cover image The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender

The Way of Tenderness: Awakening Through Race, Sexuality, and Gender

Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. Wisdom, $15.95 trade paper (144p) ISBN 978-1-61429-125-1

In Buddhism, the concept of emptiness suggests that enlightenment allows the practitioners to transcend the shackles of the body: if one can train the mind, the body will necessarily follow. Manuel, a black lesbian, offers an alternative interpretation: “Enlightenment... emerges through bodies.” Manuel argues that the lived experience of the oppressed, disadvantaged body necessarily changes the spiritual experience. To supersede the body is to ignore the contexts in which moods such as rage, anger, or disappointment (which may be tied to race, sexuality, gender, class, etc.) exist. Ultimately, the belief that enlightenment liberates the practitioner from the body is a deluded whitewashing of the experience of the oppressed. Rather than nonidentity (the significance of which is often inferred from Buddhist concepts of emptiness and impermanence), Manuel asserts the relevance of embodied identity in the face of oppression and hatred. It is by recognizing distinct accounts of life and acknowledging the tenderness that comes from not only compassion and love but also from pain and suffering that the body becomes “the location of awakened experience.” Manuel’s teaching is a thought-provoking, much-needed addition to contemporary Buddhist literature. (Feb.)