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Spirit Rock and Jack Kornfield Withdraw Noah Levine’s Teaching Authority

Noah Levine. From
Noah Levine. From

The Ethics and Reconciliation (EAR) Council of the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, California, has indefinitely withdrawn Noah Levine’s authorization to teach following an investigation by the Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society (ATS) into allegations of rape, sexual harassment, and other misconduct. 

Separately, Dr. Jack Kornfield, who led Levine’s teacher training and was his authorizing teacher in 2006, has also withdrawn his authorization for Mr. Levine to teach. 

The EAR Council announced in a statement released on 20 February that the unanimous decision was made in consultation with other senior teachers and the Guiding Teachers Committee. Spirit Rock’s board of directors confirmed the decision on 13 February.

The council said the decision could be revisited in the future, following the Buddhist tradition of sanghadisesa, should Levine “demonstrate a significant transformation.”  (Spirit Rock)

Spirit Rock previously suspended Levine from teaching when the ATS, founded by Levine, announced that it was investigating allegations against its founder. The investigation, publicized on 25 August 2018, concluded that Levine had likely violated the Third Precept of the Teacher’s Code of Ethics: “to avoid creating harm through sexuality,” and led to the disbandment of the ATS organization.*

Following the ATS report, the EAR Council “conducted its own investigation, a long and careful process of collecting information from numerous sources in order to determine Mr. Levine’s fitness for teaching.” (Spirit Rock) According to the report, the investigation included meetings with Levine, interviews with alleged victims, witnesses, and ATS and Refuge Recovery (RR) staff members (both organizations founded by Levine), a review of extensive documents, the federal court lawsuit by the board of RR against Levine and the responsive lawsuit filed by Levine both filed in January 2019, and Levine’s public talks and statements. 

According to EAR, “The interviews and extensive reports we reviewed are gravely disturbing, detailed, and similar in nature. They show a pattern of behavior that raise critical concerns regarding Mr. Levine’s adherence to the Spirit Rock Teacher Code of Ethics. The EAR Council investigation revealed repeated breaches of the precepts of non-harming by Mr. Levine; delusion about the accumulation of harms caused; a lack of willingness to accept responsibility for his actions; confusion regarding the ways his actions reflect cultural and systemic conditioning; and a failure to honor the explicit instructions of his respected mentors.” (Spirit Rock) 

These findings lead the organization to release the following statement (excerpt, read the full statement below):

It is the unanimous view of the EAR Council, Senior Teachers, and the GTC that Mr. Levine is no longer part of the Spirit Rock teaching lineage, no longer enjoys the support of its teachers, and may no longer claim any association or connection with Spirit Rock or Dr. Kornfield. We further recommend that Mr. Levine cease all Buddhist or meditation teaching and dedicate his energy to the rehabilitation of his own heart. Mr. Levine’s repetitive and continued behavior, outlined by multiple sources, would be completely inappropriate for anyone, let alone an individual privileged to be an authorized Spirit Rock teacher.

These findings coexist with our knowledge that Mr. Levine has been of substantial benefit to tens of thousands of students, particularly those recovering from addiction. Many practitioners have only experienced benefit from Mr. Levine’s teaching, and we know a deep sense of dissonance can arise given the force of our conclusions. For some, valuing what they have received from Mr. Levine may lead them to dismiss the concerns enumerated here. We certainly do not wish to erase the benefit that many have received, and indeed, the value of the Dharma endures beyond individual personality—but that benefit cannot blind us to the fact that Mr. Levine has become deeply alienated from bedrock values of the Buddhist path: self-reflection, accountability, compassion, and wisdom. Spirit Rock remains committed to serving the larger addiction recovery community, and helping all those impacted by Mr. Levine, positively and negatively, to find refuge in the teachings of the Buddha and at Spirit Rock.

With his striking appearance and his honesty about the drug use and jail time in his past, Levine attracted a strong following of Buddhists who didn’t feel as if they “fit in” with the established Buddhist organizations. His teaching focused on drug addiction and Buddhist practices of recovery. 

Levine has continued to teach and offer retreats since ATS report was published in August 2018. He also streams his talks online. 

Noah Levine Removed from Against the Stream Board and Teaching Roles after Sexual Misconduct Probe (Buddhistdoor Global)

See more

Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Ethics and Reconciliation Council Statement Regarding Noah Levine  (Spirit Rock)
Refuge Recovery (Refuge Recovery Facebook)
Message from the Refuge Recovery Board of Directors (Refuge Recovery)

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