Podcast: Bernie Glassman Introduces Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism

August 9, 2010

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Want to be part of the Friends of Bernie cybersangha squad?

For a relaunch of Zen Peacemakers website we are looking for passionate people, who appreciate the power of the Internet to reduce suffering, enjoy creating something new and want to be part of Bernie Glassman’s vision of peace.

The main task will be transferring content from the old website to a new WordPress platform. Knowledge of WordPress or HTML is helpful, but not necessary.

Later on, we will need help to market and promote the website and translators from English to German (other languages will follow).

Ideal would be a longer committment to work on this project, but help for the relaunch alone (July -October) is welcome.

How much time you can offer is up to you, but 5-10 hours per week would be ideal.

We will show you via screen sharing what to do. We will communicate via skype and email. We will add a lot of new features to the website, so there will always be a lot to do. If you like to join our team we will be happy to work with you. Working on this project is dharma work and practice and a great opportunity to spread the dharma.

If you are interested, please contact: [email protected]

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Street Retreat Reflections ~ Heinz-Jürgen Metzger

This article is part of a series of articles written about a Holy Week 2011 Street Retreat, which took place in New York City. This retreat commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the first Zen Peacemakers street retreat, also in New York.  Zen Master Bernie Glassman invited several longtime students and companions to the retreat to become recognized as Senseis and Dharma Holders. Read bios and reflections of retreat participants. Read explanation of ceremony by Bernie Glassman. See more retreat pictures by Peter Cunningham.

Fourteen years ago, in 1997, Bernie invited me to a street-retreat in New York
City. After having been together with him in the retreat at Auschwitz, this
street-retreat was my second experience of practice outside a traditional zendo.
Both retreats helped me to see my true zendo, my true place of practice: our
green planet.

Fourteen years later, on Easter Holy Weekend, we met again at Tompkins Square
Park in the Lower East Side of New York City.  This time, it was a family
gathering:  some of us had already been previously together at the 1997 Street
Retreat; and the remaining I have been working with in the context of the
Peacemakers for the past fourteen years.

All of us participated in a ceremony of recognition with Bernie. For me, this
recognition has two aspects: Of course, Bernie recognized the work of each of
us, but he also recognized the work of us as a group, as a mandala of
Peacemakers.  How will this mandala actualize itself in the future? How will we
keep alive and continue to develop the vision, Bernie shared with us?

It’s not easy to be a visionary, it’s even harder to stay a visionary: There’s
the gap between vision and reality, year after year, year after year. – Thank
you, Bernie, for keeping your vision alive all the years!

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Street Retreat Reflections ~ Sally Kealy

This article is part of a series of articles written about a Holy Week 2011 Street Retreat, which took place in New York City. This retreat commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the first Zen Peacemakers street retreat, also in New York.  Zen Master Bernie Glassman invited several longtime students and companions to the retreat to become recognized as Senseis and Dharma Holders. Read bios and reflections of retreat participants. Read explanation of ceremony by Bernie Glassman. See more retreat pictures by Peter Cunningham.

Appreciatory Verse to Bernie:

Your vow has been to feed all the hungry spirits throughout all space and time.

Under that red beret,

You call a new game into play.

So many slices in this pizza-


Yes, so many slices and flavors became apparent at our Holy Week New York City Street Retreat which also commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the first ever street retreat located also in the Big Apple.  This retreat was a little different.

Bernie invited ten of his long standing students and activists to participate in this event.   There was also a wonderful Theravaden nun, Pannavati, and our long time street guide, Larry Batman Chamberlain, and Bernie’s assistant, Ari Pliskin, with  Sensei Paco Lugovina and our street retreat leader, Roshi Genro Gauntt.  As we walked the streets in the wind and rain I looked at the flavors of this pizza:  Belgian, French, Swiss, Polish, American, Israeli, Puerto Rican,Afro-American, and they all karmically gathered around a divine madman from Brooklyn named Bernie Glassman, “Bernie”.

At the end of the retreat on Easter Sunday the ten invited plus Pannavati and Batman participated in a ceremony of Dharma Recognition in the Five Buddha Familuies—ironically nothing is given in this ceremony between teacher and student for it is already there.  It impressed me deeply how this ceremony strips everything away to “just this”===moment by moment.  How could there be something added?.  And yet, I always felt that when we chanted the women’s lineage and said, “And to all those who have been forgotten or left unsaid”, that I stood for all of them.  And now the title, Sensei, has been given to me, and I feel rather odd, and yet, encouraged.

The street retreat prepared me for what happened a few days later.   Our home is for sale, and that is a necessity, and we found that my husband, John, is also retiring in two months!  Many changes and many chances to trust and believe in the words that launch the Bowery Mission service, “God is Good!”  “All the time!”

Easter Sunday with my family was wonderful, and as I returned over the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey that evening, I saw those slices of pizza in my mind’s eye.  Bernie with his walking stick, Barbara holding his arm.  Frank sleeping so well, Peter Cunningham in his red beret, Michael O”Keefe directing our ceremony, Rabbi Ohad’s sweet-nectar voice,  Pannavati’s bow,  Batman’s smile and glowing eyes,  Genro’s commanding leadership,  Roland Wegmuller’s generosity in making rakasus (and Barbara making malas), Heinz washing my feet, Michel Dubois’s Don’t Know smile, Andrejez’s wonderful profile,  Ari Pliskin’s tirelessness, Paco’s joy for others.

Truly, truly—- one DELICIOUS pizza!

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Street Retreat Reflections ~ Andrzej Krajewski

This article is part of a series of articles written about a Holy Week 2011 Street Retreat, which took place in New York City. This retreat commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the first Zen Peacemakers street retreat, also in New York.  Zen Master Bernie Glassman invited several longtime students and companions to the retreat to become recognized as Senseis and Dharma Holders. Read bios and reflections of retreat participants. Read explanation of ceremony by Bernie Glassman. See more retreat pictures by Peter Cunningham.

I wouldn’t miss one single moment of the New York City  Street Retreat with old and new friends.  Each moment was a peak experience filled with intensity and complete vigilance even while asleep!

The infinite Circle embraces all.  Seeing the integrity of all energies and spheres, their interlocking working, no need to put one in front of other, they are a mandala, Indra¹s net – one in all and all in one.

Appreciatory Verse to Bernie:

I met a guy walking the same way, but he was so much more advanced than me.  While we walked sometimes together, I appreciated more and more the crystal brisk air and distant goal as well as Bernie’s clear and simple language, practical tools and steps.  Such simple joy, and an astonishing way to let go and move on ­and off the side walk when necessary.  Thank you, Roshi Bernie.

Sensei Andrezej

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Street Retreat Reflection ~ Roland Wegmüller

This article is part of a series of articles written about a Holy Week 2011 Street Retreat, which took place in New York City. This retreat commemorated the 20th Anniversary of the first Zen Peacemakers street retreat, also in New York.  Zen Master Bernie Glassman invited several longtime students and companions to the retreat to become recognized as Senseis and Dharma Holders. Read bios and reflections of retreat participants. Read explanation of ceremony by Bernie Glassman. See more retreat pictures by Peter Cunningham.

Roshi Bernie Tetsugen Glassman invited me as a Sufi student to join the Zen Peacemaker circle in Paris.  I began to attend the circle more and more frequently.   He appeared to prefer to be a peer to all of us in the Paris Peacemaker Circle.  The teacher student relationship grew over time.  Zen Peacemakers practice with ever new upayas (skillful means) enriched my life.

Every plunge into Not-Knowing opened my heart and encouraged me to act and to learn. The invitation for the Street Retreat in New York with long time friends was an honor and a highlight of my life.  I feel the bliss of love, and warmed by the intimate sense of an every growing and opening family that is all-inclusive.

Appreciatory Haiku To Roshi Bernie following the twentieth anniversary of the first New York City Street Retreat:

Twelve juniors,

one elder in the circle;

warmth and love – recognition

Old master, subtle wisdom;

opening doors;

our true Selves unfolding –

Easter- rising

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Social Enterprise at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism

In the first days of the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, we discussed how the rich tradition of Buddhism has always taught people not only to wake up to the fact that we are all one, but to actualize our interconnectedness in the way we treat each other in personal relationships, families and in society as a whole.  While the structure of the Asian monastic community may or may not have relevance in contemporary U.S., Buddhists and like-minded fellow travelers have been on the cutting edge of developing organizations and systems that reflect our interconnectedness, including social enterprise.  A business model based on the Buddhist insight of interdependence joins the social enterprise movement, where social and environmental outcomes are placed on par with profit.

According to presenters Peter Senge and Richard Landry, since the emergence of capitalism, first industrialization and more recently the internet have accelerated and intensified the interconnection about which Buddhism always taught.  For example, Senge described how a few generations ago, the food and clothing that people used was usually produced in their own region whereas today, the goods we consume come from all over the world.  This makes us more connected to far off places, making new things available, but also bringing new risks and challenges.

The results of economic change, however, are not always harmful.  When Richard Landry worked in the magazine industry in the 1980’s, they talked about their audience as a community.  This is still the case with readers of online content today, except for that the digital format provides for more opportunities for communication between content creators and readers and between readers and for readers to become content creators themselves.

While new technology can build community, several panelists advocating social enterprise traced a problem to industrial capitalism as it emerged in the 19th Century. That system, which prioritized shareholder profit above social welfare has caused suffering throughout the world and advocates of social enterprise provide an alternative.  Because of its harmful effects, some Symposium presenters and participants felt anger and indignation towards capitalism and money. Alan Senauke argued that Buddhism should contribute to a radical internationalist political analysis, while David Loy espoused the significance of Buddhist contributions to a critical analysis of the dominant system.

On the other hand, presenters from the Soul of Money Institute described that money itself is neutral.  It is energy and the important question is how we use it.  Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Ghandi, after all, were phenomenal fund-raisers.  The flow of money can support (or derail) civil rights struggles and it also effects people at every stage of production.  Richard Landry declared that we need a deep and thoroughgoing analysis of the implications of our consumption system at every stage of production, including acquisition of raw materials, production of goods, sales, consumption and waste.

Panelists explained how public policy reflects and supports a system that sometimes places profit over social and environmental concerns.  As championed by his CSRwire, Joe believes we need better systems to measure and evaluate how companies are performing according to standards of sustainability.  Because of the low marginal cost of reaching large numbers of additional people, Joe believes that online tools can help affinity groups overcome barriers of distance to work together for common ends.

Members of the Symposium explored a few examples of sustainable businesses, including the Greyston Foundation, founded by Symposium host Bernie Glassman, a coalition for sustainable food in which Senge was involved, and panelist Mark Mininberg’s clean energy business.

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Video: Jeff Bridges on Zen influence in Tron

Jeff Bridges, who participated in last summer’s Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, discusses in the following video advice given by Zen Peacemakers’ founder Bernie Glassman in the production of the new Tron movie.

Original article from hollywood.com.

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Being a Green Bodhisattva

Green Bodhisattva

From Clark Strand on Tricycle

Really, the problem is us—in vast numbers, redefining the entire planetary ecosystem for our use. The Green Bodhisattva refuses to interpose any environmental problem (or technological solution) as a moral buffer between himself and the fate of other species of life on Earth. The Green Bodhisattva knows that, as a species, humanity is in need of a major course correction on its collective journey through deep time.

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Support Bone Marrow Donation

Dear Friends, Jeana Teiju Moore, a good friend and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Circles, has been walking across the country to raise awareness for the need for bone marrow donors, under the auspices of the Jada Bascom Foundation. Her infant granddaughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at birth and is now thriving, thanks to a donation of bone marrow from a young man in Germany. You can see the story on the website www.stepstomarrow.

Both she and the Jada Bascom Foundation have been nominated for awards through the Classy Awards. The nomination and becoming a finalist for the awards were based on merit, but whether they get the award or not depends on how many votes they get.

The voting will take place until Oct. 22 (and began Oct. 9). The way it works is that people can vote daily, in each of the two categories.
So I’m asking you as a friend and supporter of Jeana and the Jada Bascom Foundation, to look at her website and decide for yourself if you’d like to engage in this process of voting for her and the foundation.

To do so you need to:
1. Go to the Classy Awards website, stayclassy.org.
2. Scroll down to near the bottom of the page on the left and click on Nominations.
3. Then click the LA tab (back at the top) and look for the Volunteer category. Please vote for Jeana if you think she is the best candidate.
4. You will then need to register so you can get back in easily daily.
5. Vote again, this time clicking on the NY tab. This time you will be looking for the Small Category of the Year category.
(You may need to exit the site and then re-enter in order to cast this second vote. At least I did need to do it this way this morning).

Thanks for your attention. If they win in either of these categories it will catapult their foundation’s work to the national stage, which will increase donors for more people in Jada’s situation.

If you’d like to pass this on to people in your network, and suggest that they also pass on the info, that would also help the cause a lot.
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Auschwtiz Retreat: Prologue

For 15 years, Zen Master Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers have lead multi-faith, multi-national retreats at Auschwitz in order to bear witness to the darkest parts of humanity.  I attended my first retreat in June 2010.  What follows are a series of posts chiseled from my daily journals of the experience.

Arriving to at the airport in Poland, I thought ‘gee, so this is where most of my family is from.’  Felt weird.  Like I understood my connection to Poland intellectually, but didn’t feel connected to it.  When people learn that my mom is Argentine, they say: “so, you’re Latino?” “Well not exactly,” I explain “My father is Israeli.” “So you are Israeli?” “Not exactly.  My father’s parents are from Poland.  As far back as I know, both of my parents’ families are from Eastern Europe- particularly Poland.”  Participating in the Auschwitz retreat, I wondered: How can I remember my ancestors?

I took a nap upon arriving at the hostel in Krakow.  Some friends invited me for coffee.  I wanted to join them, but also wanted to buy some mouth wash, so I told them I would catch up.  It took longer than I expected.  While I initially felt upset that I missed them, I quickly remembered that I could make my own adventure.  I eased into the gentle spontaneity and openness of feeling like a traveler once again, with warm associations of my days backpacking in South America.

I wandered around and found myself headed towards Kazimierz, the old Jewish quarter, longing for some connection to my roots.   A synagogue that I had passed before was open to visit for 5 zloty that I paid to a woman at the door with a crucifix necklace.  I went in there and I sat.  Some stuff looked familiar and I heard prayers in the empty hall.  I imagined the old Jews praying there.  I imagined my father’s father, Tsvi, who was a cantor.  While I was in Argentina, I developed a comic script based on what I knew of his story.

In the synagogue, I felt some of that connection I was longing for.  Some tears fell.  I sat there.  Did some meditation on my sadness-or rather with my sadness.  I didn’t see it this way at the time, but after listening to Bernie, I realize that I was meditating with the ghosts.  Later, Bernie talked about listening to the voices at Auschwitz.  That’s a bit supernatural for my taste and even pretty supernatural for his usual teachings- but I know that he knows what he is talking about.  Does that make me a “person of faith?”

While in the synagogue, I dozed off for a bit.  I had a dream that I was with my partner and she was telling me she wants kids and I felt some uncertainty.  Later I wondered, ‘Was God talking to me?’   I chuckled.  

After that, I left and stumbled upon a free walking tour of Kazimierz and the old ghetto. When we crossed to the ghetto, my tears were jerked a couple more times, both for the tragedies beset on the Jews and for the heroism of a few Poles.  I asked the tour guide about Warsaw, with my voice shaking and told her that is where my grandfather Tsvi is from.  After the tour, she asked where I was going so she could give me directions.  “I don’t know.” I told her.

I ended up at an Indian restaurant with some friends back in Kazimierz.  After food and drinks, while walking by another restaurant in Kazimierz with some other retreat participants, I said sarcastically that a bar that had  Jewish paraphernalia and Jazz music made me proud to be Jewish.  “you are Jewish?,” asked another participant, a middle-aged woman.  “yes,” I told her.  She said she wasn’t comfortable with the décor.  I said “I’d rather be comodified than liquidated.”

At that she broke out into tears.  I realized I messed up.  I took a few steps aside and another friend of ours held her.  I returned, apologized and told her I had been crying half the day and that was my insensitive attempt to weave between the intense darkness and an attempt to make it bearable.  We walked arm in arm for a few feet.  Looking back on it the next day, I agreed with her.  Using Menorahs to sell latkas made by non-Jews in Krakow is weird.  I felt embarrassed.

There is still space in the next retreat in November: learn more.  You can also support me in my attempt to return to Auschwitz in November.

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Video: Engaged Buddhism Symposium Welcome

View the trailer now for excerpts of the welcome at the August 2010 Symposium For Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  If you purchase the DVD, you could view this segment and others while supporting the community work of the Zen Peacemakers.

Related Blog Posts:

Eve: Organic & Protest History Contextualize Symposium Campus

Bernie Establishes Hopes for Symposium.

In this trailer Sensei Eve explains how the Montague property serves as the mother house of the Zen Peacemakers Sangha.   Bernie explains how the Symposium is rooted in the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers and Chris Queen describes the “Thus Have We Heard” feature in which Ari Pliskin and Kaji Ruhl guide reflection on Symposium proceedings.

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Debates on Engaged Buddhism throughout Buddhablogosphere

From Nathan at Dangerous Harvests: There’s been a lot of debate lately online about socially engaged Buddhism. This on the heels of last month’s Zen Peacemaker’s Socially Engaged Buddhism Symposium, which was held in the U.S. state of Massachusetts.

Posts from The Reformed Buddhist and, to a lesser extent, from Point of Contact argue against the notion of socially engaged Buddhism, suggesting that Buddhist practice should not be conflated with actions involving large scale social and political issues. Both suggest that it’s just fine to be actively engaged with these issues, but that Buddhism should be left out of those engagements.

In another recent post, found over at Notes in Samsara, Mumon offers that those who view Buddhist practice as a means to “change the world” are clinging to a gaining idea.

The current post over at Notes from a Burning House points to the fact that when spiritual/religious folks attempt to rock the social/economic boat, they’re often marginalized, shunned, and sometimes end up murdered. (Think Martin Luther King Jr. for example.) The post then goes on to ask where the middle ground is between hard core social activists and those who shun all Buddhist inspired engagement with the social/political realms.

Finally, the latest post over at Jizo Chronicles offers Diana Winston and Donald Rothberg’s Ten Guiding Principles for Socially Engaged Buddhism.

For the purposes of this discussion, I think principle number two has the most relevance:

Interbeing and Co-Responsibility:
We look at our tendencies to separate “us” and “them,” and “inner” and “outer.” We see in ourselves the same structures of greed, hatred, and delusion that we seek to change. We realize that there is ultimately no “other” to fight against, yet we also recognize that some are indeed in positions of greater responsibility for suffering and oppression.

In response to a comment John from Point of Contact made wondering how the principles were any different from “mundane/non-engaged/boring Buddhism,” I said the following:

I get the sense that you and others are wanting a separation where none can really be made. If you truly live the practice, anything you do in the social/political realm, regardless of whether you label it or not, will be influenced by your practice. People seem to be fussing a lot about the labels, but I really think that’s a red herring. This is an old, old debate between those who argue Buddhism is about working to disengage from worldly concerns, and those who see Buddhism as a path that includes coming back to “the marketplace” (Ox Herding Pics) if you will. I think everyone is on a continuum between these two extremes, from solitary monks living in the mountains to lifelong social activists whose work is deliberately guided by Buddhist teachings.

As for the list, #2 and #4 explicitly point to a deliberate interaction with and engagement of systemic manifestations of suffering. The list isn’t pointing to just everyday activities like washing the dishes, being kind to co-workers and strangers, etc. It’s suggesting that there are a wide array of ways we might engage in the world springing forth from our understanding of Buddhist teachings. All of it is part of the path in my view. No one person need be “engaged” if you will in all facets of action within the world suggested by these principles, but to suggest that all social action work is outside the realm of Buddhism is, as I already said, creating a separation where none can be found.

I’m going to be honest with you all: I’ve had some trouble figuring out how to respond to all these discussions. I have made a few comments, but mostly I’ve read and watched others engage.

The thing I keep going back to is the idea that for better or worse, one’s belief system will influence how one acts within the larger social/political world. An atheist or secular humanist will look at things differently from a devout Christian or Jew. Perhaps, they end up making similar decisions, but the reasoning behind, as well as the path that led up to said decisions will be different. And I think it’s important to consider those differences because they help us understand how the whole of humanity is interacting together to form the world we live in at this particular time.

Beyond this, I believe there are ways to be inspired by, or driven by, one’s spiritual practice that don’t lead to the kinds of oppression seen in theocracies, for example, or to the kinds of self-righteousness seen in individuals who believe their path is superior in solving social problems than all others. I understand that even saying this will cause some to believe that I’m no better than folks in the “Christian Right” arguing to outlaw abortions and for a return of prayer in public schools. Perhaps this is the case. I honestly don’t know.

I just can’t see how it’s possible to divorce one’s spiritual life from how one engages the big issues in the world.

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Bearing Witness at the 9/11 Rallies

From Patrick Groneman at Interdependence Project:

This past Saturday, on the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, two opposing rallies were held near the site of where the Ground Zero Mosque / Islamic community center is proposed to be built.

The debate around allowing the center to be built has been particularly caustic, with such intense claims from the opposing group that “all Muslims are terrorists” and statements coming from the group who supports building of the center that all who oppose them must be “racist” or “biggots”. The more subtle issues of freedom to practice religion and community relations seemed to be secondary to personal attacks.

Sensing the rising passions tied up in the rallies, I decided I would attend to Bear Witness to the social movements that were arising. Myself and eight brave meditators met up inside the Unity and Solidarity rally around 2pm and proceeded into walking meditation down the streets of lower manhattan, weaving our way through a small, explosive anti-abortion rally, past the “9/11 truth” group rally, around the edge of the world trade center site itself and finally into the “Tea Party” rally that was staged at the site of the proposed community center — two blocks from Ground Zero.

We walked silently, taking in the atmosphere, which was a mixture of discord and solemnity. Some people were yelling in anger, some people were crying in grief, and some people, like the police officers and sanitation workers, were just there doing their jobs – peacefully arranging barrier fences or emptying the trash.

We walked until we found a spot near the back of the “Tea Party” rally (who were anti community center). Members of the Unity and Solidarity rally (pro community center) trickled in through the fences, arguments erupted and emotions puddled out across the crowd. This was the perfect place for our group to come to sit and ”Bear Witness.”

The mirror that I normally hold up to my mind in meditation became amplified in this environment. People were speaking out in anger, making all kinds of assumptions about the motivation of those whom they targeted with their words “You think this because….” “What you don’t understand is….” Fear, disgust, sadness and rage swelled up all around and inside me.

After the first two minutes of sitting and following my breathing I broke into tears –all I could feel and hear was pain, and it was so deep, and so pervasive. My own fear and sadness became indistinguishable from the pain and suffering of those around me. Like a nursery of babies crying for our lost mothers, it seemed like we were all there looking for a way to express our sadness and fear to each other, but instead it came out in anger:

“Faggot” “Racist” “Idiot” “Hippie” “Biggot” “Terrorist” “U-S-A!!”

Like bullets the protesters shot words at each other, considering it a victory if they got shot back at, finding solidarity not in peace, but in perpetuating the energy of argument. No real conversation about sadness, grief, fear or anger could take place in this environment, there was no space for healing.

The longer we sat, the more people became curious abut what we were doing – cameras were clicking, people were asking us what we were trying to accomplish. One passerby yelled:

“This is New York, don’t just sit there…stand up and say what you believe in”

The torrent of emotions I was feeling at the beginning of the meditation soon washed into a steady and clear experience of the surrounding environment, I felt emboldened. A small semi-circle of space emerged in front of our group, and as I stood up after ninety minutes or so of sitting, a middle aged man with a camera asked me “What are you trying to do here”?

I struggled to respond in a way that would do justice to the complexity I was experiencing:

“We are here bearing witness”

“And what does the witness say? You use the term witness, but that implies that ‘The Witness Speaks’”

I explained to him the other two Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers that go along with “Bearing Witness”

“Not Knowing” – Being the first step we took that day. Trying to approach the situation with an open mind, free from judgement.

“Not Knowing” is followed by “Bearing Witness”, which was our act of abiding in, or applying unyielding attention to the roller coaster of dynamics that was unfolding in front of us.

“Loving Action” – Is the answer to the man’s question. It is the fruition of the first two tenets, which can’t be contrived or planned before the first two aspects are explored. Only out of placing ourselves in the mindset of “Not Knowing” and “Bearing Witness” with the situation could we become familiar with it in an uncontrived manner, out of which loving action arise.

For the remainder of the afternoon I thought about what Loving Action might be to arise out of this experience…for which a few very clear answers eventually emerged:

– I will dedicate myself to healing myself and others by removing violent speech from my communication with others.

– Secondly, I will dedicate to offering my time and energy to making the experience of seeing the violence in speech available to others. Through linking people to whatever it is inside themselves that desires peace and healing, and more specifically by supporting movements that offer training in non-violent communication.

The wounds of 9/11 go back deep into history, far before airplanes were invented, before Columbus discovered America, and even before Islam became a religion. The root of the suffering that I experienced on Saturday is built in to our bodies, it is passed around in our culture, and there doesn’t seem to be one person we can blame for it all.

Political debates that don’t address the deep emotional and psychological wounds caused by violence will only ever be dealing with the tip of the iceberg. If we truly wish to see our communities live in harmony, we must be willing to face our own shame, guilt and anger,  an extremely painful and difficult process.

Healing the wounds of 9/11 is truly an “inside” job.

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Buddhism and Kerouac on How to Blog

Getting Started!

Want to reach a wider audience but don’t know where to start? Believe it or not, the Buddhist tradition offers deep insight into how to blog to make the world a better place. In this post, I combine Jack Kerouac’s Rules for Spontaneous Prose with the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers to derive some simple practical tips for joining the global conversation. Kerouac was a great teacher to me of the Zen Peacemaker’s first two tenets (Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness), although I eventually looked elsewhere for inspiration regarding how to apply the insights of Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness through action in the world.  I list appropriate rules from Kerouac under each tenet.

1. Not-knowing

22. Don’t think of words when you stop but to see the picture better.

5. Something you feel will find its own form.

24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge

29. You’re a genius all the time

10. No time for poetry but exactly what is

13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition

I scrutinized, hesitated and edited for months regarding my first blog post.  When I talked to my Zen teacher about it, she gave me a koan: how do you step of the 100 foot pole? You just do it!  I was crippled by fear of how readers would receive my writing.  It turned out that that first post went ignored and later posts that I rattled off in a few minutes received several hundred views.  You can’t know ahead of time!  The important thing is to let go of our expectations regarding quality and reader interest and just get in the habit of sharing.  Be thoughtful and adapt your style according to response, but watch out for getting hung up on ideas of what you should be writing.

2. Bearing Witness

1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wile typewritten pages, for yr own job

17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself

15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog

Once you’ve put aside ideas about what you should or shouldn’t be writing, look around. What moves you? What makes you happy? What makes you sad? What makes you excited? Readers will relate if you share your genuine reactions to the world. How can we bypass the ruminations of the head and touch readers at the heart, helping them feel what you feel?  Pictures help, as do attention-getting headlines and subsections.  Most people can first on the web as opposed to carefully reading long chunks of text.

3. Loving Action

We no longer need to sit idly by as corporations dictate the media.  We can become the media and use it to create a better world.  Writing doesn’t have much value if it doesn’t contribute to reducing suffering in the world. Elsewhere, I’ve explained how online media could help us build a global community committed to reducing suffering and also seven practical ways we could use online media to make the world a better place.

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Photos: Patch of Grass to Abundant Harvest!

Deerfield Academy’s boys lacrosse team helping set the garden fence posts.

On Earth Day April 2010, we broke ground on a 1/4 acre garden at the Montague Farm. Now in September we are harvesting and serving organic vegetables every week to 60-70 people at our Montague Farm cafe free community meals.

This garden was created by many people: Karen Idoine, Ike Eichenlaub, Laurie Smith, Tim Raines, Doug Donnell, Janice Frey, Bonnie Bloom, Dan Smith, Charlie Kerrigan, Henry Marshall, Kanji Ruhl, and the Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange. The fabulous Big Brothers/Big Sisters crew (Ashley, Brooke, and Rachel) and the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team and their coach Jan Flaska have been instrumental. Rosalind Jiko McIntosh has coordinated nurturing of the garden since June.

Cucumbers, zucchini, basil, cilantro and carrots being harvested right now. Volunteers to maintain the garden and process the harvest are very welcome.

A plot of grass transformed into the Montague Farm Zen House garden

Tim Raines on the first round with the rototiller in April.
After the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team helped dig a fence trench and set the poles.
Karen Idoine and the chicken wire fence in mid May.
At last, early plantings in June!

Abundant Crops
Abundance in August!

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Sit-For-Change on September 18.

This one is from our friends at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship:

September 18th is quickly approaching and Sit-for-Change is gaining momentum!

Sit-for-Change is an innovative event weaving together contemplative practice and fund-raising – both of which are important parts of creating a stable, dynamic, and powerful movement for social change.

Sit-for-Change is like a walk-a-thon… you can help us raise funds by getting people to pledge you to do contemplative practice for 108 minutes on September 18th.  You can also support this event by pledging one of us!

Come sit with us!

The BPF community will sit together in Berkeley, and around the country, to care for ourselves while caring for the world.

It’s a day for you to practice mindfulness and awareness, while supporting the work of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and our event partner, Center for Transformative Change.

On September 18th, spend 108 minutes in practice – sitting with us in Berkeley or on your own, practicing yoga or walking meditation, or whatever activity nourishes you – and invite your friends and family to participate and/or to sponsor your activity.

You can also support BPF Community Sit for Change by pledging for one of our staff members or friends. Or you can simply make a donation to support BPF.

sit for change logo

Thank you again for all that you do, and for being a part of our community.

with deep bows,
Sarah Weintraub

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Bearing Witness to Anti-Muslim Sentiment at Ground Zero.

This invitation below is from Patrick Groneman at the Interdependence Project (IDP).  I enjoyed meeting Patrick, first when I participated in an IDP action and then at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  I am pleased to see that he is incorporating the Zen Peacemakers tenet of Bearing Witness into his participation in events related to the construction of a mosque at Ground Zero.

Bearing Witness is the second of the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness and Loving Actions.  As Patrick explains, Bearing Witness is about non-reactivity.  It is about avoiding knee-jerk reactions based on assumptions or political dogma.  From a sense of Not-Knowing, we Bear Witness to the joy and suffering around us.  We really listen to the Muslims trying to build the mosque and to those who oppose it.  We allow ourselves to feel what they feel.  Coming from this space, we take Loving Actions that heal ourselves and others.  Wish I could be there!

“This Saturday, on the 9th Anniversary of the Sept. 11th Terrorist attacks members of the Tea Party will be holding a rally to express disapproval of a planned mosque and Muslim cultural center near the former site of the world trade centers.  Various groups and individuals will be holding a counter protest, organized by the International Action Center, to express solidarity and refute what they view as a racist sentiments coming from the Tea Party movement.

I will be meditating at this rally, first marching with the the Unity and Solidarity movement from city hall at 1pm, and then finding a place to sit during the main protest at 2pm. I invite anyone to come join me in this sitting.

I will be holding a sign that reads “Bearing Witness”, which will be my approach for this rally.   There are deep wounds that exist on both sides of this debate, and regardless of how I feel personally about this issue, I wish to inject a component of non-judgement into the event.

“Bearing Witness” is one of the principles of the Zen Peacemakers, it is meant to encourage non-reactivity in potentially volatile situations.  When confronted with situations in which we would normally react, what happens when we look closely at the reactive impulse instead?

I don’t know what will happen, but I invite you to join me. Please send me an e-mail if you would like more info, or if you know for sure that you would like to participate.

[email protected]

Secondarily, if someone is interested in beginning the day marching with the Tea Party group and meeting up in the middle to meditate, I think we could learn a lot by sharing our experiences.

In peace,


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How to Rid a Major City of Plastice Bags.

Plastic BagsInterdependence Project Executes Day of Action.


I entered the Interdependence Project (IDP) meeting at their Bowery location on No Impact Day with a sense of anticipation. IDP joined an initiative to rid New York City of plastic bags. As someone who has been following them online, I was glad to see that they were hosting events on the weekend when I was visiting New York City for my sister’s birthday. As we went around the room sharing one word about how we felt, I was comforted to learn that I wasn’t the only one who felt anxious, excited and curious.


Listening to Colin

Colin and event participants

IDP hosted this event in collaboration with Colin Beavan, a.k.a. No Impact Man. Colin emphasized that it was the folks in the room who organized the day of action and not him. He stressed that we shouldn’t be attached to particular outcomes, but should pay attention to how people react to us and how we react to the experience. After he got things rolling, he handed things over to the group and left the room.

The participants included a range of experience in social service and activism. One woman who works at an alternative school considered how she could get her students involved. She wanted to win and she was eager to get out and take action instead of just talking about it. Another woman shared a wealth of experience from Green Peace organizing. My partner turned out to work in development at an old settlement house.


There was a certain vitality and freshness in the room. There was open space for everyone’s contribution. I shared some ideas from my experience canvassing against George W. Bush in 2004 and people welcomed them, even though I plopped in after they had been preparing for at least a week.

We came up with last-minute strategy tweaks to the existing plan of going out in pairs of two and requesting store clerks and managers to consider switching from automatically offering customers plastic bags to asking first if they are needed. If appropriate, we asked if the store would consider taking steps towards eliminating plastic bags altogether- a major campaign embraced by IDP.

Hitting the streets

Store Clerk

Ari and store clerk

The fear and anxiety was quickly transformed into exhilaration and with every uninterested or hostile comment, I was ready to learn, smile and move on, just like my days canvassing. The first woman we talked to (pictures) was friendly and sympathetic and invited us to leave fliers.Pamphlets


Coming back, we shared our experiences. A few people’s descriptions really reminded me of the ethos of what we call a Bearing Witness Plunge at the Zen Peacemakers. Colin noted that we developed a palpable conviviality between us. Thanks IDP!

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Buddhist Group Builds Multi-Class Community

Montague Farm Zen House has Deep Local Roots

Karen Kisui Werner

I met Karen while living at the Zen Peacemakers farm as a Seminary student in 2008.  She was part of the local Sangha who sat with Seminary students in the Zendo.  I was inspired by her leadership in the community economies movement and very excited when she was hired to direct the Montague Farm Zen House.  She has lived in the region for many years and has close connections with several local groups. I experienced the benefits of Karen’s generously sharing her connections first-hand.  When I returned to Montague last December, she introduced me to the Brick House Community Resource Center where I’ve volunteered weekly since.

It has also been a great joy to get to know regulars at our weekly community meals as Karen has partnered with other service agencies to build a core group of service providers and service recipients who come to our meals.  I write “service” while cringing, because the Montague Farm Café blurs the line between server and recipient, as all of us attend the meal to be fed in one way or another.

In the Zen Houses panel at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Karen explained how the stone soup is an important practice and symbol of the Montague Farm Café.  Every week, Café participants are invited to contribute to a pot with a stone in it.  Some add drawings or notes to the “soup”.  Some contribute dollar bills and others contribute larger sums.  With the Café, Karen creates as open and alive of a container as she can, responding to others’ ideas and making the best meal possible out of the ingredients available.  In the process, she tries to remember the importance of fun as she practices service with love and dignity.

Want to experience the Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  You can also support the Zen Houses and view this presentation by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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From Rural Poverty to Green Buddhism

Appalachian Zen House Breaks Cycle of Hopelessness.


Steve Kanji Ruhl

I was first introduced to Kanji and Bernie through podcasts that I listened to while wandering around on the other side of the planet in Argentina.  Bernie was teaching a Harvard Divinity School class in 2007.  Students took part in envisioning Zen Houses.  I couldn’t bear thoughts of returning to the 9-5 grind and the Zen House vision provided me with an opportunity to improve my meditation discipline and also give back to the community.  It gave me an alternative.  In one discussion on the podcast, Kanji asked whether a Zen House could be rural, for example, in his native Pennsylvania.  Bernie was thinking more of urban houses.  However, after graduating as Harvard’s first Buddhist Master of Divinity and completing the Zen Peacemakers Seminary (along with me), Kanji founded the Appalachian Zen House (the first Zen House) in central Pennsylvania.

In the Zen Houses panel at the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism, Kanji explained how overcoming obstacles growing up in central PA influenced his embrace of Green Buddhism as a path to breaking generations of rural poverty.  After completing seminary, he returned to his home town and, working with fellow Seminary graduate Jiko McIntosh,  networked and laid infrastructure for Zen House programs including green jobs, education and sustainable agriculture.  He did this work in a region where laid-off workers seek double shifts at Wal-mart, where resntful war veterans without health insurance are too ashamed to ask for help and where drugs and violence plague the lives of youth.

Many of the same problems effect Franklin County, the home of Zen Peacemakers Head Quarters and the Montague Farm Zen House.  Want to experience that Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  You can also support the Zen Houses and view this presentation by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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Catholic Worker to Buddhist Entrepreneur

Kathe McKenna’s Haley House Serves as Model for Zen Houses

Kathe McKenna

Kathe McKenna

In the Zen Houses panel at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Kathe McKenna explained that after she finished college in the 1960’s, abuses violating civil rights moved her to fight back.  She got involved in radical Christian groups, eventually finding a home with the Catholic Workers in Boston.  In the gospel of Matthew, Jesus says “You who are blessed…For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat.”  Catholic Workers took this literally.  When Kathe and her future husband John saw men starving and drunk on the street, they saw ambassadors of God.  They brought the men to their apartment and fed them slowly building a atypical soup kitchen where guests are welcomed with dignity.  Kathe explained how years of sharing her purse and heart wore on her and continued injustice angered her.  It was the non-violent message of Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhists who gave her an alternative to joining the Weather Men and eventually, vajrayana Buddhist practice came to play a very significant role in her life.

In her search to expand the Haley House Soup kitchen and low-income housing into social enterprise, she sought contact with Bernie Glassman.  As Greyston became an inspiration for the Haley House Bakery Café, Haley House became an inspiration for Zen Houses.  Today, Kathe and other Haley House community members (including Christians, Buddhists and others) recognize that their spiritual practice has meant a lot to their development.  They wonder how they could provide support for inner development to the people who come to Haley House seeking food and community.

I interned at Haley House for nine months after completing the Zen Peacemakers Seminary in Montague, MA.  During that time, Kathe and I and others introduced Buddhist practice as an option for community members.  With Kathe as an advising board member to the Zen Peacemakers, I have been pleased to return to Montague and take part in the creation of a community meal on our own campus.

Want to experience the Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  You can also support the Zen Houses and view this presentation by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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Zen Houses Establish Service-Based Dharma Center

Zen Houses Panel

Karen Kisui Werner, Steve Kanji Ruhl, Kathe McKenna, Eve Myonin Marko

Symposium Hosts Share Contribution to Engaged Buddhist Practice.

Writing about the Zen Houses panel of the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is hard for me because I sincerely believe that Zen Houses are the best thing the planet has going for it. How can I be sincere without overstating my case? Zen Houses are dharma centers whose practice of social service is just as central as meditation. My faith in Zen Houses does not imply that I believe that Zen is for everyone, but rather my belief that when we choose to live more communally, simply and sustainably, integrating forgotten members of society into our circle, then we address problems of global warming, poverty, consumerist malaise and poor health. That’s why I joined the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, MA.

In the Zen Houses panel, I was inspired once again by four leaders whose heart, intelligence and dedicated work have educated me as I’ve worked with them for the past two years. They each approach the Zen House from a different perspective: two as inspirations and models and two as founding directors of more recent endeavors. Kathe McKenna founded the Haley House in Boston as a Catholic Worker House to pick up homeless men off the street and provide them with warm meals and companionship. Moderator Eve Marko was a member of the Zen community led by Bernie Glassman who established the Greyston Foundation, a cluster of social enterprise and service organizations that greatly reduced poverty in Yonkers, NY. More recently Steve Kanji Ruhl founded the Appalachian Zen House and Karen Kisui Werner began serving as the founding director of the Montague Farm Zen House. Like the widespread Catholic Worker houses and the acclaimed Greysotn Foundation, the Zen Houses provide a place for the practice of service as integrated within a broader spiritual tradition. Panelists discussed their personal paths to this work as well as their unique visions for realizing it.

Want to experience the Zen House?  Check out our residence training program.  Support the Zen Houses by purchasing DVD’s of this panel.

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Promote your Program through CSRwire

I previously explained what we could achieve building global cybersangha and also seven ways we could use the internet to reduce suffering. This post is directed towards leaders of engaged Buddhist groups regarding a way you could:

  • Recruit program and event participants
  • Inspire new donors and investors to support your work
  • Sell books and other merchandise
  • Forge valuable alliances
  • Reach mainstream media coverage

While accepting our invitation to you to post material through the Zen Peacemakers for free help you reach a wide audience, our partner CSRwire can spread your content on a whole other level.  As demonstrated below by compete.com, their web audience is comparable in size to that of the Dalai Lama, well beyond the typical Buddhist group.

As their distribution page explains, not only does CSRwire reach 250,000 monthly views and 44,000 daily e-mail subscribers, but over the past 10 years, they have cultivated a specialized audience within the world of social enterprise.

CSRwire could help us reach a larger, more specialized audience.  An entry membership into CSRwire is free.  Furthermore, Zen Peacemakers can post your content for free on our Enhanced Member Profile. Once you are a member, you can purchase a press release or event announcement to reach a large portion of CSRwire’s audience (see fee structure).  CSRwire provides stats regarding attention to your release.  For example, press releases related to Socially Engaged Buddhism achieved the following results:

CSR Symposium

The headline of the first article, A Zen Moment for CSRwire CEO was viewed over 31,000 times, including over 1,000 times that someone clicked through to read the article.  It describes how the company’s CEO is partnering with the Zen Peacemakers and participating in the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism.  The second article is a press release about the Symposium.  Its headline was viewed 88,000 times, with about 1,000 reads.

Hundreds of groups use CSRwire’s discounted non-profit rates to share news and influential professionals look to CSRwire for new on topics including:

If you would like to spread your content through CSRwire, please contact me at [email protected]

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Promote Your Content on the Bearing Witness Blog

I previously explained what we could achieve building global cybersangha and also seven ways we could use the internet to reduce suffering.  In this article, I propose two ways that Socially Engaged Buddhist groups can generate internet publicity which can help:

  • Build Community

    Recruit program registrants, allies and volunteers by getting people’s attention online and translating online interactions into face-to-face interactions.

  • Raise money

    Identify new donors, educate and cultivate existing donors and solicit contributions.

Promote Your Content on the Bearing Witness Blog

I invite you to submit any news or commentary related to Socially Engaged Buddhism as blog posts for the Bearing Witness Blog.  With the buzz created by the Symposium, this free offering steadily rose past 2,000 views per month, according to Google Analytics.  If you submit content to us, we will share it with this audience for FREE.

BW Blog stats

Furthermore, your blog headline will feature on our homepage.

Homepage Headlines

Our homepage just passed 11,000 visits and 33,000 views per month.

ZP Web traffic

In addition to automatically featuring on our homepage, your blog post can also be promoted by our mailing list (currently at 4,800), our three Facebook pages (reaching about 4,000 people between the Zen Peacemakers page-with ‘likes’ graphed below, Bernie Glassman’s page and my own) and Twitter.

Facebook Likes

Our coordinated digital media campaign of web page, social media (blog, Facebook and Twitter) and e-mail has proven effective at supporting the movement for engaged Buddhism.  Symposium attendance exceeded our expectations.  In addition to almost 200 registrants for Symposium panels, total attendance including staff, volunteers, presenters and entertainment exceeded 650 participants.

Symposium registrationYou can join this momentum by submitting content and sharing the Bearing Witness Blog with your community.

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Socially Engaged Dudeism

Just had a nice conversation with Rev. GMS.  He is part of a church known as Dudeism and he attended the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism.  He and others are exploring possibilities for Socially Engaged Dudeism.

Several years ago Roshi Bernie Glassman met Jeff Bridges and thus began a long-term friendship. Bernie said to Jeff, “You know, a lot of folks consider the Dude a Zen Master.” Jeff replied, “What are you talking about … Zen?” Bernie said that quite a few people had approached him wanting to chat about the Dude’s Zen wisdom. Jeff said that he had never heard of that.

This article revives a series of posts to let that conversation go on with those interested in the Dude. Bernie did a koan study using the Big Lebowski as source material and featuring Koans by the Coens. These koans will be posted on this blog with comments by Bernie and Zen students. The first one follows:

What to do?

Lebowski Koan: “What do you DO Mr. Lebowski?

A Harvard student asks: “How do I choose my vocation?”

Koryo Roshi* says: “Why do you put on your patchwork robe at the sound of the bell?”

KoOn’s interpretation: “What will Gandhi do when he grows up?

Roshi Bernie replies: The vocation chooses You!

*Koryu Roshi is quoted frequently in this blog. Roshi Bernie calls him his “heart teacher.”  Koryu Roshi approved Bernie’s presentation of his first koan and also for his subsequent first one hundred koans. He finished his koan study (around 1000 koans) with his root teacher, Maezumi Roshi.

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Symposium: Jon Kabat-Zinn on stress reduction

By Fleet Maull:

What follows here is myparaphrasing of Joh Kabat-Zinn’s presentation: he
is interested in strategies for change that do not lead to
polarization, burnout and further conflict. While he has deep respect
for the teachings and practices of the Buddha and feels connected to
this tradition and its wonderful lineages, teacher and practitioners, he
also feels the need to not personally identify himself as a Buddhist or
with any particular religious identity and a need for us to move to a
universal Dharma that can reach and/or include all people rather than
being tied to Buddhism or Buddhadharma as a more limited identification

His work has largely focused on bringing mindfulness-based interventions into the fields and practice of medicine and psychology:
mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based
cognitive-behavioral therapy (MBCB), mindfulness-based relapse
prevention and so on.

When he was a graduate student at MIT in molecular biology he was very aware that MIT was involved in all kinds
of high tech weaponry development, he spent a lot of time not being in
the laboratory but trying to bring a mirror of awareness to what was
going on at MIT.

As a graduate student and going forward he felt there must be another way to do science. He wrote a piece for the
newspaper there at MIT about the need for an orthogonal institutions,
institutions rotated 90 degrees in consciousness, meaning a 90 degree
shift in consciousness and view that would move the work at MIT in a
new, healthier direction. A 90 degree shift where everything is the same
as it was before and nothing’s the same at the same time. This led to
deciding to make this orthogonal shift his work and leading to the
development of MBSR.

After practicing mindfulness meditation for many years, beginning in 1966, thought why not create a clinic in a
hospital, which are “dukkha magnets” (magnets of suffering). Called the
clinic initially simply, beginning in 1979 at the UMASS Medical Center, a
stress reduction clinic, so that it would not appear as something
foreign, strange or esoteric to patients or the the medical staff.

What meditation is … is paying attention and being kind to yourself.
Working with referrals from physicians at the hospital, enrolled
patients in an 8 week training program in mindfulness meditation. Began
enrollment process with an interview in which the clinician asked people
about their interest in the stress reduction clinic and mindfulness and
the remained silent, listing to the other person’s entire story without
interrupting. This lead to strong enrollment.

Shifted is view about not wanting to work with the military due to research showing the
mindfulness training allows soldiers to be less reactive and
destructive, it prevents deterioration of “working memory” that part of
the brain allowing us to make accurate decisions. Soldiers involved in
many actions today are involved with very complex situations where
accurate decisions prevent harm.

Funding for research into mindfulness-based interventions is growing exponentially. Working to
create highest possible standards for this research. Science now able to
accurately see the power of moment to moment, non-judgmental awareness
has very significant and positively trans-formative impacts on the
brain. The whole discovery of neuroplasticity and our ability to
positively train and transform our brains through various kinds of mind
training, awareness training and so forth.

Feels we are embarking on a new renaissance with this explosion of interest in the power of
mind training and our scientific ability to measure and understand the
impact of these practices and the profound possibilities for healing.

Other dukkha (suffering) magnets: prisons, schools. All the work being done
in prisons to bring mind training to prisoners and prison staff …
Fleet Maull and others, we had an MBSR project at Walpole prison for a
number of years.

When we go into a prison we have just a few seconds to connect authentically with people and our own mind and heart
training is critical to our ability to connect genuinely with others and
bring authentic dharma into the prisons, bring what we ourselves have
deeply practiced. Seeing how mindfulness training has help prisoners
become less hostile while not being more victimized.

Note: The above is my paraphrased notes on Jon Kabat-Zinn’s presentation and may
not be entirely accurate and are not comprehensive of his presentation.


Fleet Maull
Reporting for the Peacemaker Institute
at the Zen Peacemakers
Montague, MA

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Thangkas by Mayumi Oda


Dear Friends,

Thangkas (pronounced TAHN kahs) are Tibetan paintings portraying Buddhist deities or mandalas. Rich in symbolism and allusion, thangkas act as a teaching tool for students of Buddhism. Mayumi’s thangkas were painted during her activist years when she founded “Plutonium Free Future” in Japan and Berkeley, California.

Known to many as the “Matisse of Japan,” Mayumi Oda has done extensive work with female goddess imagery. Born to a Buddhist family in Japan in 1941, Mayumi studied fine art and traditional Japanese fabric dyeing. In 1966 she graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. In 2010, California Institute of Integral Studies awarded Mayumi an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts and Spirituality. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Yale University Art Gallery, and elsewhere.

Mayumi has wonderfully donated the unique, museum-quality thangkas shown here to the Zen Peacemakers. There will be a silent auction during the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism (Aug 9-14) to raise funds for the Zen Peacemakers activities in Socially Engaged Buddhism. Purchases are half tax deductible. We are inviting those on our mailing list to also bid. Each day we will announce the largest bid for that day and give individuals and organizations the opportunity to bid during the next day. At the end of the week we will announce the winning bid for these beautiful art treasures.

White Tara [2003]

Size: 11 feet by 5 feet
Retail: $50,000


Minimum bid: $25,000

Dakini, the Sky Walker [1987]

Size: 11 feet by 5 feet
Retail: $50,000
Minimum bid: $25,000

Zen Peacemakers is a 501(c)(3) organization. You can bid on either or both of these extraordinary thangkas by calling Laurie at 413-367-5272 or by sending an email to Thangka Bid.

With deep appreciation and with much love,

Bernie Glassman

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How do we finance and structure enlightened engagement?

What is the structure of the Engaged Buddhist Sangha and how is it financed?

At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism various leaders are shedding light on the question of the structure of Buddhist community.  On Monday, Bikkhu Bodhi explained that according to the sutras, the Buddha taught that lay people should donate to support monastics. Robert Thurman reminded us that the meaning of ‘bikhu’ is not monk, but ‘free luncher.’ This reflects host Bernie Glassman’s question of whether some kind of ordained or lay order would be useful today to organize Buddhist communities.


While our culture doesn’t have the tradition of financially supporting a community of religious devotees, we do have the structure of the charitable non-profit and also of social enterprise. How we organize ourselves reflects how we present ourselves. Steve Kanji Ruhl, founder of the Appalachian Zen House, talked about his decision to use his dharma name in rural Pennsylvania in order to challenge the dominant assumption that we live in a Christian nation. Is this a contrast to groups like Interdependence Project and Mirabai’s Center for Contemplative Mind in Society who take out explicit reference to Buddhism?

Sarah Weintraub

Sarah Weintraub, Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Director

In our own society, we find new, appropriate forms of Buddhist practice that account for contemporary relationships and financial structures. In the BASE (Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship) discussion group, participants discussed the challenge of living in community, including the realization that not all interpersonal issues can be solved. In the Zen House group, we discussed the challenge of finding capital and ongoing funding for a project that has people who are excited to become engaged and inspiring vision to guide them.

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Symposium: Has Buddhism always been engaged?

Symposium One major question we are exploring at the Symposium For Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is whether Buddhism has always been engaged. I explored this topic in the past and Symposium presenters are providing new insight. On Monday, David Loy shared ways in which traditional Buddhism was and was not engaged, including the view that the Hebrew concept of prophetic justice and Classical ideas of democracy added a new element. Likewise, Alan Senauke talked about the role of European anarchism in the development of Aitken Roshi’s philosophy.

Robert ThurmanOn Tuesday, the view that Buddhists have always been engaged spreading awakening and non-violence and providing medical services was expressed by Robert Thurman and also Jan Willis. Both argued that to suggest that Buddhism has not always been engaged is to accept the Western colonial view that Buddhists are escapist and quietist. Likewise, on Monday, Bhikkhu Bodhi argued that ethical principles regarding social conduct including treating others well and caring for the poor are an important part of the Buddha’s original teachings. Reflecting the difference between Western and Asian understandings of society, Sallie King provided a Buddhist critique of the concept of justice, which spurred some controversy.


Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism Panel: David Loy, Sallie King, Bhikkhu Bodhi and Chris Queen by Clemens M. Breitschaft

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Peacemaker Institute, Interdependence Project Enrich Symposium

Program participants are sharing their reflections on the Buddhablogosphere.  Fleet Maull from Peacemaker Institute responded to Sallie King’s critique of justice, Fleet shares his defense of a Buddhist basis for a concept of justice.  On his coverage of the 2nd day, Fleet asks whether engaged Buddhists can collaborate and whether new partnerships will emerge from this gathering.  Patrick Groneman from Interdependence Project has also been sharing daily synopses and quotes.

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Symposium: Robert Thurman- Buddhists Have Always Been Engaged

Robert Thurman was a monk ordained by the Dalai Lama and also became an Ivy League professor of religion.  One debate that is surfacing at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhsim is whether social engagement is part of historical Buddhism or whether it was introduced by a synthesis with Western concepts of human rights.  Thurman came down strongly in the side that Buddhists have always been socially engaged.  He described the monastic Sangha as ‘free lunch’ community organizers.  ‘Bikkhu’ doesn’t exactly mean monk, but rather ‘free luncher’.  In a society that recognizes that cultivating awakening takes time and energy and provides social benefit, people support monks.  So the monks go begging for lunch and after lunch, they throw in a sermon or some mediation.  This is a type of community organizing.

This idea goes against the dominant Protestant ethic of ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’  The dominant ethic, wrapped up with American consumerist culture, is also reinforced by the university system, where dissertations that acknowledge enlightenment to the interconnectedness of life are regarded as fluffy romanticism.  The roots of the word Buddha come both from awakening and spreading it.  Historically, he argues, Buddhists have spread their faith less violently than other groups.  While they have been involved in some unholy wars, they have not generally gotten involved in holy wars.  Thurman talked about the upcoming Newark Peace Making Summit, which follows a similar conference 10 years ago and includes the participation of the Dalai Lama.

Thurman concludes his talk with text while wearing Bernie's clown nose

photos by Clemens M. Breitschaft

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Symposium: Sallie King- Buddhist Critique of Justice

Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism: David Loy, Sallie King, Bikkhu Bodhi and Chris Queen by Clemens M. Breitschaft

Sallie King offered a Buddhist critique of popular conceptions of justice based on her experience at an international, interfaith peace council, where leaders of world religions gathered to address conflict. Listening to people struggling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict left the Buddhist contingent squirming.  From the Buddhist perspective, they heard same story from both Israelis and Palestinians. Dhammananda, one Buddhist nun,  said “I can’t understand what they are saying!  They seem to nourish their suffering, while I’ve been taught to let it go.”

At Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel at Hebrew College, Buddhists heard stories of suffering and heroism.  Geshe Sulpan, a Tibetan monk, explained that the Tibetans were invaded by the Chinese because of their collective karma.  In past lives, he explained, the Tibetans harmed the Chinese. The monk challenged the Israelis to imagine having been a Nazi soldier in a previous life.  The main thing is to have compassion for mistakes made from egocentric or ignorant viewpoint.  The Chinese are now creating terrible karma for themselves and it is important to feel compassion and find peaceful solution for all.  King argued against four common forms of politics that perpetuate conflict instead of ending it:

  1. Identity politics: The sense of victimhood nourishes suffering and keeps it going generation to generation.
  2. Righteous Indignation.  The angry sense that we are justified and the others wrong.
  3. Justice: The insistence on finding justice before there can be peace.  King reported that while the Buddhists at the summit find ‘human rights’ to be a useful concept, they think justice is not so useful.
  4. Revenge: In particular the concept of justice based on retribution perpetuates conflict.

During the question and answer time, Fleet Maull said that he doesn’t think that Buddhists should stick their heads in the sand all together regarding the idea of justice.  While he prefers a model called integral transformative justice, he says that even retributive justice, is a desire to return to wholeness, albeit a misguided one. If we don’t engage in these feelings and thoughts, Fleet argued, we risk irrelevance.

King challenged us to engaged in a thought experiment, in which we ask ourselves whether there is anything we could achieve with the concept of justice that we cannot achieve without it, referring instead to less problematic concepts.  She believes there is not.

photos by Clemens M. Breitschaft

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Symposium: David Loy Explains Institutionalized Delusion

Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism: David Loy, Sallie King, Bikkhu Bodhi and Chris Queen by Clemens M. Breitschaft

David Loy asked ‘What was Buddha trying to achieve when he started teaching?’ He asked whether we can explore this question without projecting our modern understanding of private/public sphere separation, based on the Protestant Reformation.  He explained that what we today call religions are really “reduced civilizations” which were much more ambitious in their origins.  Thus Buddhism in Asia is both a great cultural and social tradition.

We know very little about whether the Buddha envisioned broader social change.  His texts were handed down orally for generations before being recorded and of course they were edited.

After Buddha’s passing, the Sangha became more dependent on royal patronage, which meant Sangha had to support royalty in turn.  While early Buddhism was anti-caste, the notion that an individual deserves their current position reentered the tradition. Maybe in order to survive in an increasingly autocratic world, it had to only address individual Dukkha and not social suffering.

Eventually, the Asian tradition interacted and was influenced by Western ideas of human rights influenced by the traditions of the prophets of Israel and Greek democracy.  The Asian worldview doesn’t have much to say about justice, except for the concept of karma, which is often used to justify oppression.

Now we can ask what is social awakening?   Asian Buddhism couldn’t challenge authorities.  Western revolutions have failed because its lacked the internal, personal change.  Its got to be both.  A root problem is that the sense of self in our society is haunted by sense of lack.  We project from our minds and we see this lack as something external that we don’t have- money, sex, fame.  The dissatisfaction based on clinging that the Buddha elucidated so clearly has become institutionalized in the forms of consumerism and militarism.   Our media is institutionalized delusion.  We must experience social awakening to overcome this delusion.

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Symposium: Bikkhu Bodhi Elucidates Cannonical Roots of Engaged Buddhism

At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Chris Queen asked Bikkhu Bodhi to speak on the Canonical roots of engaged Buddhism.  Bikkhu Bodhi explained that many see Buddhism as a means of world-renouncing liberation, detachment and personal inward meditation.  Bikkhu Bodhi approached this task from the question of ‘What is the function of a Buddha?’, according to text.

In the text, a Buddha is also known as a Dhamma Raja ‘king of the Dhamma’, who discovers, realizes and proclaims the Dhamma in full range and depth, including its applications to human life in all dimensions.  It is path to world-transcending liberation, but is also the total body of truth, goodness, justice and reality.  It is one person who arises in the world for the welfare of the multitude.

In his book In the Buddha’s Words, he organizes the Buddha’s teaching according to 3 categories:

  1. Welfare in this life: teachings on moral commitment, social responsibility
  2. Welfare in future life: principles of ethics and cultivation to lead to desirable rebirth based on the law of karma
  3. Nirvana: the ultimate attainment, the escape from rebirth

Many focus on third (though in a watered down form of being happy here and now) without attention to first two.  Engaged Buddhism has to do with the first two.  If we compare Buddhism with Jainism, Brahmanism and the Upanishads there is much more focus on addressing social ails.

The Suttas identify greed as the source not only of personal suffering, but also of social problems: “Whatever action a person does because of greed, hatred, and delusion are unwholesome.  Whatever suffering a person overpowered by greed, hatred, and delusion causes upon another—by killing, imprisonment, confiscation of property, false accusations, or expulsion—all this is unwholesome too.” (Anguttara Nikaya 3:69)

The internal causes are linked to external effects.

Buddha proposes two primary practices to deal with the mind.  1) One is practice of giving generously.  If people knew the benefits, he proclaimed, they would never eat without sharing or allow miserliness to enter their hearts at all.  (Itivataka 26)

2) The second teaching from the Buddha is Silla (virtuous behavior/moral practice) This is summed up for lay community in the 5 precepts.  For example, “By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to immeasurable beings freedom from fear, hostility, and oppression.”  So to with the other precepts.  (Anguttara Nikaya 8:39)

Society functions well when people conquer their internal demons and observe principles of right conduct.  Then, there are harmonious relations between people.  This is the basis for kindness, sympathy and good will. (Digka Nikaya 31) The Sutta details various types of relationships: Parents/children, husband/wife, teacher/student and lay/spiritual.  With the principle of Right Livlihood, the Buddha forbids trading in weapons, living being, meat, intoxicants and poisons.

Buddha saw the danger of tribal aristocratic republics swallowing by monarchy with arbitrary rule.  Thus in he discusses the Caka Vati Raji– wheel turning king, who rules based on righteousness (Digka Nikaya 26).  One of chief things is to see that there is no poverty.  In the Kuta Danda 5, the Buddha says that a king making sacrifices would be wiser to give to the people instead of taking from them.

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Queen Introduces Roots of Engaged Buddhism

Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism: David Loy, Sallie King, Bikkhu Bodhi and Chris Queen by Clemens M. Breitschaft

Introducing the Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism panel (including Bikkhu Bodhi, Sallie King and David Loy), Chris Queen stated that amazingly, there are conservative practitioners who believe that changing the mind is all that matters.  However, when he was visiting formerly untouchable converts to Buddhism who were victims of other people’s greed, anger and ignorance, facing discrimination, beatings and murder in India, it was clear that people suffer as a result of injustice as well.  Queen read an excerpt citing panelists David Loy and Sallie King from The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David L. McMahan.  McMahan speaks of the power of Buddhism to provide a powerful critique of dominant culture and the risk of the tradition getting watered down into a mere consumerist product:

What, then, is the capacity for Buddhist modernism, now entering a post-modern, global phase, to challenge, critique, augment, and offer alternatives to modern, western ideas, social practices, and ethical values?… The Buddhist analysis of the relationship between craving (trnsa) and dissatisfaction (duhkha), for example, as well as its ascetic tendencies, can be fashioned into a formidable critique of the very foundations of consumerism, materialism, and the pathological aspects of capitalism (see, for example, Loy 2003; Kaza 2005).

At the opposite end of this continuum are forms and fragments of Buddhism that have been absorved into western culture so thoroughly that they lose any potential to offer any real alternatives to or crituqe of its values and assumptions or offer anything new.  This is where Buddhism fades into vague New Age spiritualities, self-help therapies, and purely personal paths of self-improvemet…At the continuum’s furthest extremes, these fragments fade into pop culture, splintering into shards of Buddhist imagery that become tropes for countless products: Zen popcorn, Zen tea, Buddha bikinis, and Buddha bars.

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Bernie Establishes Hopes for Symposium.

Introducing the panel on the challenges of Socially Engaged Buddhsim, Bernie explained that when he first organized the Symposium, he wanted to honor the pioneers, give them chance to get together, see each other, share and network.  It would be a chance to learn new things and serve as sort of job and volunteer fair. The focus is on taking action and doing something!  After the Symposium, we will look at what new things may come of this event.  By the end of the Symposium, we will be explore putting together a declaration, a set of affirmations that reflect that.

During the Symposium, Ari Setsudo Pliskin and Steve Kanji Ruhl will review salient points of the event during Thus Have We Heard sessions every day and Bernie will lead a session reflecting on What’s the Deal Here?  (A great Koan, he joked, introduced by Lenny Bruce.)  In this way, we will be looking for major developments.

photos by Clemens M. Breitschaft

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Organic & Protest History Contextualize Symposium Campus

Bernie Glassman, Eve Marko and Chris Queen introduce Symposium

Sensei Eve introduced and contextualized the Montague, MA campus on which the first major Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is taking place (She is the head teacher of the Montague Farm Zendo, the local mediation group.)  She discussed the campus’ role as the headquarters of the international 70-affiliate Zen Peacemakers Sangha and also as a multi-faith practice center.  Before it became the home of the Zen Peacemakers, the campus was a socially engaged commune.  From the commune, members of the Liberation News Services distributed information that the New York Times did not find ‘fit to print’ and in the 1970’s, it developed into a center of organic gardening (which continues to this day and provides vegetables for our community meals) and a center of anti-nuclear activism.

photos by Clemens M. Breitschaft

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Zen Peacemakers to host Buddhist symposium

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette

MONTAGUE CENTER – Most people probably know Jeff Bridges for his roles in Hollywood films, like his recent Oscar-winning role as troubled country singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart” or his role as The Dude, a slacker bowler in the Cohen Brothers 1998 film “The Big Lebowski.”

But, most people probably don’t know about Bridges work to end world hunger.

On Aug. 13, at 3:15 p.m., he will be giving a talk at Zen Peacemakers Ripley Road Farm about his No Child Hungry in 2015, a group with which first lady Michelle Obama is also working.


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Buddhism symposium draws 500 looking to make a difference.

from the Springfield Republican

Jeff Bridges will speak at the Symposium on ending hunger

Often, when people picture devout Buddhists, they see images of bald-headed monks performing foreign rituals in east Asia.

But, Bernie Glassman, former aerospace engineer and founder and president of the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, is trying to change this perception with his organization’s presentation of the six-day, Socially-Engaged Buddhist Symposium, that starts Monday.

The event will honor Zen master and author Robert Aitken and other pioneers and promoters in this country of mindfulness practice including the well-known author and travel writer Peter Matthiessen, who is an ordained Zen priest, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.

“Buddhism is about realizing that we are interconnected,” said Glassman. READ MORE

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All the Scrumptious Zen Tradition, None of the Patriarchy

Implementing shared stewardship at the Montague Farm Zendo.

We just had an evaluation session after our first six months practicing a shared stewardship model of leadership in our Zen Buddhist community. The model was inspired by the Zen Center of Los Angeles, who discarded a system in which multiple male teachers abused their unquestioned authority by taking advantage of female students. Responsibilities typically held by the head teacher are now divided according to the five Buddha families, which create a holistic framework that looks at all aspects of life as spiritual practice. Elected seat-holders of each family reported the following accomplishments:

Karma/Social Action:

The Karma steward has guided members of the sangha (community) in participating in serving a meal at a local soup kitchen and also in staffing our weekly community meal and wellness offerings on the same campus as the Zendo.


The Ratna stewards created a new membership structure and a brochure to reflect it.


The Padma steward (yours truly) posted fliers locally of the meditation schedule, DJed a danced party to raise money (over $500) for Haiti and created a Facebook page for the Zendo.


The Vajra steward completed his training to become a preceptor and led a group through receiving precepts, coordinated a training in giving basic meditation instruction and trained people in our liturgy. Another sangha member committed to stewardship organized a library.


The Buddha stewards (including the head teacher) administered a survey that asks people about their schedules and preferences and seeks to find a structure of intensive meditation retreat that accounts for people’s commitments to social action and profession.


We also looked at challenges:

  • Holistic practice: How do we honor each buddha family as a field of practice?
  • Mission: How do we structure study to develop a shared mission and vision?
  • Structure: How de we develop effective structures and processes of stewardship and create a system of accountability that encourages follow-through?
  • Group Ownership: How do seat-holders and share their work while taking ownership over their field of responsibility? How do we broaden participation and collective ownership in stewardship throughout the sangha beyond the seat-holders?
  • Communication: How can seat-holders communicate their work to others so that others feel inspired to participate and not overloaded by information?
  • Financial autonomy: Can we develop a fund-raising strategy and budget to change the fact that the Zendo currently has no paid staff?

So in conclusion, maybe we haven’t completely eliminated patriarchy, but we’re doing the best we can.

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Buddhist Chaplains Love the Gulf

From Jizo Chronicles

Buddhist Chaplains Love the Gulf

Grand Isle Graveyard, photo by Penny Alsop

Here’s the latest update from Penny Alsop, who I’ve mentioned and quoted several times before in The Jizo Chronicles.

Penny has initiated the “Chaplains Love the Gulf “ project and is coordinating a trip in August so that “the people and environmental region of the Gulf can receive the benefit of compassionate presence of a contingent of chaplaincy students.”  Penny took a scouting trip to Grand Isle, LA, this month to begin that work. This is her report.


More Love

by Penny Alsop

This past weekend I set out for Grand Isle, LA to begin our project, to research some details and to see for myself how my beloved Gulf coast and the people of Louisiana are faring since oil has taken over their lives in this most despicable way.  Lives have been turned upside down, every which way and even those who are making good money like the three fellows I met from Texas who work twelve hours per day, in twenty minute intervals, in hazmat suits in the sweltering Louisiana sun to wash the oil off of boom, would much prefer to be at home with their families.

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New Book on Bearing Witness in Rwanda

Listening to Rwanda
This new book made by Fleet Maull and Peter Cunningham recounts their experiences at the first Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda.

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Huffington Post: Jeff Bridges & Zen House Fight Child Hunger


Child Hunger and How Zen House Can Help at the Huffington Post:

By Bernie Glassman

My vow to feed as many hungers as possible includes the physical suffering of food insecurity. According to Jeff Bridges’ End Hunger Network, 16.7 million American children — nearly one in four — live in households that do not have access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy, active lives. …The Montague Farm Zen House is teaming up with my friend Jeff Bridges to channel the energy of the entertainment industry and other partners towards achieving President Obama’s ambitious goal of eliminating childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. We will explore this partnership further at this summer’s Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism

As I said in a recent interview, dharma centers that were set up to help people become less egoistic instead became middle class enclaves of self-absorption. Today, the structure of the residence training of the Montague Farm Zen House recognizes that family life is a rich field of practice. The Zen House supports family life for the residents and for the families in need who come to our meals and wellness programs


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7 ways to use the internet to reduce suffering.

Applying Eastern Wisdom to Modern Tech. Lessons from the Wisdom 2.0 Summit.

Wisdom 2
1. Practice being present in person
2. Practice being present online
3. Build Relationships
4.Enforce accountability
5. Raise money and spread petitions
6. Organize information & Study
7. Coordinate Actions & Meetings

1. Practice being present in person

New technology only recontextualizes the same challenges that we have always faced. The original message of Buddhism still applies: Don’t get too attached. Don’t get distracted. Stay present. Having a new shiny toy is no excuse to not be fully present to the person in front of you.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
In the panel Managing the Stream: Living Consciously and Effectively in a Connected World, Roshi Joan Halifax stressed that the quality of presence emphasized in Zen is based on physical proximity. While she loves social media and would feel impoverished without it, she said that you are fooling ourselves if you think you could play with your i-phone and look someone in the eye at the same time. Only a Buddha could simultaneously perceive the relative and the absolute. While celebrating these technologies, Roshi Joan was sure to keep their shadow side on the table for discussion.

2. Practice being present online

A major message that conference organizer Soren Gordhamer stresses in his book and articles is that when you are talking to someone, talk to them and when you are tweeting tweet.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
While spiritual publisher Sounds True founder and owner Tami Simon affirmed that face-to-face interactions were more important than virtual ones, Soren confirmed that her heartfelt e-mails have warmed him.

Clinical neuroscientist Philippe Goldin, Ph.D. shared research that demonstrates the mental health benefits of mindfulness practice while Linda Stone explained a study that demonstrated that people who do breathing practices such as athletes, performers or meditators are less likely to exhibit “e-mail apnea”, the typical shortness of breath and quickening of heart-rate that happens when while we read e-mails.

Ben Parr, co-editor of Mashable Social Media Guide put it simply: social media has always been about people and connections between them. If you get too wrapped up in the tools, then you are a tool.

3. Build Relationships

Online networks allow us to develop connections between people within our affinity groups. These connections compliment face-to-face relations, build community and support action.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
At the conference, I got to meet people in person with whom I had previously only interacted online, such as fellow Socially Engaged Buddhists, Maia Duerr and Roshi Joan Halifax. Through Facebook, blogs and e-mail, we were able to get to know each other and support each other’s work before meeting in person.

Bob Debbas, of the weeklyinterview.com, explained that people facing repressive regimes cannot necessarily tweet to report shootings because doing so would compromise their location and make them targets of persecution. However, if they are connected through a trust network, they can send a Direct Message to a trusted outsider, who can in turn retweet it to a larger audience.

4. Enforce accountability

Because new media allows individuals to become the media like never before, we can find a wide audience for comments or critiques holding others accountable.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:


Executives and managers from Google, Twitter and Zappos expressed a vision of business based on happiness and world peace as opposed to just greed and profit. For example, Gopi Kallayil, Group Product Marketing Manager at Google, said that Google is a source of light and joy and not just technology and profits. He teaches a weekly yoga class at Google and his staff awarded him a prize for working to bring out the best in them. Meng Tan is Head of Google University’s School of Personal Growth, where among other activities he oversees and teaches the mindfulness-based program. His greatest aim is to create world peace by ending global poverty and spreading enlightenment. Natalie Villalobos, Community Manager at Google, announced an initiative within the company to work with indigenous communities to preserve their culture. Instead of delivering advance copies to journalists, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh gave to conference attendees copies of his new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, which will be released this summer.

After Hsieh’s talk, Katie Loncke asked about the working conditions of the people who manufacture the technology we use, putting the question not only to him but to the whole conference. Chris Sacca, who was interviewing Hsieh, changed Katie’s question to ask about the exploited kids who make some of the shoes that Zappos sells. Hsieh thought about the question and responded that even if Zappos were to complain to Nike, Zappos doesn’t represent a large enough portion of Nike’s sales to make a difference. An example of another approach to selling shoes came up in the presentation of Bill Tolany from Whole Foods. Tom’s Shoes, who gives a pair of shoes to a child in need every time a customer buys one of their shoes, has a blog on Whole Foods’ page.

Social enterprise means reflecting critically on every stage of the production cycle. It sounds great that Google’s ethos says ‘don’t do evil’ and that Twitter’s #1 rule is to ‘do good’, but how do we judge whether a company’s decisions reflect our values? CSRwire does a great job of sharing information about the impact of businesses on communities and the environment. With social media, we have the opportunity to read, comment and blog about how corporations are doing and to align our purchasing decisions accordingly.

5. Raise money and spread petitions

The most common way that we hear about social media being used for social change is from the money raised through tweets and text messages for causes such as Haiti. Through an online petition, Jamie Oliver’s food revolution has won over 500,000 signatures in support of better lunches in children’s schools.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
Chris Sacca, venture investor and advisor to several companies, including Twitter, stated that over a dozen clean water wells were built through his tweets alone through charity:water, which was supported by an online event called Twestival. Greg Pass, Chief Technology Officer of Twitter said that charity:water is so effective because of the authenticity of the platform. People trust it because it feels natural.

6. Organize information & Study

As I reported in April, online teaching events and study are becoming more common in the dharma world every day. One Socially Engaged Buddhist using his blog to educate people about sustainability and guide them through No Impact Weeks is Colin Beavan.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
Mary Ann Brusat is the Co-Director with her husband Frederic of Spirituality & Practice, a multifaith website with a database of 9,000 book, audio, and film reviews and E-Courses that reach seekers around the world who discuss applying their spirituality to everyday life in online Practice Circles. At the conference, she spoke about the risk with the salad bowl approach of picking elements of various traditions is that people may leave out the bitter greens. Mary Ann would like to promote activism based on spirituality through E-Courses.

7. Coordinate Actions & Meetings

As demonstrated by the Obama Campaign and meetup.com, online media could be used to coordinate effective real life political actions and meetings. Donating money and signing petitions is great, but bearing witness and taking action is essential. While online tools can coordinate real life actions, alternatively, people taking action could use social media to share their activities with a broader audience and invite others to join. When Fleet Maul recently went on the first Rwanda Bearing Witness retreat, he blogged (free account required to view) about the experience in real time. Sharing the activities of the Montague Farm Zen House is one of my intentions with the Bearing Witness Blog.

@Wisdom 2.0 Conference:
At an unconference meeting on social justice online, Christine Egger explained socialactions.com, a website she helped found that makes it easier for people to find and share opportunities to make a difference. They currently connect over 20,000 people and actions per month. Christine is concerned with further designing communication tools that develop collective consciousness and social change.

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Wired Magazine: 'Open-Source Politics' Taps Facebook for Myanmar Protests by Sarah Lai Stirland

OK, this isn’t breaking news, but it is an interesting example of our study of digital engaged Buddhism.


(October 2007) Tens of thousands of people are expected to take to the streets around the world Saturday in Facebook-fueled marches protesting Myanmar’s recent crackdown on monks’ pro-democracy demonstrations.

The marches, organized at a lightning pace by volunteers using Facebook, show the increasing power and reach of a social-networking site originally designed to help college students find drinking buddies. Facebook members in dozens of cities worldwide have planned demonstrations for Saturday.


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This Obon: Can We Feed All the Hungry Ghosts?

Can I Acknowledge My Sickness?

In a Huffington Post article, Zen Master Bernie Glassman, the founder of my Zen community explains:

In the Zen Peacemakers, we recite Sanskrit spells and provide food for hungry people in our community. We prepare a food offering and use ancient spells to invite the hungry ghosts into the room.

He explains the origin of the Obon rituals of making offerings, setting boats into the river and doing a traditional dance. He explains how those rituals form the basis of our weekly liturgy, which represents our commitment to serving the community. As they explain in the video below, Bernie developed our liturgy with the kirtan singer Krishna Das.

Sitting with people or aspects that I don’t want to acknowledge is part of my daily practice, both on the cushion and in the meals program of our Montague Farm Zen House. At our meal last Saturday, a guest said something to me and I didn’t acknowledge her. Looking back, I realize that I had a sense that her mannerisms and behavior were weird. They didn’t conform to typical social standards. Why didn’t I want to let her in?

It makes me think about attending a group therapy session for the mentally ill of a dear family member of mine. I previously didn’t want to accompany that person. I didn’t want to acknowledge that people can lose control. I didn’t want to acknowledge how people’s psychotic delusions reflected my own personal delusions. But staying in that space and returning to similar spaces has deepened my connection to that family member, to myself and to everyone.

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Appalachian Zen House promotes Permaculture

“Husband and wife pair Bob Flatley and Kelle Kersten run Ahimsa Village, an intentional living community near Julian, Pa…Both also practice Engaged Buddhism.  “It’s not just the meditation—looking in—but it’s going out into your community,” said Kersten, who serves as director of Appalachian Zen House.  The pair facilitates a “Wisdom Circle” that focuses on nonviolent communication, and Kersten leads a summer camp at Ahimsa Village for 8 to 15-year-olds, which focuses on creating a deeper understanding of and concern for the natural world.”

The Appalachian Zen House was founded by Steve Kanji Ruhl, who now directs the residence program in Montague, MA.  Kanji will be presenting at the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism on Zen Houses.  The excerpted article comes from VOICES of Central Pennsylvania:

As a teenager, Kersten checked out a book by Bill Mollison and began her lifelong fascination with “permaculture,” a combination of the words permanent, culture and agriculture. It refers to small-scale, intensive farming based on observing and replicating natural patterns, arranging components in relation to each other and the landscape and minimizing the use of manufactured energy.

Flatley and his college roommate Greg Martin dreamed of starting an intentional community since their days at Dickinson College.

The three founded Ahimsa Village in 2006 to create “a space that exemplifies the joyfulness of life while serving as an educational center for sustainable and compassionate living.”

Today the 68-acre property boasts a garden and an orchard containing 69 fruit and nut trees, 25 raspberry bushes and 100 strawberry plants and is designed according to permaculture principles. Flatley andKersten also maintain bee hives, harvest maple syrup and grow shitake mushrooms
on the property. Several energy-saving projects are underway, including a solar-powered water
pump, a solar hot water system, an Amishbuilt wood-burning cook stove and “humanure”
toilets that allow human waste to be composted.

But for Flatley and Kersten, permaculture goes beyond food production.
“We look at it as a whole system of living which includes the physical, the spiritual,
the mental and the emotional,” Flatley explained….

“I think we’re entering…a period of the spiraling down of the Western culture, the
whole system that’s built on the erroneous idea of constant growth,” said Flatley of the
need for a place like Ahimsa.

“It’s just the sense of doing for ourselves and not being so reliant on the fossil fuel
culture,” Kersten added. “It’s some sense of security and a sense of accomplishment.”

Download the original article from VOICES of Central Pennsylvania.

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Symposium Presenter Anne Waldman Appeals for help for Naropa

Waldman will present in the first Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on the topic of arts and social change.  Read her full letter at Elephant Journal, co-authored with Lisa Berman or read the following excerpt:

We want you to know that we are here, that we support and acknowledge our students, that we are up and running, and that the SWP staff, Reed Bye, Interim Chair of the W&P Department, and Naropa administrative staff and trustees are willing to meet with students to clarify and listen to concerns. We are part of a larger world and culture that is going through tremendous change, paradigm shifts of all kinds. We will all have to do with less and continue to cultivate our empathy and compassion and our artistic paths. We exist amidst huge waves of suffering as the oil spill continues to gush and harm many sentient beings and the vegetal world, as war rages, as financial cuts are made that affect everyone.  It is our duty to stay awake and to provide feedback in our own communities. The writing community here at Naropa has always been an activist one, and a spiritual one. We honor this lineage.

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Dudeism=Buddhism? Bridges, Bernie and Symposium

Watch the Tricycle Web Exclusive Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation, click here.

Jeff Bridges is scheduled to perform and present at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.

What is Dudeism?

According to dudeism.com, a website dedicated to deploying the wisdom of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) from the comedy The Big Lebowski, Dudeism is a religion with the following creed:

The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide.

In short, Dudeism is not Buddhism.

However, dudeism.com does list the Buddha as one of the “Great Dudes in History”—along with Snoopy, Gandhi, and Jerry Garcia—citing the fact that “he bailed on his birthright and taught that you should go with the flow.”

Read Full Article at Tricycle

Image: Dude-vinci, from dudeism.com

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Engaged Buddhist named Poet Laureate of the United States

W. S. Merwin in Hawaii, at his home on a former pineapple plantation on the northeast coast of Maui. Zen Buddhism and the lushness of the islands have informed his later work. Tom Sewell for The New York Times

Merwin moved to Hawaii in 1976 to study with Robert Aitken Roshi, the primary honoree of the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  While the New York Times says that “his interest in Zen Buddhism have sometimes made him seem like a man apart from society, a soul too pure too mix with the frantic heave of life as we know it,” they also describe his social engagement:

But Mr. Merwin’s appointment is potentially inspired. He is an exacting nature poet, a fierce critic of the ecological damage humans have wrought. Helen Vendler, writing last year in The New York Review of Books, called him “the prophet of a denuded planet.” With the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico becoming more dread and apocalyptic by the hour, Mr. Merwin may be a poet we’ll need. The pacifist in him may brood over the long war in Afghanistan.

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SEB Symposium presenter Anne Waldman to perform Ginsberg’s “Howl”

Beat Poet and Symposium Presenter Anne Waldman

At an exhibit on the photos of Allen Ginsberg displayed at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., beat poet Anne Waldman will do a reading of Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl.” Like Ginsberg, Waldman was a key figure of both the Beat Generation and the transmission of Buddhism to the West. On August 14, Walman will give a keynote address, participate in a panel and lead a discussion on arts and social change at the first Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  You can register for that day alone or for as many days as you please of this historical event.  Read the full report of the gallery exhibit in the Washington City Paper.

Maezumi Roshi, Bernie Glassman and Alan Ginsberg

Photo displayed at National Gallery

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Boston Herald Reports on Jeff Bridges' Participation in Symposium

“That Oscar winner Jeff Bridges will sing his Crazy Heart out at an Aug. 13 concert with his songwriter bud John Goodwin during the Zen Peacemakers’ ‘Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism’ in Montague. Goodwin co-wrote ‘Hold on You,’ a tune sung by Bridges in ‘Crazy Heart.'”  Bridges studies Zen with Bernie Glassman and you can watch a video of their discussion.  While Bridges has visited Montague in the past to participate in events, we hope that he doesn’t get whisked away by an unplanned demand to film a new movie.



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Dalai Lama: Monks and soldiers have more in common than meets the eye

His Holiness the Dalai Lama made a statement supporting armed forces featured in a post last Monday on the  of the Buddhist Military Sangha blog.  His Holiness said that actions that appear “harsh or tough” on the surface may actually be “non-violent” if they are based on good motivation.    What makes both a good monk and a good solider is the drive to serve others:  “Inner strength depends on having a firm positive motivation. The difference lies in whether ultimately you want to ensure others’ well being or whether you want only wish to do them harm.”  How do these comments make you feel?

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Video: talks by Symposium Presenter Bikkhu Bodhi on Integral Buddhism

Watch it at Danny fisher’s blog

Bikkhu Bodhi

Bikkhu Bodhi, who is a leader of Buddhist Global Relief, will be participating in a panel and leading a discussion on the Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism in August. Buddhist Global Relief was inspired by Bikkhu Bodhi’s teachings and it works to relieve hunger around the world. There are still spots available at the Symposium. Sign up while you can!  You can sign up for part of the event or the entire thing.

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ZP's Ari Pliskin explores engaged Buddhism as Elephant Journal featured columnist

Check it out here!

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Audio podcast: A Jew in Germany, insights from Auschwitz

Sensei Beate Stolte and Natalie Goldberg recently attended a Zen retreat at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Natalie is Jewish and Stolte grew up in Germany; both share intimate stories and insights from their experience at the retreat. Discussion transpired about the human capacity for genocide, and the concepts of embracing fear and darkness, and creating meaning in one’s circumstances.  Listen to the podcast from Upaya Zen Center

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Dispatch from the Train to Auschwitz

“My choice to travel by train in Poland is intentional. It is part of my pilgrimage here. I am mindfully aware that this rail track from Warsaw to Krakow, on which i now ride in comfort and in a bright and sun-filled rail car, is like the very route so many traveled to their deaths a mere generation ago. I hold them all in my heart”

-Michael Melancon a few weeks ago leading up to the retreat read the entire article at Maia Duerr’s Jizo Chronicles

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Local Western Massachusetts Paper Lauds Zen House

Recorder/Geoff Bluh On Saturday the Zen Peacemakers Center in Montague hosted its third community meal (at the quiet, rural setting near North Leverett. Here Ben and Jerry's ice cream, which (supports the center's work, is served for dessert; at left Nan Niederlander, of Leverett is (served by Eve Marko, head teacher of the Zendo.

From the Recorder: “On Saturday the Zen Peacemakers Center in Montague hosted its third community meal (at the quiet, rural setting near North Leverett. Here Ben and Jerrys ice cream, which (supports the centers work, is served for dessert; at left Nan Niederlander, of Leverett is (served by Eve Marko, head teacher of the Zendo.

MONTAGUE — The menu last week included not only barbecued hamburgers and fresh, local greens, but also rice and lentil dhal, cucumber and feta salad, veggie noodle salad and deviled eggs.” read more

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Reflections on last week's Auschwitz Bearing Witness by Fleet Maull


155 Peacemakers sitting at the "selection site" on the railway platform at Birkenau (Auschwitz II)

Today we completed the fourth day of the Zen Peacemaker bearing witness retreat here at Auschwitz & Birkenau. This is my eighth retreat here, and I’ll be back in November to help guide another bearing witness retreat for Palistininian and Jewish youth from Israel as well as youth from other countries. In past years I have written and shared daily reports, more recently in the form of blogs, each day of the retreat. This year I have not been inspired to do so up until now. Perhaps I’m just too full, having co-lead our first Peacemaker Institute bearing witness retreat in Rwanda this past April. Perhaps it is the overwhelming size of this retreat. We are 155 strong this year, participants and staff, much, much larger than usual, with the exception of the very first Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat in 1996. At any rate, as we sat in one of the barracks at Birkenau this evening,barracks originally designed as stables for 50 horses that held four hundred death camp inmates, listening each other as we shared our experience, hearts and minds in council (a deep listening circle or talking stick circle), I suddenly realized that I need to share something of this retreat with all of you.

Roshi Bernie Glassman leading a Zen Buddhist service called Gate of Sweet Nectar (Feeding the Hungry Spirits) at Crematoria I, one of five cremation sites at Birkenau (Auschwitz II) where over 1.5 million perished.

We have followed the usual format, beginning with a deep plunge at Auschwitz I, where we watched incredibly graphic films recording the horrific truth of the Nazi genocide as the camps were liberated at the end of the war and then stepped out from the darkened theatre into the sunlit reality of the concentration camp. We toured the barracks and many exhibits with professional guides, splitting into five groups of 30. We gathered again as, 155 strong, inside the gas chamber at Auschwitz I, where we stood in silence, filling half the chamber shoulder to shoulder where 300 were gassed at on time. We proceeded to the infamous killing wall between Blocks 10 and 11. Block 11 was the SS punishment barracks where any form of resistance or misbehavior in the camps was punished to the extreme… torture, starvation, poisoning, and executions by gunfire at the killing wall. There we held our first interfaith service with Jewish, Christian and Buddhist services and the offering of candles by each participant.

The Killing Wall between Block 10 and Block 11, the infamous SS punishment barracks.

Then after our usual lunch of soup and bread we left for Auschwitz II – Birkenau, the massive 10 square mile death camp, where we spent that afternoon and where we would spend the rest of the retreat. I’m used to being here in November where we suffer through extreme cold, frigid windsand often snow or rain. This year instead it’s the scorching sun. Poland had recently suffered very heavy rains and massive flooding, but the sun returned with a vengeance this week. We’ve been sitting at the infamous selection site, where we spend time in silent meditation and prayer and read the names of the murdered, baking under a brutally hot sun, many of us verging on the edge of heat exhaustion. This afternoon, we finally took our afternoon session into one of the barracks where we were spared the direct scorching of the sun, but not the suffocating heat. It’s good to suffer here, I think; though I resist it enough. Of course we are only tasting a sliver of the suffering of those imprisoned here during the World War II Nazi holocaust.

Chanting the names of the death camp victims at the selection site on the railway platform at Birkenau.

But it was not all this, not the beautiful religious services of different faiths we held throughout the camp, not the powerful morning small group councils, or the evening programs that stirred me to write. No, it was our dear friend August who joined us tonight in the barracks for our evening vigil and large group council there.

August is a holocaust and camp survivor. He was a member of the Polish resistance arrested and sent to Auschwitz at the beginning of the Nazi occupation. On this day, April 10, 1942 he escaped along with nine others, in possibly the only successful escape attempt from Auschwitz. Twenty were captured and killed, but nine escaped and survived including August. August first joined the Peacemakers on this Auschwitz Bearing Witness retreat in 1998, and has joined us many times since. Wanting to give something back to this community, he raised the money to build the first hospice in this area with the support and co-sponsorship of the Peacemaker Community. The hospice has been operational for some time now, but will receive the final round of funding to complete all construction this Saturday. August will be 90 years old this year.

This evening with our very large group there in the barracks at Birkenau, August just sat and listened to the sharing, as one of our Polish staff quietly translated for him. After more than 90 minutes, August asked to speak, rising from his chair with help and then steadying himself to stand upright, with his single crutch. August is a large and still robust looking man for 89 years of age. He must have been a formidable presence in his younger days. August expressed deep appreciation for the Peacemakers, for the retreat and for all the heartfelt sharing he’d heard this evening. He said he was especially moved by one of Jewish participant recounting a tender moment of camaraderie and brotherhood with the German man he had been assigned as a roommate here. August spoke of the joy he feels whenever he has the chance to hug people from Germany, and the great hope that he has for healing, reconciliation a changing, evolving humanity. It’s hard to convey the impact of August’s words. This was not a naïve or trite expression of hope for peace and a better future, but rather the genuine inspiration and positive vision of a man who had lived through hell and seen his fellow humans at their beastly worst.

So this is what I wanted to share with all of you tonight, the inspired truth of this one old man, standing tall and shining so brightly amidst the ashes and dark horrors of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the most infamous and most effective killing ground and death camp of the Nazi holocaust.

Celebrating life with a shabbat service and meal after five days of bearing witness to death and the horrors of genocide at Auschwitz

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Upaya hosts benefit for Buddhist Education for Social Transformation

Please join us on Saturday, September 18, 7:00 pm, at Upaya Zen Center for a very special evening with Jami Sieber (electric cello/vocals) and Colleen Kelley (author, artist). “Hidden Sky” is a lush musical and visual journey into a world honoring the bond between human and elephant; a magical multi-media performance inspired by their remarkable experiences with elephants in northern Thailand.

The evening is a benefit for the Buddhist Education for Social Transformation (BEST) program that is being created in northern Thailand at International Womens Partnership for Peace and Justice, in collaboration with Upaya’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program.

Jami and Colleen are generously offering this concert as a gift to the community and in support of the BEST program — no ticket is required and admission is free. We hope that you will respond generously at the concert with a donation to support scholarships and other expenses for the BEST program (minimum suggested donation is $25).

Sign up here

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DC fest includes films, discussion on Engaged Buddhism, diversity

Sunday afternoon, June 20, will see a program sponsored by the Washington Buddhist Peace Fellowship. It will start with a screening of “Peace is Every Step,” a portrait of Thich Nhat Hanh, who was nominated for the nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., for his efforts to end the war in Vietnam peacefully. Following the film, Peace Fellowship founder Hugh Byrne will lead a meditation and a discussion on engaged Buddhism with peace activitst Colman McCarthy.

Read full article in examiner.com

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This Week: Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat

I am currently on the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat (the current one, not the June one in the link) along with several Zen Peacemakers staff including Bernie, Eve, Karen and about 150 others. Bernie, Eve and I arrived in Krakow on Friday. This is the 15th year of the retreat. There are people from a variety of nations and faiths here with us. This is my first time in Europe and my first time on this retreat. On retreat, I plan to take a break from writing new posts on the blog. See you next week. – Ari

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My Murmurs Over the Marmara by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi

Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi has represented the Jewish tradition at Auschwitz Bearing witness retreats for many years. He studies Zen with Bernie Glassman and is a peace activist. He wrote the following article on recent events:

English tr., Yair Ohr

As a peace activist, I am hurt and frustrated to see supposed “peace activists” attacking other human beings with violent rage: that is NOT the way to bring peace. As an international peace activist, I want to say to those who were involved in the violence on board the Marmara flotilla: You are not peace activists. You came as confrontationists looking for a fight, and you are personally responsible for the bloodshed that took place. I would have expected other peace activists from around the world to come out loudly and say this unambiguously, but it seems that their voices have suddenly gone silent.

And as an Israeli, it frustrates me to see the Israeli Army so foolishly falling into this trap. Could the Israeli army with all its advanced intelligence gathering systems not have obtained more accurate information about what was planned for them on board the ship? Couldn’t they have just neutralized the ship’s engine by some simple commando action in order to stop the ship dead at sea, without direct confrontation, thus avoiding any bloodshed?

The State of Israel has become a very clumsy bully that strikes out heavily against anyone who irritates it, then justifies by crying, “But he started! He spit on me! He insulted me! He hit me with an iron rod!” The modern Israeli Army resembles the Golem of Prague, which was sent to protect the Jews, but was an inept and dangerous creature. But unlike the original Golem, it seems that the modern Israeli version lacks any sage guidance to control it, and no one knows to erase the Divine Name from its forehead and return it to dust at the right time, as did the Maharal of Prague in the famous story.

Many of us right now want only to hide our faces in the ground out of shame: ashamed of “our” state that conducts itself with such inane stupidity; ashamed of the “peace activists” who tried to murder soldiers with clubs and knives; ashamed of the hypocritical reaction of peace lovers around the world who are taking a lopsided and cursory stance, ignoring the complexity of the issue.

So what is the real problem? For years I have been saying that the State of Israel, as a society, is exhibiting the collective psychological symptoms of post-trauma. Our collective psychology resembles that of someone who was traumatized as a child, such as sexual or physical abuse, but never had the opportunity to work it through in any form of therapy. This person grows into adulthood full of relentless rage and fear. He is always “on guard,” responding disproportionately to anyone who spits in his direction.

And as known to experts in the symptoms of post-trauma: whoever suffered violent trauma in childhood will recreate for himself the very same reality that will only prove to him that the world is exactly as he fears it to be: aggressive, violent, and that everyone is against him, so to protect himself, he too must be aggressive and violent—even more so than all the others. It is very difficult to prove to such a person that he himself is an active contributor to the creation of this violent reality. He is not only defending himself against it—he is actually creating it, for only in that situation does he feel “at home.”

That is our situation here in Israel: only if the entire world is against us do we feel comfortable. It has that familiar sensation of massacres and pogroms. Only when “they” want to annihilate us are we relieved, feeling that at least this is how we always knew it to be. Not long ago on Pesach we sang, “In each and every generation they rise up to destroy us…,” so reality has once again slapped us in the face and proved that we are right, as always—and this time, they have tried to do it by hurling broken beer bottles at us with slingshots…

What am I saying? I am saying that the time has come for us to seek treatment. If we don’t get reparative therapy for the fear that controls and manipulates the Israeli society, we will not survive.

Nowadays, God does not need to save us from “them”—He needs to save us mainly from ourselves! We, the Israelis, as a society and as individuals, need therapy—urgently. Preferably it should be some type of alternative therapy, but any type of therapy requires the willingness of the suffering one to acknowledge his situation and seek help. Perhaps, as a society, we can agree to forgo for a while our hopeless clinging to the “righteousness of our path,” and to declare to ourselves and to the world that we are in trouble, and that we need help.

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Audio: Roshi Joan Halifax talks on Buddhism & Grief

Roshi Joan Halifax discusses the five ‘territories’ of grief. Roshi also shares how people close to the Buddha responded after his death and how current Western attitudes about death and dying impact people’s lives. She expounds on the physical, emotional, and spiritual symptoms that can manifest when one is grieving. Roshi shares intimate stories about her experiences with grief and death and offers suggestions to professional caregivers who work with the dying or bereaved. listen

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Engaged Buddhism Thrives in Temecula, CA

From a posting in the North County Times

As a group, Indigo Lotus is involved in several out-reach programs. We provide food and clothing to 43 homeless adults and 14 children in Lake Elsinore. We provide pet food for Senior’s pets through the Mary Phillips Senior Center. We are in the process of instituting the area’s first Buddhist Hospice Program. Our two hour Sunday gatherings focus on gaining insight and developing plans regarding advancing our goal of compassion, peace and enlightenment. Indigo Lotus Buddhism group is a democratic community. We do not give “sermons” but share teachings we may have learned and are continuously learning.

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Technological and Political Progressivism in Historical Buddhist Thought

From an article by Kris Notaro:

Many of those engaged in activities pertaining to environmentalism, human rights, antiwar activism, and similar activities consider themselves Buddhist or ally themselves with its philosophy.  Many organizations, such as the Zen Peacemakers, the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, and Buddhist Global Relief are founded as both sanghas (Buddhist congregations) and politically and socially active groups . But this was not always the case. In fact, at various points in its history, Buddhism was not only unconcerned with improving the world, but actively discouraged working to improve living conditions on this planet.

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Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism

Maia Duerr at the Jizo Chronicles explains a framework of engaged Buddhism created by folks at BPF.

I’ve referred to the “Mandala of Socially Engaged Buddhism” a couple of time in previous posts on this blog, and I’ve finally dug it up to share it with all of you. If you click on the graphic above, it should open up in a separate window with slightly higher resolution.

Some background on this mandala: It was inspired by a gathering of a number of Buddhist Peace Fellowship chapter leaders in 2003. Everyone shared the kinds of activities that their chapters had organized, and (just as importantly) how they organized these events, what qualities were important for them in the process of organizing.


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Second Life Activism by Kate Crisp

Using the avatar Vivienne, Peacemaker Institute and Prison Dharma Network director Kate Crisp organized hourly meditations to promote Tibetan peace and organized a day-long vigil and a chain of avatars that stretched 500 people in support of Burmese monks. View Tibetan Peace video.View Burmese Support video.

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Dalai Lama finds Compassion Central to all Religions

From New York Times op-ed by the His Holiness the Dalai Lama:

Finding common ground among faiths can help us bridge needless divides at a time when unified action is more crucial than ever. As a species, we must embrace the oneness of humanity as we face global issues like pandemics, economic crises and ecological disaster. At that scale, our response must be as one.

Harmony among the major faiths has become an essential ingredient of peaceful coexistence in our world. From this perspective, mutual understanding among these traditions is not merely the business of religious believers — it matters for the welfare of humanity as a whole.

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Lineage Project joins Tricycle Community Site

From Tricycle

We’re always pleased when a new group joins us at the Tricycle Community site, and we were especially pleased to see the New York-based Lineage Project throw their hat into the ring. Founded by Soren Gordhamer, the brains behind Wisdom 2.0, the Lineage Project has been bringing alternative tools for physical, emotional, and mental wellness to at-risk and incarcerated youth since its founding in 1998.

It’s a well known fact that America’s prisons are packed to bursting, and that Americans in prison are disproportionately non-white. The Lineage Project employs mindfulness-based meditation and other “alternative” tools to help turn young people’s lives around. From their site:

The Lineage Project is one of the nation’s leading non-profit organizations providing alternative tools for physical, emotional and mental wellness to at-risk and incarcerated youth ages 10 to 21. Through the teaching of yoga and meditation to over 600 of these youth annually throughout New York City we provide a unique forum to cultivate resiliency and positive youth development, providing tools that can transform young lives.

We conduct our program in collaboration with local community- based organizations, schools, and New York City and State detention facilities. Our current community partners include, The New York State Office of Children and Family Services, The New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, The Fortune Society, Humanities Prep High School.

Over the past 12 years, we have held programs for youth in collaboration with many facilities including the Department of Correction’s Adolescent Detention Center at Rikers Island, The Jewish Board of Children and Family Services, New York City Department of Juvenile Justice, and the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. Although no longer working at Rikers and The Jewish Board of Children and Family Services we have recently added four new service sites, The Fortune Society, The Brooklyn Job Corps, Crossroads Juvenile Justice Facility, and Humanities Prep High School.

Visit them at the Tricycle Community here to join in the discussion about the challenges facing today’s youth, and what you can do to help. Below is a 15-minute video of what the Lineage Project does.

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Elephant Journal Readership is at a record high.

Readership is at a record high, we won #1 green content in US on twitter 2010, this Facebook Page brings in > readers than Google itself, TreeHugger just named Waylon Lewis a top “Eco Ambassador” in US…but there’s no sustainable business model for new media. Save the elephant?

From the Elephant Journal

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Multi-Faith Prayer for Peace Group Celebrates 60 Years in June

From the Orlando Sentinal

Gustav Niebuhr, Sister Joan Chittister, and Zen Master Bernie Glassman will be among those participating in a conference celebrating the 60th anniversary of Fellowship in Prayer, a multi-faith nonprofit forced on “prayer for peace,” on the campus of Princeton University.

The June 24-27 conference will also feature a gala performance by Salman Ahmad, lead singer of the band Junoon which has been described as ”the U2 of Pakistan.”

The conference, PRAYER: An Answer for the 21st Century, offers a unique opportunity to join others in identifying and claiming the values and practices within and across faith traditions that are foundational for peace, justice and global sustainability.

“Our world is deeply in need of interfaith cooperation,” says Janet Haag, Fellowship in Prayer’s Executive Director, “and we can think of no better way to mark our 60th anniversary than to invite people to join us in committing themselves to social change based on a broad, inclusive spiritual and social consciousness.”

For more information, to register for the conference or the gala, visit www.fellowshipinprayer.org or call 609.924.6863.

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Zen Master Bernie & Jeff Bridges Video II

To watch part 1 of this conversation filmed by Tricycle, click here.

To watch part 2 of this conversation, click here.

To learn more about the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism this August in Massachusetts, where Jeff is scheduled to perform,  click here.

To watch Joan Oliver’s interview with Bernie Glassman on the Symposium, click here (we improved the sound quality since the original post).

And finally, to help support more great material like this, become a Tricycle Community Sustaining Member!

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UMass Donates Compost to Zen House Garden

Our garden keeps growing.  There are still spots available in the residence program for people who want to participate.  You could meditate, garden and work at the Montague Farm Cafe!

Ike & Karen

Karen & Ari

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Sign the Charter for Compassion!

Learn more and sign the charter

The Charter for Compassion

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the centre of our world and put another there, and to honour the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect.

It is also necessary in both public and private life to refrain consistently and empathically from inflicting pain. To act or speak violently out of spite, chauvinism, or self-interest, to impoverish, exploit or deny basic rights to anybody, and to incite hatred by denigrating others—even our enemies—is a denial of our common humanity. We acknowledge that we have failed to live compassionately and that some have even increased the sum of human misery in the name of religion.

We therefore call upon all men and women ~ to restore compassion to the centre of morality and religion ~ to return to the ancient principle that any interpretation of scripture that breeds violence, hatred or disdain is illegitimate ~ to ensure that youth are given accurate and respectful information about other traditions, religions and cultures ~ to encourage a positive appreciation of cultural and religious diversity ~ to cultivate an informed empathy with the suffering of all human beings—even those regarded as enemies.

We urgently need to make compassion a clear, luminous and dynamic force in our polarized world. Rooted in a principled determination to transcend selfishness, compassion can break down political, dogmatic, ideological and religious boundaries. Born of our deep interdependence, compassion is essential to human relationships and to a fulfilled humanity. It is the path to enlightenment, and indispensible to the creation of a just economy and a peaceful global community.

Learn more and sign the charter

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Twitter and the Dalai Lama: Can Social Media Help Create a Happier World? by Soren Gordhamer

I hear it quite a bit. People say, “Twitter is useless. It is just people with big egos trying to promote themselves. The sooner it dies, the better.” People argue that it is inherently opposed to a mindful, happy life.

In fact, the issue of happiness, and technologies role in either helping support or diminish it, came up recently at the Peace summit with the Dalai Lama, where one of the panels included eBay founder, Pierre Omidyar. The Dalai Lama spoke of the danger of developing more affection for technological devices than people, and emphasized that all the external things we think will make us happy – money, fame, power – never do because it requires an inner shift. Pierre spoke of the ability of technology to help bring people together based on shared interests…READ MORE


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Iran, Burma and Global Cybersanga by Laura Busch

From the last issue of our Bearing Witness Newsletter on Socially Engaged Buddhism:

by Laura Busch


Socially engaged Buddhism has gone online. Or rather, we have gone online as socially engaged Buddhists. Yet, there are those who may cringe at the idea. One can easily find on the Internet rampant materialism, and new methods of communicating human anger and ignorance such as cyberbullying, flaming and spamming. So is the Internet truly a beneficial technology for promoting social justice and activism? And if so, how do we use this technology to benefit sentient beings?

Iran: Internet democracy or repression?

Scholars studying social activism and the Internet have offered many answers to these types of questions. While the Internet can be effectively used for social justice, it can equally be a tool of surveillance and censorship. This duality was apparent during the 2009 election in Iran, where angry citizen used Twitter to organize protests against the government. Protester cell phones captured and posted videos of these events, which eventually made their way to news agencies like BBC and CNN. At the same time, the Iranian government used the very same technology to seek out, arrest, and torture protesters. As we can see, the Internet can be as much of a liberating technology as a technology of control.

The Digital Divide

Furthermore, other factors can inhibit the Internet’s effectiveness as a tool for alleviating suffering. One of these factors is the “digital divide”: a disparity of internet access within and between countries. These disparities are generally based upon differences in geography, income, age and education, often resulting in a lack of internet access amongst impoverished populations. This lack of access can also result in perpetuating social inequality.

Yet, despite these important issues, the Internet does appear to have greater potential as an effective tool for activism than previous communication technologies like television. The Internet is a unique in that it allows people to instantly connect to other like-minded individuals, find information, and make their voices heard. It can be a platform where local marginalized voices, that have previously been silenced, can reach the global public and express their needs.

Constructing Global Cybersanga

So how can we effectively use this technology to educate and promote social justice in an increasingly connected global world? First, we must not view ourselves as solitary web users, but as members of an online community of concerned Buddhist practitioners. Therefore, I posit the following, seemingly simplistic statement: messages matter. The stories we tell online about belonging to a global socially engaged Buddhist community, are a central first step to creating and sustaining positive, real world, social changes. These stories provide our individual lives with a sense of shared community concerns and goals and we can use Web sites, discussion forums, and social networking sites like Facebook as spaces where these stories can flourish and develop.

One powerful story of online global Buddhist community is the cybersangha. Cybersanghas appear in many forms: from Web sites like Buddhanet and the Buddhist Channel, to discussion forums like E-sangha. These sites, and many others, share a vision of a global, socially engaged Buddhist community: a community of spiritual friends that share certain systems of belief, practices and religious stories with the purpose of benefitting all sentient beings.

Cybersangha Mobilizes for Burma

Cybersanghas can have far-reaching, real world implications in terms of helping sentient beings. When we see ourselves as a part of a global sangha, we identify with others in our sangha, their hopes, dreams, trials, and tribulations. We care when members of our global sangha are suffering and we become motivated to act when our community demands action. This power of community stories was evident during the 2007 protests in Burma. In one global Buddhist discussion forum, many members identified the monks as spiritual brothers in the community. While there were some debates about whether monks should be protesting, the majority of forum members shared online news and expressed their support and desire to help, often saying to one another, “I need to do something. What can I do?”

And it is this crucial moment, when we see ourselves as part of a community and see our community’s values as necessitating certain forms of social engagement that we become motivated to act. When members of the message board asked, “What can I do”, others responded with links to online petitions, Web sites that supported democracy in Burma, and lists of rallies, protests and vigils taking place around the world. The Internet provided a space where these opportunities could be shared and discussed: where the community mobilized others to act. And those online who were concerned with Burma, mobilized quickly, collaborated with other groups, and events in Burma were known around the world.


While messages and technology go hand in hand to produce effective social engagement, we must also use the Internet to form partnerships with those outside of our community. Our actions are most effective when we collaborate with other religious communities, non-profits, universities and any other organization or community that shares the same goals. This is also what makes the internet a powerful tool for successful engagement: we can quickly find and contact others who align with our values and ideals. We can use the Web to build partnerships, and through these partnerships, the results of our compassionate actions are amplified.

Despite the digital divide and government attempts to control the Internet, digital technologies are becoming more accessible in the world and with it, greater opportunities are available to connect and collaborate with other socially engaged Buddhists. The internet has become central to how we connect our local concerns to the global world. Yet, it is important to remember that in the end, it is the people who use the Internet that must move from thinking of oneself as a socially engaged Buddhist, to acting upon the opportunities we encounter online to be socially engaged: to use the Internet with compassion rather than indifference.

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Naropa University among The Princeton Review’s Greenest Schools.

From the Elephant Journal:

The Princeton Review and U.S. Green Building Council have recognized Boulder’s own Naropa University as one of the greenest in the nation in their recent Guide to 286 Green Colleges.  Through using electricity that is 100% wind powered and implementing an all-encompassing composting system, they are among a list of schools, also including four other Colorado schools, that are leading the nation in sustainable learning environments.  Naropa also has an on-campus greenhouse that yields crops for both the campus’ cafe and landscaping and its sprinklers, unlike CU Boulder’s, only waters when needed.  Another impressive part of Naropa’s program is their academic opportunity for green majors and minors in a wide variety of subjects ranging from sciences to agriculture to sacred ecology.

Naropa’s full press release.

The Elephant Journal is a great publication. Here is why we should support it.

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Civil Eats: Buddhists Reap Their Karmic Fruits (And Vegetables)

“While children zip around the Northeastern rural property, adults mingle and serve up heaping portions of macaroni and cheese and colorful salads,” says yesterday’s article covering The Montague Farm Zen House from Civil Eats, a group dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems.  Read the full article or check out the following excerpts:

More than anything, the scene resembles a small-town fair. But it is simply another night at the Montague Farm Café. The free dinner is hosted by the Buddhist Montague Farm Zen House in Montague, Massachusetts, as part of the group’s efforts to promote sustainable food and health…

The specter of hunger hovers in the consciousness of Werner and Montague Farm residents. Nearly a third of the families in the Zen house’s area experience food insecurity, meaning that they do not always have access to or money for enough nutritious and safe food. Montague Farm provides transportation to their dinners for less affluent folk, who may not have the resources to drive into the country—or prepare organic, local fare. With the meals, “there’s an idea that everyone bears witness to experiences outside our own. We offer a space to serve with love and dignity,” Werner says.

Religion and farming are seldom closely associated in our minds, but historically, strong ties unite Buddhism and working the land.

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Forget Farmville: Watch Our Organic Farm Grow in Real Time Part II

Join our residence program or come volunteer and get involved with our organic community garden.

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Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation (Part 1). A Tricycle Web Exclusive

Watch here!

Look for Part 2 next week and for Katy Butler’s interview with Jeff Bridges in our upcoming Fall 2010 issue!

(recorded by Ms. Mars of Cenozoic Studios for Tricycle, Photos taken by Seabrook Jones for Tricycle)

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Was the Buddha socially engaged?

While the author of a recent post on Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar argues that “Twist it and wring it and pound it any way you like. Buddha did not engage in engaged Buddhism,”Ramesh Bjonnes argues in an article in the Elephant Journal that “Buddha was an animal and human rights activist long before the popularity of PETA , Amnesty International, vegan and vegetarian activism.”

From Digital Tibetan Buddhist Altar:

If you are rushing from one disaster to another, saving whales, trees, dogs, birds, starving orphans, victims of this, and victims of that, sooner or later you will become exhausted. Sooner or later, you will come to realize that, despite all of your effort, the whales, trees, dogs, birds, orphans, and victims are no fewer in number than when you began your crusades.

Later, rather than sooner, you might even come to realize that all your rushing around is just another excuse for not realizing emptiness: for not realizing impermanence.

Another excuse for not practicing dharma according to dharma.

Welcome to samsara, and the topic for today’s sermon, which is “Does Samsara Really Need Janitors?” I want to test the thesis that one can run around placing labels on phenomena, tidying up samsara with a mop and bucket, or one can realize the nature of one’s own mind…

When Buddha achieved or relaxed into whatever it is we believe he achieved or relaxed into while sitting beneath the Bodhi Tree, a large red cross did not suddenly begin glowing on his chest. He did not jump up and rush out to save the poor. He did not latch on to a cause and use it as the locus of a fundraising mechanism. He did not begin building institutions.

Twist it and wring it and pound it any way you like. Buddha did not engage in engaged Buddhism.

From the Elephant Journal:

“Immense sacrificial ceremonies, such as the sacrifice of the horse (ashvameda), through which the Brahmans imposed their power, ruined the states financially,” writes Alain Danileou in his book While the Gods Play…

“[Both Buddha and Mahavira, the founder of Jainism] were in open revolt against the karmakanda [prehistoric ritualistic portions] of the Vedas, but they were not so opposed to the the jinanakanda [more recent philosophical portions, including certain Upanishads and Vedanta], because these were quite popular with spiritual aspirants.”

“Both Buddha and Mahavira vehemently opposed the ritualistic sacrifices, especially of animals, and both of them protested against the hostile attitude of the so-called dharma towards morality.” Quoted from Namami Shiva Shantaya by Shrii Shrii Anandamurti

In other words, Buddha was an animal and human rights activist long before the popularity of PETA , Amnesty International, vegan and vegetarian activism. About 2500 years before PETA, in fact.

As a Socially Engaged Buddhist, I of course believe that the Buddha was an activist and that especially in modern times, we must realize our spirituality in a way that is integrated with our entire life and that takes responsibility for our ability to impact the lives of others. What do you think? Please comment.

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Instructions to the Cook wins Filmaker's Choice Award

I did a blog post a few days ago where you could view Instructions to the Cook at the Culture Unplugged online film festival.  Thanks to your votes, this film one one of the ten best!

From the Culture Unplugged Studios Team (www.cultureunplugged.com)

We would like to thank you for your film submission to Culture
Unplugged and participating in “Humanity Explored”

We are happy to inform you that your film ‘Instructions to the Cook: A
Zen Master’s Recipe for Living a Life That Matters ‘ is selected among
the top ten films for Film-Maker’s Choice Award (best art). This group
of ten films for the mentioned award is selected by the public and
C.U. festival team. We have sent this 10 films to esteemed film-
makers /Producers / Social Scientist / Activists  across the globe.

They are:

Andrew Cohen (is an American guru, spiritual teacher, magazine editor,
author, and musician who has developed what he characterizes as a
unique path of spiritual transformation, called Evolutionary

Barrie Osborne (Producer, New Zealand, 7 times – Oscar winner),

Michael Peyser (Producer, Film Executive, and/or Professor of
Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California),

Elza Maalouf (Integral Insight Consulting Group),

Shekhar Kapoor (Film-maker/Director, India, Oscar Nominated 2007),

Dr. Amit Goswami, Ph. D(professor emeritus in the theoretical physics
department of the University of Oregon, pioneer of the new paradigm of
science called “science within consciousness),

Michal Levin (writer, spiritual teacher, and pioneer of her own
independently developed LEAP (Life Energy Activation Process)

Along with you we are anxiously awaiting to hear their voice and
receive the vote. We will be contacting you soon.
Our best wishes to you for this as well as future films.

on Behalf of,
Culture Unplugged Studios Team

Promote Films. Promote Consciousness.

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University of the West graduates Buddhist chaplain bound for U.S. Army

(L-R) Danny Fisher with Somya Malasri in San Diego at the American Academy of Religion 2007 Annual Meeting.

Quotes from Danny Fisher (full article):  Little did I know that “The U.S. military has been actively trying to recruit Buddhist chaplains since World War II” and that it “currently has an estimated 3,300 soldiers claiming a Buddhist affiliation.”  I wonder if being a military chaplain means that you support that nation’s militarism.  On the one hand, you could say that chaplains support the military helping to stabilize soldiers and make them more capable of killing.  On the other hand, you could say that a chaplain could support the soldiers as human beings, regardless of their role in the broader political context.  I am sure there are some Buddhists who would also say that Buddhists should support the military.  (This question has probably come up before in the Buddhablogosphere, before I was following it.)

Somya Malarasi is “a former Buddhist monk from Thailand who will use his training to become the second Buddhist chaplain in the U.S. Army ranks.”  He graduated today from the University of the West in their M.Div. in Buddhist Chaplaincy program, of which Rev. Danny is the program coordinator.  University of the West is one of a few accredited Buddhist universities in the country.

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Zen Priest/UU Minister James Ford goes to Arizona to protest anti-illegal immigrant law

Read Ford’s announcement.

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NEW Bearing Witness newsletter: Socially Engaged Buddhism Online

Virtual Second Life Free Tibet Meditation Vigil (Video)

The May issue of Bearing Witness: the Free Newsletter on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism explores the role of online technology in the world of SEB.  It includes my first-hand coverage of the Wisdom 2.0 conference and perspectives by activists, scholars and leaders of Buddhist organizations including Roshi Joan Halifax (Upaya Zen Center), Soren Gordhamer (Wisdom 2.0), Vince Horn (Buddhist Geeks), Alan Senauke (Clear View Project), Chris Queen (Zen Peacemakers) and Kate Crisp (Peacemaker Institute and Prison Dharma Network).  Stay tuned to this blog to explore questions regarding this complex and controversial topic.  Key questions from Chris Queen’s introduction:

Articles in this month’s Bearing Witness raise provocative questions for socially engaged Buddhists. Despite the power of the web to alert us to the suffering of beings around the world, are we spending far too much time staring at screens in darkened rooms? Are typing and clicking, texting and Googling truly Buddhist practices, in the way that meditating, chanting and serving are? Is “high tech” a substitute or a supplement to “high touch”? Can the virtual activism of Second Life avatars be compared to the bodily service of flesh-and-blood bodhisattvas?

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Saffron Revolutionary Monks from Burma to Present at Symposium

The Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism will now include three monks who were major leaders of the Saffron Revolution, and who have cameo’s in the excellent Burma VJ (below), who now live in Utica, NY. These are mature monks with remarkable experience to share. They are working with Symposium presenter Alan Senauke and the Clear View Project. Senauke discusses the role of social media in the Saffron Revolution in the Bearing Witness article Translating Cybersangha into Action at the Zen Peacemakers.  The Clear View Project has lead many Western Buddhists to support the Burmese monks in solidarity.

While the primary focus of the Symposium is on Western Buddhism, there are a two special “spotlights” that go beyond this focus. The other spotlight is Rabbi Michael Lerner, who will speak about an interfaith effort for a Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

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Upaya Blogger on Instructions to the Cook:

As part of our livelihood, we offer clinical practicum experience for doctoral students who want to learn about mindfulness practice.  It’s an offering to the community and often a joy to share the practice with inquisitive, young minds.  Of course, they come with an intellectual curiousity and an academic stance to the work of dealing with suffering.  The frontal lobes are fully online and the feeling brain is nowhere to be found – an unusual situation given the desire to ease suffering demands more of the latter than the former.  But I fully understand the need to protect oneself with logic and analytic thinking in the face of the darkness we touch in (ourselves and) others. MORE

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The Shambhala Sun Foundation’s “Auction for a Mindful Society” — Includes Symposium Ticket

PhotobucketThis from Shambhala Sun Space.  The Zen Peacemakers have donated a ticket to the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism to this event.

Our first-ever Auction for a Mindful Society begins on May 17th and will run until May 31. Participants of our previous auctions know to expect an array of beautiful and meaningful items, but what’s extra-special about this auction is its focus on working towards a more mindful way of life — for us all.

We’ve got contributions of art from Thich Nhat Hanhand Kaz Tanahashisigned books from Jon Kabat-ZinnDani ShapiroDaniel Goleman, and more; opportunities to interact with Shambhala Sun contributors and friends including Karen Maezen Millerand Susan Piver… plus clothing and jewelry, rejuvenating yogaworkshop, and retreat packages, and lots more.

And new items are being added all the time. So why not visit and browse the Auction? To register, just click here. Or you can start browsing first. Visit the Shambhala Sun Foundation Sun Auction for a Mindful Society here. (And please: pass it on!)

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A conversation with Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman

From Tricycle

Last week, Tricycle contributing editor Katy Butler sat down for a joint interview with Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman (left) and actor Jeff Bridges (right) in Austin, Texas. To find out what they discussed stay tuned to tricycle.com for a video of the interview. Based on the photographs, it looks like it was a lively conversation!

Photographs by Seabrook Jones, www.juicythis.com

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Bernie Glassman/Krishna Das workshop

“Secret notebooks…wild pages” blogs about her trip to Montague for the Bernie Glassman/Krishna Das workshop in which they discuss service. Great pics as well.

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Watch Instructions to The Cook: A Zen Master's Recipe for Living a Life That Matters

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Video: Krishna Das & Bernie sing/explain origin of ZP theme song

At a workshop at the Zen Peacemakers’ Motherhouse last Saturday, Krishna Das and Bernie described the origin of the Gate of Sweet Nectar, the Zen Peacemakers’ primary liturgy and “them song”.

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Soundtrack for a Revolution

Saw movie Sountrack for a Revolution at Santra Cruz Film Festival, about the civil rights movement.

While watching the movie, I recognized that the deep pain and empathy I felt was Bearing Witness and the way to Bear Witness, I think, is to feel deeply.  Deeply feel the sadness of racist whites separating themselves, saying they don’t want to share lunch tables with blacks.  Deeply feel the terror of seeing protestors put themselves in a situation where others will beat and kill them.  Deeply feel the frustration of knowing that we haven’t solved these problems.  And anger.  Take all of that witness and let it flow through the analyzing head- I’m not doing enough.  The Zen House isn’t developing fast enough.  I want to fight those bastards.  It’s hopeless.  We’re screwed. Let the powerful swell of humanity transition through the thinking brain without settling there, let it pass and tuck it away deep in the heart.  Cultivate it as a central motivation and nurture it as a Source of action. Know that as much as I want us to raise money and contribute to a stable non-profit, that isn’t the essence; it’s a means.  The essence is much deeper and more powerful.  And it will take steady work and focus.

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Now the Whole Planet Has its Head on Fire: Collective Karma and Systemic Responses to Climate Disruption by Taigen Dan Leighton

Taigen Dan Leighton will be a presenter in the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism this summer.

from A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency, edited by John Stanley, David Loy, and Gyurme Dorje (Wisdom Publications, 2009)


The failure of the teaching of karma as solely an individual matter, without accounting for systemic, collective causes, was recognized by the great leader of the Untouchables, Bhimrao Ambedkar, who led the mass conversion to Buddhism of over three million Indian “Untouchables” starting in 1956.

For Buddhists to respond appropriately to the calamities that have only started to befall us all from global climate disruption caused by human activities, we will need to rethink the common misunderstandings of karma that have prevailed in Buddhist Asia. The teaching of karma has been frequently misused in Asian history to rationalize injustice and blame the victims of societal oppression. The popular version of this includes that people born into poverty or disability deserve their situation because of misdeeds in past lives. Such views have themselves caused great harm…read more

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Email Your Senator for Burma!

This from the U.S. Campaign for Burma:

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Bodhisattvas Needed in Louisiana

Here’s the idea of the day, from Hozan Alan Senauke of the Clear View Project: How about a Buddhist brigade to Louisiana to help with clean up from this huge mess of an oil spill that will hit land soon? The consequences are projected to be devastating.

Here’s a small resource list to get this off the ground:

  • OIL SPILL CLEANUP–To volunteer: 1-866-448-5816.If you have a boat: 425-745-8017. To report oiled wildlife: 1-866-577-1401. Spill-related damages: 1-800-440-0858. (Please repost.)

If you’re interested in connecting with other dharma practitioners who want to go to the Gulf region to volunteer, feel free to comment on this post and find each other.

Who wants to take the ball and run with it?

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Shambhala Embraces Socially Engaged Buddhism, attends Symposium

Richard Reoch

Constructing an enlightened society was a goal of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, the founder of Shambhala.  The current head of Shambhala, Sakyong Mipham, appointed former Amnesty International senior manager Richard Reoch as president of Shambhala International in 2002 (recent Reoch podcast interview on Buddhist Geeks).  As a presenter in this summer’s Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Reoch will be part of a momentous meeting of minds as we explore how to better integrate social engagement into Western Buddhist practice.

When I was in Boston in 2009, the local Shambhala community invited ZP founder Bernie Glassman to speak after discovering a homeless man living under their steps stimulated concern for social issues.   To help them move forward in developing activities to address homelessness,

Kathe McKenna

Kathe McKenna will present at their center on May 12, 2010.  Kathe is a ZP board member, Symposium presenter and founder of Haley House, a Boston soup kitchen and social enterprise that houses ZP interns(I spent 9 months there myself and loved it!).

Last week, the Sakyong appointed Socially Engaged Buddhist leader Ethan Nichtern as New York City shastri, a new regional teaching position.  Ethan is the founder of the Interdependence Project.

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Rabbi Lerner's Home Attacked by Right-Wing Zionists

While Rabbi Lerner isn’t a Buddhist, he will be reporting at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Rabbi Lerner is leading a multi-faith initiative including the Zen Peacemakers through the Network of Spiritual Progressives.

Tikkun’s e-newsletter announced that

“Berkeley police today confirmed that the attack on Rabbi Lerner’s home late Sunday June 2nd or early morning Sunday July 3rd was in fact a crime and was being investigated. The attackers used a powerful form of glue to attach posters to his door and around the property of his home attacking Lerner personally, and attacking liberals and progressives as being supporters of terrorism and ‘Islamo-fascism.'”

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Detroit Street Retreat: May 13th-16th


May 13th – 16th, 2010
“When we go… to bear witness to life on the streets, we’re offering ourselves. Not blankets, not food, not clothes, just ourselves.” -Bernie Glassman, Bearing Witness

We will live on the streets of Detroit, having to beg for money, find places to get food, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc. By bearing witness to homelessness, we begin to see our prejudices directly and to recognize our common humanness.

We will stay together as a group and twice a day participate in meditation (in the Buddhist and Christian traditions) and sharing. The donation for the retreat is $250.00. All funds will be donated to Homeless Service agencies and to the non-profit forming to address systemic causes and find solutions to homelessness in Detroit.

Registration and payment deadline is May 7, 2010. The retreat is limited to 12 participants on a first come, first served basis. Jeanie Murphy O’ Connor and DaeBulDo Stuart Smith will lead the retreat.

To learn more about bearing witness to homelessness, read Bearing Witness by Bernie Glassman.

If you have any questions or to register, please contact Jeanie or Ch’anna Lynda Smith at:
[email protected]

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Video interview of Zen Master Bernie Glassman

Tricycle: The Buddhist Review is partnering with theZen Peacemakers to promote Socially Engaged Buddhism by filming interviews with presenters of the The First Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, which ZP will host this summer, and posting them on their blog.  The event will be a gathering of leading Western activist practitioners, sponsors, and academics in this ever-important and growing field.  This interview took place on Friday, March 26 at the Mother House of the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, MA.  

Joan Oliver interviews Bernie Glassman from Tricycle on Vimeo.

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Can all dharma centers become tuition-optional Goenka factories?

Have you ever looked at the price tag of a meditation retreat and thought ‘Damn Enlightenment is expensive?!’  I know I have.  Have you heard someone say that it is unbuddhist to charge for the dharma?  Well, the Buddha’s original followers may not have charged for their teachings, but they also owned nothing but robes and begging bowl and I don’t hear any Western Buddhists saying that it is unbuddhist to wear blue jeans.

Reacting to the price tag on our Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, fellow mindful blogger Katie Loncke questioned whether charging $600 for a one week event was in line with the philosophy of Socially Engaged Buddhism and whether it might be more socially just to offer a tuition-optional model like that of the Goenka centers.  However, as two practitioners in the Goenka tradition describe in a Buddhist Geeks podcast interview, the Goenka model more closely resembles the cheapness and uniformity of a mass-production factory than a radical anti-capitalist plan for inclusion.

At the Zen Peacemakers, the Goenka centers have come up in conversations about how we structure our own centers.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to charge tuition? Do we want the Zen Houses to become an understandable model that can be easily reproduced and franchised anywhere in the world or do we want each house to develop its own loving actions based on bearing witness to local circumstances?

While I would like to learn more about how the Goenka folks (and IMS for that matter) get money to provide widespread free and reduced-price tuition, I know that we do provide low-cost ways to participate in some programs including bartering volunteer labor for tuition and sometimes housing (which we will do for the upcoming Symposium).  As Karen Werner, the director of the Montague Farm Zen House (our local ministry) is a founder of the North Quabbin Time Bank and thus a leader in the alternative economies movement, we also wonder how non-capitalist models could compliment our tuition-based programs.

At the same time, isn’t the marginal cost of coordinating and providing food, wellness and transportation services for low-income neighbors (which is the focus of the Montague Farm Zen House) more expensive than the marginal cost of squeezing one more seeker into a meditation hall (which the Goenka centers do so efficiently)?  In addition to compassion, creativity and commitment, it takes money to challenge economic inequality and luckily there are generous wealthy people who seek to do that.  We see the act of inviting fellow Peacemakers to join us in begging (see malas tab) as a transformative communal spiritual practice.

Are there limits to fundraising?  Sure!  Is it desirable to support people in their quest to empower themselves?  You bet!  And that is our goal in developing social enterprise.  Not by abandoning capitalism, but by making it more compassionate, the Greyston Bakery was able to provide jobs, training and community to scores of people transitioning off the streets.  Are there any simple answers or unified strategies to solving the most challenging questions in our society?  No way.  But we do the best we can.

(When I shared this article with Bernie, he had a different take, which may appear in a later post)

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How to smash Beastie Boy's cancer and rebuild Tibet

Responses to the recent earthquake in Tibet have unearthed perennial debates about religion, tradition and modernization.  For example in New American Media, Yoichi Shimatsu argues that After Earthquake, Tibet Needs More Engineers, Less Monks:

“The problem, of course, flows from the type of Buddhism that promises salvation without worldly effort — other than prostration, fervent prayers and wheel-turning. Sonam [a Tibetan colleague of the author] was curious as to why Japan, Korea and even Vietnam were Buddhist societies that could make their way forward in the modern world. Reformed Buddhism, led by laymen and sometimes even married priests, has swept over those parts of Asia as a democratic and modernizing movement.”

I don’t know much about Asian politics, but I know the above views are similar to views promoted by the Chinese government, who seem like a pretty imperialistic force. I do participate in meditations with supernatural intentions when invited, but the crux of my Socially Engaged Buddhist activism involves working in communities and using the internet to promote work in communities.  And I don’t see those as exclusive.

I read the above article a couple days after learning of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch’s invitation to join him in a meditation to smash his cancer and all cancer. Yauch himself is a prominent activist, having been a leader in the Tibetan Freedom tours.  I wondered whether his invitation merits inclusion in a blog on Socially Engaged Buddhism and I decided that it does.  Personally, I don’t buy the science-religion dualisms that fundamentalist religion adherents and secularists promote. I think there is plenty of superstition in science and plenty of evidence is the supernatural.

Even in my more scientific moods, I still buy the definition of magic by legendary comic book writer Alan Moore.  Moore irreverently worships Glycon, a legendary snake figure revealed to be a complete hoax.  Moore argues that magic is real and it occurs in the transformation of our our minds.  In that sense, art is magic.  To me, Buddhism is the most powerful magic I’ve encountered.  In any case, I submit this post with much metta and cancer-smashing vibes for cancer everywhere.  The details of Yauch’s message to his fan club was the following:

wanted to send this out to you guys in case you were into it, or wanted to give it to anyone who you think might be.

a few friends and i are meditating at the same time twice a day. 9:30am and 6:30pm eastern standard time, for about an hour and half.

we are picturing smashing apart all of the cancer cells in the world.

we are visualizing taking the energy away from the cancer, and then sending it back at the cancer as lightening bolts that will break apart the DNA and RNA of the cells. if you have the time, please join us in whipping up this lightening storm. mind over matter…

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Petition to Save Lumbini, the Birthplace of Buddha.

This is from the blog Buddhism and not technically a Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, but relates to an article by Westerner Paula Green that we featured in the past.

Lumbini is said to be the location of the birthplace of Buddha, which is located in present day Nepal. The importance of Lumbini is not only marking the region where Siddhartha was born but with his birth it is also where Buddhism itself was born. However, the site has fallen into disarray and ruin, unlike it’s more famous pilgrimage site of Bodh Gaya where Buddha was said to have awoken from delusion and realized full enlightenment.

In recognition of its religious significance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Lumbini as a World Heritage Site in 1997. Today, environmental pollution from heavy industry (cement and steel plants) that have located in the Lumbini region of Nepal is degrading air and ground water quality and local agriculture. It is likely impacting human health as well. A campaign has been underway for some years now to stop this desecration of Lumbini’s sacred space. As the collective voice of Lumbini’s friends around the world, LEPA [Lumbini Environmental Protection Alliance] is writing to humbly request your support in an international effort to protect and safeguard Nepal’s Lumbini from the growing impacts of environmental pollution.This petition is an appeal to Nepal’s Ministry of Industry’s Industrial Promotion Board (IPB) to:

(1) create an industry-free zone around Lumbini,
(2) freeze the establishment of new industries outside of this industry-free area, and
(3) strictly monitor existing industrial firms.

The document requests that the Ministry of Environment of the Government of Nepal undertake a continuous, professional industrial pollution monitoring and assessment program of the industries and environment in the Lumbini Road Industrial Corridor, with certain provisions as noted therein.

Impact on Archaeology in Lumbini Area:

Air polluting substances (particulate matter, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other pollutants) emitted by the factories in Gonaha VDC 6 – 8 and Kamhariya 3 – 6 are likely to damage the Lumbini Ashoka pillar with its inscription and the archaeological remains at the World Heritage Site Lumbini and other archaeological sites. Historic stone structures in Europe, notably the Cathedral of Seville, Spain, have been damaged by air pollution in a manner similar to what is occurring at the ruins of the great Maya cities in Mesoamerica. This is what we will experience shortly.

TPJ: Obviously we all know that everything crumbles, dies and disappears forever but I think it is beneficial to Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike to maintain historical sites for as long as possible. They are an inspiration to many and help the local economies via tourism. They remind us where we have come from and allow us to better connect with our roots, beliefs and common human heritage. I encourage you to sign this petition if you care about history, humanity, Buddhism, Asian culture, etc. It only takes a few minutes. Please sign the petition by clicking on this sentence. Special thanks to Zen Cohen for bringing this to my attention. Thanks everyone!!

PHOTO CREDIT #1: Ashokan pillar at Lumbini by Buddhism Pilgrimage Site. They have some other great Lumbini photos at their site. I recommend you visit it. The pillar says, “King Piyadasi (Ashoka), beloved of devas, in the 20 year of the coronation, himself made a royal visit, Buddha Sakyamuni having been born here, a stone railing was built and a stone pillar erected to the Bhagavan having been born here, Lumbini village was taxed reduced and entitled to the eight part (only)”.

PHOTO CREDIT #2: Garden at Lumbini.

~Peace to all beings~
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SEB Symposium Presenter Jules Shuzen Harris, to Participate on New School Panel Discussion: ‘Conversations on Change’ in New York City

As announced by the Business Wire, Jules Harris will be a panelist for a conference in New York City tomorrow. At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism this summer, he will be part of a panel on Special Ministries along with Fleet Maull and Francisco Lugoviña.  From the Business Wire:

the Vera List Center for Art and Politics to participate in a panel exploring new possibilities for civic engagement. Purposely designed as a conversation that crosses boundaries, the panel will address both commonalities and distinctions about how meaningful social and political change can be achieved. Appearing alongside Harris will be the physicist Sean Gourley, who has been researching the mathematics of war, and activist artist AA Bronson, currently leading the program, ‘A School for Young Shamans’, at the Banff Centre, an arts and culture center located in Alberta, Canada.

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Volunteers clear space for expanded organic garden

Volunteers (foreground) and existing garden (in the background)

Montague Farm Zen House volunteers are working in our field right now to clear wood and pipes in order to clear space to expand our organic garden.  Volunteers include staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as former a tenant of the farm from its days as a commune.  Working in the garden will be a task for people in the residence program.

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Tikkun Interview: Sami Awad Palestinian Activist for Nonviolence

Tikkun Interview: THIS IS A CONVERSATION WHICH TOOK PLACE IN TIKKUN’S office in California in May 2008. Sami Awad(SA) is the chair of Holy Land Trust, a not-for-profit Palestinian organization established in 1998 in the holy city of Bethlehem. Michael Lerner (ML) is editor of Tikkun magazine. Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives have been working with Holy Land Trust to support their campaign for nonviolence.


SA: The Palestinian community in the last three or four years has become more and more aware that engaging in armed resistance has not achieved anything on the strategic level as a pragmatic approach to ending the occupation. More and more Palestinians are seeing that engaging in armed resistance is not doing anything.

ML: I am going to ask a few of the questions that will pop into the minds of people who don’t share Tikkun’s perspective, thus “playing devil’s advocate” in this interview. Here goes: “What do you mean, more people? Didn’t they just vote Hamas into power, and Hamas says that the armed struggle is the way to go forward.” read more

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I'm not that afraid of nettles

Karen picking nettles


I joined my co-worker Karen after work yesterday to harvest the nettles growing by our compost bin.  “How should I cut them?,” I asked.  “Well, that depends on what your vision for them is.” Karen answered.  I stared back blankly.  I’m a bit unfamiliar with harvesting food, but eager to get over it.  All the cool kids around here are doing it and for good reason.

Karen told me how Milarepa turned green from eating so many of the outwardly prickly weeds that hide deep inner health benefits.  Excellent way to conclude the last of my three-day pizza break.  We discussed a podcast with a Buddhist perspective on ecological issues from meditation/gardening teacher Wendy Johson, the new community garden on our campus in which residents will work and the possibility of hosting a skill share or using nettles in a Zen House social enterprise.

Right before joining Karen, I took my camera out of my pocket, convinced that I should prove that my interest in gardening is more than a passing fad before I broadcast it to the world, but when Karen suggested that we make a blog post, I went running into the house to get it.  I don’t think I’ll eat pizza today either.

Ari picking nettles



Karen's nettle pesto


Ari's nettles awaiting their unknown fate inside the farm house

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ID Project Hosts Live Online No Impact Week

The Interdependence Project is hosting a man known as No Impact Man (Colin Beavan), who is challenging and supporting over 1300 people in becoming more mindful of the impact of their consumption and attempting to have no impact for one week… read more

I am intrigued by this project, having just completed a rigorous three-day no pizza mini-week myself.

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Two More Groups Start Online Dharma Study

Roshi Joan Halifax says “At Upaya Zen Center, we feel that our Facebook page, Ning sites, and Twitter sites, plus our blogs and free dharma podcasts, provide a powerful resource for our students, who come from all over the world.”  Adding to the shift towards online teaching events and learning communities already taken by Buddhist magazines Tricycle and Shambhala Sun as well Zen Peacemaker affiliates like Upaya, the Peacemaker Institute and Prison Dharma Network, two other purely online Dharma media groups are elaborating web-based study initiatives as well.

The Elephant Journal started as a magazine in Boulder, CO and eventually switched to a purely online format.  It posted yesterday that it will initiate an online study of the Bhagavad Gita.  They say the initial responses were positive.  The second group is Buddhist Geeks. They started as a podcast by some (relativity) young practitioners and recently expanded to include an online magazine.  Their e-newsletter today explained:

In the coming months, we’ll be hosting a number of online teaching events that will give Buddhist Geeks listeners direct contact with some of the teachers featured in our interviews. We’re also planning a meditation mentorship program to give practitioners the kind of access to teachers that’s normally only found on retreat.”

As we prepare for the May issue of Bearing Witness on Socially Engaged Buiddhism online, I’ve grown optimistic about the power of online media to support Dharma study and practice.  Isn’t part of the point for us to disidentify with our body and day-to-day persona anyway?  I hold my face-to-face relationships as central, but have also grown to warmly feel connected to a global cybersangha.  In terms of the power of online media to reduce suffering for everyone and achieve social change, my verdict is out.  I found Zen Peacemakers online, so I feel like there is potential, but I still want to see more evidence.

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SEB Symposium presenter Anne Waldman talk on Buddhism, same-sex marriage and Sarah Palin's incompetence

Anne Waldman

Lainey Guddat reported today in theThe Daily Evergreen, from Pullman, Washington on a talk given by beat poet Anne Waldman last Thursday. Waldman discussed the intersection of Buddhism and neuroscience as well as political issues including same-sex marriage Sarah Palin’s incompetence.

At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Waldman is scheduled to sit on the Arts and Media panel along with internet media consultant Richard Landry and fine artist and anti-nuclear activist Mayumi Oda. The panel will be chaired by James Shaheen, Tricycle Magazine editor. Like all traditional media, Tricycle is in the process of expanding to include online content and community building. Contemplating Waldman’s comments about language, Guddat, herself a student of Washington State University suggests that

“The energy of contact through language is a way to manifest our imaginations, our fears, our hopes and passions. Our generation’s obsession with online media:blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, you name it is evidence of the continued need to make these language connections.”

The uses, dangers and limitations of online media for Socially Engaged Buddhism will be the focus of the next issue Bearing Witness, the Zen Peacemakers’ monthly newsletter.

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How to help victims of earthquake in Tibet

Victims of earthquake in Tibet

Help the victims of the Earthquake from John Pappas at Sweep the dust, Push the dirt.

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Zen Peacemaker Sensei Eve Marko introduces Palestinian Peace Activist

ZP Sensei Eve Myonin Marko

Sami Awad is a Christian Palestinian, not a Buddhist, yet colorful divans lining a large room in the offices of Holy Land Trust, the nonprofit he founded and heads, serve as meditation mats and cushions for staff and associates. Each Friday morning he participates in a nonviolent action around the Separation Wall that often turns violent (“I have to call my wife and parents as soon as it’s over to tell them I’m okay.”). But he has attended a few of the Zen Peacemakers’ bearing witness retreats at Auschwitz and plans to send several of his activists to participate in the multifaith, multinational retreat for youth that will take place there in November 2010… read more

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Local Sangha Bedrock of ZP Mother House, Residence Training

Myoki Shuso

Head Trainee Myoki with Sensei Eve and Bernie at the Mother House of the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, MA

On Sunday, March 28, 2010, Sensei Eve Myonen Marko inducted Judith Myoki Brier as the third senior to the Montague Farm Zendo. The ceremony finished a 4-day sesshin (Zen retreat), which in turn culminated a 62-day ango (winter practice intensive) in which Myoki served as head trainee. This milestone reflects the growth of a sangha that has come a long way since Sensei Eve sat the first sesshin alone in 2005.  As we welcome people into the residence program (currently accepting applications), they will join in the robust community life of practice and service.

Montague Farm Zen House Director Karen Werner & Local Engaged Buddhist Farmer Suzanne Webber

Drawing from her training and leadership at the Greyston Foundation and peace activism in her native Israel, Jordan and Palestine, Sensei Eve serves as the head teacher of the Montague Farm Zendo.  As seekers wishing to train in Socially Engaged Buddhism in the Residence Training come and go from all over the world, the local sangha serves as a community bedrock, welcoming newcomers with hospitality and providing a stable presence in a shifting environment. The creative and progressive culture of the Pioneer Valley is a natural fit for the Zen Peacemakers’ mission of social service. Local Peacemakers become an important part of ZP’s international community, practicing together in the zendo and working side-by-side on service projects.  Karen Werner, sociologist and Director of the Montague Farm Zen House is a resident of Montague who has been training in the zendo for four years.

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New Buddhist Geeks Podcast Interview with Bernie Glassman

Episode Description: We’re joined this week by one of the pioneers of the socially engaged Buddhist movement, Zen Master Bernie Glassman. Although he grew up in a family that valued social action, after some years of Zen practice he had an experience that amplified his calling to serve those in need. At that point he made a vow to feed all hungers. We speak about the interconnection—and accordingly to Bernie, the inseparability—between contemplative practice and social action.

He shares details of many of the projects he has been part of, including the Greystone project in Yonkers, New York, which helped to cut homelessness in that area by 3/4’s. He also shares some of the key tenants from the group that he founded, called the Zen Peacemakers. These tenants link together the “not knowing” of spiritual practice with the “loving action” of social engagement, and make it possible for us to turn our spiritual awareness into a vital force for all those in need.
read transcript or listen

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Joanna Macy- The Great Turning

Joanna Macy

The Great Turning is a name for the essential adventure of our time: the shift from the Industrial Growth Society to a life-sustaining civilization. The ecological and social crises we face are caused by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits—in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from Earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste… read more

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Take Action! Buddhist Peace March

The New England Peace Pagoda, a site of the Nipponzan Myohoji (and neighbor to the Mother House of the Zen Peacemakers)

We continue of our month of focus on Buddhist activism with a call to action.  This April, Symposium presenter Sister Claire Carter and the Nipponzan Myohoji order of Nichiren Buddhism are joining peace activists organizing walks across the country converging in a national rally in New York City on May 2, 2010 when the United Nations begins its review of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Get involved walking, hosting or sponsoring activists.

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Interview Questions for Zen Master Bernie Glassman

As I explained in a previous post, a Zen journalist in Germany sent us a set of excellent questions that became the basis of a workshop given by Zen Master Bernie Glassman.  Here are the questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for answers.

Interview with Bernard Glassman Roshi

by Christa Spannbauer

Berlin, 2010/01/20

1) You’re one of the most important Buddhist pioneers in bridging the gap between spirituality and social activism, a gap which is still very wide in Germany and the Western world as a whole. Many people on the spiritual path are convinced that they do enough for the betterment of the world by sitting on their meditation-cushions searching for their inner peace. Because of that, many socially and politically engaged people are very suspicious of spiritual people and think of them as being egocentric and selfish. How can we bring these opposite poles together?

2) When people in the West think of Zen, they tend to think of people wearing black robes sitting in meditation-halls for many hours, in strict silence, without moving. Your practice of Zen seems to be very different from that. What is Zen for you?

3) It’s become almost a sort of spiritual dogma in the Western world: the belief that you first have to find inner peace before you can commit yourself to peace-work in the outer world. Your own opinion is very different from that and refreshingly rebellious. Would you like to explain your opinion?

4) Your own social activism as a Buddhist Zen-master is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of taking care of others. Despite the first vow in Zen, which is to save all sentient beings, in the Zen-tradition there’s not much real engagement in taking care of the poor and the underprivileged, which is often the case within the Judeo-Christian tradition. What do you think are the reasons for that, and what’s your vision of Zen in the modern world?

5) You are the founder of the Zen-Peacemakers and you initiated many social projects within the last decades: AIDS-houses, the Greyston bakery, housing-projects for homeless people. Your newest project is the foundation of Zen-houses. Can you explain what they’re for and what the idea is behind them?

6) Some people say that your practice of Zen is nothing more than social activism and your students are no longer Zen-disciples but social workers and street-workers. They wonder how your students will ever wake up if they don’t sit in retreats for weeks and work instead helping AIDS-patients, opening child-care-centres and helping homeless people on the streets. How do you answer those critics?

7) How do you train your students to be able to go right into the centre of the suffering of the world without loosing their spiritual trust in life and their inner balance?

8 ) Zen-Centres and meditation-halls in Germany are full of people who belong to the well-off middle-classes. Spirituality has become a domain for people with a good income and with a higher education. We could even sharpen that and say that spirituality is only for privileged people who can afford to search for their enlightenment. Poor people don’t have the money or the time to do that. How can we make spirituality accessible to all people?

9) For more than ten years you’ve been holding retreats with people from all over the world in the former concentration camp of Auschwitz. What has Auschwitz taught you in those years? And what can Auschwitz teach all of us who are on the spiritual path?

10)In an interview that you gave in Auschwitz you said: “There is a part of us that allows us to dehumanize people. It’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t want to touch. Auschwitz is the world-monument of that aspect of ourselves.” How can we deal with this aspect in us so that it doesn’t cause so much harm in the world?

11)The subtitle of your book “Instructions for the cook”, which is a classic in Buddhist literature and which is now re-published in Germany, is: “Instructions for living a life that matters”. What does it mean for you to live a life that matters?

12)What is your vision today for a better world in future?

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Donate a Cushion to Homeless Meditation Practitioners (Please Forward, Repost, Tweet, Etc.)


This from Kiley Jon Clark at HMP Street Dharma:

Dear HMP friends,

I need your help this time.

Please contact as many Buddhists/People/Meditation/Groups/Temples/Centers as you can…and ask them to please send us some meditation cushions!

We have a beautiful Chapel at Haven for Hope, that we are going to be allowed to use for Homeless Meditation Practitioners

When it is our night to use this Chapel, I want it to look, smell, and feel like a real Buddhist Sanctuary…because…it will be…at least for that night…and we want it complete with Alter items, incense, candles, colorful tapestries, etc…and most importantly: Meditation Cushions!

Can you send some emails to people you know, and help me get this done, Please?


if you know a better way to get cushions, let me know…like setting up an account with a company that makes them or something like that….

but I don’t want to ask for money…it would be cool if many, many People and Centers all just sent one Cushion a piece…and then everyone  would have a hand in providing meditation instruction in the Homeless Community.

counting on you,

[email protected]


Kiley Jon Clark
PO Box 71
Floresville, Texas 78114

For more about this project for the homeless, follow this link.

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Ben & Jerry Visit, Donate Ice Cream to Montague Farm Zen House

Ben & Jerry & Bernie

Ben Cohen, Bernie Glassman, Jerry Greenfield

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of  Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, visited Montague on March 26 to meet with their old friend Bernie. They announced that they would donate ice cream to the Montague Farm Zen House for the MFZH Family Meals for the underserved of the Pioneer Valley. Back in 1987 Bernie met Ben and Jerry at the formation  meeting of the social venture network. The business deal that Greyston Bakery would provide fudge brownies for their fudge brownie ice cream and fudge brownie yogurt proved a vital source of income for the bakery and jobs for the underserved population of Yonkers, NY. Ben, Jerry and Bernie were part of the early rise of social enterprise in the 1980’s.

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Congrats to Upaya Chaplians!

Upaya Chaplains

As Maia Duerr explains in the Jizo Chronicles, Upaya Zen Center’s Buddhist Chaplaincy Program just finished an intense 10-day period, graduating and ordaining their very first group of thirteen chaplains.  We at the Zen Peacemakers are inspired to see these developments in the movement for Socially Engaged Buddhism.

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Bearing Witness: Buddhist Activism


Nipponzan Myohoji marches for peace

During the month of April, we invite you to join us exploring Buddhist activism. This month’s issue of the Bearing Witness Newsletter features peace, environmental and criminal justice activism. In the Bearing Witness Blog, we will highlight one article at a time from the issue of the newsletter, inviting your comments and questions. This issue highlights opportunities to get involved including a multi-state walk for peace, environmental activism in New York City and the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism, where 7 activists featured in this issue will present. Contributors include the following:


Environmental Philosopher/Activist Joanna Macy


Community Activist/Zen Peacemakers Priest Jules Harris


Palestinian Peace Activist Sami Awad

As Chris Queen says in the introduction,

Socially engaged Buddhists see justice and activism differently. Deeply aware of the interdependence that we all share as jewels in the fabric of Indra’s Net, we cannot separate our suffering or our liberation from that of others. Injustice in the world results from collective greed, hatred, and delusion, the poisons of the mind writ large. We see how institutions may act impersonally to marginalize or oppress others. And we conclude that to affect the mega-realities in the 21st century, we must practice together, speak out together, and form larger, more powerful networks of caring action.

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Spreading Socially Engaged Buddhism at Home and Abroad

Hello, I’m Ari.  I train and serve on staff at the Zen Peacemakers, working with Bernie Glassman to coordinate our online community, among other things.  I’ll be one of your hosts for this blog, which will accompany our free online monthly newsletter on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  The About page explains what this blog will be about.

Bernie Clown

Bernie gets into workshop mode

Last January, Geoff Taylor (who took these pictures) and I accompanied Bernie to the Rowe Camp and Conference Center, where he led a weekend workshop.  We  thought it would be a good opportunity to answer questions for an interview that will appear in the German magazine Connection, in anticipation of Bernie’s June/13 appearance with musician Konstantin Wecker in Berlin. To get a taste of Konstantin’s work, check out Sage Nein!, which implores us to say no to fascism and xenophobia.

The interview questions were prepared by Christa Spannbauer, journalist and assistant to Roshi Willigis Jäger.  We  look forward to working with her to promote Socially Engaged Buddhism in Europe.  Bernie’s answers were shaped by Christa’s insightful questions, the current projects of the Zen Peacemakers and the comments of workshop participants. Rowe director Rev. Douglas Wilson came out of sabbatical to join us and raised powerful questions about working towards systemic change.  Zen teachers Mervyn and Cecilie Lander asked about developing Socially Engaged Buddhism in their zendo in Australia.  After the conference, they visited us for a few days in Montague and later joined the Zen Peacemakers Sangha.  It was a pleasure to record Bernie’s answers to Christa’s questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for this previously unpublished interview and much more!

Rowe Participants

Workshop participants


More participants, including Ari transcribing and Rowe Director Rev. Doug Wilson (right)

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