The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness
Noah Levine | Foreword by Jack Kornfield
Harper Collins 2011, 224 pp, $15.99 (paper)
After just finishing reading through Noah Levine’s latest book The Heart of the Revolution: The Buddha’s Radical Teachings on Forgiveness, Compassion, and Kindness, I’m left with the sensation that I’ve experienced the warm fuzzies while getting bounced around in a mosh pit.
Life if pretty much like that in many ways. You can choose to stick your elbow in the eye of the guy beside you who keeps pushing you and pushing you and pushing you – hoping to get a rise just so you do act on your rage — or you can choose to step aside and let go of this annoyance you’re presented with.
Noah’s book speaks to this very challenge and poses that “compassion is the weapon of revolutionaries” – that is, spiritual revolutionaries who are choosing to “defy the lies and serve the truth” in their desire to free themselves and others from suffering and become awakened beings. In this book, He speaks of the 1%, the outlaw bikers that stand apart from the law-abiding in society and ruin it for the 99% of those good folks. This concept is transposed on the Buddha’s statement that “only a handful of people in each generation – the spiritual 1%ers- would be willing to do the hard work of training the heart and mind through meditation, ethical behavior and unconditional love for all sentient beings.”Are there that many spiritual renegades in our modern day society when we hear so many reports of how religion is on the decline or if it is adopted, is taught or practiced by those with ulterior motives than the desire to determine the truth for oneself.
The book is truly a guide for becoming a more compassionate person in a challenging world and oh gosh, it couldn’t come soon enough; it often feels like the world is burning its way through the very handbasket that it’s going to hell in. The Heart of the Revolution provides teachings on mindfulness, generosity, compassion, gratitude, tonglen, forgiveness and lovingkindness. It also gets into some meatier territory like impermanence, karma, and less generally known Buddhist concepts.
At the end of each section, practices are suggested so that you can go beyond just reading about the concepts covered in the book. This is where the vital work is to be done — it’s one thing to read about these teachings, but another thing to actually engage with them on a day-to-day basis.
While I agree with Noah’s condemnations of some of the ways that Buddhism is being taught today, I do wish that there was a bit more of a description as to what to look for in an authentic teacher and for more communities to hold a flashlight to those who are indeed mis-representing the Buddha’s teachings.
All in all, this latest book in the Noah Levine trilogy — his previous books were Dharma Punx and Against the Stream — is well worth picking up if you are interested in a practice guide to help you cultivate compassion in a world that needs it so badly. The Heart of the Revolution provides a marked departure from the punk rock roadtrip stories that Noah has told before and with this book, he fully assumes his place as an authentic, humorous, warm, engaging, personable and highly knowledgeable American Buddhist teacher.