Casting Indra's Net
Fostering Spiritual Kinship and Community
by Pamela Ayo Yetunde
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Pub Date 07 Feb 2023 | Archive Date 14 Feb 2023
Shambhala Publications, Inc., Shambhala
Creating compassionate communities takes more than good will—it requires a dedication to respecting cultural differences while remembering the fundamental spiritual kinship that exists between all people. Activist, counselor, and Buddhist teacher Ayo Yetunde creatively unpacks this condition through the metaphor of Indra’s Net—a universal net in which all beings reflect each other like jewels.
She offers a practice path that acknowledges our deep challenges—challenges that increasingly give rise to the temptation of group violence, which she calls mobbery—while showing exactly how we can still listen, learn, and heal together. Drawing inspiration from the Black liberation tradition and from stories from various religions, Yetunde recasts Indra’s Net as the network in which we all have the choice either to succumb to our impulses toward division and brutality or renew our civility and love for each other. The more than 20 practices in Casting Indra’s Net include:
- Five commitments for healthy, nonviolent living
- Guided contemplation to water the seeds of your spiritual potential
- “Mirroring” and “twinning” other people
- Tonglen (receiving and releasing) and lovingkindness meditations
“Casting Indra’s Net is an enthralling plea for kinship and care. Offering life experiences and her refined theologian mind, Yetunde supports us in a thorough investigation of nonviolence in service of self-actualization and social harmony. Pithy and wise, Casting Indra’s Net warms the chill of our troubling times, softening us into wholeness.”—Ruth King, author of Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out and Founder of the Mindful of Race Institute
“For anyone looking for a way forward in the face of incessant polarization and violence in our global community, Casting Indra’s Net is a call to compassionate action cultivated in deep introspection and contemplation. Through thought-provoking personal narratives, social analysis, and an exploration of sacred texts and the lives of religious exemplars, Dr. Ayo Yetunde weaves a colorful tapestry inviting us to do the necessary inner work to live as spiritual kin, caring for one another amidst global crises and suffering.”—Rev. Dr. Alisha Tatem, Program Director of Congregational Leaders at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies
“Ayo’s bravely compassionate book casts us into a net of mutuality—and brings us up whole. Casting Indra’s Net invites us to be remade, as by a home-cooked meal you didn’t know you needed, prepared by kin you mistook for strangers. This book is a gem that mirrors the jeweled possibilities in all of us.”—Chenxing Han, author of Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists
“With clarity and compassion, using powerful storytelling and wise inquiry, Pamela Ayo Yetunde expertly guides us to understand the indelible truth of our interconnection as kinship. Carefully and bravely leading us to comprehend the urgency of our social, political, and environmental crises, Casting Indra’s Net is a poignant cry to release any divisiveness and heed the call of religious teachings and leaders throughout time that ultimately only love heals. Weaving together Buddhist practices with Christian and Jewish parables, Hindu thought, and universal gospel, this book is a compelling and practical guide for our challenging times.”—Sebene Selassie, author of You Belong: A Call for Connection
“Living in a society that is so painfully divided across polarized beliefs, it is all too easy to dismiss folks who hold differing viewpoints and whom we perceive as ignorant or even threatening. In Casting Indra’s Net, Pamela Ayo Yetunde beautifully reminds us that, in truth, we are interdependent kin, and deep within our cores we have the gifts of respect and compassion to exchange with one another. Weaving together wisdom traditions, especially Buddhism, with the author’s penetrating insights and stories, this book offers skillful means for remembering that we are the beloveds of all sentient beings.”—Jeanine Canty, author of Returning the Self to Nature: Undoing Our Collective Narcissism and Healing Our Planet
“Pamela Ayo Yetunde draws on the deep wisdom traditions of Buddhism and the Black experience in America to offer us the truth of mutuality and interdependence the world needs so badly at this time.”—Melvin McLeod, Editor-in-Chief, Lion’s Roar
“We live in tumultuous and often ugly times. If you want to help make things better, and make yourself happier in the process, check out Ayo’s book. It’s easy to feel separate, like you’re an isolated ego peering fretfully out at the world. But this is an illusion—one that leads to hatred and unhappiness. This book might help wake you up from this nightmare. It’s a rallying cry for civility—to start repairing the world, and ourselves.”—Dan Harris, author of 10% Happier
“In Casting Indra’s Net, Ayo Yetunde draws on her rich experience to apply spiritual practice (much of it Buddhist) to the contemporary tragedy of what she calls ‘mobbery’—our collective failure to address human problems and instead fall back into resentment, tribalism, and violence. With a calm yet insistent voice, she introduces refreshing new concepts like the ‘Platinum Rule’ (an updated Golden Rule that takes difference into account) and ‘koanic’ thinking (an extension of the Zen koan tradition), while providing fresh readings of traditional texts from several religions. All this in service of developing a renewed sense of civility that refuses to settle for complacency in an unjust world. This is a challenging and courageous book.”—Norman Fischer, author of When You Greet Me I Bow: Notes and Reflections from a Life in Zen and Selected Poems: 1980–2013
“From the depths of our sorrows, Pamela Ayo Yetunde speaks with a prophetic voice—wise, clear, and passionate. The righteousness she invokes is the call of love and mutuality rather than warning and wrath. Toward that end, Ayo’s book offers practices to accomplish the oneness of compassion and justice in this very real world we inhabit. We need both.”—Hozan Alan Senauke, author of Turning Words: Transformative Encounters with Buddhist Teachers and abbot of Berkeley Zen Center
“Casting Indra’s Net is not just a book. It is a deeply compassionate tour of our interbeing—and a clear and vibrant call to live into it.”—from the foreword by Resmaa Menakem, author of My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
“This lovely text is a contribution to Interfaith America—the chapter of American history that I believe we are starting to write. But Ayo’s vision, I suspect, is even larger. She would say that this is a stitch in the fabric of Interfaith World.”—from the afterword by Eboo Patel, author of We Need to Build: Field Notes for Diverse Democracy
“Ayo's offering is anchored in her own human story and rooted in her interpretations of Buddhist tradition and astute analysis of our present politics. With her book's two core images (drawn from ancient stories) of all of our souls as interconnected nodes in a vast cosmic net, and the garlands of fragrant flowers or bloody fingers that we make for ourselves as each of our actions contributes to mutuality or to mobbery, Ayo weaves an authentic invitation to all of us to draw on her reflection and teaching—and on the stories and practices each of us has inherited, lived, and encountered—to be our most fully present and compassionate selves, in kinship with all beings. Casting Indra's Net is not meant to live in its pages—it is an offering of orientation and practice, asking all of us to live into the world Ayo envisions and invites us to cocreate. This book is already a river with many tributaries, with Ayo's ancestors in thought and practice alive and with her in its pages. Where it will go depends on how we, her readers, answer her question, ‘What part do you want to play?’”—Rabbi Emma Kippley-Ogman, Associate Chaplain for Jewish Life, Macalester College
“Pamela Ayo Yetunde’s evocative and luminous work centers in the relational mutuality that beckons every human heart. She shows how this mutuality opens to the mysterious depth of reality and is the living key to personal and social transformation in our highly polarized times. Her unmistakably deep roots in the radical Buddhist praxis of unrestricted loving-kindness give her the heart to hold genuine differences and navigate divisions while fostering solidarity of relational caring. She teaches us to advance shared flourishing across the full ‘community of being’ in its interrelationship with sacred mystery.”—Dr. William F. Vendley, Vice President, World Religions and Spirituality, Fetzer Institute
“Thank you, Ayo Yetunde, for writing this book! The jewel of your perspective sees with nuance, care, and clear knowing of the potential for all of us to see more fully. This is a call for the committed work of civility. Through touching personal stories, letters, and practices, we are invited to move, to act, to reflect, and to remember how to lean in to support the good that we know is in each of us.”—Peace Twesigye, Assistant Director of Buddhist Studies and the Thich Nhat Hanh Program for Engaged Buddhism at Union Theological Seminary
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