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Follow the actions and reflections of Zen Peacemakers around the world.

Retracing the Path of Bullets

Posted by on Nov 28, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Blog, Peace, Projects, Reflections, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Zen Peacemaker Order | 1 comment

Retracing the Path of Bullets

    Retracing the Path of Bullets   A Report from a Seventeen-day Pilgrimage in Sweden, Bearing Witness to the Effects of the Arms Industry on Communities, Veterans, Refugees and Caregivers. By Pake Hall, ZPO Member, Sweden (Top photo by Lennart Kjörling. All other photos by Pake Hall) During the summer of 2015, forty individuals undertook a pilgrimage from Gothenburg harbor to the industrial district of Bofors in Karlskoga, to bear witness to how war and arms exports are present right here in the midst of the idyllic Swedish summer. It was an interfaith group and people joined and left at different points along the way. So why did we do it? How can walking along open Swedish roads, listening to stories and meditating have importance in connection with this subject? In spring of 2014, I became ensnared in the net of endless discussions around refugees and Swedish arms exports on Facebook. That spring, the rise of the extreme right wing Sweden Democrats party and a new arms deal between Sweden and Saudi Arabia were the reason that these issues were being so hotly debated. The discussions soon became more like polarized monologs and in my opinion led lead nowhere. One thing that struck me was that many of those who were very critical of allowing refugees to come in to Sweden often wrote things like:” They are not real war refugees” and ”Those who really need to flee are not coming here. Those who come are just luxury refugees.” For my part, I was just as convinced that they were truly refugees and that they were fleeing from inhumane conditions and terrible suffering. The discussions became very strongly polarized, with people just talking past one another and separation grew with each exchange. When I looked at what others wrote and at my replies, it struck me that I had very little direct experience of war and of refugees in Sweden. In many ways, I live in an insulated world where I mostly just heard stories that reinforced my worldview. How would it be to actually listen to a Swedish soldier who had been in combat? Or to people that actually work in the Swedish arms trade? To refugees? To people working in the refugee camps… I felt a strong impulse to take the time to dwell on questions around war, the proximity of war and how the Swedish arms export business affects me and the world I live in. My first idea was to walk by myself from the harbor of Gothenburg, which is Sweden’s largest export harbor, to Bofors in Karlskoga, which over the years has become symbolic of Sweden’s arms export industry. During the journey I planned to meet with people who in various ways have experienced war and arms exports, so I could listen to their stories with as open a mind as possible, and see what grew out of that. My inspiration for doing this came for the most part from the experience of participating in the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in in November 2013. But I was also inspired by the accounts of Zen monk Claude AnShin Thomas of his experiences during Peace Pilgrimages he made all over the world, which I read in his book called At Hell’s Gate: A Soldier’s Journey...

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2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz Retreat Summary

Posted by on Nov 19, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Zen Peacemakers | 7 comments

2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz Retreat Summary

‘This [Auschwitz retreat] is an opportunity to love, and to give up fear.’ Bernie called, spirited yet tender, from the middle of the auditorium on his way to his quarters after delivering his opening remarks for the 2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat.   He was surrounded by eighty participants from seventeen countries who have traveled seas and land to participate. Forty-five of them, an unprecedented number, had come to Auschwitz for the first time with the Zen Peacemakers. In the following five days, through rain, snow and sunshine, we shared time at the camp, visiting the barracks of children, women and men in places where they spent their last nights and days, we dedicated ceremonies at the remains of the crematoriums and ash fields where they were killed and disposed of, and we sat silently at the selection site where this very decision of their fate was made by other fellow human beings. From the silence, we called their names and those of our own loved ones that died there. Above us, crows circled and swooped.   “I came quite “not knowing” and plunged into one the most meaningful experiences in my life. I felt cared for, safe and guided through this week with enough flexibility to find my own pace. I felt as part of a compassionate community and I am deeply thankful for all these moments of deep humanity. ” – Retreat Participant   Day by day, we further revealed the layout of the camp and the schedule was marked by extended time for self reflection, private practice and exploration. We bore witness to moments of grief of soft lullabies in German, Hebrew and French and moments of celebration of life by songs in Arabic, Dutch and many other tongues. We heard from Yaser and Rabia, two Palestinian siblings, refugees from present-day war-torn Syria of their moments of despair and inspiration, of caring for family and friends, and joined them in the Al-Fatiha – the most essential Muslim prayer – in closing our final silent circle, kneeling palms up by the alter at the selection site. Their presence at the retreat anchored our experience in the present suffering of their people and many others around the world.   One afternoon, Bernie, wheeled by chair and surrounded by the participants, visited the ashes of his late wife Sandra Jishu Holmes which he spread by ‘Jishu’s tree’, located behind the Sauna (the camp’s inmate processing center), at one of the ash depository fields in the camp. On another afternoon he visited a hospice at Oświęcim that was built by August Kowalczyk, an escaped prisoner from Auschwitz and a well known actor in Poland. August, like Marian, attended many of the Zen Peacemakers retreats in Auschwitz and was so moved as to build a place in Oświęcim which will offer a dignified and caring End of Life transition “To survive the memory of those who had the courage to risk their lives to help prisoners of Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau… a sign that during the most cruel times, inhabitants of this land did not remain indifferent to evil and suffering of others.” (Translated from Polish, from Fundacja Pomnik Hospicjum Miastu Oświęcim website) . It now serves 23 beds for individuals with terminal illnesses.   “Unique experience of collective compassion and courage, to stay with what is horrifying and unfathomable in us, in humankind....

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Zen Peacemakers Response to the US Elections

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 in Blog, News, Peace, Reflections, Zen Peacemakers | 5 comments

Zen Peacemakers Response to the US Elections

Zen Peacemakers Response to the US Elections The recent election in the United States has had a deep impact, not just on Americans but on many around the world. It has stoked shock, fear, upset, and anger in many, and relief, hope, and gladness in others. The big differences in how we feel reflect the diversity of people, their karmas, values and vision. That difference is no problem; honoring those differences while seeking common ground and taking action is the challenge facing us now. This is the best time to invoke the Three Tenets and bring forth the mind of not-knowing, bearing witness, and a response grounded in these Tenets. Rather than knowing what to fear and expect, which sows fires of confusion, outrage and victimhood, let’s cultivate not-knowing, letting go of preconceptions and certainties. Please use whatever practice grounds you in this space, be it meditation, mindfulness, ceremony, or prayer. Bear witness to what arises, both outside and inside, and then honor the response that naturally comes forth from this present moment. This is the best of times to practice these Three Tenets, grounding our perceptions and actions in our experience of the wholeness of life rather than in fear and bias. May we serve this Whole with strength, patience, humor, and determination. Roshi Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director Roshi Eve Marko Sensei Grant Couch, Chairman Sensei Chris Panos, President Rami Efal, Executive Director...

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Bernie Off to Poland

Posted by on Oct 28, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order | 3 comments

Bernie Off to Poland

(in photo, Bernie exercising with Ari Setsudo Pliskin)   By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, ZPO   Bernie goes off to Poland on Friday. Back in June, when he barely walked and had only just mastered the stairs, he began to say how much he wanted to join the November retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Zen Peacemakers’ 21st annual retreat at the concentration camps. To be honest, I thought it was pretty crazy. When we filled out questionnaires for the Taub Clinic in Alabama, one of the questions asked what specific and practical outcomes Bernie hoped for from their intensive therapy, and he asked me to write that he wished to go to the retreat in Poland. Again I thought it was pretty crazy. On Friday he’s going. Without me. There will be people accompanying him on the planes between Boston and Krakow, and someone with him the entire time he’s in Poland, not to mention some 80 other folks who’ll be happy to see him and do everything they can for him. He’s been practicing his walking outside on uneven terrain, as he’s doing with Ari in the photo. At the camps themselves he’ll need to use his wheelchair, and momentarily I think of one of the exhibits at the Auschwitz Museum showing the various canes and prosthetics the people arriving on the trains used. They were the very ones who were quickly ushered to extinction while the mechanical aids, seen as more valuable than the humans, were given a longer life. I wonder what he’ll think when he sees that exhibit. If he sees it. The Museum is not wheelchair accessible and it’s a lot of walking. Bernie will have to pace himself, see what he can do, how far he can go, how far he can let himself be from a bathroom. The camps are meant to be arduous. No drinking or eating is allowed inside those fences, and Birkenau itself is huge. But over the 21 years quite a number of people with some disability have joined this retreat. Since I’ve heard of his wish to go back there I’ve thought of the old scenario of human approaching the officer in elegant uniform and told whether to go right or left. I think I know where Bernie at 77, after a stroke, using a cane or wheelchair, would have been told to go. And me? At 66? Hair half-gray half-brown, energetic but with a middle turned flabby and perpetual blue circles under her eyes? Where would I be sent now?   Originally published on Eve’s blog. Read more of her writings...

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ZPO Members Complete NYC Street Retreat, Sep 15-18

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Blog, Homelessness, Street Ministry, Uncategorized, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

ZPO Members Complete NYC Street Retreat, Sep 15-18

In photo: Jiryu, Mukei, Kim, Rudie, and Bogai By A. Jesse Jiryu Davis, ZPO New York City, NY USA For four days and three nights, I led a small group who chose to be homeless. In preparation, we raised a few thousand dollars to donate to homeless services, then we left behind our wallets and phones and all possessions, and joined to live on the streets together. We slept in parks, ate at soup kitchens, and begged for change. We meditated and chanted twice a day. Street retreat is a practice of the Zen Peacemaker Order. It’s a way to raise some money for charity, to bear witness to the lives of homeless people, and to taste the renunciation of the first Buddhist monks. I’ve been on retreats before, but this is my first time leading one. As you might predict, I lived in the grip of anxiety for the weeks before the retreat, but once the retreat actually began it didn’t take long for me to relax into its flow. We had favorable weather, we had enough to eat, and we found safe places to sleep each night. Here’s a recap we wrote together. Thursday We met in Washington Square park, on a mild day. There were five of us: Mukei, Bogai, Rudie, Kim, and Jiryu. We introduced ourselves, meditated, and began a Day of Reflection. We walked to the Bowery Mission for an evangelical service and meal. In the chapel, a Baptist preacher shouted and growled a sermon about his salvation from crack addiction. The pews were filled with street people. Most slept or played with their cell phones. A few shouted “amen!” The preacher called for the congregation to come forward and be blessed. A handful of men walked to the front and the preacher commanded Satan to release them in the name of Jesus. Everyone in the room should’ve come to the front, according to the preacher, because all were sinners who needed the salvation of Jesus. Dinner was above-par: roast chicken, rice, a salad with sliced turkey, apple juice and styrofoam bowls of cheese and caramel popcorn. I’d noticed a truck unloading boxes of Whole Foods leftovers earlier, perhaps the chicken was from there. We walked in the twilight through Chinatown’s neon commotion, to arrive at a Sufi mosque, Dergah Al-Farah, on West Broadway. We met their leader Sheikha Fariha and an assistant Abdul Rahim. They offered a place to sleep that night, which we accepted gratefully. They also offered a breakfast that morning but I had to decline—their generosity was so abundant it was interfering with our retreat. In typical Muslim fashion they offered three times and we declined thrice, before it was settled. We stayed for the Zikr that night: for hours the Sufis praised God in English and Arabic, with chants, singing, and dancing. We slept on their balcony, on piles of sheepskins. Friday We woke around 7am, made coffee from the mosque’s kitchen, and took some of the food the Sufis had left for us: whole wheat bagels and a block of cheddar. We wouldn’t have breakfast until 10:30, so we went back to Washington Square Park and sat zazen. We dedicated the merit of the previous Day of Reflection and began a new one. We hiked up to 31st St...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Malgosia Roshi

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Reflections, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Malgosia Roshi

   This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from 20 years of participants in the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.     How to Distinguish Day from Night By Roshi Małgorzata Braunek (1947 – 2014) Photos courtesy of Roshi Andrzej Krajewski. Pictured above: Bernie, Jakusho Kwong Roshi, Małgorzata Roshi, Peter Matthiessen Roshi, Junyu Kuroda Roshi at Auschwitz-Birkenau   Bernie says that the places of pain and suffering are our greatest teachers. Therefore we went to Auschwitz – a symbol of the greatest evil that man has done to his like. Usually noticing the ubiquitous suffering around us does not mean that we are immersed in it. Rather, we train not to recognize it, because we are afraid that we can’t stand it. The first time I traveled to Auschwitz I just asked myself if I can face the fear, apart from that I did not know what would happen here. The most important was to understand that every thought to eliminate anything and anyone is the voice of the torturers slumbering in me. It turned out that I had such thinking as ‘eksterminujących’ (exterminate) in myself, and that there’s no end to it. For example, sweeping a container of liquid on ants, killing a mosquito or a fly. I think that is accompanied by: “Ugh, that’s awful! This must be eliminated! Dispose! Let them disappear!”; After all, this is the same way of thinking that was applied to the Jews, Gypsies, beggars, gay, to all those who were and are “different”; We see them as foreign, other, dirty (inside or outside), barbarians, worse than us – in a word, vermin disrupting our lives. They are useless, so they must be eliminated! The world would be better without them. The world knows this lesson very well … When I saw the executioner in myself for the first time, I kept crying a long while and could hardly stop again. The whole camp melted in my tears. When I sit on the ramp or in the barracks for hours, I touch suffering directly. Sure, we are sitting there in warm jackets, we know we’ll soon have something to eat… Sure I do not know about the cold back then, I don’t wear those thin striped uniforms. But this is not about historical reconstruction. It is important to listen to what this place has to tell us. You encounter yourself and your own fear. The suffering of the people there was and is unimaginable and incomparable. They were in hell here on earth, but you have to realize that this is not a closed chapter. There’s hell within us, we go on creating it continuously … (…) Roshi Małgorzata Braunek (1947 – 2014) was an accomplished Polish artist and actresses and a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe. She was the wife of Roshi Andrzej Krajewski with whom she co-led the Kanzeon Zen Center and sangha in Warsaw, Poland. (fot. Piotr Kowalski)     This is an excerpt and 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: https://janando.de/steinrich/en         JOIN THE ZEN PEACEMAKERS IN 2016 – Register or Learn more about the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat in...

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Large Sprite, Large Heart- In the Aftermath of a Street Retreat

Posted by on Oct 4, 2016 in Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Homelessness, Hunger, Reflections, Street Ministry, Zen Peacemakers | 5 comments

Large Sprite, Large Heart- In the Aftermath of a Street Retreat

During September 22-25 2016, six individuals have partaken in a Street Retreat in New York City, a homelessness plunge based on Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Below is their email exchange in its aftermath concerning one individual they met on the streets. (September 28 2016) A vignette on our street retreat, As some of you know I went on a street retreat in NYC from Thursday to Sunday last week. In the course of being homeless we befriended a 47 year old woman who had been living on the street for 25 years now and is still alive. Fatima acted as our street coordinator; making sure we got our food at the Bowery Mission before others so we could get to the park for our closing ceremony on Sunday, got us coffee in the morning, showed us where to sleep in a big park in the village. She had amazing energy; you could see how alive she was from the way she laughed and cried to the way she offered herself to us; wanting to be seen and heard. She didn’t have teeth and admitted to taking crack and alcohol every day because she didn’t know how to cope with her life. We were sitting in our circle meditating and speaking from the heart and with a tear streaked face she looked into our eyes and said, “don’t forget me don’t forget Fatima”;. It reminded me of these parts of me that cry, are confused, feel messy and all our parts that cry “don’t forget me”. Marushka   (September 28 2016) Dear Friends, As you know we had a quick discussion & agreed we’d like to do something for Fatima for her upcoming birthday. I told her I would meet her for lunch again this Saturday at 12:30 at the meatloaf place; no guarantee she’ll be there but she did say she’s there every Saturday. I am going to bring a $100 Kmart gift card for her & say it’s from all of us; if however she doesn’t show I will just keep it for myself. Either way I will report what happens, & if she does show up I’ll give you all my address for any contribution you’d like to make. Gassho, Scott B.   (September 30 2016) Dear Street Sangha, Good day! Hard to believe that 7 days ago we were on the streets – not knowing what a night we were to experience. The donation to Fatima of $100 will come from the mala donations. So I will reimburse Scott. I don’t recommend any more $ at this time, considering her situation and multiple addictions. Let’s please keep her safe. Wherever you are – be here! And deeply enjoy and appreciate this miraculous life. Love Genro   (October 2 2016) Dear Friends, I connected with Fatima yesterday. When I walked into the soup kitchen, looking & presenting as I usually do, I was struck by the ease in which I could walk right past the line outside to explain to the manager who I was and why I was there. After a short wait among some of the familiar faces I spotted Fatima, but when I called out to her she didn’t recognize me. When I explained I was Scott from the retreat her eyes lit up and she ran up & hugged me, in tears saying “You came!” As we were saying hello...

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Taking Action: Building a Year-Round Greenhouse in South Dakota

Posted by on Sep 30, 2016 in Blog, Native American, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 1 comment

Taking Action: Building a Year-Round Greenhouse in South Dakota

Continuing the momentum of work by Zen Peacemakers on Turtle Island (USA), many of our members, past participants of the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat and affiliated others have followed the three-tenets and have given rise to myriad organized actions, contributing to the Native American community and developing relationships across cultures. Below is a report of yet another such action.   By Mujin Sunim   During a Native American retreat with the Lakota in the Black Hills in 2015, we were won over by a very innovative project: to build a self-sufficient, year-round greenhouse. The builders, Kim and Frank, are Native Americans who live on a plot of land in the middle of beautiful rolling hills in Vermont. Kim with Jen Leonard (my hostess, fellow enthusiast and kind friend) and I met last year at the retreat and it was then that Kim told me of their dream to build the green greenhouse. It seemed a great idea to encourage people to grow their own food, even in very harsh conditions. And so we set the ball rolling and the 9.7 by 4.3 meters greenhouse took off. Most greenhouses prolong the growing season but can’t make it through freezing winter conditions and so the various heating systems envisaged by Frank are essential. In addition to wind and solar producing heat and electricity, there are rocket stoves, and in-house fertilization with irrigation from the water of large basins for breeding fish – which can be also eaten. As I realized that the greenhouse was near to Montreal (my birthplace), just a 1½ hour drive, it seemed sensible to go there and then visit Kim and Frank. – along with Jen and her daughters, Kaiya and Aiyana. We all followed the ups and the downs of building (bad cold weather, lack of help, supply of materials, ill health and so on) and worried that maybe it was too much for Kim and Frank: could they manage and would it ever be finished? But we had faith in Frank’s architectural talent. The visit was planned well in advance and so with the trusty help of Jen who drove and cooked and filled the car with efficient and comfortable camping gear (I had my own tent) and Kaiya and Aiyana who were continual supports, we made it. Just before setting out, I rang Kim and she told me that it was nearly finished and that we would be amazed – and we WERE: The greenhouse is truly beautiful. The walls are mostly logs (for insulation and ventilation) set in adobe. There are also wooden walls protected with slates. Windows are on the south side (of course) and the heating pipes from the rocket stoves pass under the growing trays (see Frank’s picture above.) There will be a detailed booklet for any one interested…. Just let me know. We are all waiting to hear about the yield….   About Mujin: After completing studies in psychology and pedagogy, Mujin Sunim was ordained in Sri Lanka under Ven. B. Ananda Maitreya Maha Nayaka Thera in 1976. She took bhikkhuni ordination in 1985 under In-hong Sunim at Soknam-sa. In 1987 she co-founded Lotus Lantern International Buddhist Center and in 2005 she opened Popkye-sa / Dharma Realm in Switzerland. Her main interests are training and living Buddhism in the modern world....

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