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Posted February 7, 2014
Was the Buddha a Shaman?
By, Joy Manné PhD
A book review by Ginger Dawn Harman
Having a natural curiosity and fascination of Buddhism along with other world spiritual beliefs, I was intrigued to read Joy Manne’s newest work in print, “Was the Buddha a Shaman.” I have read two other books by the same author, Conscious Breathing and her book that presents the practice of Family Constellations. Joy Manné writes with an assertive, knowledgeable, and clear voice. Bringing together wisdom from the field of Jungian psychology, Buddhism, and shamanistic practices, Joy Manné reasons that consciousness is naturally shamanic. Joy Manné studied Sanskrit and Pali. Her doctorate was in Debates and Case Histories in the Pali Canon. This book covers one of her major findings: the relationship between shamanism and consciousness.
Was the Buddha a Shaman begins with the definition of a shaman. The word "shaman" is thought to derive from the Buddhist-Sanskrit term “shramana”, a recluse, ascetic, or wandering monk. This path of shamanism was identified by early scholars and practitioners which began in Siberia but continues to be prevalent in modern times. Joy Manné continues with this theme that there are many different kinds of shamans influence by different cultures.
Part two and three were my favorite parts of the book. The author completes a case history of a typical shaman and of Buddha. Such details are provided by research with insights to birth, youth/early adulthood, initiation, and practice. Readers are well informed into the teachings, journeys, and relationships with spirits and political role in society. Furthermore, I appreciated the summary that was provided throughout key points in the book. Yet, Part four is where the author truly shines. The comparison between both case studies proves that a large amount of evidence shows that Buddha practiced as a shaman even after his enlightenment particularly that he went beyond shamanism.
Part of the book was well over my head such as the topic of “No-self” (anatt¿), what is impermanent (anicca) and suffering (dukkha). However, references are given on understanding of what is not the self--including cultivating the meditation on “Paticchasamuppada.” What makes this book different from others is the way that the authors link Buddhist practice in a way comparable to the practices of a shaman. The authors show the reader ways that “consciousness is naturally shamanic. It is natural for shamanic capacities to develop in people who are following a spiritual path, and it does not seem to matter what spiritual path that is.”
This book could fall under many different categories: educational, self-help, manual, or research aid. Whether this book is read by a person with a background in Sanskrit and Pali or a person with no Buddhism/shamanistic education at all, something will be taken away that was previously unknown. I highly recommend Was the Buddha a Shaman by Joy Manné PhD.