ASK Musings

No matter where you go, there you are.



June 2024



Tell Me Something About Buddhism by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Written by , Posted in Uncategorized

Four Stars

Best for:
Anyone curious about Buddhism and looking for some thoughts from someone who came to the practice a bit later in life.

In a nutshell:
Manuel, a priest in the Zen tradition and a Black woman from the US raised in the Christian church, shares short but thoughtful responses to common questions about Buddhism.

Worth quoting:
Shared a quote from Eihei Dogen: “If you see death as something over there, then you are viewing your life from outside of it.”

Why I chose it:
I am in fact a curious beginner!

I learned about this book when it was mentioned in a daily newsletter I get related to Buddhism. It seems to be mostly out of print, so it took awhile for it to arrive, but I am happy to sought it out, because it is a lovely beginner book. It’s just over 100 pages long, and easy enough to read in little chunks if one doesn’t have the time to just sit and read it all at once.

The book covers basics of Buddhism that I’ve read about in other books, such as the Eightfold path. But it also talks about things people may have heard in passing about Buddhism that they aren’t sure about.

I think something that makes this book especially interesting is the perspective that Manuel brings, as a Black woman from the US. Many books that I’ve read are (understandably) written by great wise Buddhists from eastern nations such Thich Nhat Hanh, and I obviously their perspectives are important. But Manuel speaks specifically about coming to Buddhism from another spiritual practice (the Christian church), and about being a Black woman in spaces where she was often the only Black person there. She speaks specifically about a multicultural community of practice, and how to navigate the fact that just because you have a bunch of folks following the path of Buddha in one place doesn’t mean you want have conflict.

I think what stuck out to me the most is that if I am going to continue this exploration, I do need to find a community and a teacher, because Buddhism isn’t about reading things in books, it’s about experiencing things myself.

What’s next for this book:
Keep and refer back to.

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