Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Ph.D., is an author and ordained Zen Buddhist priest. She combines Zen meditation, intuitive knowing, and indigenous wisdom in a path of liberation. She applies spiritual teachings to our lived experiences in the context of race, sexuality, and gender and at the same time hold these experiences as gateways to absolute freedom. With her own insights and creative teachings she encourages us to make a commitment to freedom and take refuge in it. Ultimately, she invites meditations on the nature of embodiment within a boundless life. As a teacher she continues as a student by dedicating herself to ongoing study and dharma practice (including yearly residential retreats) and to deepening continually her understanding and embodiment of the Buddha’s teachings.

Discover more of her teachings on her website.

“If we are to truly encounter each other with integrity we must engage with a true intimacy that allows for the expression of guilt, anger, or fear – not to each other, necessarily, but to ourselves. If we are willing to expose our full range of emotions, we must first establish true friendship or relationships as foundations upon which honest dialogue about race, sexuality, and gender can be built. And we must establish those relationships without agenda or wanting to investigate another’s blackness, queerness, etc. The friendship must be integral and genuine. It is within friendship or relationship that a liberated and complete tenderness is experienced.

We often want to cross cultural boundaries or to become allies without taking the needed steps toward real intimacy, without considering the challenges of race, sexuality, and gender in developing authentic human relationships. How can someone ally with me without knowing anything about what it means to befriend a black lesbian woman in this society? How could someone speak for anyone else without ever having deeply encountered that person?”

* Excerpt from The Way of Tenderness by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

Watch Below:

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel – “For All Beings”

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel reads her prayer-poem “For All Beings” at OneLife Institute’s ‘Transformative Visions’ event – March 13, 2010 in Oakland, CA. (www.onelifeinstitute.org)

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“What does liberation mean when I have incarnated in a particular body, with a particular shape, color, and sex?”

In The Way of Tenderness, Zen priest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel brings Buddhist philosophies of emptiness and appearance to bear on race, sexuality, and gender, using wisdom forged through personal experience and practice to rethink problems of identity and privilege.

Manuel brings her own experiences as a lesbian black woman into conversation with Buddhism to square our ultimately empty nature with superficial perspectives of everyday life. Her hard-won insights reveal that dry wisdom alone is not sufficient to heal the wounds of the marginalized; an effective practice must embrace the tenderness found where conventional reality and emptiness intersect. Only warmth and compassion can cure hatred and heal the damage it wreaks within us.


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