“The evolution of my life keeps me from saying I am this or that. My priest robe wraps around and embraces all the ways in which this life expresses itself. If it is the robe that you see, I bow to that. If it is the robe that you don’t see, I bow to that.”
– Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
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. 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.
Rev. Zenju Earthlyn Marselean Manuel, was born in Los Angeles, California to parents that migrated from Louisiana. She was raised with a younger and older sister, in the Church of Christ where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true teachings on Christ’s path.
With the deep suffering of violence experienced as a child she became a poet at the age of eight. Upon entering college, a political gate opened of which she joined a community of Pan-Africanists where there was deep healing for her. This healing led to the next spiritual gate opening within the African tradition of Yoruba. She met a visiting tribe from Dahomey who invited her to join them in ritual and ceremony. This would be the beginning of her experiencing the vastness of things unseen and the world of divination. She was forever grateful for their blessings, as the greatest storms of her life were yet to come. Her deep experiences of suffering brought her into the deepest solace a human being can imagine. In such solace she came upon the path of Buddha without any desire to be Buddhist. The path of Buddha opened her eyes to the true nature of life. After 15 years in the Nichiren tradition/Soka Gakkai, she eventually followed the path of Soto Zen for many years and was ordained as a Zen Buddhist priest in the Suzuki Roshi lineage. She received Shiho or dharma transmission in January 2016. However, the evolution of her life continues in which she welcomes new doors to open.
Her spiritual writing is steeped in ancient memories of her ancestors and therefore explores the deep inner spiritual journey of our human existence. Her publications are rich with insights and the exploration of life. In essence, she offers the riches of her internal discoveries that can be difficult to put into words. After seven years of following Buddha’s teachings, a lucid spiritual dream led to the creation of the Black Angel Cards: 36 Oracle Cards and Messages (Kasai River Press), which are being used around the world as a tool to help access one’s true nature and to ease suffering especially for black women. She is the author of a popular Kindle free e-book/essay Be Love: An Exploration Of Our Deepest Desire. Her recent book, The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender with a foreword by Buddhist scholar and novelist Charles Johnson, is available now at Wisdom Publications. In 2012 she graced us with Tell Me Something About Buddhism (Hampton Roads Publishing) includes a foreword written by Thich Nhat Hanh, with poetry and illustrations by her. In addition, she is contributing author to many books, including Together We are One (Parallax), Dharma, Color and Culture: Voices From Western Buddhist Teachers of Color (Parallax) and Hidden Lamp: Stories from 25 Centuries of Awakened Women (Wisdom Publications). She holds a Masters degree from U.C.L.A. and Ph.D. in Transformative Learning from California Institute of Integral Studies.
Zenju is her Dharma [ordination] name, which means complete tenderness. She was named Earthlyn at birth. Her middle name, Marselean, is the Creole name of her paternal grandmother who experienced slavery. Manuel is a Haitian Creole last name.