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 (Marceline) was her grandmother’s name. Zenju is a dharma name.
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is an ordained Zen priest and 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 Roshi and her Dharma Transmission was completed by Shosan Victoria Austin.
Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions. She was raised in the Church of Christ where she was an avid reader of the Bible and adored the true mystic teachings on Christ’s path well into adulthood. She also participated in ceremony with Ifá diviners from Dahomey, Africa and briefly 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.
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(All photos of Zenju Earthlyn Manuel by Vaschelle André)