Embodiment as Nature and Notions of No Self

This is an excerpt from the book The Way of Tenderness by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel

When we recognize that we are all a part of the collective injury of hatred, we begin to face our unexamined fears. We do not have to go far to find ourselves in the midst of human struggles based on unacceptable differences. This struggle is an intimate tension inherent to life, and yet for some reason it is often considered tangential to contemporary spiritual teachings. Within many Buddhist communities, discussions of difference gravitate toward a superficial sameness or “no self,” without realistically addressing the suffering that has happened—that is happening—among human beings. Such suffering, when explored in Buddhist communities, is treated as a personal issue rather than as a collective injury. Whomever sheds light on a particular mistreatment then that person is focused upon while the rest of the community watches as if they are not affected by the mistreatment or make an effort to “stay clean” of it. This can bring longstanding divisiveness and isolation.

There is nothing more powerful than looking out on nature and seeing the varied expressions of life, taking in its myriad forms that touch our hearts or that disturb them. We ourselves are just as magnificent as anything expressed in nature as nature. We need only be that magnificence. Yet, when we try to “be” magnificent, discrimination and discernment enter into our minds. We leave out who and what we think is not magnificent. We exclude whatever we judge to be lesser in our minds, which leads to manipulative action and to formation of ideologies that blind us to the true beauty of ourselves as nature. The organic evolution of seeing ourselves as part of nature, as just as beautiful as nature, is what we have been working toward as human beings from the beginning of our time on this planet.



Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Ph.D., is a gifted spiritual teacher and Zen Buddhist priest. Zenju combines Zen meditation, intuitive knowing, and indigenous ritual in a path of liberation. She has a keen capacity to apply 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.

© 2015 Zenju Earthlyn ManuelThe Way of Tenderness: Awakening through Race, Sexuality, and Gender. Reprinted by arrangement with Wisdom Publications, Inc., wisdompubs.org.

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