focus my life on. Maybe that’s what your left with when you see conventional society and counter-cultural society both lead nowhere-- where else is left but the spiritual path?


Our ‘previous lives’ are fascinating.
And now? I don’t know about any of the others of you here who have also gone forth, but the older I get the more subversive I feel. We go against the societal stream completely.


Well as it is the New Year.

The Clash New Year’s Day '77


Absolutely. There is conformity and unconformity, then there is Buddhism.


That was my experience growing up, for sure. When I stumbled into the group of punks and hippies that became my dear friends, I felt that I had found my people. For all the anger at societal injustices, and injustices visited upon the group because of being so different (it was a college town in central Appalachia) there was a lot of love.

Dharma Punx was never appealing to me because, paradoxically, I saw them as too much like me. How’s that for letting identity drag a person around? :smile:


Me too! Late 70’s UK punk though.

Yeah. Even us hardcore punks couldn’t listen to punk rock all day, that’s why we spent much (probably the majority) of time listening to Jamaican music - roots, reggae, ska. Much more chilled. It’s what pushed forward the Two-Tone ska revival in my home town - Coventry. Good memories.

I can’t imagine that I would’ve got to Buddhism without punk. Such hopeful, humorous, positivity. I saw great acceptance, compassion and kindness for the first time when punk arrived in my world.


Rebel shmebel!!!

I grew up on a council estate (social housing), just imagine the cultural upset I caused when I started dabbling in classical music, at one point I even had the audacity stick it to the system by taking a fancy in Latin American baroque!


This is such a great post ( thanks, Ayya) and I agree it is cool to learn about the punk pasts of some of our monastic and lay members here. Looking back, punk was so honest, so raw, and so willing to express the dysfunction in western society in such loud and raw terms. There’s a real courage and honesty there that was missing from the people and the pop music of those times. I know the argument has been made before that the historial Buddha was the same kind of “against the stream” counter-culture warrior; perhaps that is one of the ties that attracts and binds punks to EBT/Theravada Buddhism. That warrior spirit in Buddhism is so important, so necessary, and shoudl always be supported in the many forms it takes, including the exemplar of a Burmese Bhikkhuni / Abbot I had the honor to meet recently; she’s wise, courageous, open, and brilliantly magnetic and represents so much of what is good in western Buddhism.

I didn’t have the courage or awareness to dive into the punk scene. I wasn’t musical, so I turned from high school days to get a FCC license to engineer radio boards, and then worked for my university’s campus radio station. I was given the morning time slot, and amidst the conservatism, hypocrisy, and phoniness of the US midwest Catholic football school that I attended ( where the priests (some of whom were monsters) lived in the dorms as rectors and expected Sunday Mass attendance by students…I never went…), the most courageous act I could do was to start every daily morning show with the Sex Pistols’ God save the Queen. I blasted this on full volume at 7 am in the dining halls and every building that had the station on, as my small and insignificant expression and call to “wake up.”

Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future
No future
No future for you


I think this, along with some of the details in how the teachers approached the dharma (a syncretic style which had me somewhat confused), is what made me eventually stop pursuing the dharma punx thing. I agree, the Buddha was a revolutionary, although maybe not intentionally (just speaking the truth really), and had a warrior spirit-- important and I think missed in modern western Buddhism. But I also think dharma punx don’t always see the drawback of “being” “punx”, if that makes sense.


Lovely! At age 14, I was a Roman Catholic altar boy. At age 16 I converted to atheism, and it was all downhill from there.:yum:


I grew up in Sri Lanka, in a pretty Buddhist culture - my rebelliousness was about rejecting the charms (‘pirit nool’, ‘sura’), astrology and Hindu deity worship which has crept into the dhamma. Later it was about Buddhist monks inciting hatred against human beings. Also didn’t like my upbringing lacking of any apparent need for moral guidance. I would have had less of a tough time practicing the dhamma now if it were the case. But I think my parents didn’t know any better and thought they had it figured out, as I do now. :slight_smile: