As Against the Stream Meditation Society (ATS) closed its doors in September, their embattled founder, Noah Levine, claimed that the allegations of sexual harm that led to his ouster and the organization’s decision to dissolve did not rise to the level of misconduct and did not involve students. But a leaked report from an internal investigation at the Los Angeles-based group contradicts Levine’s description of the previously undisclosed findings.
Tricycle received the report from an anonymous email account and was not able to verify its authenticity, but a recent Jezebel article describes what appears to be the same report, parts of which they were able to corroborate or confirm with unidentified sources.
In a live video on Facebook in late August, Levine denied that any of the allegations against him were about students. He later repeated this claim in a written statement that announced his intention to continue teaching, saying, “I feel that it’s important for everyone to know that none of this had anything to do with students of ATS or members of Refuge Recovery. These were issues that came from my personal life.”
While it is true that no students in the report accuse Levine of assault, two anonymous students interviewed by the report’s author, investigator Roberta Yang, described inappropriate encounters with Levine in which they believe he used his position to get their contact information and made them “uncomfortable.”
The report also quotes former ATS senior teacher Mary Stancavage as saying that Levine admitted to having sex with a student whom he met at the Esalen Institute, a well-known retreat center in Big Sur, California. Levine reportedly revealed this to the ATS Teachers’ Council at a meeting on February 7, saying that the student had “pursued” and later “seduced” him “after he attempted to resist.”
At the February 7 meeting, Levine also told the Teachers’ Council that he had been accused of sexual assault by a woman with whom he said he had consensual sex. On March 27, Stancavage and the Teachers’ Council became aware of an allegation of rape against Levine, according to the report. On March 29, ATS released a report that said Levine was suspended from teaching, and the internal investigation began shortly thereafter.
The rape allegation was not publicly disclosed by either Levine or the Teachers’ Council and challenges Levine’s characterization of the severity of the allegations against him.
ATS has said that Levine was removed from his position because he likely violated “the Third Precept of the Teacher’s Code of Ethics, namely, ‘to avoid creating harm through sexuality,’” and did not specify what he did to break these rules.
In the statement he released in September, Levine admitted to having caused some unintentional harm, although he did not believe it rose to the level of violating the Teachers’ Code. He wrote:
I want to take full responsibility for any harm I caused to anyone and everyone with whom I have had a dating relationship. I want to make amends for my behavior if it didn’t feel good to them . . . I was not aware at the time that anything was amiss with how we connected . . . This is part of the learning for me in all of this—that just because someone doesn’t say “No” or express displeasure at the time, doesn’t always mean they are happy about it. I can also see that I wasn’t taking into account my power/privilege and status as a dharma teacher in my personal dating life.
Levine has consistently denied the assault allegation, which was brought to the Los Angeles Police Department. The Los Angeles district attorney has “declined to file criminal charges,” according to the Jezebel report. Inquiries from Tricycle to the LAPD, the district attorney’s office, and the state court system have not revealed any active investigation into or criminal charges against Levine.
Levine did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Start your day with a fresh perspective
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.