Sweeping Zen Interview with Bernie Glassman

  Bernie Glassman interview Original Article at Sweeping Zen Bernie Glassman is an American Zen teacher and the first dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi Roshi. Describing his activities as socially engaged Buddhism, he is founder of the Zen Peacemakers and is also a published author. He is the past President of the White Plum Asanga and is currently working on a book with Jeff Bridges (the well-known actor and star of The Big Lebowski) due out this November titled The Dude and the Zen Master.   Thanks to volunteer Jason Nottestad for transcribing. Transcript SZ: What brought you to Zen practice and what was going on in your life at the time? SZ: Sure, more the philosophy.BG: Okay. I should mention that yesterday I actually just put up a new page on our website that gives you a little history of my Zen teachers and also gives you a list of my Dharma successors. As I get older I want to make sure I remember all of the gurus I’ve had. I’ve had quite a few. So, the first time I encountered Zen was a long time ago–1958. That was by chance in an English class. We had to read The World’s Religions, at that time it was called Religions of Man by Huston Smith (it had just come out). There was a page about Zen and it just struck me, like I felt I had come home reading it. So I started to study Zen at that time (basically by reading). There wasn’t that much in English–Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, D.T. Suzuki and, uh, I got quite interested in it. And then, around 1961 or 1962, I actually started meditation. None of the books that I had read talked much about meditation. BG: Yeah. Yeah. And then in 1963 I went to a Japanese Zen temple in Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo, and met for the first time the person who was going to become my teacher, Taizan Maezumi roshi. He was a very young monk and he was assisting in that temple. But I sat and did my own sesshins and got into a regular sitting practice (and kept reading, of course). I had been dabbling in many religions. I studied different religions from maybe the age of 12 or 13, but I started to...

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HELP WANTED: Help translate our web content into other languages

HELP WANTED: Non-English speakers/web page developers who want to help build a global community dedicated to promoting peace We need support on an ongoing basis in order to update foreign language pages as we make changes to English pages.  We are looking for volunteer teams who speak both English and German, French, Polish, Dutch, Spanish, Italian, Hebrew, Arabic and Chinese.  It is possible that one person will do all the translation and web page posting for each language or it is possible to have a team.  A team for each language will need to have a leader who is experienced in WordPress web design or willing to learn.   If you would like to help, please contact...

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Japanese Buddhist Priests as Social Entrepreneurs

“In the past, temples were social enterprises, and Buddhist priests were social entrepreneurs in Japan. In fact, believe or not, from old times to the present, the history of Japanese Buddhism has been a continuous change and innovation. It’s the history of leadership and entrepreneurship of many great Buddhist monks’-Keisuke Matsumoto at the Buddhist Celebrities blog.     “There are 70,000 to 80,000 temples in Japan, which is more than the number of convenience stores in the country. But temples are not making their mark on society in the way convenience stores are.”–Keisuke Matsumoto in the Financial Times (Via Buddhist Channel)   When I read about a 32-year Japanese Pure Land Buddhist monk going to business school to make Japanese Buddhism more relevant, I was quite intrigued.  Is this a kindred spirit across the ocean?  I understand that the teacher in the lineage in which I practice (The Zen Peacemakers) who brought Buddhism to the United States from Japan did so in part because he was disillusioned with the fact that Zen had become little more than funeral services.  I also have been told that even fewer people my age are interested in Buddhism in Japan today than are in the U.S.  (That’s about the extent of my connection to Japanese culture.)  Might this young man point to a revival of Japanese Buddhism? Agent of change: Keisuke Matsumoto Financial Times (Via Buddhist Channel): He [Keisuke Matsumoto ]believed that temples had become ossified in their traditional role of performing funeral services and other rituals and were failing to fulfill their mission of serving the spiritual needs of contemporary society. “What is important is the value of Buddhism, as a religion, to people who are alive now. I wanted to change Japanese Buddhism so that it would be relevant for today. A temple should be run with a view to providing value to people in this changing world. That is the real mission of temples.” After working at Komyoji for seven years, Mr Matsumoto decided that a business school education would help him discover “how to manage a temple as a mission-orientated organisation” that could provide value to society. The leadership training at business school, he believed, would be useful in his quest to change the way temples operate in Japan. “Monks...

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Reisen, die unser Leben prägen

Journey Stories By Ginni Stern Translation by: Judith N. Levi, Walter Reichard, Ulrich Gantz “Reisen, die unser Leben prägen” Von Ginni Stern, für meinen Vater Victor N. Stern. Er starb am 25. Februar 2008 in einem sauberen Bett. „Die Vergangenheit ist niemals tot. Sie ist noch nicht einmal vergangen.“ ~ William Faulkner MEINE REISEN NACH AUSCHWITZ Meine erste Reise nach Polen, genauer nach Auschwitz, machte ich im November 1996. Ich fuhr zu einem internationalen und interreligiösen Retreat, das Roshi Bernie Glassman, der Gründer der Zen Peacemaker Gemeinschaft, entwickelt hatte. Seitdem sind wir jedes Jahr nach Polen zurückgekehrt um „Zeugnis abzulegen“ – und ich habe diese Retreats in den vergangenen zehn Jahren koordiniert. Als ein Freund davon hörte, dass ich zum wiederholten Mal nach Auschwitz fahren würde, fragte er mich: „Ginni, warum musst Du jedes Jahr nach Auschwitz fahren? Warum machst Du nicht einfach mal Urlaub in Südfrankreich oder am Strand von Saint Croix in der Karibik?“ Manchmal frage ich mich das auch. Anfangs fuhr ich nach Auschwitz, um der Familie meines Vaters zu gedenken, die dort umgebracht wurde … und um aller Menschen zu gedenken, die dort starben. Ich las laut Namen aus den Listen des Archivs des Auschwitz-Museums und habe immer auch die Namen aus der Familie meines Vaters mit gelesen: die seiner Eltern, Brüder und Schwestern, ihrer Frauen, Ehemänner und Kinder – Nichten und Neffen meines Vaters – einige von ihnen noch Babys – insgesamt ungefähr 40 Namen. Ich fahre dorthin, um die drei Grundsätze der Zen Peacemaker zu üben: Nicht wissen (Not-Knowing), Gewahrsein (Bearing Witness), Liebende Aktion (Loving Action). Meinem Freund habe ich schlicht geantwortet: „Ich fahre, um zu gedenken und zu erinnern“. Und ich fahre dorthin, um der Toten zu gedenken. Aber im Laufe der Jahre, als ich im Fernsehen immer mehr Bilder von Kriegen im Nahen Osten, Bosnien, Sri Lanka, Kambodscha, Irland, Ruanda, Darfour, Kongo, Tschad, Afghanistan, Kolumbien, Pakistan und Irak sah, fing ich an mir selbst Fragen zu stellen wie: Warum? Was in der Natur des Menschen treibt Leute immer wieder zu so unmenschlicher Gewalt? Könnte ich auch in eine Situation kommen, dass ich jemanden umbringen würde? Ich bezweifle es, aber was wäre, wenn jemand meine Kinder umbringen oder vergewaltigen wollte? Vielleicht in diesem Fall … Könnte ich...

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“Reisen, die unser Leben prägen”~Ginni Stern

Journey Stories By Ginni Stern Translation by: Judith N. Levi, Walter Reichard, Ulrich Gantz “Reisen, die unser Leben prägen” Von Ginni Stern, für meinen Vater Victor N. Stern. Er starb am 25. Februar 2008 in einem sauberen Bett. „Die Vergangenheit ist niemals tot. Sie ist noch nicht einmal vergangen.“ ~ William Faulkner MEINE REISEN NACH AUSCHWITZ Meine erste Reise nach Polen, genauer nach Auschwitz, machte ich im November 1996. Ich fuhr zu einem internationalen und interreligiösen Retreat, das Roshi Bernie Glassman, der Gründer der Zen Peacemaker Gemeinschaft, entwickelt hatte. Seitdem sind wir jedes Jahr nach Polen zurückgekehrt um „Zeugnis abzulegen“ – und ich habe diese Retreats in den vergangenen zehn Jahren koordiniert. Als ein Freund davon hörte, dass ich zum wiederholten Mal nach Auschwitz fahren würde, fragte er mich: „Ginni, warum musst Du jedes Jahr nach Auschwitz fahren? Warum machst Du nicht einfach mal Urlaub in Südfrankreich oder am Strand von Saint Croix in der Karibik?“ Manchmal frage ich mich das auch. Anfangs fuhr ich nach Auschwitz, um der Familie meines Vaters zu gedenken, die dort umgebracht wurde … und um aller Menschen zu gedenken, die dort starben. Ich las laut Namen aus den Listen des Archivs des Auschwitz-Museums und habe immer auch die Namen aus der Familie meines Vaters mit gelesen: die seiner Eltern, Brüder und Schwestern, ihrer Frauen, Ehemänner und Kinder – Nichten und Neffen meines Vaters – einige von ihnen noch Babys – insgesamt ungefähr 40 Namen. Ich fahre dorthin, um die drei Grundsätze der Zen Peacemaker zu üben: Nicht wissen (Not-Knowing), Gewahrsein (Bearing Witness), Liebende Aktion (Loving Action). Meinem Freund habe ich schlicht geantwortet: „Ich fahre, um zu gedenken und zu erinnern“. Und ich fahre dorthin, um der Toten zu gedenken. Aber im Laufe der Jahre, als ich im Fernsehen immer mehr Bilder von Kriegen im Nahen Osten, Bosnien, Sri Lanka, Kambodscha, Irland, Ruanda, Darfour, Kongo, Tschad, Afghanistan, Kolumbien, Pakistan und Irak sah, fing ich an mir selbst Fragen zu stellen wie: Warum? Was in der Natur des Menschen treibt Leute immer wieder zu so unmenschlicher Gewalt? Könnte ich auch in eine Situation kommen, dass ich jemanden umbringen würde? Ich bezweifle es, aber was wäre, wenn jemand meine Kinder umbringen oder vergewaltigen wollte? Vielleicht in diesem Fall … Könnte ich...

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HELP WANTED: WordPress Bug Fixing volunteer

The Zen Peacemakers builds, maintains and develops its online presence through a team of dedicated online volunteers.  We are looking for a new recruit to this team who will dedicate 2-4 hours per week for a limited or ongoing basis.  Currently, we are looking for someone with some WordPress experience who could help us with a number of bugs.  If you have WordPress experience, you may know how to fix these problems.  Otherwise, this may be an opportunity to do some research online, doing web searches or participating in the WordPress forums. These bugs include:  Fixing the search feature on our homepage, removing the word “posted” from the tops of our pages and making text easier to read. If you would like to join the inner core of our online community and participate in spreading a message of peace and compassion throughout the world, please e-mail [email protected] expressing what you would like to work on, how many hours you can dedicate per week and what experience you bring to the...

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PRESS RELEASE The Dude and the Zen Master: Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman to publish book

JEFF BRIDGES AND ROSHI BERNIE GLASSMAN TO PUBLISH BOOK FOR BLUE RIDER PRESS The Dude and the Zen Master is set to release Fall 2012  PRESS RELEASE March 12, 2012 –New York, NY –  Blue Rider Press announced today it has acquired world rights to publish a book by Academy Award-winning actor Jeff Bridges and Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman tentatively entitled, THE DUDE AND THE ZEN MASTER.  Inspired by dharma talks between Bridges and his long-time friend, Zen Master Glassman, the book explores the meaning of life, laughter, the movies and trying to do good in a difficult world.    The book is set for publication in November 2012.  Blue Rider Press president and publisher David Rosenthal acquired the rights from David Schiff at The Schiff Company in association with CAA. Revealing the inspiration for the book, Bridges said: “Making movies and life have a lot in common.  When you’re making a movie you’ve got a finite amount of time to do what you’re going to do.  It’s a communal art form, collaborative. You work together with other artists to come up with something groovy, something beautiful. Life’s like that, too.” He added: “On a movie set I do my best to keep my head and heart open. My favorite part of the whole deal is jamming with the other artists, getting to know them, sharing the excitement of what we’re up to, and inspiring each other. That means intimacy.  I look for that in life as well.  That’s why I hooked up with Bernie, to make the most of this wonderful experience called Life.” Bernie Glassman said of the book: “I always like finding new ways of expressing the essence of Zen, which for me is all about the oneness and interdependence of life. The Dude’s life is different from mine, and not so different. And our life is different from other people’s lives, and not so different. So Jeff and I have hung out over the years and examined together how we live our one life in the best, freest, and most joyful way possible.” ”Jeff and Bernie’s book is genre bending,” said Blue Rider Press publisher Rosenthal. “It’s a spiritual guide, an entertainment and an exceptional lesson in true friendship. “...

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NY Times: Words of Wisdom From Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman

Originally from NY Times.   The Dude is putting his wisdom on paper. Jeff Bridges, below, the Oscar-winning actor from “Crazy Heart” who also starred memorably in “The Big Lebowski,” is writing a book with his friend Bernie Glassman, founder of the spiritual social-action group Zen Peacemakers. The publishers said the book intends to “explore the meaning of life, laughter, the movies and trying to do good in a difficult world.” Blue Rider Press, an imprint of Penguin Group USA, is to release the book, tentatively titled “The Dude and the Zen Master,” this fall. “On a movie set I do my best to keep my head and heart open,” Mr. Bridges said in a statement. “My favorite part of the whole deal is jamming with the other artists, getting to know them, sharing the excitement of what we’re up to, and inspiring each other. That means intimacy. I look for that in life as well.” David Rosenthal, the publisher of Blue Rider Press, called the book “a spiritual guide, an entertainment and an exceptional lesson in true friendship.” A version of this brief appeared in print on March 12, 2012, on page C3 of the New York edition with the headline: Words of Wisdom From Jeff...

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Travels with Charlie: Actor, Activist Jeff Bridges Supports Greyston Foundation, Bernie Glassman

Originally posted in the Westchester Wag Click image below and press Ctrl+(+) or Apple+(+) to zoom in  ...

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Aung San Suu Kyi delivered Wallenberg medal by University of Michigan

Nobel Peace laureate and Burmese activist Aung San Suu Kyi wasrecently delivered the Wallenberg Medal by the University of Michigan via Dominic Nardi. She was originally awarded the honor in 2011 but could not travel to receive it in person at the time. According to an article in the university’s Exploremagazine,”Nardi was one of the best candidates to deliver the Wallenberg medal to Suu Kyi because Burma, also known as Myanmar, is one of his research interests.” The article covers the delivery and their meeting in depth. Raoul Wallenberg was a Swedish diplomat who helped rescue tens of thousands of Jews in Budapest toward the end of World War II. The Wallenberg Medal and Lecture website: “Undaunted and fearless through many years of detention and efforts to intimidate her, in speaking out for democracy and human rights in Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi exemplifies the courage and commitment to the humanitarian values of Raoul Wallenberg.” Read all about the history of the Medal here. Past recipients include the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Watch this prerecorded lecture from 2011, played at the 21st Annual Raoul Wallenberg Lecture, followed by a then-live Q&A session with Aung San Suu...

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Dalit Monks at the site of Buddha’s Enlightenment

This post continues the Bearing Witness Blog’s ongoing coverage of the Socially Engaged Pilgrimage in India with Bernie Glassman and Shantum Seth.  We continue to explore the group that was considered in India to be an “untouchable” caste.  Calling themselves Dalits, many of this group have converted to Buddhism in order to escape the caste system. “Who are they?” Bernie asked Shantum, pointing to a group of orange-clad monks sitting on the periphery of the lane where pilgrims circumambulate around the Mahabodhi Mahavihara.  They were older and had darker skin than the other monks at the temple. “let’s go talk to them,” Shantum said. As shantum approached, one monk asked another “How much did u get?” the second monk saw Shantum approaching “Shhhh.” Shantum introduced himself and asked a few questions.   The monks explained that they are Indian Dalits ordained  by Dharmapala.  They came to Bodh Gaya from Sankasya, Uttar Pradesh for the Kalacakra teachings given by the Dalai Lama. They don’t understand Tibetan, they said, but they are learning Pali.  They see Ambekar as a preacher and not a Bodhisattva. While we were speaking with them, a well-dressed pilgrim who may have been East Asian brusquely walked by handing each monk a note of local...

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India: Visiting the homes of villagers at “Sujata”

Wed, Jan 11, 2011 While in Bodh Gaya, we journeyed to a village across the river to meet a Hindu family who Shantum has known for many years.  They met when TNH instructed Shantum to find a child in the village in which a young girl is believed to have saved Gautama from the brink of death after he nearly starved to death practicing austerities.  This led Gautama to find the Middle Way between material indulgence and harsh aceticism. Since learning Shantum’s story, Rajesh (the boy) grew into a man with a wife names Sabina and kids.  Shantum has maintained a relationship, supporting the family and bringing pilgrims to meet them.  With Shantum’s help, Rajesh built 2 additional stories onto his house.  When we asked him what we did today,  he said that he helped a friend build a house.  He also works growing food and selling it wholesale to vegetable vendors. The boy said that there isn’t discrimination in schools.  Muslims learn Urdu and Hindus learn Sanskrit, but the otherwise learn and eat together.  When he grows up, he wants to make his parents proud and become a doctor.  The girsl would like to become a teacher. We were also joined by a man who sells lasi in town and who joined one of the pilgrims on our trip on a previous pilgrimage in which he walked in the footsteps of the Buddha.  He said that Dalits who convert to Ambedkarite Buddhism are confused because they still practice lots of Hindu culture.  They follow 50% Hinduism and 50% Buddhism.  He said that in town, nobody knows who is what caste, but in the village, everyone knows.   Dalits aren’t allowed in temples.  More than 70% descended from Dalit. (pictures to...

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Buddhism affords greater equality to women says practitioner/scholar in Bodh Gaya India

Thursday, January 12, 2012 Bodh Gaya, India On a 2-week Pilgrimage in the Buddha’s footsteps co-led by Shantum Seth and Bernie Glassman, we met with locals and explored social issues connected to the lands through which we traveled.  During our stop in present-day Bodh Gaya, Bihar, where the Buddha is believed to have attained Nirvana, we took bicycle-powered rickshaws outside the main part of town to a Thai Buddhist Monastery.  There, we heard from Rajesh Kumar and his wife Usha who are leaders of a community of outcaste “Dalits” who have converted to Buddhism to free themselves from the oppressive Hindu caste system.   Rajesh has been practicing vipassana meditation for 10 years and wants to share with others the benefits he has experienced.  He invites residents of Bihar to a monthly1-day meditation retreat in Bodh Gaya. The gathering includes a Dharma talk from a teacher in town if one is available or reading of some Buddhist texts.   His group also distributes Dharma books, helps students study for exams and runs a clinic for locals. 20-50 people come to the retreats. The gatherings are open to everyone.  Most people who come are Dalit followers of Ambekar, though not all. Some have embraced Buddhism and converted and others are simply interested in Vipassana meditation.  Starting with mass conversions in 1956, Ambedkar continues to inspire the vast majority of the rapidly growing group of Dalits converting to Buddhism.  In addition to the 5 precepts and 3 refuges usually associated with converting to Buddhism, Ambedkar instructed his followers to take 22 additional vows, intended in part to replace belief in Hindu “superstition,” deities and caste distinctions with a Buddhist belief in equality and social improvement.   Rejesh did not take Ambedkar’s vows, though he did take refuge in the 3 treasures and 5 precepts. Ambedkar is a bodhisattva, he explained, who leads people to Buddha, even though the decision to take Ambedkar’s additional vows is a personal question, depending on each person. “Many don’t see me as Buddhist. Hindus still see us as a particular caste”, he explained “but as I do my practice, I don’t worry about what others say.  My mind is liberated from old beliefs.”  Rajesh explained that his group learns from Buddhist...

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The Questions Indians Ask

Friday/Jan/6 Spent most of my day dragging myself through jetlag, catching up on finances and preparing Internet content.  At Bernie’s talk, I really enjoyed hearing people’s questions.  While there may be some universal human longings that pop up everywhere, there are also variations and themes that emerge with different groups in different places.  Coming to a talk billed Socially Engaged Buddhism, this crowd wanted to know the Buddhist response to social ailments: How do you respond to terrorism? What do you say about the contrast between the Buddhist emphasis on compassion and the poverty at the pilgrimage sites connected to the Buddha’s life? Your approach reminds me of existentialism.  Can you explain the similarities and differences? What’s your stance on eating meat? Bearing witness is great on an individual level, but what about the dictators abusing the peaceful Buddhists in Burma? What is Buddhist explanation to suffering in Sri Lanka where Singhalese Buddhists massacred Tamils? Other groups are much more internally focused: How can I bring my practice off the cushion and into my life? Should I feel guilty because I don’t enjoy serving others? Should I feel guilty because I get too much personal satisfaction out of serving others?   This experience confirmed the hunch I expressed in my story of the roots of Zen that Indians as quite philosophical.   We stuck around after the talk trying to get help from a civil servant in avoiding having our tour bus commandeered by the government in Uttar Pradesh, where an election is being held....

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Shantum Seth Interview: 10 things that complicate the story of India’s “Untouchables”

Preparing for the Socially Engaged Pilgrimage in India, I asked Shantum to review the newsletter we were preparing.  Though he is a devout Buddhist who lived with and was introduced to Buddhism by downtrodden Indian Buddhists in Uttar Pradesh, he warned us against overly simplifying the situation. Though there is definitely a revolutionary role played by Ambedkarite Buddhism in liberating “untouchables”, Shantum explained, it stems primarily from a social and political base rather a Dharmic one. In fact, there is more of an emphasis on ‘equality’ than ‘liberation’. Dalits form the bottom rung of the oppressive Hindu caste system.  There are many nuances that complicate this story: Buddhism isn’t totally free of social distinctions.  While proclaiming castelessness, some Buddhists still marry according to caste expectations, just like Hindus. There are many stratifications based on sub-castes amongst the Dalits. There are reformist Hindus who reject the caste system. Dalit is just one self-identification by people who are considered “untouchable”. Dalits or “untouchables” are actually considered to be outside of the caste system altogether.  They are “outcastes”. In terms of socio-economic status, Dalits aren’t  the worst treated group in India.  Muslims are treated worse than Dalits and “tribal” peoples, even worse than Muslims. Because of benefits of affirmative action policy, some people seek fake identification as Dalits in order to illegitimately reap the benefits. Though many Dalits venerate Ambedkar (a Buddhist) and loathe Gandhi (a Hindu), Ambedkar and Gandhi respected each other and sometimes praised the other. They both worked to eradicate the curse of untouchability, but had different means, to achieve this end. Ambekar’s second wife (after the first died) was a Brahmin (the ‘highest’ caste) woman who converted to Buddhism at the same time as Ambedkar. There are many prominent Dalits, including a former president, former Chief Justice of the Supreme court, and the Chief Ministers of important states such as Uttar Pradesh. All this is not to say that Dalits haven’t faced discrimination and that Ambedkarite Buddhism hasn’t helped them.  It’s just that the more you know, the more complicated things get.  As Charlie says “go figure”....

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A story of our Zen lineage (citation not included)

A long time ago in a land called India, there was an upper-caste elite who liked to party and indulge in material decadence, philosophers who preached high-falutin’ metaphysics and spiritual seekers who thought partying was shallow and instead starved themselves to transcend the material world altogether and free themselves from suffering once and for all. Along came Siddhartha Gautama, an upper-caste drop-out who wasn’t into partying, didn’t have much patience for high-falutin’ philosophy and didn’t get anywhere starving himself.  After sitting and doing nothing for a long time, he concluded that the path to freedom can be summed up in 4 easy-to-remember principles, which could be followed by anyone, regardless of their caste.  To achieve this path, you don’t have to starve yourself, he said.  You just have to leave your family, shave your head and trade your clothes for robes and your possessions for a begging bowl. Years later, the prince’s Indian successors reintroduced high-falutin’ philosophy and preserved the community of monks as the holders of the tradition.  The monks role in society was to teach the tradition and dole out merit to the generous lay people who filled their begging bowls. Eventually the meditation part of the tradition reached China, brought from India by Bodhidharma.  In India, they decided that you didn’t need high-falutin’ philosophy, but just the opportunities to awaken that happen in everyday life, working, for example, talking to other people or eating meals.  They also said that lineage between teacher and student was very important, so they looked back through history and filled characters into spaces to link themselves back to the long-dead upper-caste drop-out prince. Next, the practice reached Japan, where they took the stories of the Chinese monks’ everyday awakenings and turned them into the rigid koan system.  Also, with some encouragement from the Imperial government, they decided that you don’t need to leave your family to be a Zen leader, but you do still need to shave your head.  Also, instead of taking your begging bowl all over town, you could set up a temple so that townspeople come to you for rituals. And this finally brings us from Japan to the United States.  In the U.S. today, some Zen Buddhist teachers shave their heads and...

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Jeff Bridges Launches Head for Peace Initiative with Bernie Glassman

November 23, 2011. Yonkers, N.Y. – Jeff Bridges, actor/activist and Academy Award winner, toured the Greyston Foundation last week with world-renowned Zen Buddhist teacher, Bernie Glassman to launch the Head for Peace Campaign together.   Jeff Bridges has been a friend of Bernie Glassman for over 10 years, is an active supporter of Zen Peacemakers, founded by Glassman, and is leading the fundraising effort, “Head for Peace.” Jeff has personally sculpted 108 ceramic heads that become sponsored by individuals who share the intention to embody and promote peace around the world.     “Visiting Greyston was a real inspiration,” said Bridges.  “It serves as a great example of how communities can support their disenfranchised. It feels good to be able to be a part of the Zen Peacemakers family and Bernie’s work with the Head for Peace project.”   Mr. Bridges toured Greyston Foundation in support of Bernie’s vision to create holistic support services for the low-income and homeless in Southwest Yonkers.  Begun by Bernie in 1982, Greyston Foundation now serves more than 3,200 community members annually through its programs. Greyston Foundation is a national model for comprehensive community development and is best known for the Greyston Bakery, which has provided jobs and opportunities for hundreds of individuals. The Bakery’s mission is to work as a force for personal transformation and community economic renewal while operating a profitable business that bakes high quality gourmet products, for clients including Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. The Greyston Foundation is a $15 million integrated network of for-profit and not-for-profit entities that provide jobs, workforce development, childcare, housing, after-school programs and a comprehensive HIV health care program.     “Having spent decades teaching Zen and working in Socially Engaged Buddhism,” said Bernie, “I am now spending these early years of my ’70s serving in socially engaged projects in places including India, Israel, Palestine and back at Greyston.  I am grateful to Jeff and others who partner with us in this work to Head for Peace.”   About Bernie Glassman The founder of the Zen Peacemakers, Zen Master Bernie Glassman, shifted from a traditional Zen Buddhist monastery-model practice to become a leading proponent of social engagement as spiritual practice. He is internationally recognized as a pioneer of Buddhism in...

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Uniting the 100%: The Consciousness Comittee of Occupy Wall Street

Saturday, October 8 After leading a noon Meditation Flash Mob at “Liberty Plaza,” the center of Occupy Wall Street, a group ranging from 22 to 27 people skipped a giant Washington Square Park rally to come together in a quiet, grassy spot in Battery Park to continue developing a committee committed to maintaining “conscious”, “sacred” energy within Occupy Wall Street. The meeting was led by Meditation Teacher/Community Organizer Anthony Whitehurst, who received a text message informing him that the meeting needed facilitation a few days earlier. The committee stands, and sits, in solidarity with the movement’s aim to improve conditions for the 99%. However, they aim to do so not by combating and vilifying the 1%, but by working with them. As it gelled, the group is debated between names like “Sacred Spaces Working group,” and “Occupy Within,” ultimately settling with “Consciousness Committee.” They have chosen as their tagline “uniting the 100%.” In the tradition of spiritual activists such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. they hold a space that asserts that if protesters meet anger and violence with more of the same, they are merely contributing to the problem instead of finding a solution for it. The committee has its roots in the New York City MedMob. MedMobs are meditation flash mobs springing up around the world, where people gather in a public space announced on Facebook for 50 minutes of silent meditation, followed by a 10 minute “sound bath.” The New York City group, which includes several people also connected to a Brooklyn wellness center, began sitting at Wall Street before the Occupation began. As the occupation has grown, so have their meditations, which now regularly take place every Wednesday and Saturday. They have also broadened their focus beyond meditation. As the group develops a title and mission, they are formalizing roles that they have already started to play informally: scheduling more meditations, maintaining an altar, working with guest spiritual teachers, coordinating healings, gathering resources and connecting to activists around the world interest in infusing spirituality with social action. The Occupy Wall Street website says: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.We...

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Occupy Wall Street: Arising or Uprising? What do you think

  “Every airport we pass through today, at Hartford, CT, Washington D.C. and Frankfurt, Germany” I told Bernie on our way to Europe “has an Occupy event happening.” When we arrived in Heidelberg, Bernie asked our host whether they had one.  They didn’t but 30 locations in Germany did.  She mentioned this when introducing him, which prompted him to talk about the Occupy movement.    Even though he called the protests arisings, while preparing a blog post on his talk, I referred to them as uprisings.  I’ve never heard anyone use the word arisings, but I have read newspapers using the term uprisings.  In his talk the next day, he corrected me, saying he specifically meant to use the less typical term.       I looked it up in the dictionary.  Broadly, “arising” and “uprising” are synonymous.  However, they have different senses.  Both arising and uprising have the word ascend listed as a definition.  However, while the definition uprising includes : insurrection or revolt,   arising includes coming into being, getting up from sitting down and waking up. Bernie feels that the relatively decentralized and spontaneous nature of these events may indicate a new social phenomenon that may be better described as an arising to the interconnectedness of life, rather than an uprising.  When we use the word uprise, we are usually talking about rising up against something.  But what can we wake up to if we see everyone as part of...

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