Tell Me Something About Buddhism (foreword by Thich Nhat Hanh)
After being involved in Buddhist practice for over twenty years, after an L.A. upbringing in an African-American Christian church, I intertwine throughout the book personal experiences as student of Buddha’s teachings. My life in the Sangha, my teaching in local communities, and my travels around the world meeting other Buddhist practitioners enliven my answers to the most fundamental questions about Buddhist practice. I wrote, “Had I not opened myself to the many teachings from the earth, such as Buddha’s wisdom, it would have been nearly impossible to survive the fires of my soul.” The book is self-illustrated. Please first ask your local bookstore to order it from the publisher or go to bookshop.org
Once my youngest sister asked, “What does Buddhism have to do with Black people?”
Although Shakyamuni Buddha’s teachings came from the earth of ancient India, I knew in the moment she asked the question, that the teachings had everything to do with me and with every other suffering living being. Of course, she wanted to know how did I come to such a strange journey, when she knew me as a devout Christian, a courageous warrior of the black civil rights movement and a dedicated Pan-Africanist. She knew me with my Afro hair, African headwraps, and African jewelry. She knew the sister who read aloud poetry to her by black poets such as Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, the Last Poets, Margaret Walker, and Gwendolyn Brooks, speaking through the words of the poets about our experiences as young black women.
Later, after living with her question a bit longer I began to see that the answer was as large as an elephant and that I had only touched its tail when I attempted to answer my sister’s profound question with, “Because it works.” I believe my sister’s question was about her need to heal from not having been universally loved as a dark-skinned loving woman. She knew this was also an inquiry for my own life. She needed to know how would I help black people by being a Zen Buddhist priest. In that moment, I couldn’t find a way to convey to her that much of what I experienced in being black was much like what the Buddha taught.