In one sense, at the core of sanctuary is the failed quest to find home in the places we live. For centuries, millions have sought refuge from genocide, violence, economic loss, and political oppression, forced to venture into unfamiliar places. Some have climbed mountains, some have swum the seven seas, others have crossed deserts to save their families and the their communities’ lives. Millions have been forced to leave when their ancestral lands were destroyed; others have fled refugee camps that had become too dangerous to remain in, leaving generations of descendants with an insatiable yearning to return home. Displacement is a embodied experience, imprinted on our bones. Since the advent of nations and boundaries, the discarded have left home and their descendants have sought to find it again. — from Sanctuary: A Meditation on Home, Homelessness, and Belonging by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
These are extraordinary times! It is almost as if the ancestors have risen up in us to complete an unfinished war. Through us some ancestors are carrying torches against people and some ancestors are trying to save the lives of their loved ones from being annihilated by the torch-carriers. This ancient battle has been imprinted upon us. We are being faced today with who we were. So, who are we going to be when all is said and done? Can we settle the rumbles of our ancestors in our own bones?
Some of us are still act upon the great lie of supremacy among us and the subsequent primal fear of extinction. This fear breeds the poisonous thought that there is a superior or inferior living being. Prolonged ignorance breeds hatred. We can see this.
While we are in this mythic battle against supremacy it is difficult to experience the freedom that is simultaneously rising up to the surface. This freedom begins with acknowledging the malfunction of our “civilization” and a deep knowing that surrendering to intimidation is not a choice. One of the things I learned on the path of Buddha, is that we must continue to live our lives fully despite what we face each day. This is life.
Those of us whose ancestors would not let hatred rob them of life or destroy the possibility of future generations, are still part of who we are. We are still here and we are everywhere wielding the torch of prolonged audaciousness.
In peace and great love,
Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
Slavery is a visceral and ancestral imprint on the bones of people of African descent in this country. Many lump us in with people of color but we are the only ones who were kidnapped from another continent and sold for the benefit of manifesting the great American dream, or should I say nightmare. So, when the late Alex Tizon’s story appeared online from The Atlantic, of his slave named Eudocia Tomas Pulido, as a descendant of slaves, I stopped everything to listen to the story on Audm.com. It was discomforting to hear a white-male-sounding voice telling a slave story. After thirty minutes or so I forced myself to let go and imagined a Filipino voice akin to my Filipino cousin who married into our family years ago. And this is what we mean when we say black people conjure. We have to cross barriers by redefining, redrawing lines, creating language and maybe even create a type of dance to transform what is being projected as “real” but it is not.
Many people of African descent such as myself read or listened to Tizon’s story because of the use of the word “slave.” The word stimulated a horrendous legacy of slavery of which we have had to conjure ourselves everyday to be more than that. We interjected ourselves into Tizon’s story because slavery is slippery and contagious and there is no way we can ignore the smell of it.
While listening I grew anxious because I knew the story would end tragically. I began creating gift packages for dharma daughters. They are all of African descent and the result of karmic actions that birthed slavery. Slavery is the root of our meditation practice and is the object of our underlying constant observations. Our path is to eliminate a bondage to being who we are not and that has nothing to do with the nihilism or dropping identity found in Buddhist thought. It has all to do with being more than the slaves we are often thought to be and the experience of ignorance from others and the cyclic suffering that follows. Eudocia Tomas Pulido lived as who she was not. And because of that, folk like myself, descendants of slaves in this country, interjected ourselves into Eudocia’s story and a brew of collective anger flooded through for her. She was, we were, robbed of freedom in the way many have been and still are today.
While a personal story, written from Tizon’s own cultural lens, with the freedom to say what he wanted, the shameful secret was treated as an endearing journalistic memoir. The story, in fact, exposed the constant bondage of people in the world and the ultimate disappearance of millions of people on the earth who are still living and walking among us.
Tizon, impacted by his own cultural ways, could be nothing but a slave master in the eyes of those in the African Diaspora. He had choices. He chose to keep his slave and then return her ashes home to her people who had been waiting for her for 56 years. I began to feel myself as Eudocia, lying on the floor in a corner. I saw her/myself holding a pillow because of living in terror and not some surface feeling of needing a mate as was interpreted by Tizon. I spiraled through with the storyteller expecting to land on my feet. Instead, I felt dropped on my head. Where is her story? Who are the people we cried for her when only the ashes were returned?
So, why are black people speaking on this Filipino cultural experience? You must understand that black people will and must interrupt slavery of any kind, especially if it is taking place in this country. We must disrupt the presentation of slavery as sentimental rather than the barbaric torture it is. If we do not, slaves will remain hidden away while masters write their stories.
May the spirit of Eudocia never be forgotten.
by Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
When one group of people is isolated from the realm of humanity, the group becomes objectified. If they are no longer people then it is easy to spew hate upon them. It is easier to withdraw love if a person is viewed as a non-living being. We can also objectify those we love, manipulating a person or group towards one’s desires of use or misuse. As long as the person or people are objects and not related to us we suffer in isolation. The path of meditation brings us back into harmony with everything and everyone, back into the utter and profound interrelationship of life.
Africans were meditating more than 10,000 years ago. The purpose was to see how to live their lives in the same way Buddhist practitioners are called to do. And yet, such meditation was not self-centered. It was meant to discover ways to collectively live. The ones who had deep lucid dreams and could see clearly beyond what was in front of them became diviners. The diviner is the one who meditated long enough to see beyond the chaos and clutter of the mind. Of course, there were some who were born naturally with the gift to see.
In ancient times, in all cultures, it was required that all leaders, queens, kings, heads of the warrior clans display some skill at divination. It was believed that the one who leads must also see and not rely on opinions or untested ideas. And once the messages were clear the leaders had to have the medicine to alleviate the ills of their society. The vote was based on a demonstration of such a capacity.
Today we must learn to see for ourselves. It is not enough to use our meditation practices to calm our nerves or quiet our children. We must use our developing capacities to see who we are as a people and discover our place in easing the suffering in the world.
- Create a personal network off of the internet.
- Request friendships and confirm them with actual people in your neighborhood or other communities
- Invite through snail mail friends to gather to talk over a meal
- Share status with a phone call
- Trust your path, your practice, your prayers or let it go so something that eases suffering can enter into your life
- Do your best at what you do, NOW