Tell Me Something about Buddhism: Questions and Answers for the Curious Beginner
A Review By: Amelia
Buddhism has always made me curious. It’s not a religion, it’s a loose philosophical system that billions of people practice even today, and to me (I’m a staunch non-religious person) that’s just fascinating. But where does one start with Buddhism? Which books should I pick up? What research should be done to open my horizons, so to speak? It’s a system that’s been in place thousands of years and is moulded differently in each area that it is practiced and to just jump in seems daunting. Tell Me Something about Buddhism is a book that realizes that it’s daunting and will help guide you through a number of the bigger questions of Buddhism.
For anyone curious about the teachings of Buddha and modern Buddhist practice, "Tell Me Something about Buddhism "offers the perfect introduction. Written by Soto Zen priest Zenju Earthlyn Manuel and organized in an easy-to-use Question and Answer format, this brief book answers the many common questions people have about Buddhism.
The author of Tell Me Something about Buddhism is Zenju Earthlyn Manuel (Zenju is her dharma name meaning complete tenderness). Manuel was ordained a Soto Zen priest September 2008 and along with her writing career in the field of Buddhism, she’s been a guest teacher at Spirit Rock Meditation Center, Green Gulch Zen Center, and the East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland. She holds a M.A. degree from U.C.L.A. and a Ph.D. in Transformation and Consciousness from the California Institute of Integral Studies. So, all in all, this is a lady that knows what Zen is all about.
Manuel, who has been involved in Buddhist practice for over twenty years, after an L.A. upbringing in an African-American Christian church, intertwines throughout the book her personal experiences as one of the first African-American Zen priests. Her life in the Sangha, her teaching in local communities, and her travels around the world meeting other Buddhist practitioners enliven her answers to the most fundamental questions about Buddhist practice. Some of her answers are brief, some in-depth, others still are personal and reflect more of an opinion than an outright answer, but she is a highly qualified woman and you’ll know more about Buddhism after finishing this book than when you began. She writes, "Had I not opened myself to the many teachings from the earth, such as Buddha's wisdom, it would have been nearly impossible to survive the fires of my soul."
Tell Me Something about Buddhism is an interesting little book. It doesn’t cover everything you’ll need to know about Buddhism–I don’t think any one book could ever do that–but it does give you just enough basics on things like who was Buddha to why do monks, nuns, and priests shave their heads.
My final thoughts on Tell Me Something about Buddhism are that it’s good. It’s not exactly a book that you can pick up and fall into without some prior interest in Buddhism but, like the title says, it’s a good place to start for a curious beginner!