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

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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Engaged Buddhism at Upaya Zen Center This Summer

Please join us at Upaya Zen Center in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, to study and practice with three of the leaders of socially engaged Buddhism in the United States: Roshi Bernie Glassman, Roshi Joan Halifax, and Acharya Fleet Maull. August 12 – 14, 2011 Charnel Ground Practice and the Five Buddha Families with Acharya Fleet Maull, M.A and Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD The essential nature of a bodhisattva or a Buddha is that he or she embraces the enlightened qualities of the five Buddha families, which pervade every living being without exception, including ourselves. These enlightened qualities include discriminating awareness wisdom, mirror-like wisdom, all encompassing space, wisdom of equanimity, and all accomplishing wisdom. To achieve the realization of these five Buddha families or the five dhyana buddhas, it is necessary to meet and transform the five distributing emotions of great attachment, anger or agression, ignorance or bewilderment, pride and envy. We will not only explore the practice of transforming these disturbing emotions on our own path, but also explore the five Buddha families as tools for social organizing principles for engaged work. CEUs for counselors, therapists and social workers are available for this program. For more info and to register: http://www.upaya.org/programs/event.php?id=639 ______________ August 19 – 21, 2011 Bearing Witness to the Oneness of Life with Roshi Bernie Glassman and Roshi Joan Halifax The founder of the Zen Peacemakers, Zen Master Bernie Glassman, evolved from a traditional Zen Buddhist monastery-model practice to become a leading proponent of social engagement as spiritual practice. He is internationally recognized as a pioneer of Buddhism in the West and as a founder of Socially Engaged Buddhism and spiritually based Social Enterprise. He has proven to be one of the most creative forces in Western Buddhism, creating new paths, practices, liturgy and organizations to serve the people who fall between the cracks of society. In this workshop Bernie will trace his evolution from the dharma hall to blighted urban streets. He will share the practices and principles he has developed to teach service as spiritual practice and to create sustainable, major service projects, such as the Greyston Foundation in Yonkers, NY. He will share the insights, revelations, personalities and personal experiences that have influenced his life and development. He...

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From Vision to Buddhist Social Action

“How do we go from vision to action?” This question was asked at the recent Symposium on Buddhist Social Action at Zen Peacemakers. Here is a brief  account of what I found helpful in going from vision to action after completing my Zen Peacemaker seminary training for ministry. From spring 2009 through spring 2010 I co-lead with Kanji Ruhl the first 14 months of establishing Appalachian Zen House in Bald Eagle Valley in central rural Pennsylvania. This, the first of Zen Peacemakers’ Zen Houses is now led by Kelle Kirsten and Bob Flatley. Our mission was to serve, as an integral part of our Zen practice, the under-served people, beings, and natural environment in this depleted rural valley. The valley was Kanji’s childhood home, but I had never visited Pennsylvania before. Nor did I know well any other current secular community after being a monastic in a Zen Monastery for 8 of the 10 years prior. So my first task was to immerse myself in experiencing the life here. Meanwhile I was finding out the needs of the people. And I was finding out who could be attracted to serve in “enhancing the community’s ability for inclusive, non-sectarian, responsive and sustainable activity in harmony with the natural environment.” I was very fortunate to form relationships within three main groups of people that participated in our endeavors – the local protestant Christian communities, a dominant social aspect of the valley, liberal community- and environmentally-minded folk, and impoverished local people who were not overtly part of the above groups. Connections were also forming over the 14 months with teachers and students at Penn State University, as well as with other Buddhist groups, and I expect that these too are continuing to grow. 1.    Joining the local protestant Christian communities. An essential first step for my own connection with the local people, life, and area was for me to rent a cheap apartment and live alone in a small village. In this way I was dependent on my new neighbors for information and social interaction. Despite my foreign accent and their awareness that I was a strange “Buddhist,” these tightly-knit Christian communities were warmly welcoming and very generous. They included me in many social and community...

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Special Ministries Discussed at Symposium

Buddhists Ministering on Prison Issues, Five Commitments, Food, Mental Health From prison hospice rooms to rooftop gardens in the Bronx, Buddhist ministers are redefining what it means to serve in the world, according to participants in a panel discussion on “Special Ministries” at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism in Montague, MA on Wednesday, August 11. It’s about applying Buddhist dharma and mindfulness practice in different settings, said moderator Fleet Maull, a Zen priest and a pioneer in the field. Among his many projects, Maull has founded the Prison Dharma Network and the National Prison Hospice Project; the latter, established during the AIDS crisis of the 1980’s, was the first hospice project in an American prison. Today it lists 125 organizations in 15 countries and in 30 states of the United States. Very little Buddhist prison ministry existed in the 1980’s and ’90s, Maull said, and conditions in the prison hospitals were horrendous — he cited, as one example, terminal cancer patients in agonizing pain given Tylenol as treatment. From these hellish beginnings the National Prison Hospice Project emerged.  The Prison Dharma Network, meanwhile, is building a resource movement, Maull said, counting among its many programs an ongoing enterprise that sends dharma books to 2,500 prisoners. The Network ministers not only to prisoners but to prison staff, Maull emphasized. “Everyone,” he said, “is a bodhisattva and buddha-to-be.” Through these Buddhist ministries, Maull helps bring the dharma to some of the seven-to-eight-million people in America enmeshed in various ways within the nation’s prison-industrial complex. Prison ministry is also a focus of Anthony Stultz‘s numerous socially-engaged Buddhist projects with the Blue Mountain Lotus Society in Harrisburg, PA. These projects are organized around the Five Commitments, principles that emerged from a multi-faith World Parliament of Religions conference. The first Commitment is Non-Violence. The ministry of Stultz’s organization meets this Commitment, he said, by addressing the issue of bullying in local schools and offering mindfulness-based “true self-esteem” programs. The second Commitment is a pledge to create Solidarity and a Just Economic Order, which Blue Mountain Lotus works to fulfill not only through its prison ministry, but through collaborations with the American Civil Liberties Union and the League of Women Voters, and through sponsoring a “mindful...

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Can all dharma centers become tuition-optional Goenka factories?

Have you ever looked at the price tag of a meditation retreat and thought ‘Damn Enlightenment is expensive?!’  I know I have.  Have you heard someone say that it is unbuddhist to charge for the dharma?  Well, the Buddha’s original followers may not have charged for their teachings, but they also owned nothing but robes and begging bowl and I don’t hear any Western Buddhists saying that it is unbuddhist to wear blue jeans. Reacting to the price tag on our Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, fellow mindful blogger Katie Loncke questioned whether charging $600 for a one week event was in line with the philosophy of Socially Engaged Buddhism and whether it might be more socially just to offer a tuition-optional model like that of the Goenka centers.  However, as two practitioners in the Goenka tradition describe in a Buddhist Geeks podcast interview, the Goenka model more closely resembles the cheapness and uniformity of a mass-production factory than a radical anti-capitalist plan for inclusion. At the Zen Peacemakers, the Goenka centers have come up in conversations about how we structure our own centers.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to charge tuition? Do we want the Zen Houses to become an understandable model that can be easily reproduced and franchised anywhere in the world or do we want each house to develop its own loving actions based on bearing witness to local circumstances? While I would like to learn more about how the Goenka folks (and IMS for that matter) get money to provide widespread free and reduced-price tuition, I know that we do provide low-cost ways to participate in some programs including bartering volunteer labor for tuition and sometimes housing (which we will do for the upcoming Symposium).  As Karen Werner, the director of the Montague Farm Zen House (our local ministry) is a founder of the North Quabbin Time Bank and thus a leader in the alternative economies movement, we also wonder how non-capitalist models could compliment our tuition-based programs. At the same time, isn’t the marginal cost of coordinating and providing food, wellness and transportation services for low-income neighbors (which is the focus of the Montague Farm Zen House) more expensive than the marginal cost of squeezing...

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Ben & Jerry Visit, Donate Ice Cream to Montague Farm Zen House

Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, founders of  Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, visited Montague on March 26 to meet with their old friend Bernie. They announced that they would donate ice cream to the Montague Farm Zen House for the MFZH Family Meals for the underserved of the Pioneer Valley. Back in 1987 Bernie met Ben and Jerry at the formation  meeting of the social venture network. The business deal that Greyston Bakery would provide fudge brownies for their fudge brownie ice cream and fudge brownie yogurt proved a vital source of income for the bakery and jobs for the underserved population of Yonkers, NY. Ben, Jerry and Bernie were part of the early rise of social enterprise in the...

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