Zen Peacemaker Order By Eve Marko

Zen Peacemaker Order By Eve Marko

At a meeting of the Stewards of Green River Zen Center on Monday, September 22, I introduced the topic of GRZC becoming a member group of the Zen Peacemaker Order.

The Zen Peacemaker Order was originally created in 1996 by Roshis Bernie Glassman and Sandra Jishu Holmes, along with a group of Founding Teachers. While Zen Peacemakers has always been a loose confederation of individual practitioners, teachers, Zen centers and circles, the Order was more structured, with training paths and commitments that individual members had to make, including a Rule (the Zen Peacemaker Precepts). USA Founding teachers included Roshis Joan Jiko Halifax (Upaya), Wendy Egyoku Nakao (Zen Center of Los Angeles), Pat Enkyo O’Hara (Village Zendo), Grover Genro Gauntt (Hudson River Peacemaker Institute), and myself. In 2002 a group gathered in Europe to study together and to develop ZPO in Europe. This group was called the Founding ZPO Teachers of Europe and consisted of Malgosia Braunek (Poland), Frank De Waele (Belgium), Michel DuBois (France), Amy Hollowell (France), Andrzej Krajewski (Poland), Roberto Mander (Italy), Catherine Pagès (France), Paul Shoju Schwerdt (Germany), Barbara Salaam Wegmüller (Switzerland) and Roland Yakushi Wegmüller (Switzerland). Heinz-Jürgen Metzger (Germany) joined this group shortly after. 

Despite an auspicious beginning, the Order suffered a setback with the death of Jishu Holmes in 1998  and lay relatively dormant for a number of years despite active interest by its members.

During this last year Roshis Bernie Glassman and Egyoku Nakao decided to revitalize it. This happened not just in response to inquiries by the Order’s existing members, but more important, in response to the challenges facing Zen practitioners in the West: What is this practice about for relatively prosperous Westerner? What does waking up mean in a world  that feels increasingly unstable and violent? They began to clarify guidelines for governance and membership, convened working groups to finalize vision/ mission statements and values (in which I participated), and laid a foundation for renewing the order. They provided for individual members (of which I am one) and for group members.

The criteria for becoming a group member are simple and can be found on the Zen Peacemakers website. They basically call for groups to include the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets as a core practice and to encourage members to do social action. They also ask a member group to provide at least one training a year in the core practices of the Order, which comprise the Precepts, the Three Tenets, Council practice, the Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy, and so on. There are no financial commitments.

I believe that the vision of the Zen Peacemakers Order warrants further consideration. GRZC is a self-sustaining, independent sangha, like most Zen sanghas in this country. We are a part of a teachers’ lineage that goes from me through Bernie Glassman through Taizan Maezumi and through many Soto Zen teachers in Japan, all of whom have certainly influenced us, but that says nothing about the bigger framework for the sangha as a whole. We’re not part of any association or group and don’t subscribe to a joint vision with any other sangha. That’s very different from most churches or synagogues, for example, that point to a bigger framework of which they’re a part (Unitarians, Catholics, Congregationalist, Reform Judaism, etc.). Being solitary in this way gives us our independence; it can also make us small and insular in vision.

I joined the Order on an individual basis not only because it was founded by my husband or because I was a Founding Teacher. I joined it because it’s a movement for change on different levels—individual, societal, planetary. It asks us not to dwell on our own transformation, on our own peace of mind and happiness, but to use our practice to move that dial of universal awakening a fraction of a millimeter forward. It challenges us to ask what small, doable steps we can take, day after day, towards healing in this world, between genders, nations, religions and cultures, towards proper stewardship of our earth and its plants, towards a proper relationship with all beings. Sitting meditation is part of it; it’s not all.

The Zen Peacemaker Order envisages sanghas working for the sake of all, doing ministries in prisons, areas of poverty (of which there are a number here in Franklin County), global warming, families in need, violence. If it doesn’t ask us to become hermits, it also doesn’t require us to stop living middle-class lives. Instead it challenges us to bear witness to the Other—whatever Other that is—and take some small action for my family, community and the world.

The Order doesn’t supplant our own governance. It has grievance procedures which it asks member groups to adopt in case they don’t have their own, but GRZC has its own. There are no financial commitments. It simply beckons us to join a bigger movement, open our practice eyes wider, and start putting Zen on the map as a conglomeration of practitioners subscribing to similar values and ready to work together. For those of you who’ve studied the history of Zen in this country, you’ll see immediately that this is a big, big deal.

So please, let’s join the Zen Center of Los Angeles, Village Zendo, the Center of Council, and others and become a member group of the Zen Peacemaker Order (you’ll find a list of member groups on the website).



  1. Thank you, dear Eve, for this clear article. with a bow, Monica JiOn

  2. I too, recently, joined the ZPO as an individual (associated with my teacher, Frank De Waele), because I have long been touched by the vision of the Zen Peacemakers and the last words I heard Bernie say at the 1st Auschwitz Retreat in 1996 that went in deeply and still resonate (paraphrased): “Go home and do something. It doesn’t matter what it is – but do something.” I did not know what I was stepping into back then, but felt compelled to step in. I appreciate Eve’s words and the suggestion that joining the ZPO can help, “open our practice eyes wider…” beautiful. Thank you, Eve, for your clarity and vision.

  3. Monika Winkelmann : October 14, 2014 at 9:05 am

    I read it again, even with more interest. By now I am engaging as a Zen Peacemaker and – increasingly – as a Zen practitioner since almost five years – years which have completely changed myself and my life.

    As a Zen Peacemaker I feel my most essential teacher is Bernie Glassman, I perceive him as a powerful “grandfather”, appearing from time to time in my dreams, and afterwards I am doing an important step. Barbara Wegmüller has been my precept teacher, mine and Reiner’s, and we have studied together – for the first time, afterwards more times – the precepts, sat in ZP-circles in Switzerland, and in Bonn, created immediately after my return from my first Auschwitz-Retreat in June 2010. In June 2011 Reiner and I received the precepts, the Rakusus, the Dharma-names in a gorgeous celebration in Bonn: combined with a half Zen Peacemakers Day (and two circles, one under guidance of Barbara, the other guided by Roland) in one of the Catholic institutions for family and education in Bonn, I am giving my workshops/courses since 25 years. What a huge day and evening! Some of our Zen Peacemakers friends having created their paths and their circles had been our guests, then: Svenja Shinsen and Rupert, Georgia Nechama. – Reiner and I loved our dedicated new path offering ZP-circles every month, one whole day, and we let ourselves inspire by the recommendments written by Bernie on his website: Schedule for a Whole Day of Reflection and Schedule for a Half Day of Reflection, which I still find worth to try and learn from it. I used to write a kind of detailed report about every gathering and sent it to the participants and also to those who couldn’t attend every time because they were living too far from Bonn such as Georgia, Svenja and Rupert, but also others, and to Barbara. Some times we invited for a weekend, for some months we had been happy to be creative with an extra “precept-council”. We prepared and organized the 1st (of the new generation of German Zen Peacemakers) Gathering of German ZP on Whitsun 2012, with an ambitious programme: To start with an evening-council, have a whole pilgrimage-day in the Peace-Museum in Remagen, a council with fourteen participants under the Bridge of Remagen, a walking meditation across the “Golden Mile”, the former prisonser’s camp 1945, to the Chapel of the Black Madonna, where we were celebrating a “Gate of Sweet Nectar”. – We walked the streets of Remagen in silence, a town that has to face huge difficulties with Neonazis every year, because of the presence of the Museum, the Chapel, the history connected to German war veterans. – The evening-circle back in Bonn was meaningful, for most of us. I would like to do this again, by now we know more people to invite. – From that time on we have been “in the fields” in prison, in a refugee asylum, in Kamp Vught (NL) and Mechelen (B), in Brussels, in the Zen-Dojo with Ginni Stern, with Claude Anshin Thomas, and Frank DeWaele is planing to hold a Dharma-Talk in Bonn. – I have met Genjo Marinello Osho during my third Auschwitz-Bearing-Witness Retreat and am practicing and studying with him since then. – FrankDeWaele is my Zen Peacemakers Guide, and I enjoyed very much the preparation and concrete stay and learning with him during the Bearing Witness Retreat at Lampedusa in September. – I am part of his Sangha and also closely connected to the Sangha Lage Landen. With Patrick van der Hofstad I have organized a Retreat with a specific format: It took place in May 2014 in Utrecht, NL and we are planing the next in 2015, same place, same format. FrankDeWaele will be there for one day to have a council for Zenpeacemakers together in the morning; in the afternoon, we are going to invite to deeper investigate about “Spirituality and (chronic) disease” and learn from Buddhist people who are either sick and practitioners or are working in the field and additionally perhaps suffer from chronical disease). – The years of trying to create and hold a Zen Peacemakers’ Circle were dense, intensive, full of teachings and – not easy at all. Also because of a lack of transparency, support, presence of the teacher or a guide. This transpareny is now offered, by you, Eve, and by Bernie, and others or working on that. I am very, very grateful for that and it is high time for that, too. This is my sincere opinion. To read now the names of the founding zen peacemakers for example, two of them German, is necessary and honoring (them). We are the second generation and should know and appreciate on whose shoulders we are standing and continuing the work. – So I had already made contacts with Heinz-Jürgen Metzger and Paul Soju Schwerdt, to ask them what there main experiences have been, which ones they would like to share, whether they would like to cooperate, what they would like to recommend, and… and… and. For the – out of various reasons – difficult field of German Zen Peacemakers and Peacemakers I have committed (with one side of my being) to contribute to a healing process in this what I talked about. Listening, mainly. Connecting. Honoring. Bringing together, if possible, if wished, what has been separated, or irgnored, or diminished. – So, we are learning here essential details of the “genesis” of the International Zen Peacemakers, which is great. I want to learn and understand more of the “genesis” of the European Zen Peacemakers, the German Zen Peacemakers. With the goal that in some years, every interested person who wants to know about Peacemaking and Zen Peacemaking in Germany can and will have the more or less same information, in German available, about the history and the people involved. A consistent story, which has not been yet told, where nobody is excluded or diminished. And where such an interested person could go and choose a teacher or Sangha-member to talk to, in their own language or another European language.

    I am starting to prepare for the fifth Auschwitz-Bearing-Witness Retreat – with an odd feeling and less fear than before: For the first time I will not take part in the council training I so much had loved and learnt from! The practice of “Raising a Mala” which had allowed me to commit to the last retreats and trainings has met a limit this year: The so generously given pearls were enough for the fees for the retreat and some really fundamental support to go to Lampedusa and pay for my Spaghetti and Coffee, but the Bearing Witness Training had to be cancelled. This will also be a good and meaningful experience – I am sure. – With many, many bows! Monika JiOn, member of the ZP order

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