||Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an African-American artist, writer, Congolese drummer–and Soto Zen priest. Tell Me Something About Buddhismapproaches Zen from her own singular point of view, addressing the basics of Buddhism (suffering, the Four Noble Truths, meditation, karma, etc.), allowing the reader to see how Manuel lives her Zen and synthesizes it with other spiritual/cultural aspects of her background. Because she explains the deviations well, Manuel can be forgiven for seeming, at times, to reconstruct Buddhism to align with some of her more disparate life experiences. Buddha’s meditating under the Bodhi tree, after all, can be seen as a vision quest; he did have near-death experiences; and honoring the ancestors can have a place in Buddhist life.
Manuel touches on some important topics, such as the place of women in a historically patriarchal tradition, and provides a reading list for further exploration. However, it is Manuel’s hard-won internalization of Zen in her life that is most touching, and her emphasis on compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation as key to spiritual development can benefit adherents of any spiritual path. Seeing with the heart as a mirror of external life, free from preconceptions and prejudices, is another key concept of the Buddhist path. Manuel is very clear that she is still learning “how to express [herself] with love”; this one task alone can provide anyone with profound life lessons. This slender book is an excellent introduction to Buddhism. —Judith Hawkins-Tillirson, proprietress, Wyrdhoard Books, and blogger at Still Working for Books
Discover: A Buddhist perspective on how approaching even life’s most mundane experiences with an open mind and heart can lead to a depth of spiritual growth.
|Hampton Roads, $16.95 hardcover, 9781571746580|
Tell Me Something About Buddhism, by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel [first published in Shelf Awareness for Readers, 10/25/11]