Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun

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A wry account of the road from Harvard scholarship student to ordination as northern Thailand's first black Buddhist nun.Reluctantly leaving behind Pop Tarts and pop culture to battle flying rats, hissing cobras, forest fires, and decomposing corpses, Faith Adiele shows readers in this personal narrative, with accompanying journal entries, that the path to faith is full of conflicts for even the most devout. Residing in a forest temple, she endured nineteen-hour daily meditations, living on a single daily meal, ...
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Overview

A wry account of the road from Harvard scholarship student to ordination as northern Thailand's first black Buddhist nun.Reluctantly leaving behind Pop Tarts and pop culture to battle flying rats, hissing cobras, forest fires, and decomposing corpses, Faith Adiele shows readers in this personal narrative, with accompanying journal entries, that the path to faith is full of conflicts for even the most devout. Residing in a forest temple, she endured nineteen-hour daily meditations, living on a single daily meal, and days without speaking. Internally Adiele battled against loneliness, fear, hunger, sexual desire, resistance to the Buddhist worldview, and her own rebellious Western ego. Adiele demystifies Eastern philosophy and demonstrates the value of developing any practice—Buddhist or not. This "unlikely, bedraggled nun" moves grudgingly into faith, learning to meditate for seventy-two hours at a stretch. Her witty, defiant twist on the standard coming-of-age tale suggests that we each hold the key to overcoming anger, fear, and addiction; accepting family; redefining success; and re-creating community and quality of life in today's world.

Author Biography: Faith Adiele, a graduate of Harvard College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, is assistant professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh. She lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Jan Willis meets Anne Lamott in this funny, observant memoir by Adiele, an English professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Burned out by the pressure of undergraduate studies at Harvard, Adiele took a year off to get her head together and do field research in Thailand, where she had once spent time as a Rotary exchange student. She became fascinated with Buddhist nuns and began soliciting their stories, a process that led to her rather impulsive decision to seek "temporary ordination" as a nun herself. The nominal-Unitarian-turned-Buddhist is humble about her spiritual insights: "Where I should be ber-nun, I'm not even what is perceived as a practicing Buddhist. I don't meditate regularly; I nurse anger; I despise tofu. Dammit, I don't appear to have learned anything! So how can anyone learn from me?" But readers can and will learn from Adiele, who parses out her second stay in Thailand with a comic's timing, a novelist's keen observations about human idiosyncrasies and an anthropologist's sensitivity to issues of race and culture. Her main narrative is almost talmudically surrounded by commentary: all along the outer margins of the book, quotes from Buddhist luminaries mingle with excerpts from her own very raw journals from that year. As she admits her fear of the rats that infested her meditation cave or chronicles her pride in gradually increasing her meditation hours, we are privileged to see an unvarnished vulnerability. (Apr.) Forecast: Adiele, who will do author appearances in Pittsburgh and Cleveland, will appear on the upcoming PBS documentary The Journey Home. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
As Buddhism has been firmly established in the West as an alternative spiritual path to Christian dogma, dharma texts elucidating traditional practice and traditions have become abundantly available. Filled with fluid prose and bracing personal revelation, this book is a wonderful companion to the existing literature. The title aptly combines the metaphoric and literal, referring both to the author and to her experience as the first Western black woman to be ordained in northern Thailand's Theravada Buddhist forest community. Initially a challenge to her resolve, as well as an opportunity to study intimately the experience of a female initiate (maechi) from a sociological perspective, her Buddhist training gradually prods her toward discovery of a more personal perspective: her own. Broader concepts of cultural diversity, race, and social caste give her enlightenment context, and the presentation of basic Buddhist tenets provides invaluable counterpoints to this vivid example of "applied Buddhism." While the somewhat cumbersome format (journal snippets and various miscellany cram the margins) makes this challenging to read, ultimately it is well worth the mastering. Recommended for all public libraries.-Dina Komuves, Collingswood, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393057843
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 3/19/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.22 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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