Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, (pronoun she/her and willing to continue the process of what this means), is an author, poet, ordained Zen Buddhist priest, teacher, artist, and drum medicine woman. The essence of all her transmissions come together in her talks and books.
Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel, was born in Los Angeles, California. She is the daughter of Lawrence Manuel Sr. and Alvesta Pierre Manuel. who both migrated from rural Louisiana. Zenju was raised in Los Angeles, with a younger and older sister, referred to by the name her mother gave her, Earthlyn. Marselean was her paternal grandmother’s name.
Zenju was raised in the Church of Christ where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true teachings on Christ’s path well into adulthood. She also participated in ceremony with Ifá diviners from Dahomey, Africa and studied Yoruba. She holds a Ph.D. and formally worked for decades as a social science researcher, development director for non-profit organizations and those serving women and girls, cultural arts, and mental health.
She is the dharma heir of Buddha and the late Zenkei Blanche Hartman (in photo) in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center (SFZC). She was Shuso (head Student) with Kiku Christina Lehnherr and her Dharma Transmission was completed by Shosan Victoria Austin. Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions.
Finally, she is a lover of art, music, indie film, literature, and dance.
Here’s what Lama Tsultrim had to say about her:
“Zenju has walked through these many different kinds of doors spiritually and academically, she has a PhD, she’s a Zen Roshi, and she’s also a poet and author. And essentially she’s a Seer. Cultures in the past always had Seers in them. In fact, in our Drubchen, which is a ceremony that we do, 10-day ceremony at a Mandala, one of the seats is for the Seer. The Seer watches for obstacles. And this role of Seer has been lost really in our culture.
So there’s no clear Avenue to go down, if you find yourself becoming a Seer or if you are a Seer from, from birth. And so she’s really worked and woven herself into these various frameworks to ultimately become who she already was, which is a visionary. And so her work in the Black Angel Cards was really her first Seer visionary experience, which she then had to make sense of, which took her into her academic as well as her religious studies. And so to have a Seer amongst us at this time, I feel very very honored.”
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(All photos of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel by Vaschelle André)