Turning Words: Transformative Encounters with Buddhist Teachers (Paperback)
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A poignant portrait of spiritual relationships in the diverse worlds of American and global Buddhism, through stories of over 30 luminaries including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Joan Halifax, Joanna Macy, and more.
Across more than thirty-five years of practice in Zen and socially engaged Buddhism, Alan Senauke has had a range of remarkable encounters with Buddhist teachers and spiritual friends. Here he collects stories of moments in which someone’s words, actions, or presence opened his mind and heart in a new way. Touching on meditation, insight, social action, race, family, community, and more, these vignettes build like a chorus and convey lessons such as taking one’s work seriously without taking oneself seriously, letting things fall apart, and using oneself up on behalf of others.
The book’s stories and accompanying photographs feature many of the greatest Zen teachers, engaged Buddhists, and global Buddhist leaders of our day, including Robert Aitken, Bernie Glassman, Shodo Harada, Dainin Katagiri, Jarvis Masters, Ven. Sheng Yen, Sulak Sivaraksa, and many more—with a special section devoted to the teachings of Senauke's primary teacher, Sojun Mel Weitsman.
About the Author
ALAN SENAUKE, the abbot of the Berkeley Zen Center, is well-known for his decades-long work in engaged Buddhism. Having served with a number of national and international service organizations, he founded and runs the Clear View Project, a nonprofit organization that has worked extensively on humanitarian projects in Myanmar, Bangladesh, and India. Alan is the author of Heirs to Ambedkar, The Bodhisattva’s Embrace, and other books. Also a musician, he has recorded the Buddhist folk albums Everything Is Broken and Wooden Man.
“When you’re a true student, everyone and everything is a teacher—this is the underlying lesson of this beautiful, engrossing book that invites us all, in turn, to become students in this way. Alan Senauke tells us of many encounters with many people, from those he has known intimately—his father, his main Buddhist teacher—to people he has encountered only indirectly, such as the seventh-century Chinese sage Huineng and the character The Dude from The Big Lebowski (but you have to read the book to figure that one out).”—Rebecca Solnit, author of Orwell’s Roses
“In most of our lives there are bends in the road. Turning Words honors those curves that stop us, if only for a moment, to take another look at how we are living this life. The encounters along the way of Senauke Roshi’s walk with teachers, family, and friends are intimately shared here. If nothing else, the gems that were laid on the ground before him are made available to lead you in a new direction—or perhaps to a new road altogether that you never knew existed.”—Zenju Earthlyn Manuel, author of The Shamanic Bones of Zen
“Humble and sincere, Alan listens to people he encounters and allows them to change him. Moment by moment, touching others, he is a new person. Can’t we all do that?”—Kazuaki Tanahashi, author of Painting Peace
“A humble and striking acknowledgment of the wholeness that affects us all. Like a tree who hears the birds chattering, Alan Senauke brings to life the eccentric, wise, and odd words of teachers and ordinary folks—words that turned into wisdom as they reached Alan’s own heart-mind.”—Roshi Pat Enkyo O’Hara, author of A Little Bit of Zen
“Like the waters of a tumbling mountain creek, these ‘turning words’ flow naturally and are a joy to read. What Alan learned from his teachers not only provides us with nuggets of wisdom for our own learning but also informs us about Alan’s own journey as a Dharma traveler, which has culminated in his role as Abbot Hozan of Berkeley Zen Center. I couldn’t help but smile in reading: it was a hamburger that grabbed his meditating mind during his first daylong sitting; Chino Roshi falling asleep while delivering his own Dharma talk; and his partner, Laurie, coming up with the phrase, ‘I will not abandon you’ to all those who sought their help. The book confirms for me the vibrant and authentic qualities of American Buddhism.”—Kenneth Kenshin Tanaka, Jodo Shinshu priest and Professor Emeritus, Musashino University
“Alan Senauke has been a leader in the field of socially engaged Buddhism for decades, writing and teaching on the intersection of Buddhism and social change. Weaving a history of his life and teachings, this book gives us an intimate window into the people who profoundly affected him and made him who he is. This delightful set of stories moved me, made me laugh, and inspired ongoing reflection and insight. I love this book!”—Diana Winston, Director of Mindfulness Education at UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center and author of The Little Book of Being
“A touching treasury of Buddhist wisdom.”—Publishers Weekly
“Turning words from over thirty teachers that can be revisited when you’re in need of a breakthrough.”—Tricycle