The Horizon Greets You From Every Side: Reflection on 2017 Zen Peacemakers Week of Service, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation

In August of 2017, thirty non-Native American Zen Peacemakers conducted two weeks of programs as another step in a years-long-arc of developing relationship and appreciation with the Lakota of South Dakota. Both weeks were based on and held by the Three-Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. This reflection is from a participant of our 1st week, in which volunteers were immersed in the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation community where they constructed and helped rebuild community members’ homes.

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Plunging on the Streets of Helsinki: Civil War, Child Slavery and The Ease of Generosity

HELSINKI, FINLAND. This September, Zen Peacemakers will be holding a street retreat in Helsinki, Finland. In this article, Mikko Ijäs describes the historical context of what these streets have born witness to in the past hundred years: Civil War, Child Slavery and Generosity.

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Everything Has To Do With Us: Roshi Collande Reflects on Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

HOLZKIRCHEN, GERMANY. This November, 2017, Zen Peacemakers are returning to the concentration camp site at Auschwitz for the twenty-second time. Read retreat Spirit Holder Cornelius V. Collande’s reflection on entering Auschwitz’s “big not knowing.”

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100,000 Fires to Feed: Roshi Michel Dubois’ Twenty years of Homelessness Ministry in Paris

PARIS, FRANCE. Roshi Michel Dubois, founder and teacher at Zen – A Way of the Heart center in Paris,  describes how spending a night among the homeless of Dusseldorf gave rise to a social enterprise serving its 100,000th meal this year to the homeless in Paris. Michel has engaged with bearing witness retreats for years, and his experience in Auschwitz, Bosnia-Herzegovina and with the Lakota on Turtle Island give a wider context to his ministry.

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Something to Keep Safe: Georgia von Schlieffen Reflections on Bearing Witness in Bosnia-Herzegovina

German artist Georgia von Schlieffen reflects on participating in the 2017 Zen Peacemakers Bosnia-Herzegovina Bearing Witness retreat, the connections she found between visiting there and Auschwitz-Birkenau and the balancing of pain and beauty.

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The Face I See Everywhere: Why Barbara Wegmüller Returns to Auschwitz

“There is the face of a woman, looking at me, ever since I met her eyes for the first time. She is looking at me on one of the pictures in one of the memorial halls in Auschwitz I, the original camp. The photo shows her as she is waiting with a group of women and her children at the selection site. Her face shows disgust, fear, distress, and she seems to know what will happen to her and her children as she looks into the camera.”

Barbara Wegmüller, a Zen Peacemaker Roshi and Bearing Witness retreat Spiritholder (facilitator), responds to the question of why she’s been coming back to bear witness at Auschwitz for nearly 20 years.

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Yet the Ground Holds Firm: Highlights from the 2017 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia and Herzegovina

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA. Bearing Witness Retreats reveal how, even though each place of tragedy reflects a unique circumstance, they all share in common universal human experiences – even the tendency to violence can be seen as a source and expression of commonality and connection. Several years ago, Zen Peacemakers began collaborating with Bosnian peace-builders at the Center for Peacebuilding, to plan a bearing witness retreat following the genocide there in 1992-1995. These planning efforts were passed to local European Zen Peacemakers leaders, who brought it all to fruition this past May. In this post Zen Peacemakers thanks the organizers and features the stories of four European Zen Peacemakers who attended the retreat.

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Zen Peacemakers Joins Zen Center of Los Angeles’ 50th Anniversary Celebration

Zen Peacemakers congratulates Zen Center of Los Angeles and abbot Roshi Wendy Lou Egyoku Nakao on its 50th Anniversary! ZCLA was founded by Japanese Zen Master Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 1967 and was the training grounds of his creative and influential successors, starting with Bernie Glassman, 2nd abbot of ZCLA and founder of Zen Peacemakers. Today, ZCLA is a bustling urban training center in the heart of Los Angeles. Its robust residential and lay sangha is deeply involved in the local community of immigrants, artists, homeless and refugees. Read here Roshi Eve Marko’s reflection on the occasion.

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Knowing When to Quit: Roshi Genro Reflects on a Photo from a 1999 New York City Street Retreat

“…Once you’ve experienced a certain amount of difficulty as a group, and the group’s gone through a lot, sometimes you don’t need four days on the street to get it.” Roshi Grover Genro Gaunt reflects on his experience during a street retreat in 1999.

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Cardboard Boxes, Begging and Birdsong – Reflection from Street Retreat in Chicago

“We ended up sleeping in cardboard boxes on the banks of the Chicago River…I didn’t sleep much, but I felt the cold to be a deep cleansing, the rocks breaking through my cardboard box to be incentives to stay aware, and the birds on the river were surprising rushes of interconnected joy. As the sun rose and the sky lightened, I came out the other side of my fears.” Skye Levin shares about her first experience on Street Retreat this past month in Chicago.

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For the Sake of Children: Pilgrimage to Manzanar, Bearing Witness to Fear, Bonds, and Love

MANZANAR, CALIFORNIA, USA. “Bearing witness and experiencing the Three Tenets at Manzanar helped me, and gave me the courage, to touch deeper parts of myself. Whatever I saw at Manzanar: family love, family bonding, silence, community, and fear, was about me. It reflected me.” Last month on April 29, 2017, Zen Peacemaker Order member Nem Bajra joined 2,000 others and traveled to Manzanar, one of ten concentration camps that interned Japanese Americans during WWII, to participate in the 48th Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage. The following piece details his personal experience of the pilgrimage.

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roland

At the site of gruesome human medical experiments, Sensei Dr. Roland Yakushi Wegmüller has been serving and ministering the participants of the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat for the past 14 years. In this personal essay, Roland reflects on his role as the retreat’s doctor, the healing and kindness in the old camp, and the rich experiences and connections he’s had with his patients there. Deutsch nach Englisch.

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Rags to Rakusus: Irene

YONKERS, NEW YORK STATE, USA. A prayer flag, a childhood friend’s pajamas, her teacher’s denim, a t-shirt collected on a street retreat – The Zen Peacemaker Rakusu is a garment that those who take the Buddhist vows sew from discarded materials or of meaningful origins. In this first post of the series “Rags to Rakusus,” Irene Ji Un Edelmann of New York reflects on her experience of creating hers. “[It] is symbolic of the tapestry of life and the little pieces that form a whole.”

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WHO ARE YOU REALLY?

“And though we were talking lightly and easily, we were really looking at each other and asking, ‘So who are you after these days away? Who are you, really?’ And I realized that that’s really the question I ask every morning when Bernie gets up. So much has happened, so much has changed.” Eve reflects on her reunion with Bernie after his first public talk since the stroke, which took place this past Tuesday, April 25th, at Vassar College.

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بَحِبِّك This Says I Love You: U.S. Couple Addresses Islamophobia with Dialogue and Artivism

Married U.S. couple and co-founders of the Bahebak Project, Azzam, a Muslim Palestinian, and Anna, a Jewish American, speak about their work transforming fear to love. Through the Bahebak Project, they create grassroots community support networks to provide emergency assistance to Syrian refugees, respond to Islamophobia and Anti-Arab Prejudice with dialogue and artivism, and engage in peace-building across difference in the United States and Middle East.

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Scenes of Domestic Bliss: Eve and Bernie, April 2017

Eve describes the early April scenes of “domestic bliss” taking place in Eve and Bernie’s household in Montague, Massachusetts. She shares the intimate micro-moments of the everyday, and in so doing, shows how Bernie is continuing to heal with much hilarity and spunk.

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The Path of Solidarity

NATIONAL CITY, CALIFORNIA, USA. “By letting go of who we imagine ourselves to be and cultivating a non-clinging heart, we can learn to accompany each other in an embodied way and live in community—and in dignity—with those with whom we suffer.” In the Path of Solidarity, Doshin Nathan Woods considers what it means to stand arm in arm as part of our Buddhist practice.

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Inspire Us – Request for Blog Writings

INSPIRE US! Do you have a story to share in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers and the Three Tenets? Consider writing for the Zen Peacemakers Blog. We are constantly collecting stories, interviews, essays and reflections to share with our international community. Writing can be a great way to practice the three tenets, to re-enter a situation with no bias, to bear witness and explore the ingredients present and consider them from different perspectives. One expression of compassion is said to be “Give No Fear”, and writing can be a way to give, to share with others, fearlessly.

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Making Peace: the World as One Body, a 2012 Dharma Talk by Roshi Bernie Glassman

Roshi Bernie Glassman gave this series of dharma talks during a workshop at the Upaya Zen Center in August 2012 on non-duality, emptiness, and the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers.

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A Sixty Year Journey, 2014 Dharma Talk by Bernie Glassman

Dharma talk by Bernie Glassman given in July 2014 in Felsentor, Switzerland on Bernie’s Six Decades of Zen Teaching/Practice (with occasional cameos by Rocky and Tootsie).

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Living a Life that Matters: Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Dharma Talk at Sivananda Ashram, Bahamas, 2015

In February 2015, Roshis Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko gave a joint dharma talk in the Bahamas at Sivananda Ashram about stories, diversity, peace-building, and indigeneity. They have been teaching on and off at Sivananda Ashram for 19 years.

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Grieving and Praising Together: Lakota Tiokasin Ghosthorse and Roshi Eve Marko on Mystery and Caring for all Relations

Roshi Eve Marko reflects on the wisdom and teachings of Lakota Tiokasin Ghosthorse in relation to Standing Rock, honoring Mother Earth, and the profound mystery of life. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is a Lakota Sundancer from Cheyenne River Reservation; he hosts First Voices Radio, a program that appears on some 70 local public radio stations in this country, and travels all over the world presenting Native consciousness and values.

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Rain, Thunder And Lightning Were All Present – Report from the Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in Fort Snelling MN USA, November 2016

ST PAUL, MINNESOTA, USA. Read this report from ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy who co-organized a bearing witness retreat with the Native American Dakota in MN, bearing witness to the history of genocide there and its present day expression in the community and land.

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In Search of Dignity And Care: A ZPO Member’s Reflection On A Year of Street Retreats

“…The tech firms have headquarters literally right across the streetcar tracks from the Tenderloin, the city’s most impoverished neighborhood…my mind and my body can be and has been complicit in setting up boundaries and breaking down neighborhoods… if I allow all experience – the whole plaza – to penetrate me, then I will be transformed…” – ZPO Member Kosho Brian Durel of Upaya Zen Center.

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Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Bearing Witness Retreat, by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller

Reflections on the Upcoming Bosnia-Herzegovina Retreat, 8-12 May 2017 By Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Bern Switzerland

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The One Body Had a Stroke

“Each one of us who lives here is part of that one body called the United States, though we often don’t realize it. One arm feels superior to the other arm, one leg would like the other to stumble, oblivious of the fact that that would cause the entire body to stumble.”

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“The River Song” Zen Peacemakers at Simply Smiles, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation, August 2016

In August 2016, the Zen Peacemakers visited Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation. They met the people of La Plant and Eagle Butte, visited the local youth center and the wild mustang horse refuge, as well as worked with Simply Smiles – a non-profit building and revitalizing homes for Lakota families. This August 2017, The Zen Peacemakers will return to Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Reservation for a week of service, in collaboration with Simply Smiles inc. Meet the local Lakota community, rebuild and prepare homes for the winter, practice meditation and council and deepen your appreciation of the Zen Peacemakers Three Tenets: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Join us! August 6-12 2017 Register at http://zenpeacemakers.org/nat2017/ “The River Song” Kristen Graves, Guitar, Music and Lyrics Tiokasin Ghosthorse, Flute Rami Efal, Video and photos...

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Standing People, Rooted People: Peacemaking Among the Indigenous Cultures of Southern Africa and Turtle Island

Drawing experiences from different corners of the world, two ZPO members, one from the United States, Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt and one from Finland, Mikko Ijäs, share their stories of being welcomed by #FirstNations and the #indigenous peoples of Turtle Island (Northern America) and Southern Africa and how their appreciation of #peacemaking was affected by encountering these rich wisdom cultures and the individuals that embodied them.

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Despair and Empowerment in Our Watershed Moment

“How are we going to end polarization while we ourselves are polarized? How do we unpolarize ourselves from the people we want to blame and hate for this electoral disaster? How do we disarm ourselves of our own attitudes and prejudices? How do we do the inner work of self-transformation and simultaneously extend ourselves outward to organize and resist, which we absolutely must do?” By Paula Green A talk given at Traprock Center for Peace and Justice, December 7, 2016, in Northampton, Massachusetts. She has 40 years’ experience as a psychologist, peace educator, consultant, and mentor in intergroup relations and conflict resolution.

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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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“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!”

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...

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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…...

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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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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...

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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...

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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...

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Bernie Glassman to Join 2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat

Bernie Glassman, after eight months of post-stroke recovery, is determined to attend the upcoming retreat in Poland in October 2016. In two conversations, one at the video above and another at the written interview below, he explains his motivation.  Bernie: Since the stroke, I have been mainly focusing on getting my mind and body back in shape. Not too long ago, it struck me that as I am right now—in terms I can walk, I’m still with a cane—I’m ready not just focusing on getting myself better, I’m ready to look out. And of course during this whole time I’ve had a lot of meditation, and a lot of space in which I could peer at things. But somehow the idea of Auschwitz came up, and I want to be there. I want to be there for the next retreat. And what also came up is Marian. Everybody who goes to Auschwitz goes one night to see Marian’s work, and hear his story. And that’s been happening since pretty much the beginning. He died a few years ago. But people still get to see his work, and hear his story. But for me the importance of his story—and it is amazing, I loved the man, amazing person . . . But what struck me, I think from the first time I met him—which I believe was the second retreat that we met him—was that I noticed that he wasn’t showing anger, or hatred. And he said, “How can you hate anybody? I have not hatred for any of the Capos, or Nazis. I don’t have hate for anybody.” Now for most people—and you have to remember that that’s why I started the Auschwitz Retreat, to learn how we can live with others without hate, without anger. Here was a man living that way. I hadn’t met people doing that. Everybody has somebody that they hate, they dislike. And in my relationship with him, he never showed me that side. So it was very important for me. And then he died. And a couple of years have passed. And I went through my stroke to remember this path that he had started in Auschwitz started fifty years after he was released from Auschwitz. And it was started because...

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When An Elder Speaks : Impressions from Standing Rock

  This September 2016, Roshi Anne Seisen Saunders, abbott of  Sweetwater Zen Center, San Diego USA and member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, visited Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, Turtle Island (USA), the location of the ongoing historic stand taken by many nations of Native Americans in response to construction of pipeline on reservation land. This is her report.   “When An Elder Speaks: Impressions from Standing Rock” By Roshi Anne Seisen Saunders My friend and dharma sister Debra Shiin Coffey dropped everything to join me. Her husband is native (of the three affiliated tribes) and they live close to Standing Rock. We ended up talking past midnight. She shared about the suffering of her husband’s ancestors and about her own spiritual growth through native tradition. Her Mother-in-law and family were flooded out of their ancestral home because of a dam in 1951. To this day they are treated with racism and cruelty by the non-native people in North Dakota. On the other hand her life is so rich due to the deep spiritual tradition of her husband’s people. When we first arrived at the camp we were interviewed by a young non-native who had brought her camera equipment from Arizona to ask people why they were there. She was taken with Deb’s laugh and just had to interview us as elders. I said “I am here because I think this is the most important thing happening on the planet right now”. Deb talked about the beauty of the native way. “When a child is sick, Mom stays home from work to take care of the child. Mom is willing to put her job in jeopardy to care for her child because, for the natives, family is the first priority” After Debra left I was sitting with folks around the kitchen area. There were a group of young non-native activists sitting around the fire laughing etc and a native elder who was also sitting there started to talk. The others kept talking. From across the area comes a loud voice “when an elder speaks you listen. You will learn something.” The youngsters listened and afterwards were deeply grateful for the teaching. We had a beautiful and long prayer before the meal that was completely from the heart...

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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...

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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...

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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.”...

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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...

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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...

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Returning to the Three Tenets

  FROM BERNIE: As I look at what’s happening everywhere, the violence in the United States, in Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Europe, I remember that the Three Tenets are not a theoretical thing. I enter a deep state of not-knowing, bearing witness to what’s going on with no judgments or biases, just bearing witness, and then take the action that arises. I invite you, everyone, and especially our members of the Zen Peacemaker Order, to do the same. Then please write comments on this post replying to this question: What actions came up for you going into that space of not knowing and bearing witness? Thank you – Bernie Glassman...

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Resonance is Everywhere

  By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo of Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance (left) by Peter Cunningham Originally appeared on Eve’s blog on 7/6/2016     The Facebook page for the Bearing Witness visit to Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota during the last week of this month has been closed, made accessible only to those people who have confirmed they’re participating. I’m not one of them, but I am very happy that a substantial group is going, and I just put a Comment on that page asking them to build a foundation for future visits and work so that I, too, can come next time. It’s our second time returning to South Dakota. These plunges, projects, visits, pilgrimages, however we refer to them—all call me. Auschwitz-Birkenau, Srebrenica in Bosnia, refugee camps in Piraeus, these places summon me. It is no accident that in Judaism, one of the names of God is Place. And She, He, the unknown, is most palpably present for me in these Places, maybe because we walk around there and shake our heads, muttering Inconceivable, inconceivable, all the time. Right now I feel most called to go to South Dakota. Why? Because I’m an American, and all my doubts (What is this? How could this happen? What’s still going on?) surface there. Where there’s doubt, there’s the unknown. In early May Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele, who have so kindly and generously helped Bernie and me these past months, went back to Europe. Mariola joined a group of German women at the Ravensbruck concentration camp for women in Germany, while Godfried went to Greece to visit with refugees landing there day after day. When they returned they talked about how the two visits are connected, how to this very day Europeans make pilgrimages to places associated with World War II because they remind them of what people can do to each other out of fear and rage, which come up now, too, in connection with the refugees from Africa and Asia. We need to do that here in the US, go to our own places of trauma and reconnect with the things we as a nation have done. What eats at our foundation? What is the rotten piece that won’t...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Damian

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

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

  “NOW WHAT?” Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko Talk About the First Days After His Stroke Conversation recorded in May 2016, Transcribed by Scott Harris Bernie: So, you remember four months ago [January 12th 2016], we were having an international conference call on the Internet . . . from Germany, from Israel, California, Colorado, all around. And all of a sudden, I was in my office with Rami—our office downstairs—and you were in your office, and all of the sudden, you came down to give me a note. Do you remember what that said? Eve: Yeah. I wrote you a note on the yellow pad of paper, and it said, “Bernie, don’t take over the meeting. Just listen.” Bernie: So, I got that note, I started to listen, and all of a sudden, I blacked out! And I have no memory—I don’t even know how many days I have no memory for. So maybe you can tell us a little about that initial period.   Eve: Yeah, you sure took that seriously, “Don’t take over the meeting,” because at that point you started sliding down your chair. And Rami called me again, and I came down. And he had caught you, and put you on the floor. So you were lying on the floor, on your back. I looked at your face. And you were talking at that point. I asked you to raise your leg, and you couldn’t raise your leg. And I asked you to raise your arm, and you couldn’t do that. And then I could tell that your speech was beginning to slur. And then it just stopped. And I asked you, and you just, like did this [shaking head left and right], or something like that—that you couldn’t speak anymore. Oh, and I said I wanted to call 911, and you said, “No.” And I must have asked you another one or two questions, and then I called 911. And they came, and they were great. They were ready, and they hooked you onto certain medication, put you in an ambulance, took you to a hospital in Greenfield [MA]. They turned right around then, and took you down to Springfield, also in the ambulance. And you went straight into...

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Orlando and The Call of Connection

    Hello, my name is Rami Efal. I have recently entered the role of executive director of the Zen Peacemakers, Inc., founded by Roshi Bernie Glassman and the container for his teachings, the ZP Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order — an international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists based on the ZP’s Three Tenets: Not-knowing, Bearing witness and Taking Action. This was intended to be a letter of introduction to me and the responsibilities of my role for those who are engaged with ZP and whom I haven’t had the privilege to meet. But as I bore witness to what was alive today I decided to address my own vision in light of the wave of mourning following the killing in Orlando FL USA, surrounding our LGBTQ ZPO members, their communities and anywhere around the globe. Right of the bat, I’d encourage anyone who knows an LGBTQ person — or a Muslim, a Porto-Rican, a Latino or Latina — to reach out and ask “how are you?” Following this tragedy there are nuances of pain that my caucasian, Jewish, male-cis-gendered conditioning cannot even imagine. If you are one yourself, my heart at best glimpses yours — and hurts. Know that the Zen Peacemakers stand in solidarity with the queer, trans, lesbian, gay and bi-sexual community. This week I was riding a taxi from Düsseldorf Airport. On the German Radio I recognized the words ‘Massacre’ and ‘Orlando.’ The driver said that everyone in Germany are shocked by the recent killing. I was surprised US news even made it across the ocean. I felt moved. When we drove into Essen, one of the most heavily bombarded and reconstructed German cities, we drove by the soccer field where the government-run Syrian refugees camp was. We passed the large white blocks, impenetrable to the eyes, and the driver pointed to tall steel cranes and said that just few days before, three bombs from World War Two were excavated in that construction site. A large perimeter was evacuated, including all unsuspecting refugees from this camp. He dropped me off at my hotel and I joined my sister, her fiancé and their three month old baby for their wedding ceremony. This is only a sliver of Life, of this flow of...

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My Chat with 8th Graders on Auschwitz

  MY CHAT WITH 8TH GRADERS ON AUSCHWITZ By Noemi Koji Santana For the past 15 years, I have been involved in one capacity or another with a small cluster of community-grown charter schools in the Bronx, New York. I served on their founding Board of Trustees and later, in my capacity as consultant, helped develop their business office, lead them in a strategic planning process that set the foundation for their network administration, as well as managing their rebranding. Through all of this, I have seen them grow from a Kindergarten to fifth grade school to three schools that will eventually all be K through 8th grade. The student body is comprised largely of inner-city Latino children, from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Mexico Honduras and other Central and South American countries. There is also a growing number of new African immigrants. The rigorous curriculum has increased the chances for success for many of these children, as they graduate and find themselves in some of the best high schools of the City of New York. Because the schools are small with only two classes per each grade and also due to low to no attrition, we get to follow these students from Kinder through graduation. Students many times refer to me as the picture lady since I am often called upon to record school life and events with my camera. I also get to dialogue with faculty in their professional development room or during lunch breaks. It was one such occasion that created a unique opportunity for me to be a guest speaker for an eighth grade class, recently. The Social Studies teacher, a young, warm, funny and vivacious first-generation Dominican who can often be found in the gym during recess playing basketball with his students, was talking to me about the unit on the Holocaust he was currently teaching and I mentioned the fact that I had been to Auschwitz four times. His eyes lit up and it didn’t take but a minute for him to extend an invitation for me to speak to one of his classes about my experience. Their letters reflect the chat better than anything I could say.   Noemi Koji Santana     Dear Mrs. Santana, Thank you for...

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

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

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OAK TREE IN THE GARDEN

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko posted originally on her blog on May 21st 2016 Today is Vesak, a Buddhist holiday commemorating the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. In his honor, people all over the world meditate, chant, walk, make prostrations and offerings, give charity, and vow to awaken. My husband, Bernie, has shared that during the first months after his stroke, while resting in bed, he has gone into a state of deep meditation that’s effortless, restful, and at the same time fully alert. He said that it has taken him into the most profound space of not-knowing that he has experienced so far, and that it felt so natural and organic that he thought nothing of it—didn’t think to himself Wow, this is something! or label it as special in any way—until someone asked him if he was bored lying in bed and staring out into space. It was only then, as he began to explain what was happening, that it occurred to him that perhaps something unusual was taking place. I was glad to hear this on his account, and also because it’s nice to know that when our body isn’t responding as it always has or when our energy level isn’t what it once was, this makes space for new things to happen. For myself, I’d always hoped that if and when I get older and weaker, I would have the alertness of mind to do prolonged meditation. At the same time, I couldn’t help but think of all the things that enable Bernie to experience the state he described. People prepare and serve him food, people have helped him walk wherever he needed to go (now he can walk mostly on his own with a cane), someone makes the bed, someone sets up the table adjoining his bed with the things he needs to have on hand, someone makes sure to adjust the blanket and pillows when he can’t do this. Generous friends all over the world have given us money towards his recovery and have prayed and meditated on his behalf. All these things enable him to not just recover, but also explore a deep meditative state. Hunger and thirst would be distractions. Discomfort and pain, with...

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Passover in Piraeus: A Zen Peacemaker’s Plunge with Refugees

  The following report is part 2 in a series of 6 reports, and was written during the Not-Knowing Pilgrimage in Greece. This plunge has been created and self-led by members of the ZPO in the spirit of the 3-tenets of the Zen Peacemakers: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action.  PASSOVER IN PIRAEUS By Rami Efal “Eye-liners, mascara, make-up, bottle of wine.” That was on Petra’s grocery list on the way to the camp — items she’d promised folks at pier E1.5. I followed the tall bald Dutch woman through the busy late morning market by Piraeus’ pier strip. We passed several homeless people and she’d comment, that’s Roma, that’s local, that’s Bosnian, that’s Syrian. People stop us in the street for small talk, and I feel like the entourage of a rockstar. A young man shakes her hand and tells us he will leave to another camp soon. Petra fills me in that he is a refugee and I’m surprise to understand ‘they’, refugees, walk openly in Piraeus, which is a volunteer-led and police-monitored camp, compared to other military-managed camps where they can’t. In front of a large red church we pass a rally of middle-ages men, we ask and learn they are sea men demonstrating against 60% salary reduction. Homelessness, poverty, job security, I get some of Greece’s challenges even before we hit the refugee camps. We make it across to the port. Massive freighters and island shuttle dock and load. Port E2, a bustling tent camp last week, is now clear. We walk further and arrive at camp E1.5, situated between port E2 and E1. I spot the colored orbs I saw from the bus yesterday a hundred meters ahead and I feel angst-citment. A few steps further and we are deep with the camp. Tents of all sizes, tiny and medium size placed flap to flap, some joined by their opening towards one another and a blanket covers the patio between them. Children, dark skinned, some with bright blue grey eyes through orange skins at each-other, teenagers play card on the ground, a dozen sit in a circle around a power cord stretched to a generator, powering their phones. UNHCR containers with UN staff helping with immigration, NGO volunteers with neon yellow vest manage...

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THE SOUND OF ONE HAND

  THE SOUND OF ONE HAND By Roshi EVE MYONEN MARKO There’s a Zen koan made famous by the 18th century Japanese Zen master, Hakuin: What is the sound of one hand? Koans are questions or stories that sound quirky, but actually point to life as both clear and inexplicable. So we think we know the sound that two hands make when they come together, but what is the sound of one hand? Bernie’s right hand, part of the right side of his body that was affected by his stroke, is always in a splint so that his fingers remain open rather than clenched. His hand must also be elevated wherever he is, placed usually on a cushion. Bernie has not had an easy time with his right hand. It usually bends in the elbow and the fingers curve as the day progresses. At this point he is able to touch his second and third fingers with his thumb but no further, and lacks the strength to grab onto things and hold them. This is changing and improving all the time, but for now it means that he can only do things with his left hand (he has been right-handed all his life), unable to cut the food on his plate, remove his watch before a shower, or insert a charger into the phone. Since he invariably prefers to lie on the left side of the bed, his right hand is always between us. If I’m not careful I’ll bump into it. On occasion he’s forgotten all about his right hand, not even feeling it when he rammed it into a wall, or had no idea where it is (Where did I put my right hand? I can’t find it). It lies between us like some strange, floppy object, an incomprehensible barrier, which in some way is exactly what a Zen koan is. What is the sound of one hand? I’ve had a lot of meshugas (famous Japanese word) in connection with Bernie’s hand, at times making it a symbol of the stroke itself. What is the sound of my husband’s right hand? What is the feel, color, smell, even the taste of this one hand? It has attained vast proportions in my mind...

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Belonging to the Forest, Belonging to the Slum – A Zen Peacemaker’s visit to Brazil

Belonging to the Forest, Belonging to the Slum – A Zen Peacemaker’s visit to Brazil By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Peacemakergemeinschaft Schweiz (Switzerland), Brazil February 2016 Our connections with Brazil started at the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. In this place where millions of people where killed and tortured, a lot of friendships and heart connections have started in this retreat that Zen Peacemakers have been doing every year in November for over twenty years. Roland and I met Ovidio in Krakau in 2005, before the retreat. We had dinner together and he shared about his work in Porto Alegre as a psychiatrist, a family therapist and a mindfulness teacher, a field where Roland and I share a lot of common interest. Since then Ovidio has come to visit us in our home in Switzerland every year. He has brought us together with a Brazilian-Swiss couple living in Zürich, both Zen priests and senior students of Roshi Coen. Jorge Koho Mello and his wife Marge Oppliger Pinto have become precious friends in the Dharma. For many years these four friends have invited us to come to Brazil, and finally this year was the right moment to accept their invitation. We were invited to speak about the ZPO in various Zen sanghas as well as in a Tibetan monastery. We would meet these sanghas and learn about their practice and their social projects. And in the meantime, Roland and I would have the chance to spend some days together in the nature of the country. Green, green, vast green on both sides of the road as far as we could see; for two hours we were driving on this road which draws a thin line through the Atlantic rainforest. My breath got deep and it felt as if all the cells in my body smiled. The wild powerful rainforest is still there, it is still exists, grand, untouched, full of life! The Atlantic rainforest in the region of Santa Catharina is part of the cultural heritage of the UNESCO. It is the homeland for 20,000 different sorts of plants and 1,361 species of mammals, birds, reptiles and snakes. The hills and mountains on the horizon have a haze of dust. This gives it the name cloud forest. Now...

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“How Simple the Answers Are” – Testimonials from Council in Bosnia/Herzegovina

Photo by Tamara Cvetković (left) “How Simple the Answers Are” Testimonials from Council in Bosnia/Herzegovina In March 15-18 2016, The Zen Peacemakers, together with the Center for Peacebuilding and led by Center for Council Director Jared Seide (Read Jared’s report of the training here), conducted a four-day Way of Council training for 22 Bosniak, Croats and Serb women and men. This training is another step in the peacebuilding effort to address the deep suffering in the balkans following the genocide of the ’90’s.   “When I think of Council… It is fascinating how many layers of prejudices and expectations you have to strip off yourself to enter into an honest heart-to-heart conversation. It is fascinating how even when you think you have reached that point, you get astonished realizing how far you have to go to get to the point of speaking and listening heart-to-heart. And it is fascinating how, when you think that nobody sitting there with you can surprise you anymore, you discover that you have not even started that conversation. It is fascinating to discover that everybody can go far beyond in sharing the pain we all have. But above all, it is fascinating how simple the answers are. All you have to do is to be there, to step in it and let yourself be… whoever you never had an idea you were.” (Nikica Lubura-Reljic) “Last week’s training in council was an amazing opportunity not only to familiarize ourselves with the methodology a bit better, and more thoroughly, but also to see it work in Bosnian circumstances. It might sound funny, but during our Auschwitz councils I had only one thing on my mind: this will never work in Bosnia. The fact that our mentality is pretty closed and that patriarchy, as such, dictates emotional distance, added to the fact that we haven’t had any formal nor systematically organized support on psychological post-war issues, pretty much determined my pessimism. Therefore, there is nobody happier than me to share impressions on our work and process! Firstly, I must commend Jozo’s and Jared’s patience, which was needed to overcome all the mechanisms Bosnians use when somebody tries to open them and provide safe space for sharing their deep fears and emotions. As I anticipated, it...

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Coming Back to Ourselves: Council Training in the Balkans

The following report on the ongoing Zen Peacemakers peace-building efforts in Bosnia/Herzegovina is a glimpse into the ongoing development of our Bearing Witness program that includes Auschwitz/Birkanu, Poland, The Black Hills in Turtle Island/South Dakota, USA and Bosnia/Herzegovina. These are funded by donations and income from previous retreats (learn more here). They are planned, staffed and participated by many of our Zen Peacemaker Order members, who are actively pursuing social action causes around the world in ecology, human rights, refugee relief, hunger, homelessness, hospice, veteran support and prison outreach and others. To join the Zen Peacemaker Order and participate in world-wide community of spiritual practitioners and social activists, follow this link.   “Coming Back to Ourselves: Notes on a Council Training Workshop in the Balkans” By Jared Seide, Center for Council, ZPO Three participants in last year’s Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat to Auschwitz had come from Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). They arrived in Poland with some trepidation about just what the plunge would be like. They left shaken and pretty raw. When Jozo and I met them this month in Sarajevo, they were eager and energized. “I’ve missed you guys so much,” Boris said, “and, seeing you here, I’m starting to realize what the trip to Auschwitz was really about and why I’ve been feeling so unsettled these past months.” Turning toward suffering can take many forms. As a practice, it can seem counterintuitive and, to be wholesome, it demands skillful means, deep fortitude and compassion. The suffering of the Bosnian people is deep and profound and the events of twenty years ago are still tender and uncomfortable. Even now, excruciating memories are triggered by certain sites, uncorked stories, even turns of phrase. Despite the notorious “Bosnian humor,” an off-color and surprising proclivity for diffusing tension with dark jokes, there seems to be a longing for a real encounter with our common experience of suffering. So much there has gone unaddressed, unrestored, unmet… and a deep and embodied experience of coming together to grieve, release, celebrate feels emergent. Or so we imagined, as we designed a 4-day Council Training with an assortment of peaceworkers engaged in the complex and challenging work of rebuilding. The Zen Peacemakers Order is deeply committed to building relationships and bearing...

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BLACK HILLS: GOING BACK–AGAIN AND AGAIN

GOING BACK–AGAIN AND AGAIN By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photos by Peter Cunningham, at the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat     Grandmother Beatrice Long Visitor Holy Dance died this past week. She is one of the  Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers representing native peoples all over the world, leading petitions and prayers for peace, human rights and the rights of our planet and its citizens. Grandmother Beatrice, an Oglala Lakota, came to the Zen Peacemakers’ retreat at the Black Hills last August along with her daughter, Loretta. She was already somewhat frail, but I was deeply moved to see her. How strong these Lakota women have had to be! They raise not just children but also nephews, nieces and grandchildren, and are often the most consistent breadwinners for their families. Grandmother Beatrice was no different, and in her younger years had to combat alcoholism like many other Lakota. But she became a leader and an inspiration to others, advocating finally not just on behalf of her native land and people but also for the entire globe. I often wonder about how people who’ve gone through trauma heal themselves. This question has accompanied me all my life. While other children grew up on Mother Goose rhymes, I grew up on my mother’s stories of the Holocaust. I couldn’t possibly understand the full extent of what she carried, but I did get just enough to wonder how one continues after such a childhood. How do you live with these memories and voices, these pictures in your mind? How do you not go crazy? And how do a few, like Grandmother Beatrice, use these kinds of early concussions as ballast to push off from and surge upwards, helping others rise, too? In July 2016 we return to the Black Hills to bear witness once more to this sacred place, promised by treaty to the Lakota and then sold down the river for gold. After gold, for other metals, the most recent one being uranium. It’s our old Western way of doing business, not just selling off the earth and its inhabitants as if they’re ours to sell, but also selling off our own word, our own honor. What I’m thinking of today is the slow step-by-step process of...

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“A Voice I Am Sending As I Walk” : An Invitation to the 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat

NOTE: THE 2016 NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT IS A COMPLEX AND COSTLY EVENT. TO GUARANTEE ITS EXECUTION WE MUST GATHER 50 ADDITIONAL FULLY PAID REGISTRATIONS BY MAY 15th​. PLEASE JOIN US IN THIS MILESTONE EVENT AND COMPLETE YOUR REGISTRATION TODAY​ OR AT YOUR EARLIEST CONVENIENCE​. (THE RETREAT IS FREE OF CHARGE TO ENROLLED TRIBE MEMBERS)   AN INVITATION TO ATTEND THE 2016 NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT By Eve Marko, Grover Genro Gauntt, Rami Efal “With visible breath I am walking. A voice I am sending as I walk. In a sacred manner I am walking. With visible tracks I am walking. In a sacred manner I walk.”[1] Personal healing—experiencing all aspects of our psyche as whole, as one body—takes years. Family healing, a little longer. Healing among communities, nations, and cultures takes generations. And what about the healing among humans, plants, animals, and the earth? How long does that take? If it takes an age, don’t we have to start immediately, persevering step after step, action after action, every day and every year? This summer the Zen Peacemaker Order will hold its second bearing witness retreat in the sacred Black Hills at the heart of Turtle Island. The first took place last year, in August 2015, but in some way it began in 1999, when Grover Genro Gauntt first went up to the Pine Ridge Reservation, meeting with Birgil Killstraight and Tuffy Sierra, the first of many tender forays into this middlemost nucleus of history, treachery, trauma, and denial. Sixteen years of this culminated in the retreat in the Black Hills in 2015. Genro went back year after year. Showing up again and again is an important practice for all of us who care about what the Black Hills stand for, historically for us here in America, and worldwide. The Hills are sacred to many native peoples and were promised to the Lakota and Dakota Nation by the United States government according to treaty. The promise was broken for the sake of gold, an archetypal mode of behavior repeated time and time again around the world. Be it lumber, salmon, elephant tusks or metals like gold and uranium, we have plundered the earth and wiped out many of its inhabitants. Now we are paying...

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WHAT’S IN A PHOTO?

  WHAT’S IN A PHOTO? By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo by Peter Cunningham Monkfish Publications, which is publishing a book on Lex Hixon and the radio interviews he did in New York City’s WBAI in the 1970s and 1980s, recently asked us for a photo of Bernie from years ago. I SOS’d Peter Cunningham, photographer extraordinaire, and we went back and forth with various old photos (“Wow, look at that one!” ”Who’s that guy?” “Remember her!” “When was this?”, and on and on), and somewhere in that process, it hit both Peter and me how historic some of photos are, and the broad, multi-weave tapestry we’ve not only witnessed over these decades but have been raveled into ourselves. One photo showed Bernie, Peter Matthiessen, and Lex at a table in the Greyston mansion in Riverdale. Bernie, bald and in his tattered brown samue jacket, is the essence of animation as he lays out one vision after another, Peter looks pensively (painfully?) down, probably wishing he was back home writing a book, and Lex shines like the sun, face radiant. I’m not there, it’s before my days, but I’ll bet a million dollars that this was a board meeting to discuss Bernie’s thoughts and plans for opening up businesses and not for profits as vehicles for Zen practice. Any old member of the Zen Community of New York will remember those endless meetings, the excitement, exhilaration, and the trepidation (How are we ever going to get the money!). It caused me to recall my own first experience, coming up with a friend to the Greyston mansion in 1985 for the evening sitting, only to bumble into the middle of a residents’ gathering in an immense dining room. Generously, we were invited to sit in the corner of the long table as they talked about plans to serve monthly meals at the Yonkers Sharing Community to homeless people, hiring those same folks at the Greyston Bakery (which was already in existence), following that up by building permanent apartments for homeless families (in a county that for years built no apartments of any kind, just private homes and Mcmansions), child care centers, and programs to help folks get off the welfare system. I sat there, novice...

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IT TAKES A VILLAGE

 IT TAKES A VILLAGE Written by Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Photo by Peter Cunningham, of Eve at the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat Bernie and I went to the movies and saw “Spotlight” yesterday. It’s a terrific film about the group of Boston Globe journalists who reported on the extensive abuse of minors by many Catholic priests in Boston. I can’t recommend this movie highly enough. I particularly appreciated that it didn’t portray the journalists as pure, white-horse knights going out to seek the truth and slay deniers and perpetrators. It showed, in fact, that they had received several tips in prior years about what was going on, and they’d shut their eyes to it, like many others, or didn’t bother to put the dots together and present the full story till much later, after many more children had been abused. I thought of the abuse I’ve seen in dharma centers. It’s easy to say that it was nothing like the horrific scale of what went on in various Catholic dioceses across the world. It’s easy to point out that, at least in the West, children are almost never involved if only because most of our dharma centers don’t have family programs. But we’ve certainly had our share of abuse by teachers of students. This morning I’m thinking about the silence that supports these things. I’m thinking about the subtle moments that some of us experienced, when there’s a dissonance between what I hear and what I see, and I withdraw and remain silent rather than ask uncomfortable questions. This goes both ways. I’ve watched teachers hide behind authority, and I’ve also seen students let go of responsibility. I’ve watched many practitioners, including me, seek in a like-minded group a refuge from living responsibly in the world, learning how to deal with money and each other, and accepting the consequences of our decisions and our actions. A place where we won’t have to grow up. Who has lived or practiced for years in a dharma center without witnessing some of these patterns? A new consciousness seeks to change these ways. What has happened in Catholic dioceses is a flashing-red-sign warning to everyone of what can happen when an entire system not only permits abuse,...

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Bernie’s Training: Social Engagement

Bernie’s Training: Social Engagement By Roshi Bernie Glassman Photo by Peter Cunningham of Bernie, Sandra Jishu Holmes and the Greyston Builders, local Yonkers construction crew  started by Bernie, at the first rehab project (2.8 million dollars) for homeless families (19 units of housing) and a child care center in Yonkers, NY USA. Greyston has built over 300 units of housing by 2015.  (Continued from Bernie’s Training: In The Beginning ) This is my second twenty years in Zen—sort of the second twenty. I will start around 1976. That’s about forty years ago. I had just received dharma transmission from my teacher. But more important in ’76, I had an experience which was very important in my life. It was an experience of feeling all of the hungry spirits, or ghosts in the universe—all suffering, as we all do. And they were suffering for different things. Some were suffering because they didn’t have enough enlightenment. Some were suffering because they didn’t have enough food. Some were suffering because they didn’t have enough love. Some were suffering because they didn’t have enough fame. Some were suffering because they didn’t have enough housing. Some were suffering because they had bad teeth—like me, all kinds of sufferings. Out of that, in a car ride to work, a vision of all of these hungry spirits popped up. And immediately it also popped up, that these are all aspects of me. Just remember, my experience was that everything is me. All of these hungry aspects of myself popped up. And an action came out of that, which was a vow to serve, to feed—it was really more to feed all of these hungry spirits. So until then, I had decided that my work was going to be in the meditation hall, and in a temple. I had quit for the fourth and last time my job at McDonnell Douglas. And I was now a full time Zen teacher. And I was going to work only in the meditation hall, and work only with people who came to our Zendo, and wanted to be trained. But now I made this vow to work with all these hungry spirits. So that meant I had to change the venue, change the place I worked. And now it...

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Bernie’s Training: In the Beginning

Essay By Bernie Glassman Picture by Peter Cunningham I was just doing zen meditation and one day I had an experience in which I felt I lost my mind—and it terrified me. And out of that experience, what came up was I quit Zazen. I quit for a year. I was so terrified by what had happened. That night I had to keep the lights on in the house. I had no idea what was going on. And so I stayed away, and it could have been forever. That experience could have led me to stop doing Zazen forever. But, I had read a book called Three Pillars of Zen, which many of you might know. And a man, Yasutani Roshi, who appears in that book, and some of you are from the Sanbo Kyodan club, and that, was started by Yasutani Roshi. He’s my grandfather in the Dharma. My teacher studied under Yasutani. My teacher studied under three teachers, one of whom was Yasutani. So, Yasutani is one of my grandfathers. And I also studied under Yasutani, but that was later. What happened is I had been terrified. I had read many things about Zen. And then I saw, and I read the book Three Pillars of Zen. And then I saw an advertisement saying Yasutani Roshi was going to give a talk in Los Angeles. That’s where I was living. And so I went to the talk. And at that talk I met the translator—Yasutani Roshi did not speak English. His translator was a man name Maezumi, who then becomes my teacher. I went up to the translator, and I said, “Do you have [It turns out I had met the translator about four years before] a group?” And he says, “I just opened up a place.” And I started to study with him—every day. If that hadn’t happened, I probably would have never gone back to Zen, because of that experience. I had nobody to talk to about it. So, the result of that experience for me was the importance of having a teacher, which then got reinforced when I became my teacher’s right hand person in our Zen Center in Los Angeles. And many students would come who had no teacher, and had...

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The Zen Peacemaker Order Vision, Part 2

This is the second of a three part conversation between Roshis Bernie Glassman, Wendy Egyoku Nakao and members of the Zen Center of Los Angeles that took place there on April 23rd 2015. This part includes Roshi Egyoku’s vision of the Zen Peacemaker Order as expressed at ZCLA. The first part featured Roshi Bernie’s vision, and the third part will include the Q&A they performed with the sangha. Transcription by Scott Harris. Roshi Egyoku: It’s wonderful that Bernie is putting out his vision. And it has challenged me to think about my vision. Although I’ve been involved with the ZPO practices since the, I don’t know, ’90s. And most of you who practice here know, we’ve been doing these practices, they’re deeply imbedded in ZCLA. So it’s just a natural direction for us to continue to explore. One of the things we’ve done here, which I hear manifesting in the ZPO is peer governance. For us we call it circles. You know, we do a lot of circular practice here. And coming out of a structure that was not circular, it’s a very radical and transformational kind of effort. And we’ve done it long enough here that I think we have a deep trust in the power of the circle. And the practice of the circle, and transformational depth and breath of the circle. And in discussing with Bernie about how the ZPO forms as we go forward, I realize that it’s a transition that the ZPO also has to make. Because we know it’s one thing to say we’ll be peer and circular, but none of us come out of an environment that’s peer and circular—which is fascinating. So one of the things that I hold dear, in terms of a vision—I’m realizing more, and more is that the ZPO move forward in a way that does not concern itself with empowerments. For example, in the tradition most of have come out of, you know at some point certain students are empowered to be Zen Teachers, or Preceptors, or Priests, or whatever the empowerment’s occurring, all of the empowerments are. And our model, as we know, has been historically one of apprenticeship. You know, long years of working with a teacher, and all of that. But as I’ve...

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The Zen Peacemaker Order Vision, Part 1 : Bernie’s Vision

This is the first of three parts of a conversation between Roshis Bernie Glassman, Wendy Egyoku Nakao and members of the Zen Center of Los Angeles that took place there on April 23rd 2015. This first part includes Bernie’s vision of the Zen Peacemaker Order. The second part will feature Roshi Egyoku’s vision for the ZPO and ZCLA, and the third part will include the Q&A they performed with the sangha. Transcription by Scott Harris. Bernie: I’d like to talk about my vision of the Zen Peacemaker Order. I’ll start off at the beginning. And the beginning took place about twenty-one years ago. Twenty-one years ago (1994) I had finished different phases of my Zen training. My first twenty years of Zen training was here (Zen Center of Los Angeles) in  a Japanese-style Zen center with a Japanese teacher (Maezumi Roshi.) But after about twenty years, I had an experience that made me want to work in a bigger venue than just in a Zen center. And the venue had something to do with Indra’s net. Most of you are familiar with that. It’s a metaphor used in Buddhism for all of life. And it closely relates to the modern physics idea of starting with the Big Bang, and energy flowing through the universe. So Indra’s net is this net that extends throughout all space and time, and has at each node a pearl. Constantly there are new pearls being generated. Every instant there’s a new pearl. So as I’m talking, I’m generating a new pearl. And each pearl contains every other pearl. And every pearl contains this pearl that I’m generating. So it’s all of life. And my feeling was that I had been practicing . . . For me, enlightenment means to experience the oneness of life. And that keeps getting deeper, that experience. And for me, what it means is at any moment I could look at what portion of the net am I connected with? I’m connected to a fairly large portion. And what portions aren’t I connected to, and why? And I came to think that one of the big reasons we’re not connected with certain portions of the net is we’re afraid. We’re afraid to get connected, to enter...

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Be My Witnesses in Jerusalem: Bosnia, May 2015

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko When I think of our time in Srebrenica, it’s not the gravestones I remember, rows and rows of white obelisks dotting long grassy mounds climbing halfway up the surrounding hills, nor the slanting walls of names that glittered even under gray skies. Nor is it the gorgeous forested mountains, the Dinaric Alps covered with beech and pine and reminding me of Switzerland, through which we drove to get down to the memorial commemorating a massacre of over 8,300 people. In fact, when Hasan Hasanović invited us to join him as he testified about what he and his family endured almost 20 years ago, among more than 50,000 who came for refuge in what was the United Nation’s first “Safe Area,” to be protected by “all necessary means, including the use of force,”[1] I thought that was it. What is more powerful than the testimony of a genocide survivor? We sat outdoors by the entrance to the gigantic cemetery on a large rug alongside Muslim visitors, as Hasan—black hair and eyes, and a profile sharpened by experience—recounted how, when Republika Srpska army units (VRS) overran Srebrenica, thousands of Bosniak men and boys decided to try to make it to Tusla, in safe territory, on their own. Joining them, he made his way through 55 kilometers of rugged, mountainous terrain in the summer heat, with little food or water, all while being shelled and ambushed by the VRS. Those taken prisoner were removed and executed though they were civilians, so that in all, only about one-third of those who began the trek to safety made it, haggard and emaciated, haunted for life. Those who stayed behind underwent selections. Most of the men, including young boys and the old, were taken away and never seen again. Register for the Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia/Herzegovina May 2016 A friendly, yellow sun appears to beam on some 8,300 obelisk-like gravestones marking the final resting place of those whose tortured bodies were finally found, identified through DNA, and interred here. July 2015 will mark 20 years since the Srebrenica massacre, and families are still searching for the remains of their loved ones. Not only were their boys and men murdered and buried in mass graves,...

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A Vision of Peace and a Bearing Witness Retreat in the Holy Land by Eve Marko

Fr. Bob Maat is an American Jesuit and trained physician’s assistant who went to Cambodia upon finishing seminary, thinking to serve there for 3 months and then return. He never left Cambodia. He learned the Khmer language and proceeded to make that country his home, working for years with refugees and survivors of landmines, living among impoverished villagers for whom violence and suffering had been a way of life as long as they could remember. Often he joined the pilgrimages of the Cambodian Buddhist saint, Mahaghosananda, who would walk with monks and lay people into the very heart of conflicts, at risk to their lives. Twenty years ago Bob Maat undertook a new project. He began to walk from village to village, educating Cambodians about peace. After being at war for generations, he said, men and women forgot what the word meant. It hadn’t disappeared from the language, it was just empty of relevant meaning, like the word unicorn, describing a creature that probably never existed. The people he talked to assumed that instability, violence, and fear were a regular way of life and couldn’t imagine anything else. Bob Maat realized that unless they rediscovered peace as pertinent, meaningful, and important, it would become a concept like the unicorn, a thing of myth rather than reality, and no one would do anything about it. Peace in the Holy Land is getting to be seen more and more like the unicorn. Honored in the sacred texts of all three Abrahamic religions, the word evokes distrust and cynicism in day-to-day life. If you use it in adult conversation you’re labeled either a leftist or a normalizer, or at least someone who’s not serious. Government leaders seem to use the word for the purpose of invalidating each other, e.g., there’s no partner for peace on the other side. And if you call yourself a peacemaker in Ben Gurion Airport they will look you up in their computer system to see if you’re a troublemaker. When things go unnamed or their names lose relevance, they become unseen. Peace still finds its way into song and poetry, but when the rest of us become self-conscious about using it, sooner or later the yearning behind it disappears, too. And when...

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Many Steps to Home

By Sensei Barbara Wegmüller, Spiegel Sangha, Bern, Switzerland A cold wind was fluttering the rainbow flags inscribed with “Peace- Pace”, carried by the protesters that had gathered to raise their voices for peace, only few days before the second war in Lebanon in 2006 was about to start. Sami Awad, a peacemaker activist from Bethlehem was a guest at our home in Bern, Switzerland. I was waiting for Sami who was giving an interview to a local radio station just before he was about to address the protestors. Next to me some young children were playing and made me laugh and talk to them. By that I got into a conversation with the mother of one of the young children. In a few French words she explained that she was a Syrian Palestinian who just got accepted Asylum in Switzerland. In an impulse I gave her my business card with my address by saying: “If you learn German we could communicate in German, that would be great.” After that I lost her and the children in the crowd of protestors that started to move on. Ten months later I got a call and a friendly but unknown voice at the other end of the receiver said: “Hi this is Rabia, I have learnt German and would like to talk to you.” I immediately realized who this was. It was a beginning of a friendship that grew over the years in which the confidence and trust in each other deepened. I am still astonished about the unyielding courage and humour of my friend who had to flee from Syria together with her husband and her two young children because the regime did not like what her journalist husband was writing. When the war in Syria started Rabia and her family were living in Bern, Switzerland but all the other members of the family were still living in Damascus, Syria. One by one the family members had to flee their homes in Yarmuk, the now hard-fought Palestinian refugee camp at the suburb of Damascus. Since Switzerland allows Syrian refugees to come to Switzerland if they have relatives already living here Rabia’s family members ended up in Switzerland. Living in various asylum centres in Switzerland the family had no...

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Centennial Memorial of the Armenian Genocide

(photo: The Armenian Genocide memorial complex on the hill of Tsitsernakaberd in Yerevan, Armenia)   Dear extended Zen PeaceMaker family, On Friday, April 24th, 2015 we mark the Official Centennial Memorial of The Armenian Genocide where 1,500,000 Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians, Syrians and Chaldeans perished on the command of the Ottoman Young Turk regime. We recognize the wound that has never been able to heal from the continual evasion of responsibility and denial of the contemporary Turkish government. We also see that denial as an expression of Turkish suffering around this history. We sit allowing ourselves to be fully present to these sufferings, Bearing Witness to the pain and resentment that racism and hatred has built over the last century and offer our open hearts and minds even to those temporarily caught in the grasps of that hatred. We witness in ourselves our own murmurs of violence in our everyday occurrences that are the seeds of Genocidal intent. We say prayers for those hundreds of thousands of victims so senselessly murdered and for the perpetrators lost in delusion of their separation and hatred. We recognize that the term “Genocide” was created by Raphael Lemkin in specific reference to the horrific mass killings of the Armenians and so is properly applied retroactively.  And we also recognize the overwhelming majority of international scholars also agree. So we pray for a resolution and political shift to allow a healing to finally begin for both. We have witnessed the huge Turkish outpouring of sympathy after the assassination of newspaper editor Hrant Dink and so we are perhaps seeing the beginnings of that possible shift already. And, in our lifetimes, we have seen the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dismantling of Apartheid, so we do not loose our steadfast resolve that this too could come to pass in our lifetimes. Eric...

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Holy Week in the Streets by Bernie Glassman

Since Holy Week 2015 has just happened, I wish to talk about going on the streets during Holy Week, the week of Easter, the week of Passover, one of the saddest and most joyous times of the year. I go on the streets at other times of the year, too, and each occasion is special in its own way, but the streets feel different during Holy Week. The re-membrance and caring that spring to life during that time are unmistakable and unforgettable To give you a feel for what I mean, let me describe the 1996 Holy Week street retreat. We spent our first night sleeping–or trying to sleep–in Central Park. It was so cold that at about 4 a.m. we gave up and began to walk downtown, stopping for breakfast at the Franciscan Mission on West 31st Street en route to our hangout at Tompkins Square Park. We were tired and it didn’t help when we heard that it was going to rain that night, the first night of Passover. Walking past St. Mark’s Church in the East Village, I ran into its rector, Lloyd Casson. Notwithstanding the smell of my clothes after a night in the park, Lloyd gave me a hug. I knew Lloyd from the time he’d served as rector of Trinity Church, and before that, as assistant dean at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. When he heard that we would be in the area, Lloyd suggested we come to the Tenebrae service at St. Mark’s after our Passover seder and then spend the night in the church. Rabbi Don [Singer] had flown in from California to join us for Passover on the streets, but he’d disappeared in the middle of our night in Central Park. For purposes of the seder, we begged for food in the Jewish restaurants on Second Avenue and in Spanish bodegas by Tompkins Square. One retreat participant, a Swiss woman, was given twenty dollars by the Franciscans when she attended their mass that morning before breakfast. Suddenly, as we began to give up hope, Don appeared. He explained that he’d been so cold during the night that he’d gone into the subway to keep warm. After riding the trains all night he’d visited a...

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