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Against the Stream: Taking Refuge in an American Sangha

Against the Stream: Taking Refuge in an American Sangha

Against the Stream: Taking Refuge in an American Sangha

Against the Stream (ATS) is a Buddhist Meditation Center that seeks to introduce Buddhist teachings and practices rooted in traditional Buddhist lineages of South and Southeast Asia with a distinctly American anti-establishment flair.

Founded by Noah Levine, American Buddhist meditation teacher and author, ATS initially drew people from the punk and hardcore music scene Levine was a part of. Over the past decade, the sangha (community) has taken innovative steps towards welcoming individuals who struggle to find an inclusive multicultural space to practice and explore the dharma.

In this video, ATS’s Guiding Teacher Joanna Harper describes the integral role community plays in meditation practice and the efforts of ATS to anchor the Buddhist teachings in the ordinary lives of American mindfulness practitioners.

In Buddhist cultures across South and Southeast Asia, “sangha” refers exclusively to those who have been ordained. In contemporary America, “sangha” simply refers to all those who meet regularly to sit and meditate, including teachers and fellow meditators. They are seen as the spiritual friends who one can turn to find encouragement and honesty in the mindful path. Despite hyperbolic claims regarding the secularizing effect of the therapeutic culture of psychology on mindfulness, groups like ATS show how mindfulness practitioners reinvent and creatively deploy the sacred concept of sangha to reclaim one of the most profound and meaningful aspects of religion—a moral community—to underpin their spiritual efforts.

This video is part of CRCC’s “Reimagining Religion: Stories of Religious Creativity in L.A.” series, part of the Religious Competition and Creative Innovation project. The project was made possible through the support of a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the John Templeton Foundation.

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