cover image Animal Sutras: Animal Spirit Stories

Animal Sutras: Animal Spirit Stories

Stephen Levine. Monkfish, $21.95 (176p) ISBN 978-1-948626-06-4

The late poet and spiritual teacher Levine (1937–2016) takes inspiration from the 4th Century BCE Buddhist Jataka Tales in these delightful stories of “transcendent moments” spent with animals. While tending a wildlife sanctuary in southern Arizona until 2016, Levine began blending his Buddhist beliefs into his journaling about his animal friends. The sutras all aim to break up common impressions of animals. For instance, Levine writes that there is a collective fear of spiders but there are “spiders of wonderment who crawl over our forearm, stop to pray, and disappear a bit more lovingly into the underbrush of the mind.” Also included are his experiences with a “salamander of forgiveness,” a green snake who teaches him to meditate, and the “mouse of faith” who by “hopping from sunspot to sunspot across the weathered planks of the porch, seemed to wholly comprehend the potential for boundless fear or boundless joy.” In this cornucopia of brief tales laced together in wonderful prose, Levine (Healing into Life and Death) presents imaginings of animals’ inner lives that will leave a lasting impression with any reader, and will particularly appeal to Buddhists. (Sept.)

Correction: An earlier version of this review misspelled Jataka Tales.