The Shamanic Bones of Zen: Revealing the Ancestral Spirit and Mystical Heart of a Sacred Tradition (Paperback)

The Shamanic Bones of Zen: Revealing the Ancestral Spirit and Mystical Heart of a Sacred Tradition By Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Paula Arai (Contributions by), Paula Arai (Foreword by) Cover Image

The Shamanic Bones of Zen: Revealing the Ancestral Spirit and Mystical Heart of a Sacred Tradition (Paperback)

By Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, Paula Arai (Contributions by), Paula Arai (Foreword by)


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Conceived at the crossroads of Buddhism and indigenous earth-based practice, The Shamanic Bones of Zen explores the deep human traditions of transformation that are made possible by meditation, ceremony, ritual, dreams, and spiritual connection to one’s ancestry.

In The Shamanic Bones of Zen, celebrated author and Buddhist teacher Zenju Earthlyn Manuel undertakes a rich exploration of the connections between contemporary Zen practice and shamanic, or indigenous, spirituality. Drawing on her personal journey with the black church, with African, Caribbean, and Native American ceremonial practices, and with Nichiren and Zen Buddhism, she builds a compelling case for discovering and cultivating the shamanic, or magical, elements in Buddhism—many of which have been marginalized by colonialist and modernist forces in the religion.
Displaying reverence for the Zen tradition, creativity in expressing her own intuitive seeing, and profound gratitude for the guidance of spirit, Manuel models the path of a seeker unafraid to plumb the depths of her ancestry and face the totality of the present. The book conveys guidance for readers interested in Zen practice including ritual, preparing sanctuaries, engaging in chanting practices, and deepening embodiment with ceremony.

"I often felt my ancestors at ease with my practice of Zen. I felt they had led me through other traditions to this practice of ritual and ceremony,“ writes Manuel. ”The ancestors needed me to be still and breathe as they approached with what they had to offer my life.”
ZENJU EARTHLYN MANUEL is an author, poet, and ordained Zen Buddhist priest. She is the author of Deepest Peace, Sanctuary, The Way of Tenderness, Tell Me Something About Buddhism, and Black Angel Cards: 36 Oracles and Messages for Divining Your Life. She compiled and edited Seeds for a Boundless Life: Zen Teachings from the Heart by Zenkei Blanche Hartmann and is a contributing author in Dharma, Color, Culture and The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women. Her work has been featured in Essence magazine, Buddhadharma, Lion’s Roar, On Being, CNN, CBS News, and other media outlets. She holds an M.A. from U.C.L.A. and a Ph.D. in Transformative Learning. More at 
Product Details ISBN: 9781611809190
ISBN-10: 1611809193
Publisher: Shambhala
Publication Date: February 8th, 2022
Pages: 192
Language: English
“This extraordinary book, rich in content and feeling, is a revelation on Buddhism’s secret life source and the ineffable power of ritual. Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s gift to practitioners is to return all of us to the great beauty of practice and the mystery of ceremony through the shining lens of the ancient practice of shamanism.”—Joan Halifax, author of Standing at the Edge and Being with Dying

“The skin, flesh, bones, and marrow of the transmission of Dharma from the Ancestors express words and beyond words; open up Buddha lands; vast empty ordinariness; and just a bow coming and going. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel rattles the bones to offer the lineage of those who have come before us, manifesting those absent through vision and voice.”—Duncan Ryūken Williams, author of American Sutra: A Story of Faith and Freedom in the Second World War

“The root texts of Buddhism and Zen from India, China, Korea, and Japan offer many expressions of their ground as earth wisdom. Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s experiences of indigenous African, Caribbean, and Native American shamanic practice illuminate her descriptions of the inner value of Zen ceremonies, spaces, and invoking of spiritual ancestors. This valuable book includes helpful guidance, such as her discussion of the shamanic quality of Zen chanting. Zenju speaks in deeply personal rather than theoretical terms about the underlying shamanic reality of Zen practice. Such awareness is crucial for the development of contemporary Western Zen.”—Taigen Dan Leighton, author of Faces of Compassion and Just This Is It

“This book will turn your conception of Zen inside out. Following on scholarly work on Buddhist Modernism (the Western attempt to ‘clean up’ Buddhism for a secular scientific audience), The Shamanic Bones of Zen pulls us back us to the sacred depth of BuddhaDharma, reclaiming Buddhism’s original, and, perhaps, subversive spirit of connection to earth, mystery, and soul. Informed by the diverse and intensely intuitive spiritual practice she engaged in before she came to Zen, Zenju Earthlyn Manuel’s thorough reframing of the tradition is eye-opening, poetic, and inspiring. The book ends with her original liturgical poems, texts I hope will be chanted in Zen centers some day.”—Norman Fischer, author of Nature and When You Greet Me I Bow

“In all Asian cultures where Buddhism took root, indigenous practices and beliefs intertwined with Buddhism. It can be difficult for us to separate out what is ‘Buddhist’ and what is ‘indigenous.’ In this book, Zenju invites us to appreciate the confluence of cultures and influences we call Buddhism today. Her words bring Zen practice and community richly to life. This generous book gifts us with a voice divine and divining. Zenju’s reverence for ritual beckons us home: into a rootedness deeper than the earth, a vastness bigger than the sky.”—Chenxing Han, author of Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists

“The shamanic bones of Zen are buried in plain sight. But sometimes we need a masterful practitioner and writer like Zenju Earthlyn Manuel to shine a light and open our eyes. I bow to her in gratitude.”—Hozan Alan Senauke, author of The Bodhisattva’s Embrace: Dispatches from Engaged Buddhism’s Front Lines

“A deep exploration of the indigenous and mystical roots of Zen Buddhism, aspects that became hidden or lost as Zen spread worldwide. Zenju’s study joins a rising call across disciplines—spirituality, social change, and science—to unravel oppression and cultivate earth-based practices that enhance compassion and awareness.”—Spirituality & Health

“Manuel deftly threads the needle of scholarly inquiry with the experience of zazen, a deeply somatic, ritualistic way of being that brings her—and possibly all of us—into deep communion with our ancestors.”—Lion’s Roar

“The Zen curious as well as longtime adherents will appreciate Manuel’s revelations.”—Publishers Weekly

The Shamanic Bones of Zen paints a bright and ethereal portrait of Zen Buddhism’s philosophical and ritualistic practices.”—Shelf Awareness