Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
Noah Levine is a Buddhist asshole. When reports surfaced last year (2018) that Noah had allegedly sexually assaulted not one but several women (last count 7 to 10 women), observers like myself took the reports with a sense of caution. Although I believe the women who shared their stories, there was an ongoing investigation internally by Against the Stream, and a criminal investigation by the LA Police Dept. In fairness, I thought one should wait for the outcome of those investigations before proffering any opinion as to whether he’s guilty of sexual assault.
The upshot of those investigations (to date) is far from conclusive. The internal investigation by ATS determined that Noah probably breached his responsibility as a Buddhist teacher by causing harm by his sexual behavior toward several women. The internal investigation was determined under stricter guidelines for Buddhist teachers than criminal or civil law. Even though Noah’s behavior may not reach the level of criminal sexual assault, he was nonetheless responsible as a Buddhist teacher to make sure that his sexual behavior did not cause harm to others.
On the other hand, I understand that (to date) the LAPD has not laid charges for sexual assault against Levine concerning the two women that made criminal complaints. That doesn’t mean that the sexual assaults did not happen or that egregious harm was not done. Again, I believe the women who told the investigators what happened to them. But there is nothing conclusive about his sexual behavior from a criminal standpoint.
That kind of shadowy grey area does not hold for Noah Levine’s behavior as regards Refuge Recovery, the non-profit organization for Buddhist Recovery that Noah helped start–with several other leaders in Buddhist Recovery–and that is exactly the point. His behavior in this regard is not in the shadowy grey area–it’s black and white, it’s in print and in public.
Noah Levine has been behaving like Refuge Recovery is his personal domain and cash cow, not a non-profit organization that helps addicts in recovery. After months of negotiations in which the Board of RR tried to work out a deal that would acknowledge the rights and needs of both sides, he refused to make a reasonable settlement. Levine has filed a lawsuit to prevent the Refuge Recovery organization from using the name “Refuge Recovery” because he wants to use it for his Refuge Recovery Retreats, and because it had been the name of the for-profit in-patient treatment facility, which is now closed.
Noah Levine is a Buddhist teacher who used to drive around LA in a Maserati. He took two of my friends out to dinner at $200 a plate. Wow, how generous. What the fuck is a Buddhist teacher doing driving around in a Maserati? Apparently Buddhism is Big Business and the money is good. Too bad he wrecked it all by acting like a total dick.
Noah Levine has no one to blame but himself and his own ego-centric behavior for his loss of opportunities to teach, loss of the treatment facility, loss of his role with Refuge Recovery, and his current status as a totally broke asshole with no money coming in. He had it all and he blew it. Watch out, baby, Karma’s a bitch.
At the end of one of his video teachings in the summer of 2018, Noah said that he was celebrating 30 years in sobriety and as a Buddhist. He looked straight into the camera and asked, “What have I learned in 30 years?” Obviously, dude, not much.
Noah Levine should do what any right-minded Buddhist would do–put the Refuge Recovery community FIRST. Allow Refuge Recovery to continue to use the name, website and publications so that we can continue to help thousands of people recover from addiction in a way that’s truly compassionate and effective. He should publicly acknowledge that he is not the sole creator of Refuge Recovery or its publications. I remember watching the recorded conference when he brought in leaders in Buddhist recovery from around the world to draft the first document that became the book, Refuge Recovery. Refuge Recovery is not his sole creation and he knows it. How do I know this? It’s in the book:
Although I am credited with writing the book, the large community at Refuge Recovery is the inspirational and creative force behind it. This community has helped shape, inform, and enhance the program with their direct experience of practicing these principles. This book, then should be viewed as a collaborative effort, a book written for the plural rather than the singular—the “we” instead of the “I”, since it speaks for Buddhism and addicts everywhere. (Refuge Recovery, page x.)
Like I said, straight from the horse’s mouth.
Rather than make any misstatements, I will publish below the letter from the Executive Director of Refuge Recovery which explains the situation quite clearly. This letter is available to the public on the Refuge Recovery website. Search the Refuge Recovery website and Engage! for other recent articles and comments on the Noah Levine/Refuge Recovery situation. I will gladly respond to questions and comments.