Zen Peacemaker Order Blog

bernie-belgium-cartoonThis Blog compiles the latest news of the Zen Peacemaker Order involved in Meditation and Socially Engaged Spirituality.  It willl also keep you informed on Bernie’s activities which bring him to different parts of the world touched by war, poverty and genocide including relevant articles from the fields he is going to. Also included are Bernie’s teachings and opinions.  We warmly invite you to join the conversation. Leaders of the Zen Peacemaker Order are restructuring the Order and the news of this development will also be shared in this blog.

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.   WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE By Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain (in photo, third from right)   […] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might be over ten times. My first retreat happened in 1999, I was the youngest participant at that year, aged 18. I had not been to Auschwitz-Birkenau before. As a Polish person, I learned about it at school, I saw programs on TV, read in history books, but never went there. A few months before the Retreat I had watched a short film done by a Polish director, Andrzej Titkov, about that event, and something deep down in my soul was calling me to go there. It became one of the most significant experiences I had in my life. The entire experience of this Bearing Witness Retreat was a big plunge for me into the history and energy of that place … into the known, and into the unknown. […] Asking myself what this retreat brought into my life, I say: it connected me with worlds inside and outside. On the outside, I met lots of people from all over the planet, I experienced the oneness of differences … People from many countries, traditions, languages, cultures, sexual orientations, skin colors etc. in one place – that was a mind-opener for me. I started to learn English, and since 2008 I live in London. On the inside, the Retreat was a journey into my own sorrow, my own suffering, and I was able to connect with it. I met my own inner victim and also an oppressor, and it was possible to bring the lessons I learned into my daily life.   Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in 2016 This excerpt from Damain’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at:...

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“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, News, Reflections, Rocky and Tootsie, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Order | 1 comment

“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke

  “NOW WHAT?” Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all around. And all of a sudden, I was in my office with Rami—our office downstairs—and you were in your office, and all of the sudden, you came down to give me a note. Do you remember what that said? Eve: Yeah. I wrote you a note on the yellow pad of paper, and it said, “Bernie, don’t take over the meeting. Just listen.” Bernie: So, I got that note, I started to listen, and all of a sudden, I blacked out! And I have no memory—I don’t even know how many days I have no memory for. So maybe you can tell us a little about that initial period.   Eve: Yeah, you sure took that seriously, “Don’t take over the meeting,” because at that point you started sliding down your chair. And Rami called me again, and I came down. And he had caught you, and put you on the floor. So you were lying on the floor, on your back. I looked at your face. And you were talking at that point. I asked you to raise your leg, and you couldn’t raise your leg. And I asked you to raise your arm, and you couldn’t do that. And then I could tell that your speech was beginning to slur. And then it just stopped. And I asked you, and you just, like did this [shaking head left and right], or something like that—that you couldn’t speak anymore. Oh, and I said I wanted to call 911, and you said, “No.” And I must have asked you another one or two questions, and then I called 911. And they came, and they were great. They were ready, and they hooked you onto certain medication, put you in an ambulance, took you to a hospital in Greenfield [MA]. They turned right around then, and took you down to Springfield, also in the ambulance. And you went straight into the Emergency Room. And from there you went to Critical Care. And then you went down to Neurological Critical Care. And then you went down to a regular bed. So at each of these stages they were trying to stabilize you. They knew right away that you had suffered a stroke. And you were at Bay State Springfield Hospital for five full days. They did scans, MRIs, and it was a big stroke. And it had hit your left side they told me, affecting the right side of your body. And also that’s where the speech center is in the brain. So it also affected the speech center. So for five days they were trying to make you stabile. And it was really not clear you were going to make it. So that was your five days in Bay State. And your daughter Alisa came, and Rami was there. And after five days they thought you were stabile enough to release you to the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. And that’s what we did. And you spent...

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Orlando and The Call of Connection

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Blog, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 13 comments

Orlando and The Call of Connection

    Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three Tenets: Not-knowing, Bearing witness and Taking Action. This was intended to be a letter of introduction to me and the responsibilities of my role for those who are engaged with ZP and whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet. But as I bore witness to what was alive today I decided to address my own vision in light of the wave of mourning following the killing in Orlando FL USA, surrounding our LGBTQ ZPO members, their communities and anywhere around the globe. Right of the bat, I’d encourage anyone who knows an LGBTQ person — or a Muslim, a Porto-Rican, a Latino or Latina — to reach out and ask “how are you?” Following this tragedy there are nuances of pain that my caucasian, Jewish, male-cis-gendered conditioning cannot even imagine. If you are one yourself, my heart at best glimpses yours — and hurts. Know that the Zen Peacemakers stand in solidarity with the queer, trans, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community. This week I was riding a taxi from Düsseldorf Airport. On the German Radio I recognized the words ‘Massacre’ and ‘Orlando.’ The driver said that everyone in Germany are shocked by the recent killing. I was surprised US news even made it across the ocean. I felt moved. When we drove into Essen, one of the most heavily bombarded and reconstructed German cities, we drove by the soccer field where the government-run Syrian refugees camp was. We passed the large white blocks, impenetrable to the eyes, and the driver pointed to tall steel cranes and said that just few days before, three bombs from World War Two were excavated in that construction site. A large perimeter was evacuated, including all unsuspecting refugees from this camp. He dropped me off at my hotel and I joined my sister, her fiancé and their three month old baby for their wedding ceremony. This is only a sliver of Life, of this flow of mourning and celebration, of moments and narratives intertwined into a single dot, of how bombs from the past, real and implied, affect the unsuspecting living present. Other kind of bombs, buried in the construction site of one man’s mind, exploded last Sunday and killed forty-nine individuals who celebrated authenticity, choice and love. The call of the Zen Peacemakers, to which I responded when I first walked through the gates of Auschwitz/Birkenau at the Bearing Witness retreat in 2013, was to first recognize that the construction site is not limited to a town, or to one person’s mind. If nothing is separate, it’s one helluva big construction site. How then, do I minister this world’s one wound, from which we all bleed in so many diverse ways? This past year I followed that question, and followed Bernie Glassman, from Palestine to the Bahamas, from Bosnia to the Black Hills. Bernie’s MO and the Zen Peacemakers legacy is one of zesty action, brimming with creativity and curiosity, gravitas and playfulness, openness and attention.  I have learned from Bernie to...

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Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Blog, News, Zen Peacemakers | 8 comments

Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director

  The Board of Directors of Zen Peacemakers is extremely pleased to announce Rami Efal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Rami is a visionary leader who brings strong execution skills and a deep commitment to meditation, social action, and the arts to Zen Peacemakers. Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director Grant Couch, Chairman Chris Panos, President   Rami Efal was born in Israel, lived in the US since 2002 and recently became a citizen of the United States. He has been a student of Zen Buddhism with the Mountains and Rivers Order since 2006, including 4 years of residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery and at the Zen Center of New York City. He began his training with the Zen Peacemakers at the 2013 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, where some of his family had perished. Before his hiring by ZP, Rami graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NY and has been a visual artist working in animation, film and graphic novels and presented art in NY galleries and Europe. He has contributed to hunger, community and hospice projects, participated in and worked for the Palestinian/Israeli Dialogue Project, translated Israeli soldiers’ testimonials for Breaking the Silence and was board member and field-director for the Inkwell Foundation, an non-profit organization of artists visiting children in hospitals. He is a graduate of School of International Training in Vermont where he studied Peacebuilding and Intercultural Conflict Transformation. Rami is also a graduate of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication Integration Program and has facilitated numerous intensive NVC trainings. He presented on peace-building on NPR, at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. Since Joining ZP in March 2015, Rami has supported Bernie in his travels and has coordinated the planning, operations and staff of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order....

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My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

  MY CHAT WITH 8TH GRADERS ON AUSCHWITZ By Noemi Koji Santana For the past 15 years, I have been involved in one capacity or another with a small cluster of community-grown charter schools in the Bronx, New York. I served on their founding Board of Trustees and later, in my capacity as consultant, helped develop their business office, lead them in a strategic planning process that set the foundation for their network administration, as well as managing their rebranding. Through all of this, I have seen them grow from a Kindergarten to fifth grade school to three schools that will eventually all be K through 8th grade. The student body is comprised largely of inner-city Latino children, from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico Honduras and other Central and South American countries. There is also a growing number of new African immigrants. The rigorous curriculum has increased the chances for success for many of these children, as they graduate and find themselves in some of the best high schools of the City of New York. Because the schools are small with only two classes per each grade and also due to low to no attrition, we get to follow these students from Kinder through graduation. Students many times refer to me as the picture lady since I am often called upon to record school life and events with my camera. I also get to dialogue with faculty in their professional development room or during lunch breaks. It was one such occasion that created a unique opportunity for me to be a guest speaker for an eighth grade class, recently. The Social Studies teacher, a young, warm, funny and vivacious first-generation Dominican who can often be found in the gym during recess playing basketball with his students, was talking to me about the unit on the Holocaust he was currently teaching and I mentioned the fact that I had been to Auschwitz four times. His eyes lit up and it didn’t take but a minute for him to extend an invitation for me to speak to one of his classes about my experience. Their letters reflect the chat better than anything I could say.   Noemi Koji Santana     Dear Mrs. Santana, Thank you for your visit and talking about your experiences of visiting the Auschwitz camp. I have learned much more about the feelings of the generations of the Germans and Jewish people. They feel ashamed, embarrassed of what their grandparents or parents have gone through or did. It’s very depressing because people don’t want to talk about what had happened to them, they don’t even look you in the eye. Also by looking at the pictures, the camps were horrifying; it was depressing to the Jewish people. This relates to a novel named Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand and the Japanese internment camps because they were also depressed, lonely, and felt out of place. Two places that caught my attention were the forest and the Ash Pond. It helped me visualize how clueless the Jewish people were and innocent about their upcoming death. It also tells me how the ashes of the people were thrown in the pond because they didn’t seem important but in actuality every single one of them were. Your experience helped me learn that I should...

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Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Blog, Native American, News, Zen Peacemakers | 2 comments

Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

(The following invitation is to a members-led retreat organized by members of the Zen Peacemaker Order. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers.)   BEARING WITNESS IN SOUTH DAKOTA JULY 25-29, 2016 Ever since Zen Peacemakers canceled its retreat in the Black Hills, a number of people have said that they would like to return to South Dakota anyway this summer, reconnect with our Native American friends, and perhaps contribute in some way. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is offering to facilitate a group of people at Cheyenne River Reservation, north of Pine Ridge as of July 25. We think being able to visit other places of the Lakota would bring a broader perspective on how the people have creatively survived and adapted to the differences in a culture and a society, as opposed to the consequences of not adopting a Western thought process but evolving within the ‘adaptive’ cultural continuity of the Lakota Oyate. Tiokasin, who comes from Cheyenne River Reservation, will connect the group with various communities and give us opportunities to work hands-on in home construction, community gardens, and children and teen projects. We also hope to meet with elders and learn more about what Natives are doing to preserve their language and culture, and strengthen their connections with the land. Visits to Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Reservations are also possible. We hope that our coming together at Cheyenne River Reservation this summer will strengthen the energy and connections that began with the retreat last summer. We plan for the group to remain together for five days (even as they split up during the day to work in different areas), after which, depending on individual interests, people can continue to work on their own in various projects that interest them, return to the Black Hills or to Pine Ridge to renew friendships from last year, or go back home. This is not an organized retreat, so there is no retreat fee. Zen Peacemakers is not doing any organizing or logistics. Each participant is responsible for his/her own travel and accommodations (tents or motel). More details will follow, depending on your interest. You may place a comment to the organizer below, The main thread of communication is conducted on the ZPO Black Hills Facebook Group and on the EVENT PAGE on Facebook.     Thanks, Tiokasin Ghosthorse & Grover Gauntt  ...

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Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in Blog, News, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 2 comments

Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor

(photo by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao)  On April 30th, 2016, after a ZPO International Governance Circle meeting, Bernie Glassman, who has been recovering from a stroke since January, performed a short ceremony to mark the recognition of Grant Couch as a dharma successor in his lineage. Grant Couch, sensei, worked for over 40 years in the financial services industry, with a focus on commercial and investment banking. Following his retirement as President and COO of Countrywide Capital Markets in 2008, Grant’s desire to contribute to other’s personal growth led him to take the position of CEO of Sounds True, a publisher of spiritual teachings where he served for two years. He was Chairman of Manhattan Bancorp and its subsidiary Bank of Manhattan from 2010 – 2015. His current focus is as the Co-Founder of the Conservative Caucus of Citizens Climate Lobby. In 1990 Grant began to explore various spiritual paths. After 4 years of religious and philosophical self-study he found a deep personal resonance in the Buddha’s teachings. Since then he has studied with many Tibetan, Zen and Vipassana teachers. And after attending a 2010 bearing witness retreat in Auschwitz he began working closely with Bernie Glassman and Zen Peacemakers’ three tenets. Grant graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Lehigh University. In addition to serving as the Chairman of Zen Peacemakers; he is on the investment committee of Aravaipa Ventures, a Colorado-based, impact technology VC fund; and is a financial advisor to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. Now retired, Grant is focused full time on finding a conservative solution to the challenging nexus of energy and the environment – aka climate change. Grant is the Chairman and Secretary of Zen Peacemakers, Inc.non-profit 501(c)3...

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“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bernie Glassman, Blog, Native American, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das

Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das met soon after the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills and shared about the practice of Bearing Witness and their personal experiences of the retreats in South Dakota USA and in Auschwitz/Birkenau Poland. Watch the video in full below or read the transcription of the interview here. Interview videotaped and edited by Rami Efal, video of Krishna Das performing in Auschwitz/Birkenau by Ohad...

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OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, Reflections, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Order | 13 comments

OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko posted originally on her blog on May 21st 2016 Today is Vesak, a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. In his honor, people all over the world meditate, chant, walk, make prostrations and offerings, give charity, and vow to awaken. My husband, Bernie, has shared that during the first months after his stroke, while resting in bed, he has gone into a state of deep meditation that’s effortless, restful, and at the same time fully alert. He said that it has taken him into the most profound space of not-knowing that he has experienced so far, and that it felt so natural and organic that he thought nothing of it—didn’t think to himself Wow, this is something! or label it as special in any way—until someone asked him if he was bored lying in bed and staring out into space. It was only then, as he began to explain what was happening, that it occurred to him that perhaps something unusual was taking place. I was glad to hear this on his account, and also because it’s nice to know that when our body isn’t responding as it always has or when our energy level isn’t what it once was, this makes space for new things to happen. For myself, I’d always hoped that if and when I get older and weaker, I would have the alertness of mind to do prolonged meditation. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that enable Bernie to experience the state he described. People prepare and serve him food, people have helped him walk wherever he needed to go (now he can walk mostly on his own with a cane), someone makes the bed, someone sets up the table adjoining his bed with the things he needs to have on hand, someone makes sure to adjust the blanket and pillows when he can’t do this. Generous friends all over the world have given us money towards his recovery and have prayed and meditated on his behalf. All these things enable him to not just recover, but also explore a deep meditative state. Hunger and thirst would be distractions. Discomfort and pain, with no one on hand to help out, would hinder and obstruct. If we didn’t have the money for the things he needs for his wellbeing, if the therapists and caretakers didn’t do their job, if the food we get from friends and sangha wasn’t nourishing, if the messages we get from all over the world weren’t loving and supportive, I’m not sure he would have that experience. That is one reason why the Buddha is reputed to have said, upon his awakening, I and the entire earth have simultaneously achieved the Way. It wasn’t just he alone, as a separate being, who had that awakening, it was all beings. It had to include the parents who gave him birth and the aunt who raised him, the wife who nurtured him, the girl who brought him milk and honey when he was too weak to go on, the tree which provided him shelter as he sat, the earth that held him and the morning star that came up that auspicious day. Even Mara, known for sending...

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Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

The following are two of many testimonials of those who have attended the Auschwitz/Bikrenau Bearing Witness retreat. They appear in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe” (English & German language) at https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en       All of Life in This Moment By Roshi Cornelius Collande Five days of meditation in Auschwitz. I imagined it to be a place of horror, but what I found was a holy place. A place where grief and joy, despair and hope, hate and love, tears and laughter are intertwined in an incomprehensible way. A place that constantly questions your being, a place that doesn’t leave you out, that doesn’t allow you to return to your everyday agenda. In the afternoon, rituals are performed in the barracks of the labor camp, at the gas chambers and crematoria. Everybody can choose between Jewish, Christian and Buddhist ceremonies. I specifically remember a celebration by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi. A beautiful clear autumn day, bright blue sky, old oaks with golden yellow leaves next to Gas Chamber III, birds twitter and some deer are grazing at a distance. We are beside a pond, where the ashes of the killed were dumped. The water reflects the trees. Kaddish, the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, is being read; in Hebrew, German, Arabic, in all the languages of those who are attending. May the Great Name whose Desire gave birth to the universe Resound through the Creation – Now! May this Great Presence rule your life and your day and all lives of our World …” Who can grasp all this, who can endure it? Then Jewish Songs of Grief; many tears flow while we sing. And now, a Wedding Song, a song that a well-known rabbi had requested to be sung at his funeral. The “Great Name,” the “Great Presence,” as life and death. A Wedding Song, very tender at first, then more dynamic, then dancing, wildness, joy, yes joy and laughter in the company of 1.5 million dead. Deeply shattering, incomprehensible, unbearable for the individual. Only love can endure this … JOIN THE ZENPEACEMAKERS IN AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU IN 2016 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT AND REGISTER After all the Years of Looking By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmuller I remember one afternoon when our group of 100 people was sitting on the selection ramp in a big circle. In the center of the circle was the altar with the box containing the lists with names of those murdered here. This afternoon snowflakes covered the altar, and little by little they also mantled us in meditation, sheeted the stones on the ramp, the roofs of the barracks in the background with a light white layer. I was shivering with cold; even though I was sitting on a mat with warm winter clothes, the iciness crept right into my bones. The snow was blown into our faces by a freezing wind, my eyes watered. As I looked around the big circle, boundless love arose in me, gratitude and appreciation for this moment. Appreciation for the people who took it on to cultivate this practice together, who didn’t flee, who didn’t distract themselves which would be so much easier. I was touched by our courage to bear witness to ourselves and to the collective history that had assembled us here. I felt gratitude towards the practice, here in this place where once there was so much noise, violence, and horror. To sit in silence together in order to learn what it means to be human among...

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Zen Peacemaker Order Blog

bernie-belgium-cartoonThis Blog compiles the latest news of the Zen Peacemaker Order involved in Meditation and Socially Engaged Spirituality.  It willl also keep you informed on Bernie’s activities which bring him to different parts of the world touched by war, poverty and genocide including relevant articles from the fields he is going to. Also included are Bernie’s teachings and opinions.  We warmly invite you to join the conversation. Leaders of the Zen Peacemaker Order are restructuring the Order and the news of this development will also be shared in this blog.

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian

 This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats.   WORLDS OPENING, INSIDE AND OUTSIDE By Damian Dudkievich, Poland/ Great Britain (in photo, third from right)   […] I don’t remember exactly how often I participated, I think it might be over ten times. My first retreat happened in 1999, I was the youngest participant at that year, aged 18. I had not been to Auschwitz-Birkenau before. As a Polish person, I learned about it at school, I saw programs on TV, read in history books, but never went there. A few months before the Retreat I had watched a short film done by a Polish director, Andrzej Titkov, about that event, and something deep down in my soul was calling me to go there. It became one of the most significant experiences I had in my life. The entire experience of this Bearing Witness Retreat was a big plunge for me into the history and energy of that place … into the known, and into the unknown. […] Asking myself what this retreat brought into my life, I say: it connected me with worlds inside and outside. On the outside, I met lots of people from all over the planet, I experienced the oneness of differences … People from many countries, traditions, languages, cultures, sexual orientations, skin colors etc. in one place – that was a mind-opener for me. I started to learn English, and since 2008 I live in London. On the inside, the Retreat was a journey into my own sorrow, my own suffering, and I was able to connect with it. I met my own inner victim and also an oppressor, and it was possible to bring the lessons I learned into my daily life.   Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in 2016 This excerpt from Damain’s reflection appears in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe. 20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & Zen Peacemakers” (2015) Edited by Kathleen Battke, Ginni Stern, and Andrzej Krajewski, in German and English. Printed copies or e-book available at:...

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“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke

Posted by on Jun 21, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, News, Reflections, Rocky and Tootsie, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Order | 1 comment

“Now what?” Bernie Talks About the First Days After His Stroke

  “NOW WHAT?” Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all around. And all of a sudden, I was in my office with Rami—our office downstairs—and you were in your office, and all of the sudden, you came down to give me a note. Do you remember what that said? Eve: Yeah. I wrote you a note on the yellow pad of paper, and it said, “Bernie, don’t take over the meeting. Just listen.” Bernie: So, I got that note, I started to listen, and all of a sudden, I blacked out! And I have no memory—I don’t even know how many days I have no memory for. So maybe you can tell us a little about that initial period.   Eve: Yeah, you sure took that seriously, “Don’t take over the meeting,” because at that point you started sliding down your chair. And Rami called me again, and I came down. And he had caught you, and put you on the floor. So you were lying on the floor, on your back. I looked at your face. And you were talking at that point. I asked you to raise your leg, and you couldn’t raise your leg. And I asked you to raise your arm, and you couldn’t do that. And then I could tell that your speech was beginning to slur. And then it just stopped. And I asked you, and you just, like did this [shaking head left and right], or something like that—that you couldn’t speak anymore. Oh, and I said I wanted to call 911, and you said, “No.” And I must have asked you another one or two questions, and then I called 911. And they came, and they were great. They were ready, and they hooked you onto certain medication, put you in an ambulance, took you to a hospital in Greenfield [MA]. They turned right around then, and took you down to Springfield, also in the ambulance. And you went straight into the Emergency Room. And from there you went to Critical Care. And then you went down to Neurological Critical Care. And then you went down to a regular bed. So at each of these stages they were trying to stabilize you. They knew right away that you had suffered a stroke. And you were at Bay State Springfield Hospital for five full days. They did scans, MRIs, and it was a big stroke. And it had hit your left side they told me, affecting the right side of your body. And also that’s where the speech center is in the brain. So it also affected the speech center. So for five days they were trying to make you stabile. And it was really not clear you were going to make it. So that was your five days in Bay State. And your daughter Alisa came, and Rami was there. And after five days they thought you were stabile enough to release you to the Weldon Rehabilitation Hospital. And that’s what we did. And you spent...

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Orlando and The Call of Connection

Posted by on Jun 17, 2016 in Blog, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 13 comments

Orlando and The Call of Connection

    Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three Tenets: Not-knowing, Bearing witness and Taking Action. This was intended to be a letter of introduction to me and the responsibilities of my role for those who are engaged with ZP and whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet. But as I bore witness to what was alive today I decided to address my own vision in light of the wave of mourning following the killing in Orlando FL USA, surrounding our LGBTQ ZPO members, their communities and anywhere around the globe. Right of the bat, I’d encourage anyone who knows an LGBTQ person — or a Muslim, a Porto-Rican, a Latino or Latina — to reach out and ask “how are you?” Following this tragedy there are nuances of pain that my caucasian, Jewish, male-cis-gendered conditioning cannot even imagine. If you are one yourself, my heart at best glimpses yours — and hurts. Know that the Zen Peacemakers stand in solidarity with the queer, trans, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community. This week I was riding a taxi from Düsseldorf Airport. On the German Radio I recognized the words ‘Massacre’ and ‘Orlando.’ The driver said that everyone in Germany are shocked by the recent killing. I was surprised US news even made it across the ocean. I felt moved. When we drove into Essen, one of the most heavily bombarded and reconstructed German cities, we drove by the soccer field where the government-run Syrian refugees camp was. We passed the large white blocks, impenetrable to the eyes, and the driver pointed to tall steel cranes and said that just few days before, three bombs from World War Two were excavated in that construction site. A large perimeter was evacuated, including all unsuspecting refugees from this camp. He dropped me off at my hotel and I joined my sister, her fiancé and their three month old baby for their wedding ceremony. This is only a sliver of Life, of this flow of mourning and celebration, of moments and narratives intertwined into a single dot, of how bombs from the past, real and implied, affect the unsuspecting living present. Other kind of bombs, buried in the construction site of one man’s mind, exploded last Sunday and killed forty-nine individuals who celebrated authenticity, choice and love. The call of the Zen Peacemakers, to which I responded when I first walked through the gates of Auschwitz/Birkenau at the Bearing Witness retreat in 2013, was to first recognize that the construction site is not limited to a town, or to one person’s mind. If nothing is separate, it’s one helluva big construction site. How then, do I minister this world’s one wound, from which we all bleed in so many diverse ways? This past year I followed that question, and followed Bernie Glassman, from Palestine to the Bahamas, from Bosnia to the Black Hills. Bernie’s MO and the Zen Peacemakers legacy is one of zesty action, brimming with creativity and curiosity, gravitas and playfulness, openness and attention.  I have learned from Bernie to...

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Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director

Posted by on Jun 13, 2016 in Blog, News, Zen Peacemakers | 8 comments

Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director

  The Board of Directors of Zen Peacemakers is extremely pleased to announce Rami Efal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Rami is a visionary leader who brings strong execution skills and a deep commitment to meditation, social action, and the arts to Zen Peacemakers. Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director Grant Couch, Chairman Chris Panos, President   Rami Efal was born in Israel, lived in the US since 2002 and recently became a citizen of the United States. He has been a student of Zen Buddhism with the Mountains and Rivers Order since 2006, including 4 years of residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery and at the Zen Center of New York City. He began his training with the Zen Peacemakers at the 2013 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, where some of his family had perished. Before his hiring by ZP, Rami graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NY and has been a visual artist working in animation, film and graphic novels and presented art in NY galleries and Europe. He has contributed to hunger, community and hospice projects, participated in and worked for the Palestinian/Israeli Dialogue Project, translated Israeli soldiers’ testimonials for Breaking the Silence and was board member and field-director for the Inkwell Foundation, an non-profit organization of artists visiting children in hospitals. He is a graduate of School of International Training in Vermont where he studied Peacebuilding and Intercultural Conflict Transformation. Rami is also a graduate of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication Integration Program and has facilitated numerous intensive NVC trainings. He presented on peace-building on NPR, at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. Since Joining ZP in March 2015, Rami has supported Bernie in his travels and has coordinated the planning, operations and staff of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order....

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My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

Posted by on Jun 8, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

  MY CHAT WITH 8TH GRADERS ON AUSCHWITZ By Noemi Koji Santana For the past 15 years, I have been involved in one capacity or another with a small cluster of community-grown charter schools in the Bronx, New York. I served on their founding Board of Trustees and later, in my capacity as consultant, helped develop their business office, lead them in a strategic planning process that set the foundation for their network administration, as well as managing their rebranding. Through all of this, I have seen them grow from a Kindergarten to fifth grade school to three schools that will eventually all be K through 8th grade. The student body is comprised largely of inner-city Latino children, from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico Honduras and other Central and South American countries. There is also a growing number of new African immigrants. The rigorous curriculum has increased the chances for success for many of these children, as they graduate and find themselves in some of the best high schools of the City of New York. Because the schools are small with only two classes per each grade and also due to low to no attrition, we get to follow these students from Kinder through graduation. Students many times refer to me as the picture lady since I am often called upon to record school life and events with my camera. I also get to dialogue with faculty in their professional development room or during lunch breaks. It was one such occasion that created a unique opportunity for me to be a guest speaker for an eighth grade class, recently. The Social Studies teacher, a young, warm, funny and vivacious first-generation Dominican who can often be found in the gym during recess playing basketball with his students, was talking to me about the unit on the Holocaust he was currently teaching and I mentioned the fact that I had been to Auschwitz four times. His eyes lit up and it didn’t take but a minute for him to extend an invitation for me to speak to one of his classes about my experience. Their letters reflect the chat better than anything I could say.   Noemi Koji Santana     Dear Mrs. Santana, Thank you for your visit and talking about your experiences of visiting the Auschwitz camp. I have learned much more about the feelings of the generations of the Germans and Jewish people. They feel ashamed, embarrassed of what their grandparents or parents have gone through or did. It’s very depressing because people don’t want to talk about what had happened to them, they don’t even look you in the eye. Also by looking at the pictures, the camps were horrifying; it was depressing to the Jewish people. This relates to a novel named Unbroken by Lauren Hillenbrand and the Japanese internment camps because they were also depressed, lonely, and felt out of place. Two places that caught my attention were the forest and the Ash Pond. It helped me visualize how clueless the Jewish people were and innocent about their upcoming death. It also tells me how the ashes of the people were thrown in the pond because they didn’t seem important but in actuality every single one of them were. Your experience helped me learn that I should...

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Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Blog, Native American, News, Zen Peacemakers | 2 comments

Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

(The following invitation is to a members-led retreat organized by members of the Zen Peacemaker Order. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers.)   BEARING WITNESS IN SOUTH DAKOTA JULY 25-29, 2016 Ever since Zen Peacemakers canceled its retreat in the Black Hills, a number of people have said that they would like to return to South Dakota anyway this summer, reconnect with our Native American friends, and perhaps contribute in some way. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is offering to facilitate a group of people at Cheyenne River Reservation, north of Pine Ridge as of July 25. We think being able to visit other places of the Lakota would bring a broader perspective on how the people have creatively survived and adapted to the differences in a culture and a society, as opposed to the consequences of not adopting a Western thought process but evolving within the ‘adaptive’ cultural continuity of the Lakota Oyate. Tiokasin, who comes from Cheyenne River Reservation, will connect the group with various communities and give us opportunities to work hands-on in home construction, community gardens, and children and teen projects. We also hope to meet with elders and learn more about what Natives are doing to preserve their language and culture, and strengthen their connections with the land. Visits to Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Reservations are also possible. We hope that our coming together at Cheyenne River Reservation this summer will strengthen the energy and connections that began with the retreat last summer. We plan for the group to remain together for five days (even as they split up during the day to work in different areas), after which, depending on individual interests, people can continue to work on their own in various projects that interest them, return to the Black Hills or to Pine Ridge to renew friendships from last year, or go back home. This is not an organized retreat, so there is no retreat fee. Zen Peacemakers is not doing any organizing or logistics. Each participant is responsible for his/her own travel and accommodations (tents or motel). More details will follow, depending on your interest. You may place a comment to the organizer below, The main thread of communication is conducted on the ZPO Black Hills Facebook Group and on the EVENT PAGE on Facebook.     Thanks, Tiokasin Ghosthorse & Grover Gauntt  ...

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Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 in Blog, News, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 2 comments

Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor

(photo by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao)  On April 30th, 2016, after a ZPO International Governance Circle meeting, Bernie Glassman, who has been recovering from a stroke since January, performed a short ceremony to mark the recognition of Grant Couch as a dharma successor in his lineage. Grant Couch, sensei, worked for over 40 years in the financial services industry, with a focus on commercial and investment banking. Following his retirement as President and COO of Countrywide Capital Markets in 2008, Grant’s desire to contribute to other’s personal growth led him to take the position of CEO of Sounds True, a publisher of spiritual teachings where he served for two years. He was Chairman of Manhattan Bancorp and its subsidiary Bank of Manhattan from 2010 – 2015. His current focus is as the Co-Founder of the Conservative Caucus of Citizens Climate Lobby. In 1990 Grant began to explore various spiritual paths. After 4 years of religious and philosophical self-study he found a deep personal resonance in the Buddha’s teachings. Since then he has studied with many Tibetan, Zen and Vipassana teachers. And after attending a 2010 bearing witness retreat in Auschwitz he began working closely with Bernie Glassman and Zen Peacemakers’ three tenets. Grant graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Lehigh University. In addition to serving as the Chairman of Zen Peacemakers; he is on the investment committee of Aravaipa Ventures, a Colorado-based, impact technology VC fund; and is a financial advisor to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. Now retired, Grant is focused full time on finding a conservative solution to the challenging nexus of energy and the environment – aka climate change. Grant is the Chairman and Secretary of Zen Peacemakers, Inc.non-profit 501(c)3...

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“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bernie Glassman, Blog, Native American, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

“What Shall I Sing to You?” Video Interview with Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das

Bernie Glassman and Krishna Das met soon after the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills and shared about the practice of Bearing Witness and their personal experiences of the retreats in South Dakota USA and in Auschwitz/Birkenau Poland. Watch the video in full below or read the transcription of the interview here. Interview videotaped and edited by Rami Efal, video of Krishna Das performing in Auschwitz/Birkenau by Ohad...

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OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

Posted by on May 31, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, Reflections, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Order | 13 comments

OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko posted originally on her blog on May 21st 2016 Today is Vesak, a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. In his honor, people all over the world meditate, chant, walk, make prostrations and offerings, give charity, and vow to awaken. My husband, Bernie, has shared that during the first months after his stroke, while resting in bed, he has gone into a state of deep meditation that’s effortless, restful, and at the same time fully alert. He said that it has taken him into the most profound space of not-knowing that he has experienced so far, and that it felt so natural and organic that he thought nothing of it—didn’t think to himself Wow, this is something! or label it as special in any way—until someone asked him if he was bored lying in bed and staring out into space. It was only then, as he began to explain what was happening, that it occurred to him that perhaps something unusual was taking place. I was glad to hear this on his account, and also because it’s nice to know that when our body isn’t responding as it always has or when our energy level isn’t what it once was, this makes space for new things to happen. For myself, I’d always hoped that if and when I get older and weaker, I would have the alertness of mind to do prolonged meditation. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that enable Bernie to experience the state he described. People prepare and serve him food, people have helped him walk wherever he needed to go (now he can walk mostly on his own with a cane), someone makes the bed, someone sets up the table adjoining his bed with the things he needs to have on hand, someone makes sure to adjust the blanket and pillows when he can’t do this. Generous friends all over the world have given us money towards his recovery and have prayed and meditated on his behalf. All these things enable him to not just recover, but also explore a deep meditative state. Hunger and thirst would be distractions. Discomfort and pain, with no one on hand to help out, would hinder and obstruct. If we didn’t have the money for the things he needs for his wellbeing, if the therapists and caretakers didn’t do their job, if the food we get from friends and sangha wasn’t nourishing, if the messages we get from all over the world weren’t loving and supportive, I’m not sure he would have that experience. That is one reason why the Buddha is reputed to have said, upon his awakening, I and the entire earth have simultaneously achieved the Way. It wasn’t just he alone, as a separate being, who had that awakening, it was all beings. It had to include the parents who gave him birth and the aunt who raised him, the wife who nurtured him, the girl who brought him milk and honey when he was too weak to go on, the tree which provided him shelter as he sat, the earth that held him and the morning star that came up that auspicious day. Even Mara, known for sending...

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Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

Posted by on May 25, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

The following are two of many testimonials of those who have attended the Auschwitz/Bikrenau Bearing Witness retreat. They appear in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe” (English & German language) at https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en       All of Life in This Moment By Roshi Cornelius Collande Five days of meditation in Auschwitz. I imagined it to be a place of horror, but what I found was a holy place. A place where grief and joy, despair and hope, hate and love, tears and laughter are intertwined in an incomprehensible way. A place that constantly questions your being, a place that doesn’t leave you out, that doesn’t allow you to return to your everyday agenda. In the afternoon, rituals are performed in the barracks of the labor camp, at the gas chambers and crematoria. Everybody can choose between Jewish, Christian and Buddhist ceremonies. I specifically remember a celebration by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi. A beautiful clear autumn day, bright blue sky, old oaks with golden yellow leaves next to Gas Chamber III, birds twitter and some deer are grazing at a distance. We are beside a pond, where the ashes of the killed were dumped. The water reflects the trees. Kaddish, the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, is being read; in Hebrew, German, Arabic, in all the languages of those who are attending. May the Great Name whose Desire gave birth to the universe Resound through the Creation – Now! May this Great Presence rule your life and your day and all lives of our World …” Who can grasp all this, who can endure it? Then Jewish Songs of Grief; many tears flow while we sing. And now, a Wedding Song, a song that a well-known rabbi had requested to be sung at his funeral. The “Great Name,” the “Great Presence,” as life and death. A Wedding Song, very tender at first, then more dynamic, then dancing, wildness, joy, yes joy and laughter in the company of 1.5 million dead. Deeply shattering, incomprehensible, unbearable for the individual. Only love can endure this … JOIN THE ZENPEACEMAKERS IN AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU IN 2016 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT AND REGISTER After all the Years of Looking By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmuller I remember one afternoon when our group of 100 people was sitting on the selection ramp in a big circle. In the center of the circle was the altar with the box containing the lists with names of those murdered here. This afternoon snowflakes covered the altar, and little by little they also mantled us in meditation, sheeted the stones on the ramp, the roofs of the barracks in the background with a light white layer. I was shivering with cold; even though I was sitting on a mat with warm winter clothes, the iciness crept right into my bones. The snow was blown into our faces by a freezing wind, my eyes watered. As I looked around the big circle, boundless love arose in me, gratitude and appreciation for this moment. Appreciation for the people who took it on to cultivate this practice together, who didn’t flee, who didn’t distract themselves which would be so much easier. I was touched by our courage to bear witness to ourselves and to the collective history that had assembled us here. I felt gratitude towards the practice, here in this place where once there was so much noise, violence, and horror. To sit in silence together in order to learn what it means to be human among...

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