On the streets, At Refugee Camp in Chiapas, Auschwitz Interfaith Ceremony, Riverdale NY 1982
When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. Peacemaking is the functioning of bearing witness. Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.
Loving action is right action. It’s as simple as giving a hand to someone who stumbles or picking up a child who has fallen on the floor. We take such direct, natural actions every day of our lives without considering them special. And they’re not special. Each is simply the best possible response to that situation in that moment.
Zen Master Bernie Glassman is a world-renowned pioneer in the American Zen Movement. He is a spiritual leader, published author, accomplished academic and successful businessman with a PhD in Applied Mathematics. He is the founder of the Zen Peacemakers.
In 1967, Bernie began his Zen studies with Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi, Founder of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. He became a Zen teacher–Sensei Glassman–in 1976. In 1980 he founded his own Zen Community of New York in the Bronx, New York. He started the Greyston Bakery, at first staffed by Zen students, as a livelihood for the Community, and then made it a vehicle for social enterprise in Yonkers, 3 miles north (see below). In 1995 Bernie Glassman received inka, or the final seal of approval, from his teacher and became known as Roshi Bernie. During that year and in 1996 he served as Spiritual Head of the White Plum Lineage, comprising hundreds of Zen groups and centers in the US, Latin America and Europe, as well as the first President of the Soto Zen Buddhist Association of America. His Dharma Family includes dharma teachers, zen priests, zen preceptors, zen entrepreneurs, Christian clergy, Rabbis, Sufi Sheiks and multi-faith peacemakers.
Bernie became a social entrepreneur in 1982, articulating a vision that socially responsible businesses can have a double bottom line: generating profits and serving the community. The Greyston Bakery was the first such venture, but it was merely one piece of a larger socially responsible business model which he developed, known as the Greyston Mandala (the Sanskrit mandala can be loosely translated as circle of life), a network of for-profits and not-for-profits working together to improve the lives of individuals and the larger inner city community of southwest Yonkers. Greyston, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in 2012, provides permanent housing, jobs, job training, child care, after-school programs and a host of other supportive services to a large community of formerly homeless families, advancing the principles of empowerment, empathy, and responsible action. Its main components are:
The entire Greyston Mandala (as of 2011) hires 175 people and its programs reach 2,200 community members annually in southwest Yonkers. Its model of integrating for-profits, not-for-profits, and spirituality has been studied by many other nonprofits and cities across the country as well as in universities. Bernie Glassman served as Founder and President/CEO of Greyston from 1982 till he left it in 1996. He returned to serve Greyston and Yonkers one day per month in 2012.
In January of 1994, while leading a bearing witness retreat in Washington, DC, on the occasion of his 55th birthday, Bernie decided to create the Zen Peacemaker Order, for Zen practitioners dedicated to the cause of peace and social justice. Subsequently, the concept was broadened to become an international, interfaith network called the Peacemaker Community, stressing the integration of spiritual practice and social action through Three Tenets:
Together with his wife and co-founder, Sandra Jishu Holmes, Bernie left Greyston in the end of 1996 and became President of this large community of spiritually-based activists. He took a leave when his wife died in 1998, but from 2000 till 2004 he continued serving as President, devoting his energy to developing the Peacemaker Community and supporting various social action and peacemaking projects in Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States. This organization is now known as Zen Peacemakers.
Bernie was awarded the Ethics in Action Award by the Ethical Culture Society of Westchester and the E-chievement Award by Toms of Maine. He was named Man of the Year by the Westchester Coalition of Food Pantries and Social Entrepreneur of the Year by Business Week in 1993. He is a founding board member of the Social Ventures Network, a network of businesses committed to social change, and continues to serve as one of its spiritual leaders. In 2007, he was honored as a Purpose Prize Fellow given to those over 60 with the passion and experience to discover new opportunities, come up with new solutions, and make lasting changes
Bernie is also the co-author with Hakuyu Maezumi for: Hazy Moon of Enlightenment: On Zen Practice III (The Zen Writings Series) by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman (Jun 1978) and On Zen Practice (Zen writings series) by Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi and Bernard Tetsugen Glassman (Jun 1977)
Contact Bernie through his assistant Rami at rami[at]zenpeacemakers.org and phone 347.210.9556,
Mailing Address: PO BOX 460 Sunderland, MA 01375
This post is also available in: German