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: Greg

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Greg

 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.   By Greg Rice, USA   This last November I quit fishing early to attend the annual Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz, Poland. After an all-day flight, I arrived at the hotel in Kraków after dark, tired and unsure of what I was doing there. Within minutes I was invited to dinner with a group of other participants. I felt welcomed in as part of this retreat immediately, and my doubts vanished… In the big changing room of the “sauna” was a display of thousands of photos collected by the guards as they stripped the prisoners of their lives. Sitting in that room, we sang a simple song, the first line of which was “how could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful”. We all sang, in this dreadful room, first looking each other in the eyes, then at the beautiful pictures of happy children, of lovers, of grandmothers. Pictures taken in a time in their lives when they were happy, a time in their lives like this time in ours. And then they experienced what no living being should ever experience. It broke my heart, walking slowly through these walls of photos, singing “how could anyone see you as anything less than beautiful.” How could they? One day, as we stood in a circle around the blown-up remains of Crematorium chamber IV, we all read the Kaddish in our native tongue. It was read in at least eight different languages. At the end, Reb Shir blew on the Shofar – the ram’s horn. It was the first time I had ever heard it. The sound brought tears to my eyes. It seemed a strong and ancient call to the world, to the ashes, to all that keeps us separate. It was a voice saying we are still here, we will always be here, all of us. It was the sound of perseverance and inclusiveness. To me, a secular guy, the sound of that Shofar was Holy. There is a teaching that says, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha. What needs to be killed is the sense of truth, of knowing, the root of this separateness that keeps us apart. It seems almost impossible to consider the Nazis who committed these crimes as just like us, as of our tribe. Yet if we can’t, we are living the same exclusionary view (…) 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...

read more

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, Inter-Faith, Reflections, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY

  Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Part 1 of this interview is available here. Below is part 2 of this interview.   Rami: I heard you say once that you have a vision of what Bearing Witness retreats are and that while both the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats in Rwanda  2014 and in the Black Hills 2015 were successful in their own way, they both differed from that vision. Can you say more about that? Bernie: In Rwanda, we had mostly two sides, the Hutu and the Tutsis. We had some Europeans of course, but it was all about Rwanda. No Congo, no others… We did have this guy—you heard about the guy that was a paramilitary guy that came to a retreat. Twenty years before, when the genocide in Rwanda was happening, he was sent with a battalion (I think it was 600 Belgian) to rescue the local Rwandans that were surrounded in a coliseum by militia. He was sent with orders to stop what was going on. He commanded armed soldiers, they could have stopped what was happening. When their planes landed, he got a message from Belgium headquarters saying, “Forget it. Rescue whatever Europeans you can. Go there, get them out, and leave.” And that’s what he did. For the twenty years he hadn’t told that story to anyone. Not to his wife—his marriage was on the verge of breaking up. It was killing him. At our retreat, 20 year later, he broke that story. Now that’s a bearing witness kind of thing. I tried to get more people like that. We couldn’t. So if I had any remorse, it was that I wasn’t able to get enough different kinds. It was just a few people. We had a woman who’s arm was chopped off, and we had the guy who cut her arm off there. But it wasn’t broad enough for me. I wanted—because I know the Europeans have a heavy burden in what happened there, and we did not have enough Europeans to spell that out. You could focus on what the Hutu  did to the Tutsis or vice-versa, but there’s that whole history of how this goes on. That’s what I was trying to bring out. Well it’s not so simple, you know. You start looking at who you’re blaming. It’s like in Israel, you dig down and say oh, this is what it looked like in there. And these people were in charge, and these people were killed in their villages. And you dig a little deeper, and you know. Part of my thing is wanting to show that things are not so simple as you think. And then the Jews wind up talking about how bad ‘these people’ are. Come on man, go back a little. Why did that happen? What went on? They were all caught up in what the thing is, which was enough for them. For me, it was never enough—just to see the one-sided view, or the two-sided view . . . Rami: And...

read more

ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Blog, Native American, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

PREFACE:The following invitation is to a ZPO members-led retreat organized in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers. This event is another expression of the building momentum between the Native American of Turtle Island and the Zen Peacemakers, following the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills and 2016 ZPO Members-led plunge in Cheyenne River reservation this past July. The retreat’s page on Facebook  Clouds in Water Zen Center Registration page  Article by ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota This Bearing Witness retreat began over 15 years ago. As many processes in life what I thought would take place and what is actually unfolding are different. About 15 years ago I read Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book “Bearing Witness.” There was an immediate resonance with Roshi’s teachings. Practicing meditation for years and working with people who appeared on the edges of life, Bernie Roshi expressed engaged Buddhism for me. I have always felt a deep connection to Beings who intersect with suffering and resilience. Direct experience combined with training in spiritual practices and formal education supports having a chance to help. I understood genocide and resilience was everywhere. After reading, “Bearing Witness”, I decided to meet Fleet Maull, Bernie Roshi and coordinate a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. This was not to happen until many years later. In 2012, I participated in a workshop with Fleet Maull at Upaya and asked him if he would come to Clouds in Water Zen Center and share his teachings with us. This was a direct bloom of my bodhisattva vow. In 2014, I went to Upaya again, this time to see Bernie Roshi. I explained my dream of a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. Bernie Roshi said, Zen Peacemakers Inc. was already coordinating this retreat in August of 2015 and I could come at that time. I went to the Black Hills and it was clear — the retreat was to be where I lived. In Minnesota there was was a concentration camp for 1700 Grandmothers, mothers, children and elders in the winter of 1862 and 1863 at Fort Snelling. Minnesota’s legacy of genocide is embodied at Fort Snelling. As a non-native person, I am a guest on the Land of the Dakota. As a guest, I have a responsibility to this host, to honor and remember those who died at that concentration camp with dignity. The process of visioning a Bearing Witness retreat, that began 15 years ago has come to fruition. The spirits of Wounded Knee, Auschwitz/Birkenau and the streets live within me. I have directly experienced the expression of love and compassion from Zen Peacemakers participants and these places. I was sustained by the sacred fire and beings in the Black Hills while listening to stories of genocide and resilience. At Auschwitz/Birkenau, which I attend with the Zen Peacemakers in 2015, I was sobbing with agony, overwhelmed with grief in the children’s barrack at Birkenau, and an angel held me in the form of a human. On the street retreat in SF, a noble one would stand guard, so I could take care of my bio needs at 5 am. My heart has been blown wide open for all beings through these loving actions arising from the boundless ocean of compassion. How could...

read more

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness Ministry, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, News, Three Tenets of ZP | 4 comments

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING

  ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING Interview with Roshi Bernie Glassman, Conducted in Montague, MA USA in June 2016 Transcribed by Scott Harris Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Below is part 1 of this interview. Part 2 will follow.   BERNIE:  So, I just want to talk and lay out the history of the retreat in Auschwitz. When I entered Birkenau the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sense of souls. And at that time I called it a remembrance of souls. In English it’s an interesting word—remembrance or re-membering, putting together of souls. Now, I did not fix a label on the souls. If you think of it—and I didn’t think of it at the time, at the time I just thought I was remembering souls. But there were so many souls there. Definitely it wasn’t just Jewish souls. There’s Poles, and Gypsies—so many different souls. So at this time, that’s a feeling I had, and I didn’t know what that meant, for remembrance of souls. At that time I didn’t go deeper into “what does this all mean?” I was just overwhelmed by remembrance of souls. And I decided I need to sit here until that becomes clear—perhaps as I’d done before. And I felt I had to do it here. I had to sit until I had that experience that cleared it up for me in some way. I had to go deeper. I don’t know when I decided that I would invite other people to join me in that. It was either then, or on the plane going home with Eve—I don’t remember now, things get a little mixed up. But by the time I got home I decided that I was going to invite people to join me, and that it would not be a Jewish retreat. That it would be a retreat honoring all those souls that had been desecrated. And so therefore I spent a year and a half inviting—before we opened it up to people—I first invited certain people to the retreat. And by inviting, it meant that I was going to pay for them. So there were certain people I invited. And I tried to invite as many leaders of different faiths — The first retreat we probably had about eight, nine different faiths represented — and probably had twenty countries. And because I gave a lot of scholarships (because certain people didn’t have money, but I wanted them there), we raised money for that first retreat. And it was a very important retreat for me. I thought it was going to be one retreat. That’s it. At the retreat we, Eve Marko, Andrzej Krajewski and I, decided that it had to go on. I tried different things to make the theme be how we treat others. And most people who came were fixated on one group who treated another group badly. They couldn’t generalize. Whether it was the Palestinians being treated badly by the Jews, whether...

read more

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Blog, Council Ministry, Reflections, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order | 7 comments

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

  By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Spiegel, Switzerland Tala is three years old. A year ago she arrived out of the war in Syria to Switzerland. Her mother brought her to our women circle. The first time some weeks ago, Tala sat for two hours in the circle, holding the talking piece when it was her turn, looking in our faces, smiling. Tala loves it, as we all do, our sitting in the meditation room around the candle in deep listening of what our one heart wants to share and to the sharing of all the hearts in our circle of women. Yesterday evening she laid down on the black zabuton and slept during all the rounds of our sharing, but at the end she woke up to blow off the candle. It is a good way – to share in council – about the pain and the joy we hold in our hearts. We invoked the presence of family members who are gone in the war, we called their names and accepted the deep pain of the loss. I often hear in Switzerland people hope not to meet their parents too often because their relationships are not always easy. In the circle, we listen to the pain of loosing everything, home, work, culture, friends, brothers and sisters — and out of this, came to me the idea to write poems in Arabic and work together on translation, to share it in a book. Later when I expressed this idea, I saw light in the sad eyes of the woman sitting next to me. After the council we had tea and sweets together. Every time the Swiss women come to the circle, or to the meditation, they bring bags full of beautiful outfits and shawls for the others or for their friends or families. The field is filled with love and respect for our different lives as women, all with the wish to be happy and live a precious life. Later, I wrote to Jared Seide a dear peacemaker friend and director of the Center of Council, asking if he knew anyone who would have Council guidelines in Arabic language. The same day, I got it, with warm wishes from Jack Zimmerman, Leon Berg and Itaf Awad, founder and head teachers and editors of the book “The Way of Council.” I am deeply moved of their generosity and kind support. They generously shared — this is the essence of council, a wonderful practice to make peace in bringing all the pieces together. I feel deep gratitude to all who invited me in all the years, again and again, to be part in the circle, to practice it in letting my heart learning how to listen and to share.   Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller is a grandmother, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe and the development of the Zen Peacemaker Circles. She and her husband Roland are Zen teachers offering weekly Zazen practice in Spiegel, Switzerland. They are involved in various socially engaged activities around the world and are actively supporting Syrian refugees in their area. (Read more about Barbara)  ...

read more

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 1 comment

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

(Iris, on right, during 2013 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat)  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.   By Iris Katz, Israel It was in November 2010. It was my first time in the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. Three months before I have visited Bernie in Montague, USA. He had been telling me about the retreat, I told him that I had never been to Auschwitz. I used to have my own fears which prevented me to go there. They were connected to all that I have known about Auschwitz. Bernie convinced me to go. I went. I had “my” two tenets to follow: Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. The first one was very important for me. Forgetting all I knew, all that had made me afraid and horrified of the Holocaust and its Jewish victims that for me was the main issue about Auschwitz till then. Not-Knowing helped me to go, to be there and to bear witness with some sort of empty mind. Many experiences and few transformations were the outcome of my first retreat in Auschwitz. But one of these experiences changed my life. This one was connected to Ihab, the Israeli-Palestinian from the city of Jaffa, Israel. Ihab, my husband Tani and I became close friends during the retreat. We felt like cousins (which we are, mythologically) or friends who grew up together since childhood, many years back. We speak the same language, share the same history, and have the same background and ideas. I mean, I felt close or oneness with many people in the group. I felt close to psychologists or therapists, for example. I felt close to the victims and I even could feel their guards who had been “sharing” their lives on that place. But with Ihab it was different. We had our jokes, our joint stories, our small idiosyncratic talks, our combined ideas. But … I was an Israeli, a Jewish Israeli, and Ihab was Israeli as well, but “Arab” Israeli, as we keep saying in my country, or Palestinian Israeli, as “they” keep saying in my country. “They,” that is the “Arabs” in Israel. It was a painful recognition to reflect on that in Auschwitz Ihab and myself were equals, close, just the same people, having different religions – but in Israel we were not equal at all. Mainly, our particular communities were not equal at all. It was like a wide opening in my consciousness: the insight, active and alive in me, that I have to do something about this. This special and deep insight into my sick society has brought me to the decision that has become a path in my life. This path was dedicating myself to give my share in making “Arabs” and “Jews” in Israel more equal, bringing them closer, having them experience the same recognition, respect, and dignity.(…) 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...

read more

Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Native American, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 6 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

This week twenty-four Zen Peacemakers arrived at South Dakota to commence the Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Reservation plunge, with participants from Turtle Island (USA), Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Palestine and Myanmar. This plunge, as actions inspired by the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets are often called, was coordinated and organized by members of the ZPO, and led by Grover Genro Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse who was born in Cheyenne River Reservation, home of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. This effort was initiated following the momentum of the Zen Peacemakers 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills. Before setting out, they picnicked in Rapid City with Charmaine White Face, Tuffy Sierra, Alice Sierra, Chas Jewett and Grover Genro Gauntt, some of whom were among the leaders of the retreat last year. They welcomed the Zen Peacemakers back, reviewed the expressions of trauma and beauty they may expect to see on the reservation and Tiokasin Ghosthorse advised: “As you walk about the land, be silent, let the land get to know YOU.” During the next five days, the group visited Bridger village, refuge of survivors of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, and met descendants Toni and Byron Buffalo to hear about the challenges of their community; They camped at and mingled with the volunteers and Indian visitors at Simply Smiles Inc. Community Center at La Plant; Dipped in and cleaned around the Missouri River (Tiokasin: “the Lakota word for water is Mni — ‘that which carries feelings between you and I'”); The group met with Julie Garreau, executive director of Cheyenne River Youth Project and heard about Graffiti Jams art events and community efforts to address teen suicides and teen empowerment; They met with Keren Sussman at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB, refuge of 550 wild mustangs, and learned about the animals’ intricate family dynamics and the challenges of contact with humans; They withstood a fierce hailstorm and bore witness to breathtaking ever-changing sky. The group joined Simply Smiles Inc. construction crew and helped raise two brand new houses on the grassy mounds of La Plant, South Dakota. Simply Smiles puts up two houses per summer for local reservation residents. The event concluded with paying respect and listening to Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe who welcomed them at his home. The Zen Peacemakers Inc. supports these members-led plunges and is grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering and for the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity....

read more

Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Bernie's Health, Blog | 0 comments

Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

  Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge cakes, your attentiveness and kindness have been an invaluable source of encouragement and energy leading to a remarkable progress in Bernie’s health. Zen Peacemakers Inc. would like to express appreciation to you both. Thank...

read more

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

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

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

 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. By Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA Photos by Peter Cunningham   The suffering that we touched during our retreat at times led us into darkness and sometimes transformed into joy and healing as we sat and practiced together and heard one another. I remember Bernie’s old buddy Peter Matthiessen asking: How could one feel joy in such a place? Bearing witness is not only about bearing witness to one's own life but also to all of life. And it was here at Auschwitz that we bore witness to the suffering of others, to the suffering of ancestors, to our own suffering, and to the possibility of the transformation of suffering. Peter was astounded by the release he experienced at Auschwitz, and so were all of us. One of the ways that I have practiced bearing witness has been in the experience of Council, a practice where people sit in circle with each other and speak clearly and listen deeply. Council at Auschwitz was a way for us to communicate about the deepest issues of our lives, including suffering, death, and grief as well as meaning, healing and joy. Council was indeed one of the deepest ways that we taught each other during the retreat. Council is found in many cultures and traditions over the world. There is reference to it in Homer’s Iliad. One finds it in the tribal world of earth cherishing peoples. And, of course, it is a key strategy of communion and communication in the tradition of the Quakers, who so influenced the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In the 1970’s, I and others brought what we had learned in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement to our lives as teachers and people who were involved with social action and spiritual practice. Council, or the Circle of Truth, or whatever we called it then became a way for us to incorporate democratic and spiritual values into our collective and individual lives. In the mid-90’s, I introduced the Council process to Bernie and Jishu Holmes. It fit so well with their work as peacemakers, and they brought it to many places, including Poland. For Bernie and Jishu, Council seemed to be a practice that was naturally based in the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Healing. And it was to contribute to a more profound relationship with our time at Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the practice of Council did not necessarily lead us into seeing things the same way. It was not a consensus process at all. Rather, it was a way for people to recognize that each individual in the circle had his or her own experience, take on things, his or her own wisdom. When differing views and experiences were expressed in Council, the depth of field seemed to be much greater. Here we began to discover the importance and richness of differences. The practice of Council allowed people to develop appreciation for differences and to respect the differences of perspective that were held by Germans and Jews, by men and women, by old and young, by rich and poor, by the joyful and the terrified among us. We saw clearly that it was the intolerance of differences that made an Auschwitz possible. This is an excerpt...

read more

Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Blog, Native American, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed to send winter cloths for to Alice and Tuffy Sierra of Pine Ridge Reservation, who were among the Lakota leaders of the retreat. Reaching out to other Zen Peacemaker Order training groups, and with the use of social media and the ZPO Members Facebook page, other responded. Hundreds if not thousands of pounds of cloths were sent from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and other places around the United States. Members gathered the clothes, boxed and shipped them to the Sierras in South Dakota. Thank you to all the members for your organizing, donating, and contributing to this effort. Peg Reishin Murray, a Zen Peacemaker Order member from Boulder, Colorado USA, chose to drive her donation to the reservation herself. She writes: My community responded wholeheartedly, my VW van was filled to the rooftop in a few short weeks, and I drove the van to Pine Ridge staying just long enough to unload the donations, then turned around and drove home. Way boring, no? Then Alice sent a second request and in late January 2016 the scenario pretty much repeated itself—except this time I received a Tuffy Teaching and that is the story I’d like to relate. According to Google maps, the drive from Boulder Colorado to Pine Ridge takes a little over 5 hours. In reality, Google couldn’t be trusted here and on both occasions that I drove to the reservation following its directions (albeit different routes each visit), I entered a hell realm of GPS deceit that added about two hours to Google’s estimated drive time. (Tuffy told me that he has tried to inform Google that their directions are way off but apparently this is another instance of Native Peoples being ignored) But let me be perfectly honest here—the scenery between Boulder and Pine Ridge is one of the most spacious, uncluttered and majestic landscapes you will encounter and at some point in the journey, an unbidden bliss and the thought, this is suññatā (Pali term meaning emptiness; voidness), arose in my mind. After many wrong turns, I finally found the road that leads to Alice and Tuffy’s home, and a second act in this comedy of errors unfolded as I attempted to contact Alice’s cell phone to let her know I had finally arrived. Of course, no signal. And the half mile long driveway leading to Alice and Tuffy’s home was a trough of scary-deep mud, the traverse of which only a 4WD might survive. After a brief moment of “ruh roh”, Facebook came to the rescue (text messages have a super power that can penetrate the airwaves that phone calls cannot). Soon Alice and Tuffy arrived from one direction and Genro serendipitously pulled in behind me. Genro climbed up into the truck bed and we efficiently unloaded my vehicle and reloaded theirs. I took a photo of the three of them to share. The whole encounter had been completely low key, routine, and pretty selfless up to this point. But then as I...

read more

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: Greg

Posted by on Aug 30, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Greg

 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.   By Greg Rice, USA   This last November I quit fishing early to attend the annual Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz, Poland. After an all-day flight, I arrived at the hotel in Kraków after dark, tired and unsure of what I was doing there. Within minutes I was invited to dinner with a group of other participants. I felt welcomed in as part of this retreat immediately, and my doubts vanished… In the big changing room of the “sauna” was a display of thousands of photos collected by the guards as they stripped the prisoners of their lives. Sitting in that room, we sang a simple song, the first line of which was “how could anyone ever tell you, you are anything less than beautiful”. We all sang, in this dreadful room, first looking each other in the eyes, then at the beautiful pictures of happy children, of lovers, of grandmothers. Pictures taken in a time in their lives when they were happy, a time in their lives like this time in ours. And then they experienced what no living being should ever experience. It broke my heart, walking slowly through these walls of photos, singing “how could anyone see you as anything less than beautiful.” How could they? One day, as we stood in a circle around the blown-up remains of Crematorium chamber IV, we all read the Kaddish in our native tongue. It was read in at least eight different languages. At the end, Reb Shir blew on the Shofar – the ram’s horn. It was the first time I had ever heard it. The sound brought tears to my eyes. It seemed a strong and ancient call to the world, to the ashes, to all that keeps us separate. It was a voice saying we are still here, we will always be here, all of us. It was the sound of perseverance and inclusiveness. To me, a secular guy, the sound of that Shofar was Holy. There is a teaching that says, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill the Buddha. What needs to be killed is the sense of truth, of knowing, the root of this separateness that keeps us apart. It seems almost impossible to consider the Nazis who committed these crimes as just like us, as of our tribe. Yet if we can’t, we are living the same exclusionary view (…) 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...

read more

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, Inter-Faith, Reflections, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY

  Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Part 1 of this interview is available here. Below is part 2 of this interview.   Rami: I heard you say once that you have a vision of what Bearing Witness retreats are and that while both the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats in Rwanda  2014 and in the Black Hills 2015 were successful in their own way, they both differed from that vision. Can you say more about that? Bernie: In Rwanda, we had mostly two sides, the Hutu and the Tutsis. We had some Europeans of course, but it was all about Rwanda. No Congo, no others… We did have this guy—you heard about the guy that was a paramilitary guy that came to a retreat. Twenty years before, when the genocide in Rwanda was happening, he was sent with a battalion (I think it was 600 Belgian) to rescue the local Rwandans that were surrounded in a coliseum by militia. He was sent with orders to stop what was going on. He commanded armed soldiers, they could have stopped what was happening. When their planes landed, he got a message from Belgium headquarters saying, “Forget it. Rescue whatever Europeans you can. Go there, get them out, and leave.” And that’s what he did. For the twenty years he hadn’t told that story to anyone. Not to his wife—his marriage was on the verge of breaking up. It was killing him. At our retreat, 20 year later, he broke that story. Now that’s a bearing witness kind of thing. I tried to get more people like that. We couldn’t. So if I had any remorse, it was that I wasn’t able to get enough different kinds. It was just a few people. We had a woman who’s arm was chopped off, and we had the guy who cut her arm off there. But it wasn’t broad enough for me. I wanted—because I know the Europeans have a heavy burden in what happened there, and we did not have enough Europeans to spell that out. You could focus on what the Hutu  did to the Tutsis or vice-versa, but there’s that whole history of how this goes on. That’s what I was trying to bring out. Well it’s not so simple, you know. You start looking at who you’re blaming. It’s like in Israel, you dig down and say oh, this is what it looked like in there. And these people were in charge, and these people were killed in their villages. And you dig a little deeper, and you know. Part of my thing is wanting to show that things are not so simple as you think. And then the Jews wind up talking about how bad ‘these people’ are. Come on man, go back a little. Why did that happen? What went on? They were all caught up in what the thing is, which was enough for them. For me, it was never enough—just to see the one-sided view, or the two-sided view . . . Rami: And...

read more

ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

Posted by on Aug 22, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Blog, Native American, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

PREFACE:The following invitation is to a ZPO members-led retreat organized in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers. This event is another expression of the building momentum between the Native American of Turtle Island and the Zen Peacemakers, following the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills and 2016 ZPO Members-led plunge in Cheyenne River reservation this past July. The retreat’s page on Facebook  Clouds in Water Zen Center Registration page  Article by ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota This Bearing Witness retreat began over 15 years ago. As many processes in life what I thought would take place and what is actually unfolding are different. About 15 years ago I read Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book “Bearing Witness.” There was an immediate resonance with Roshi’s teachings. Practicing meditation for years and working with people who appeared on the edges of life, Bernie Roshi expressed engaged Buddhism for me. I have always felt a deep connection to Beings who intersect with suffering and resilience. Direct experience combined with training in spiritual practices and formal education supports having a chance to help. I understood genocide and resilience was everywhere. After reading, “Bearing Witness”, I decided to meet Fleet Maull, Bernie Roshi and coordinate a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. This was not to happen until many years later. In 2012, I participated in a workshop with Fleet Maull at Upaya and asked him if he would come to Clouds in Water Zen Center and share his teachings with us. This was a direct bloom of my bodhisattva vow. In 2014, I went to Upaya again, this time to see Bernie Roshi. I explained my dream of a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. Bernie Roshi said, Zen Peacemakers Inc. was already coordinating this retreat in August of 2015 and I could come at that time. I went to the Black Hills and it was clear — the retreat was to be where I lived. In Minnesota there was was a concentration camp for 1700 Grandmothers, mothers, children and elders in the winter of 1862 and 1863 at Fort Snelling. Minnesota’s legacy of genocide is embodied at Fort Snelling. As a non-native person, I am a guest on the Land of the Dakota. As a guest, I have a responsibility to this host, to honor and remember those who died at that concentration camp with dignity. The process of visioning a Bearing Witness retreat, that began 15 years ago has come to fruition. The spirits of Wounded Knee, Auschwitz/Birkenau and the streets live within me. I have directly experienced the expression of love and compassion from Zen Peacemakers participants and these places. I was sustained by the sacred fire and beings in the Black Hills while listening to stories of genocide and resilience. At Auschwitz/Birkenau, which I attend with the Zen Peacemakers in 2015, I was sobbing with agony, overwhelmed with grief in the children’s barrack at Birkenau, and an angel held me in the form of a human. On the street retreat in SF, a noble one would stand guard, so I could take care of my bio needs at 5 am. My heart has been blown wide open for all beings through these loving actions arising from the boundless ocean of compassion. How could...

read more

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING

Posted by on Aug 19, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness Ministry, Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Opinions, Blog, News, Three Tenets of ZP | 4 comments

ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING

  ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING Interview with Roshi Bernie Glassman, Conducted in Montague, MA USA in June 2016 Transcribed by Scott Harris Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Below is part 1 of this interview. Part 2 will follow.   BERNIE:  So, I just want to talk and lay out the history of the retreat in Auschwitz. When I entered Birkenau the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sense of souls. And at that time I called it a remembrance of souls. In English it’s an interesting word—remembrance or re-membering, putting together of souls. Now, I did not fix a label on the souls. If you think of it—and I didn’t think of it at the time, at the time I just thought I was remembering souls. But there were so many souls there. Definitely it wasn’t just Jewish souls. There’s Poles, and Gypsies—so many different souls. So at this time, that’s a feeling I had, and I didn’t know what that meant, for remembrance of souls. At that time I didn’t go deeper into “what does this all mean?” I was just overwhelmed by remembrance of souls. And I decided I need to sit here until that becomes clear—perhaps as I’d done before. And I felt I had to do it here. I had to sit until I had that experience that cleared it up for me in some way. I had to go deeper. I don’t know when I decided that I would invite other people to join me in that. It was either then, or on the plane going home with Eve—I don’t remember now, things get a little mixed up. But by the time I got home I decided that I was going to invite people to join me, and that it would not be a Jewish retreat. That it would be a retreat honoring all those souls that had been desecrated. And so therefore I spent a year and a half inviting—before we opened it up to people—I first invited certain people to the retreat. And by inviting, it meant that I was going to pay for them. So there were certain people I invited. And I tried to invite as many leaders of different faiths — The first retreat we probably had about eight, nine different faiths represented — and probably had twenty countries. And because I gave a lot of scholarships (because certain people didn’t have money, but I wanted them there), we raised money for that first retreat. And it was a very important retreat for me. I thought it was going to be one retreat. That’s it. At the retreat we, Eve Marko, Andrzej Krajewski and I, decided that it had to go on. I tried different things to make the theme be how we treat others. And most people who came were fixated on one group who treated another group badly. They couldn’t generalize. Whether it was the Palestinians being treated badly by the Jews, whether...

read more

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

Posted by on Aug 12, 2016 in Blog, Council Ministry, Reflections, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Teachers, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemaker Order | 7 comments

The Woman Sitting Next to Me

  By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Spiegel, Switzerland Tala is three years old. A year ago she arrived out of the war in Syria to Switzerland. Her mother brought her to our women circle. The first time some weeks ago, Tala sat for two hours in the circle, holding the talking piece when it was her turn, looking in our faces, smiling. Tala loves it, as we all do, our sitting in the meditation room around the candle in deep listening of what our one heart wants to share and to the sharing of all the hearts in our circle of women. Yesterday evening she laid down on the black zabuton and slept during all the rounds of our sharing, but at the end she woke up to blow off the candle. It is a good way – to share in council – about the pain and the joy we hold in our hearts. We invoked the presence of family members who are gone in the war, we called their names and accepted the deep pain of the loss. I often hear in Switzerland people hope not to meet their parents too often because their relationships are not always easy. In the circle, we listen to the pain of loosing everything, home, work, culture, friends, brothers and sisters — and out of this, came to me the idea to write poems in Arabic and work together on translation, to share it in a book. Later when I expressed this idea, I saw light in the sad eyes of the woman sitting next to me. After the council we had tea and sweets together. Every time the Swiss women come to the circle, or to the meditation, they bring bags full of beautiful outfits and shawls for the others or for their friends or families. The field is filled with love and respect for our different lives as women, all with the wish to be happy and live a precious life. Later, I wrote to Jared Seide a dear peacemaker friend and director of the Center of Council, asking if he knew anyone who would have Council guidelines in Arabic language. The same day, I got it, with warm wishes from Jack Zimmerman, Leon Berg and Itaf Awad, founder and head teachers and editors of the book “The Way of Council.” I am deeply moved of their generosity and kind support. They generously shared — this is the essence of council, a wonderful practice to make peace in bringing all the pieces together. I feel deep gratitude to all who invited me in all the years, again and again, to be part in the circle, to practice it in letting my heart learning how to listen and to share.   Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller is a grandmother, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe and the development of the Zen Peacemaker Circles. She and her husband Roland are Zen teachers offering weekly Zazen practice in Spiegel, Switzerland. They are involved in various socially engaged activities around the world and are actively supporting Syrian refugees in their area. (Read more about Barbara)  ...

read more

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

Posted by on Aug 5, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 1 comment

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

(Iris, on right, during 2013 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat)  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.   By Iris Katz, Israel It was in November 2010. It was my first time in the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. Three months before I have visited Bernie in Montague, USA. He had been telling me about the retreat, I told him that I had never been to Auschwitz. I used to have my own fears which prevented me to go there. They were connected to all that I have known about Auschwitz. Bernie convinced me to go. I went. I had “my” two tenets to follow: Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. The first one was very important for me. Forgetting all I knew, all that had made me afraid and horrified of the Holocaust and its Jewish victims that for me was the main issue about Auschwitz till then. Not-Knowing helped me to go, to be there and to bear witness with some sort of empty mind. Many experiences and few transformations were the outcome of my first retreat in Auschwitz. But one of these experiences changed my life. This one was connected to Ihab, the Israeli-Palestinian from the city of Jaffa, Israel. Ihab, my husband Tani and I became close friends during the retreat. We felt like cousins (which we are, mythologically) or friends who grew up together since childhood, many years back. We speak the same language, share the same history, and have the same background and ideas. I mean, I felt close or oneness with many people in the group. I felt close to psychologists or therapists, for example. I felt close to the victims and I even could feel their guards who had been “sharing” their lives on that place. But with Ihab it was different. We had our jokes, our joint stories, our small idiosyncratic talks, our combined ideas. But … I was an Israeli, a Jewish Israeli, and Ihab was Israeli as well, but “Arab” Israeli, as we keep saying in my country, or Palestinian Israeli, as “they” keep saying in my country. “They,” that is the “Arabs” in Israel. It was a painful recognition to reflect on that in Auschwitz Ihab and myself were equals, close, just the same people, having different religions – but in Israel we were not equal at all. Mainly, our particular communities were not equal at all. It was like a wide opening in my consciousness: the insight, active and alive in me, that I have to do something about this. This special and deep insight into my sick society has brought me to the decision that has become a path in my life. This path was dedicating myself to give my share in making “Arabs” and “Jews” in Israel more equal, bringing them closer, having them experience the same recognition, respect, and dignity.(…) 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...

read more

Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

Posted by on Jul 29, 2016 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Blog, Native American, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 6 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA

This week twenty-four Zen Peacemakers arrived at South Dakota to commence the Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Reservation plunge, with participants from Turtle Island (USA), Poland, Belgium, Switzerland, Palestine and Myanmar. This plunge, as actions inspired by the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets are often called, was coordinated and organized by members of the ZPO, and led by Grover Genro Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse who was born in Cheyenne River Reservation, home of the Cheyenne River Lakota Nation. This effort was initiated following the momentum of the Zen Peacemakers 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills. Before setting out, they picnicked in Rapid City with Charmaine White Face, Tuffy Sierra, Alice Sierra, Chas Jewett and Grover Genro Gauntt, some of whom were among the leaders of the retreat last year. They welcomed the Zen Peacemakers back, reviewed the expressions of trauma and beauty they may expect to see on the reservation and Tiokasin Ghosthorse advised: “As you walk about the land, be silent, let the land get to know YOU.” During the next five days, the group visited Bridger village, refuge of survivors of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre, and met descendants Toni and Byron Buffalo to hear about the challenges of their community; They camped at and mingled with the volunteers and Indian visitors at Simply Smiles Inc. Community Center at La Plant; Dipped in and cleaned around the Missouri River (Tiokasin: “the Lakota word for water is Mni — ‘that which carries feelings between you and I'”); The group met with Julie Garreau, executive director of Cheyenne River Youth Project and heard about Graffiti Jams art events and community efforts to address teen suicides and teen empowerment; They met with Keren Sussman at the International Society for the Protection of Mustangs & Burros ISPMB, refuge of 550 wild mustangs, and learned about the animals’ intricate family dynamics and the challenges of contact with humans; They withstood a fierce hailstorm and bore witness to breathtaking ever-changing sky. The group joined Simply Smiles Inc. construction crew and helped raise two brand new houses on the grassy mounds of La Plant, South Dakota. Simply Smiles puts up two houses per summer for local reservation residents. The event concluded with paying respect and listening to Arvol Looking Horse, 19th Generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe who welcomed them at his home. The Zen Peacemakers Inc. supports these members-led plunges and is grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering and for the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity....

read more

Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

Posted by on Jul 22, 2016 in Bernie's Health, Blog | 0 comments

Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers

  Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge cakes, your attentiveness and kindness have been an invaluable source of encouragement and energy leading to a remarkable progress in Bernie’s health. Zen Peacemakers Inc. would like to express appreciation to you both. Thank...

read more

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

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

Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan

 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. By Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA Photos by Peter Cunningham   The suffering that we touched during our retreat at times led us into darkness and sometimes transformed into joy and healing as we sat and practiced together and heard one another. I remember Bernie’s old buddy Peter Matthiessen asking: How could one feel joy in such a place? Bearing witness is not only about bearing witness to one's own life but also to all of life. And it was here at Auschwitz that we bore witness to the suffering of others, to the suffering of ancestors, to our own suffering, and to the possibility of the transformation of suffering. Peter was astounded by the release he experienced at Auschwitz, and so were all of us. One of the ways that I have practiced bearing witness has been in the experience of Council, a practice where people sit in circle with each other and speak clearly and listen deeply. Council at Auschwitz was a way for us to communicate about the deepest issues of our lives, including suffering, death, and grief as well as meaning, healing and joy. Council was indeed one of the deepest ways that we taught each other during the retreat. Council is found in many cultures and traditions over the world. There is reference to it in Homer’s Iliad. One finds it in the tribal world of earth cherishing peoples. And, of course, it is a key strategy of communion and communication in the tradition of the Quakers, who so influenced the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. In the 1970’s, I and others brought what we had learned in the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war movement to our lives as teachers and people who were involved with social action and spiritual practice. Council, or the Circle of Truth, or whatever we called it then became a way for us to incorporate democratic and spiritual values into our collective and individual lives. In the mid-90’s, I introduced the Council process to Bernie and Jishu Holmes. It fit so well with their work as peacemakers, and they brought it to many places, including Poland. For Bernie and Jishu, Council seemed to be a practice that was naturally based in the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Healing. And it was to contribute to a more profound relationship with our time at Auschwitz. At Auschwitz, the practice of Council did not necessarily lead us into seeing things the same way. It was not a consensus process at all. Rather, it was a way for people to recognize that each individual in the circle had his or her own experience, take on things, his or her own wisdom. When differing views and experiences were expressed in Council, the depth of field seemed to be much greater. Here we began to discover the importance and richness of differences. The practice of Council allowed people to develop appreciation for differences and to respect the differences of perspective that were held by Germans and Jews, by men and women, by old and young, by rich and poor, by the joyful and the terrified among us. We saw clearly that it was the intolerance of differences that made an Auschwitz possible. This is an excerpt...

read more

Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

Posted by on Jul 13, 2016 in Blog, Native American, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation

As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed to send winter cloths for to Alice and Tuffy Sierra of Pine Ridge Reservation, who were among the Lakota leaders of the retreat. Reaching out to other Zen Peacemaker Order training groups, and with the use of social media and the ZPO Members Facebook page, other responded. Hundreds if not thousands of pounds of cloths were sent from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and other places around the United States. Members gathered the clothes, boxed and shipped them to the Sierras in South Dakota. Thank you to all the members for your organizing, donating, and contributing to this effort. Peg Reishin Murray, a Zen Peacemaker Order member from Boulder, Colorado USA, chose to drive her donation to the reservation herself. She writes: My community responded wholeheartedly, my VW van was filled to the rooftop in a few short weeks, and I drove the van to Pine Ridge staying just long enough to unload the donations, then turned around and drove home. Way boring, no? Then Alice sent a second request and in late January 2016 the scenario pretty much repeated itself—except this time I received a Tuffy Teaching and that is the story I’d like to relate. According to Google maps, the drive from Boulder Colorado to Pine Ridge takes a little over 5 hours. In reality, Google couldn’t be trusted here and on both occasions that I drove to the reservation following its directions (albeit different routes each visit), I entered a hell realm of GPS deceit that added about two hours to Google’s estimated drive time. (Tuffy told me that he has tried to inform Google that their directions are way off but apparently this is another instance of Native Peoples being ignored) But let me be perfectly honest here—the scenery between Boulder and Pine Ridge is one of the most spacious, uncluttered and majestic landscapes you will encounter and at some point in the journey, an unbidden bliss and the thought, this is suññatā (Pali term meaning emptiness; voidness), arose in my mind. After many wrong turns, I finally found the road that leads to Alice and Tuffy’s home, and a second act in this comedy of errors unfolded as I attempted to contact Alice’s cell phone to let her know I had finally arrived. Of course, no signal. And the half mile long driveway leading to Alice and Tuffy’s home was a trough of scary-deep mud, the traverse of which only a 4WD might survive. After a brief moment of “ruh roh”, Facebook came to the rescue (text messages have a super power that can penetrate the airwaves that phone calls cannot). Soon Alice and Tuffy arrived from one direction and Genro serendipitously pulled in behind me. Genro climbed up into the truck bed and we efficiently unloaded my vehicle and reloaded theirs. I took a photo of the three of them to share. The whole encounter had been completely low key, routine, and pretty selfless up to this point. But then as I...

read more