Zen Peacemakers Blog

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The Zen Peacemakers Blog is dedicated and committed to providing news, reflections, essays and interviews to support, inspire and inform spiritual practitioners and social activists, off high-quality content by our global network of Zen Peacemaker Order members and allies to the Zen Peacemakers.

One Year Since Bernie’s Stroke: A Letter of Gratitude

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, News, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 5 comments

One Year Since Bernie’s Stroke: A Letter of Gratitude

A year ago today, Roshi Bernie Glassman suffered a severe stroke. Zen Peacemakers is deeply grateful to all those who supported him in a remarkable recovery and in his further healing ahead. In the link below, read ZP’s letter of gratitude, as well as a reflection by Roshi Eve Marko on this one year journey.

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2017 ZPO EUROPE Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

Posted by on Jan 11, 2017 in Bearing Witness, Bearing Witness Ministry, Zen Peacemaker Order | 0 comments

2017 ZPO EUROPE Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

in May 2017, Zen Peacemakers will commence the Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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Sharing a Meal with Hungry Hearts

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Blog, Homelessness, Hunger Ministry, Projects, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Street Retreats, Zen Peacemaker Order, Zen Peacemakers | 0 comments

Sharing a Meal with Hungry Hearts

by Cassie Moore, Upaya Resident “Calling all you hungry hearts All the lost and left behind Gather ’round and share this meal Your joy and sorrow I make it mine.” —from The Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy Most nights, people line up outside of the Santa Fe homeless shelter, Pete’s Place, well before the glass doors stretch open for dinner at 6 p.m. For dozens of people, “Pete’s” (formerly the Pete’s Pets building on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, now the Interfaith Community Shelter) is a winter emergency shelter that offers nourishment and beds, as well as community and safety. To serve meals, the shelter relies on legions of volunteers, like us. A Upaya team of eight, we’ve come dressed not in our usual Zenblack, but in “normal” clothes. We unpack a Subaru full of prepped veggies, spices, oils, and kitchenware and lug it all into Pete’s kitchen. Debbie who works at the shelter greets us with boundless energy, and orients us on how to prepare dinner, how to serve, and when to sit to join the shelter guests for dinner. Over several days, we have been preparing for this dinner with the help of local sangha members. Our menu feels like a pre-Thanksgiving feast for the 105 people who will fill Pete’s dining hall tonight. As we unload the car in trips, walking back and forth through the parking lot, we pass a dozen people looking in through the still-locked glass doors, pacing outside, resting on the sidewalk, catching up, smoking. A sangha volunteer whispers to me, “This is where I get shy.” Internally, I feel an old shyness fog me, too. I feel intense waves of differentiation coming up, noticing the clients who appear to be on drugs, seeing a group of women yelling in the parking lot corner. A man in the lot catcalls me. I notice this feeling arise that says, These people are different than me. I feel self-doubt. I’m afraid I don’t know how to show up with these people, that our differences are too big for us to connect, that I won’t know the right thing to say or do. As we settle in, the kitchen begins smelling like holidays: it’s snowing out and our chicken soup and chili are in massive pots on the gas stove, roasted sweet potatoes and green beans are steaming, homemade ranch dressing intrigues the dinner guests lining up to be served, fresh bread will soak up their soup, and towers of brownies made by our local sangha members delight almost everyone—from the 9-year-old girl who is too shy to request one, to the oldest man, teeth missing. During an unusually cold winter in 2005, 25 people died in Santa Fe from hypothermia and this birthed a local-led initiative for a winter emergency shelter. Those who come to Pete’s are only a fraction of Santa Fe’s homeless: In 2014 the New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness estimated there is around 1,400 homeless in Santa Fe.  Pete’s is the only shelter in town that allows non-sober guests to spend the night. In one view, coming to Pete’s for one night and serving food feels miniscule. What about systemic oppression? What about systemic poverty? What about luck and circumstance, and how it seems some people are set up for homelessness?...

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“If Strain, No Gain”

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Bernie Glassman, Bernie's Health, Blog, Reflections, Three Tenets of ZP, Zen Peacemaker Family, Zen Peacemakers | 1 comment

“If Strain, No Gain”

“Bernie … realized… the similarities between the somatic arts like Feldenkrais and his own Peacemaker tenets…What if…not-knowing… also includes letting go of movement patterns that don’t work?” Read Ariel Setsudo Pliskin’s reflection on accompanying Bernie in his post-stroke physiotherapy exercises.

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“DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

Posted by on Dec 18, 2016 in Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats, Bearing Witness, Blog, Native American, Reflections, Zen Peacemaker Order | 3 comments

“DON’T LET ANYONE TELL YOU IT DOESN’T MATTER!”

Gen. Wesley Clark Jr., middle, and other veterans kneel in front of Leonard Crow Dog during a forgiveness ceremony at the Four Prairie Knights Casino & Resort on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. Photo by Josh Morgan, Huffington Post By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, Zen Peacemaker Order   I met a friend of my brother’s the other day at a Jerusalem café. He told me that he had taken part in a convocation honoring Elie Wiesel at the Hebrew University, and that the Chief Rabbi of Rumania was there and told the following story: In my position I’ve visited many small Rumanian towns and villages which once had a large population of Jews but which are now empty of Jews after the Holocaust. In one such town I hear something strange. There is an old synagogue there, abandoned and unused since World War II. But every Friday night, when the Sabbath begins, the lights go on in the synagogue and they go off on Saturday night, at the end of the Sabbath. I decided to look into it, and discovered that a goy, a non-Jew, enters the abandoned synagogue every Friday evening and puts the Sabbath prayer books by every single empty seat. On the Sabbath morning he comes in again and puts prayer shawls by each seat. He comes back on Saturday night, returns the prayer shawls and prayer books, and turns off the lights. He has done that for many years. I told Elie Weisel about this long ago, and he told me to support this man as much as possible so that he could continue to do this work. When I heard this story I immediately remembered Bernie’s and my 1996 visit with Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, Founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement, to ask him for his blessing for the Zen Peacemakers’ retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Reb Zalman said that he was all for it, only the retreat had to be done for the sake of the souls there. I vividly remember driving back and pondering his answer: What souls? Weren’t the dead dead? Beside, as a Buddhist I didn’t believe in souls. We’d asked him for his blessing for a single retreat, not knowing that this retreat would continue for 21 years. During all that time I and many others have sensed a powerful presence in those death camps. I hear visitors to Auschwitz-Birkenau number almost 2 million a year, most of whom come to look around quickly, turn away and leave. But a small group of 100 comes every year to sit in a circle on those tracks, chant names of the dead and do ceremony. Time is a human construct; past, present, and future are only human parameters for organizing experience and information in a way that can be processed by our brains, nothing more. In that case, how can anyone gauge the impact of a diverse group of people bearing witness to millions killed in the name of sameness, uniformity, and racial purity? Or the work of one non-Jew who, week after week, year after year, puts out service books and prayer shawls at the beginning of the Sabbath in a half-destroyed synagogue and puts them away at the end? Why does he do that? What does he see?...

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“If You Ask For Help, You Get Help” – A Zen Peacemaker’s Report from Standing Rock

Posted by on Dec 12, 2016 in Blog, Native American, Non-Violence, Socially Engaged Buddhism, Zen Peacemaker Order | 1 comment

“If You Ask For Help, You Get Help” – A Zen Peacemaker’s Report from Standing Rock

By Sensei Michel Engu Dobbs, Zen Peacemaker Order, About an hour after going into a ditch in a white-out blizzard as we headed out of Oceti Sakowin camp and back to Bismarck, I began to look over at my friend Grover and wonder what the best way to cook a Zen Roshi was. I had no internet, and wasn’t able to look up a recipe online, so I decided to get out and start digging. As I began to free the right front tire, I heard a voice calling over the howling wind, and saw a young Lakota man standing in the snow- he hooked us up and yanked us on out. I crawled back into the car after hugging him with all my might, and turned to Grover and said, “That’s a miracle, huh?” He smiled back at me with a look that said “Of course, what have I been telling you? What did you expect? Haven’t you noticed what’s going on here?” Just a couple of hours earlier, as we said our goodbyes back in camp, a wonderful woman who shared a large tent with us and about 12 veterans, grabbed me. Andy, aka- Unci (Lakota for grandma), told me, “I’ve been taking care of people all my life- I had two disabled siblings, my parents were sick, then as a wife, and a mother, and as a professional nurse. Five years ago, I realized that I needed help, and I began to learn how to ask for it, and in those years, what I’ve learned is that the universe is endlessly generous- if you ask for help, you get help.” This was the strongest message for me, during our visit. From the moment we arrived, as I stood and looked around in stunned silence at the massive camp, populated by about 7,000 people, I saw folks all around who were helping each other, taking care of each other. If anyone opened their mouth and asked for help, there were ten or fifteen people there to offer it. What a startling contrast to living back in NY. In fact, when I finally got back to NYC, looking and smelling a bit like a hobo, I stood on the train platform waiting for the train to long term parking. A young woman came up muttering to herself, and looking a bit lost, and I said, “Do you need help?” She turned and looked at me, and just about broke into a run in the opposite direction, and I sighed and thought, “Home sweet home.” During our visit, we were generously welcomed and hosted in a camp of the Cheyenne River Lakota, headed by Chas Jewett, an energetic and bright young activist and community organizer, and a member of the Oceti Sakowin Women’s Council. In between meetings with various camp councils, and visiting VIPs, Chas spent time describing to us the complexities of maintaining a community as large and diverse as Oceti Sakowin. And it isn’t easy- there are many voices, perspectives, and needs in a camp of so many people. Not everyone agrees on what to do, or how to do it. Given these circumstances, and adding the aggressive efforts of the oil company and the police, not to mention the weather- it is really remarkable that the...

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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 | 8 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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