Member Spotlight: Davu Seru

Name: Davu, but my dharma friends sometimes call me Ryūgen 

I am a Black man. I love the feminine and, while comfortably oriented toward practicing hetero-monogamy, my behavior does not always reflect the racialized gender norms that are so meaningful to people. And I take some pride in it. 


I’m currently a professor of writing and literature. My research focuses on African American culture. But most people probably know me as an improvising musician and composer. 

How did you discover Clouds?

I came to Clouds in Water Zen Center for an AA meeting back in 2019; I kept returning for the zen community. I used to perform quite a bit as a musician in lowertown (Saint Paul) and would often see people from Clouds when they were located in the Northern warehouse, next to what was then the Black Dog coffee shop. Later I discovered that the sangha had moved closer to where I live in Frogtown. 

If your life was the title of a book or movie, what would it be called?

More Notes on a Native Son…it might be a piece of fanfiction after James Baldwin, after Richard Wright.

Why do you practice zazen and mindfulness?

To remember what is real and not be overwhelmed by what is not. To cultivate peace so that we might all get free. 

What excites you?

Flowers. Silence. Jokes. Fresh air. Hot sauce. Mountains. Virtuosity. Improvisation. Birds and bees. 

Where are some places you feel at home in the Twin Cities?

I’m thinking about the times when people have told me “make yourself at home.” I feel at home anywhere I am welcome. And I feel welcome in most places.

If you had to recommend one dharma book, what would it be? 

Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism (1973). It’s one of the first that I read from cover to cover and the one that I have come back to more than any other. 

Anything on your bucket list?

Getting free. Releasing my son to himself. Black love.

What are you listening to right now?

Andrew Hill’s Point of Departure (1964)

Do you have any favorite words of inspiration – a quote, song lyric, poem, or something else that supports you? 

“Only connect.” It’s from a sermon given by a women pastor in E.M. Forster’s novel Howard’s End (1910). The rest of it goes: “Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its highest. Live in fragments no longer.” I don’t remember much else from the novel, except those words. I don’t think they’re being used ironically. 

Summer or winter?

Summer, then fall, then winter, then spring, then…

Tea or coffee?

Tea and coffee

Evening with a book or a night on the town?

Do people make love anymore?

What or who is nourishing you most right now?

Remembering family history with family

What are you most looking forward to at Clouds in 2023?

There’s a reckoning here too. I look forward to us landing together at some place that reflects more accurately the world we live in…which is to say: reflects dharma.  

Any Twin Cities community organizations or efforts you’d like to highlight?

Give it up for

Anything else you’d like to add to help us get to know you better?

Don’t be fooled by the accent, Birkenstocks or fuel-efficient Honda, dear sangha. Though I have spent a lot of time reading and writing and communicating with hip, educated and financially secure white people here and abroad, I grew up cash poor and Black in the ‘hood…in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is difficult for me not to see myself as having been terrorized by police, street gangs, church, government bureaus, infamous families…group-think of various sorts. And it’s probably more difficult for me to behave like I know that I was also supported by those things. Forgive me if my reactions to you first pass through the fears, loves, belongings, estrangements and heartbreaks associated with all of the above. 

Clouds in Water Zen Center is a vibrant urban community in the heart of Saint Paul, Minnesota. We practice in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition, dedicated to awakening the heart of great wisdom and compassion. We welcome people of all backgrounds and faiths.

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