In this exquisite primer on Zen Buddhism, author and ordained Zen priest Angel Kyodo Williams is not trying to convert African Americans into a new religion. Instead, she is simply presenting Zen principles and practices that emphasize living a life of grace and self-acceptance. Having faced the daily challenges of growing up black in America, she is especially adept at showing how these Zen principles apply to the African American experience. "People of color are especially in need of new ways and new answers to the separation and fear we face each day," Kyodo Williams writes. "It wouldn't be a stretch to say that as black people, more than most groups in this country, we live our daily lives with the distinct taste of fear in our mouths.... While the principles offered here are not an antidote to the underlying reasons for our fears, they can give us a different way to approach them."
Kyodo Williams offers a savvy yet tender voice as she walks readers through the basic principles of Zen. It's hard to resist her invitation to take on the numerous sensible vows that lead to enlightenment, such as staying true to the warrior spirit while "committing ourselves to practicing good." The bottom line is that this is a book about claiming the strength, compassion, and integrity that dwell within everyone. And although it speaks to the particular needs and trials of the African American community, readers of all colors and walks of life will find this an irresistible invitation. --Gail Hudson
From Publishers Weekly
Compatibility with other traditions is an unsung strength of Buddhism. Here, ordained Zen priest Williams makes a compelling case for African-Americans to embrace this practice that originated far from their fundamental roots on the continent of Africa. Although she does not advocate that African-Americans replace their traditional religions with Buddhism, she does believe that Zen's practical approach to ordinary life can help them, noting also that Buddha was a brown-skinned person. Williams, who is African-American, quite comfortably employs black vernacular, balancing such light moments with meatier discourses on the particular history and weight of blackness. Williams's primary thrust, however, encompasses the basic whats, hows and especially the whys of Buddhism. Under her effective touch, such concepts as Bodhisattva Vows, Pure Precepts and the Eightfold Path become accessible possibilities for a better everyday life. Postures and procedures round out this unassuming primer that squarely embraces Zen (meaning "meditation"). With subtle persuasion and highly readable prose, Williams advocates that a "warrior spirit" of truth and responsibility is a good fit for people who "want to know how to be here in this life and be okay just as we are." She has reached well beyond her stated audience, for to whom does this not apply? (Oct.)
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