For Stephen Levine, “animal-people” were his greatest teachers. So, at age seventy, he began collecting animal spirit stories from throughout his life—from the green snake who taught him to meditate as a boy to the generous hen whom predators would not harm, and many more. “Animals have a natural mindfulness,” Levine writes. “They know what they are doing. Humans, who are full of confusion and seldom wholly in touch with their mind/body, need encouragement and technique to live in the present.”
Animal Sutras, the renowned late author’s final literary work, a spiritual memoir, as told through his lifelong encounters with animals and nature, will be published by Monkfish Book Publishing Company this coming September (2019). Inspired by the Jātaka Tales—hundreds of anecdotes and fables depicting earlier incarnations of the future Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama—Levine collected his own stories of transcendent moments with animals. These memoirs, essays, and poems comprise an open-hearted, vulnerable, sometimes apologetic, and often humorous exploration of the mystical importance of animals in the cultivation of meaning and purpose in our lives, and how they can teach us compassion and empathy.
As Ajahn Amaro says, “Whether it is forgiveness from a salamander, stillness from a green snake, the acknowledgement of territories by a spider or mindfulness by ravens, over and over, these stories lead us, too, to realize the primacy of kindness as the way for all of us to help each other to arrive at wellbeing.”
Stephen Levine (1937-2016) was an American poet, author, and spiritual teacher best known for his work, with his wife Ondrea, on death and dying. He is one of a generation of pioneering teachers who, along with Jack Kornfield, Joseph Goldstein, and Sharon Salzberg, have made the teachings of Theravada Buddhism more widely available to students in the West. Like the writings of his colleague and close friend, Ram Dass (formerly Richard Alpert), Levine’s work is also flavored by the devotional practices and teachings (also known as Bhakti Yoga) of the Hindu guru Neem Karoli Baba. A prolific poet and personal essayist, he founded the San Francisco Oracle in the 1960s. Levine also spent several years in the Southwest, including one tending a wildlife sanctuary in southern Arizona, and among the mountains of New Mexico, where Ondrea still lives. His many books include Who Dies?, A Year to Live, Unattended Sorrow, and Healing into Life and Death.
Advance Praise for ANIMAL SUTRAS
I love this book. It feels like a secret treasure bequeathed by Stephen Levine to be opened after his death — an overflowing vessel of insight, humor and literary genius. For those of us who find the deepest dharma shining from the eyes of our animal companions, this collection is a cause for celebration. Animal Sutras may be the best book Stephen Levine ever wrote. —Mirabai Starr, Caravan of No Despair and Wild Mercy
“Stephen was a profound healer of the heart, writer and meditation teacher. In Animal Sutras, his other gifts shine, as a wise poet-naturalist and Dharma storyteller-philosopher, offered here in a lyrical, quirky, playful, and inviting collection.”—Jack Kornfield, A Path with Heart
“A beautiful treasure house of a book: wise, tender, and surprising. Our precious friend has given us a great gift.”—Roshi Joan Halifax