At first it is hard to listen to Josh Korda name when he tells you close your eyes and connect with breath, as he is too darn interesting to look at. Covered in head to toe in decorative tattoos, mouth lined with silver caps and spikes through his ears, Korda takes his seat at the front of the room and prepares to spend the next hour talking about Theravada Buddhist concepts.
The former AA member turned monk is one of the coolest spiritual teacher’s around and the foremost teacher for the Dharma Punx NYC + Brooklyn chapter of the national Dharma Punx community.
His down to earth nature and punk-rock persona make his teachings on heavy topics — life, death, the four noble truths, the Buddhist polycannon to name a few — easily digestable and immensely entertaining. Josh has been teaching for over twenty years, and notes that his teachings come from his own experience of using Theravadic Buddhism to facilitate personal healing.
If you haven’t heard of him, it’s probably because he is humble about the fact that over 50 people cram into a small room each night to hear him speak. Rather than presenting himself as an enlightened teacher, Korda says he aims to “present myself as someone who is sick and suffering like the rest, and using these tools to find happiness.”
The Dharma Punx teachers never charge for their classes, which in NYC could easily go for $30 a pop. “It is my dharma to offer these classes to everyone, because anyone should have access to these tools, ” says Josh Instead of a credit card swiper, Korda places a fish bowl by the door and asks students to give what they can to cover the costs of the prime real estate in lower Manhattan — as well as allowing him to eat.
In the beginning of class, Korda welcomes each person to find a spot on the floor. Getting there early is recommended if you want to choose your spot, as classes fill up quickly. Students are eager to sip the wisdom he offers, chased with humor. “I try and come at least once a month,” said Kara, age 27 from the West Village. “It is one of those not so secret places that you can come to calm down, learn something, and meet some curious folks.”
Korda has a knack for connecting the ancient Buddhistteachings with modern day life. When talking about the first of the noble truths— dukka, or suffering — Korda alludes to buying an iPad thinking it would solve all his problems. “Holy shit,” he remarked “this shiny pretty thing doesn’t make me happy. The realization came that fulfilling a craving only increases suffering. And gives you an iPad.”
It is hard to imagine that such serenity can be offered without cost in downtown Manhattan.Yet, there is no mistaking that after a class with Josh, you’ll feel a bit more connected to yourself and a bit less mauled by a long work day.
Whether you are looking for an intro to this tradition, a group to meditate with, fundamental life teachings, or simply a place to relax and enjoy an hour with a vibrant community, check out one of their classes.
Especially if you think you might not belong, this is the place for you.