This week on The Road Home Podcast we hear from Ethan Nichtern and Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel. They discuss the overlap of science and spirit, the systems that oppress us, and the importance of ceremonies.
Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel is a poet, author, ordained Zen priest, and medicine woman of the drum. She is the dharma heir of Buddha and the late Zenkei Blanche Hartman in the Shunryu Suzuki Roshi lineage through the San Francisco Zen Center. Osho Zenju’s practice is influenced by Native American and African indigenous traditions. She holds a Ph.D. and worked for decades as a social science researcher, a development director for non-profit organizations and those serving women and girls, cultural arts, and mental health.
Check out Osho Zenju’s new book: The Shamanic Bones of Zen.
Community in Zen Practice
Osho Zenju begins by telling us about her journey of becoming. She attended a three-week intensive at the San Francisco Zen Center and was forever altered. Having a more regimented meditation schedule and a collective space to practice propelled her deeper into her spirituality. As an African American female scholar, writer, and student of mysticism who grew up attending church, she carries unique perspectives into her creative outlets and zen practices. Do you have experience in any sort of communal religious ceremonies or rituals? If so, adding zen practices into your life will be a smooth transition.
“The words are just there to bow deeper, to make the offerings to the ancestors, to understand life, the nature of life – all of the ceremonies are about that. The dharma talks are very western, they’re the cherry on top.” – Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
To hear more from Osho Zenju, listen to her discuss her new book with Raghu Markus: Mindrolling – Raghu Markus – Ep. 430.
Fragmentation of Science and Spirituality (15:20)
Ethan brings up the complicated relationship between science and spirituality. Due to the western separation of church and state, there is this essence that what is concrete and what is spiritual can not conjoin. Osho Zenju offers an interesting perspective on science:
“Science is to me… a way of concretizing spirit and affirming spirit, and affirming reverence, and affirming the mystical.” – Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
For example, people are studying meditation to look at its positive effects. We know it feels good and makes a difference in our lives, but there is this human urge to measure things and find tangible proof. In this way, there is an overlap of science and spirit.
Rituals and Systems (29:43)
The systems of patriarchy, misogyny, and white-centricity influence our world. There is no doubt about this. Ethan asks Osho Zenju how these systems affect rituals, ceremonies, and spirituality. Osho Zenju tells us that there may be oppression from such systems within rituals and the spiritual world, but the rituals themselves are not to blame. We need to find a way to involve and invite everyone without oppression or selectiveness. Then, we will have a truly collective space.
“To be able to make offerings to ancestors in the midst of it all is profound to me. That’s what makes ritual and ceremony profound and transformative–if we’re doing it in reverence and if everyone can participate in it.” – Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel
For more information on white supremacy tune into Ep. 30 of ReRooted w/ Francesca Maximé: Ending White Body Supremacy & Becoming an Embodied Antiracist
Suffering and Buddhism (45:08)
Buddhism is there for us to navigate the suffering in life. The tools we gain from mindfulness allow us to sit with our pain, trauma, and all the horrors of being alive. This includes global problems like oppression and racism. We are all wounded in some way and we live in an imperfect world. We must incorporate this into our practice because pain should not be avoided or ignored. Osho Zenju articulates that our wounds are locked in our consciousness, personally and collectively, and if we try to just remove that wound, we will suffer more. She says:
“It keeps hurting you, and you keep trying to cut it out, but it’s in you. If you cut it out, you’re going to end up cutting something of yourself out. You think you’re cutting out the bad, but there is no bad and good. There just is.” – Osho Zenju Earthlyn Manuel