Eve’s Remarks on Bernie’s 1st 20 Years of his 60 Year Journey in Zen: Zendo Practice
So what we plan to do this afternoon is that I took some notes on Bernie’s talk, and I will try to kind of uncover from my experience some of the issues that he related to, and what you also brought up. OK? And you can also ask questions as you did for him. And then after the break, I’m going to ask Barbara Roland, and also Cornelius who’s here to do his retreat, but since he’s a teacher, maybe he also has questions that he wants to relate to from his years of practice. And again, you can always come in with your questions and clarifications. And what I’d like to do is then sit again at 5:30, because this is a lot of talk. And I also want to really take the opportunity to thank our translators, who really are working hard, and great, great appreciation to you for doing this.
So, Tootsie asked Rocky this morning, “What about love Rocky?” And for those of you who don’t know, we sometimes get bored with each other, you know. Like, oh we’re not married so long, but we know each other—teacher/student for almost thirty years. So we created these two characters, because we both like Italians. We love New York Italians. So Bernie created this character. He used to be a fighter when he was growing up, and he was called Rocky. Did you know that? So he created this Italian fighter/gangster called Rocky. And I loved my Italian friends when I was growing up. We used to wear these fishnet stockings, and long sweaters. Of course we always wanted to catch a man right away. And that’s how Rocky and Tootsie happened. And it’s nice because Rocky and Tootsie are not Buddhists. So when they explore things, they have to find a different language—not to use Buddhist terms, but to find different words to ask the same questions everybody else asks, but to ask it in different ways. And sometimes they get along better than Bernie and Eve. And sometimes they don’t, you know. OK.
Some of you know I just came back from Israel—actually Tuesday afternoon came out of Israel. When I was there—I have family, I have a brother, and he’s a grandfather. So he was looking at the television set, which showed all these horrible things. Because he has two sons that are down there, in Gaza. And he has two sons-in-law, who are down there in Gaza. And his grandchild, who’s a little boy about three years old, kept on talking to him. And my brother didn’t pay much attention, because he’s staring at the television set. And finally the little boy said (in Hebrew, but I’ll translate for you), he said, “Pick up your eyes, and look at me. Grandpa, pick up your eyes and look at me.” That’s what he actually said. And I think those words were great for many different reasons, including what happens to us when we watch television, what happens to us when we read newspapers, when we do Facebook. We don’t have our eyes—we’re not experiencing life. We’re not listening. You know, we’re in our heads, like he was. And a little boy says to us, “Pick up your eyes and look at me.”
So Bernie, earlier this morning, spoke about Zazen and koans as a way of experiencing life. So those of you who have done meditation, you know that the instruction is that your mind goes off on different thoughts, different thoughts, different ideas, thoughts, feelings, right? And you’re always supposed to bring it back to now. Right, that sounds familiar, right? You go off—come back. Why? Because you want to come back to the experience of this moment. That’s what it is. When you and I go into our minds and thoughts, it’s usually about the past, it may be fear about the future, some abstract thought about what’s happening in Ukraine, but you’re not here, now. So the idea of always coming back is to come back to the experience. Come back to the experience of this moment now. That’s what Zazen is. It’s experience. Really, that’s what meditation is. It’s experience, right now, this moment.
And for those of you who do koan study, you know that you’re asked not to give intellectual answers, but to give an expression of now. Express the answer now, without going into your head. So show me your experience of this koan. And if you’re not experiencing the koan, you’re not really doing . . . Well; you’re doing koan study, but a different kind of koan study.
So let me tell you, in my experience, what was missing for me in those early years. And what was missing for me was experience of relationship. That’s what was missing for me.
So, the idea was that you sat on the cushion, and yeah, you experience now. You did meditation, and if you did it well, you experienced this moment. And if you did koan study, you were able to experience the koan. But the question is, what happened relating to other people? So when you got up, the bell rang, you got up, and you went home. You came in to sit. You did your experience of your own meditation. The bell rang; you get up and go home.
Well what about relationship? What about the people who sit with you? What about the people who are your friends, the people in your house, your children? What do you say to them? And this was a difficult thing, because one of the first major things you learn in Zen is about emptiness. This term of emptiness I think is very confusing. But if you know what it is, it’s that you, as an I, or you as a separate independent entity, separate from the rest of life, doesn’t exist. That’s in some way what emptiness is. But if you think about what that means is that at every moment—like right now, you know if I look at Roland, and he’s speaking to Rachel, he is talking to her, but who is Roland? And Roland is a separate entity, but Roland is a combination of all, billions, and billions of elements from the past, and everything coming together in Roland. So he is relationship. You see, he is relationship. And Rachel is relationship. She’s not just a separate person. She is all the things that came together to create something called Rachel. And so that relationship called Roland is speaking, and relating to a relationship called Rachel.
In the early years, and even now, there was a sense in many sanghas that there’s Three Treasures. We say there’s the Buddha, and the teacher represents the Buddha. And there’s the Dharma, which is the teachings. And there’s the Sangha, which is the people. And the Sangha was the least important treasure.
And Bernie has often repeated to me what his teacher told him—that if you’re gonna work with Sangha, that’s the most difficult of the Three Treasures. And he told me that. He said, “Eve, after a while, you’ll find that giving talks is easy. Really, it’s not a problem. But how to get along, that’s a problem.” How to help other people in the Zendo to get along with each other. So those of you that are in sanghas, and communities, you know what happens. There is resentments. There is competitiveness. And we don’t know how to resolve them.
The old Zen Community of New York, which was the first incarnation of the Zen Peacemakers, we worked very hard in Greyston, and in social service that Bernie will talk about tomorrow. And there was tension because, you know, “You didn’t do this.” And if we worked in a bakery, “You gave me the wrong bills,” and “You sent me to the wrong address,” and “How come you’re giving me an order for twenty cakes? How am I gonna finish that? It’s already five o’clock, what are you doing?” And we had no tools. We had no tools. So some of you said earlier today that you love council. We didn’t know council. We didn’t do council in those years. We didn’t even sit in a circle. There was no such thing as people sitting in a circle. And although we did face each other—that was something that Bernie created—I know back in Zen Center of L.A., and many places, people faced the wall. They don’t face each other. And they certainly don’t sit like this. OK?
We had no tools for how to relate to each other. And what that meant also was we didn’t know how to relate to people at home. So imagine your child wants to relate to you. You know, what’s the child saying? He’s saying what my brothers’ grandson said to him. “Lift up your eyes, and look at me.” What are you going to say? What did the early Zen teaching teach you to say? What are you going to say? Are you going to say, “Oh, don’t worry, you don’t exist really. You’re empty. You don’t know that, but you’ll find out. You don’t exist as a separate entity.” Is this any kind of help for relationships?
Yeah, we didn’t have Nonviolent Communication like Ruth. He’s a trainer in Nonviolent Communication. And now we have that a lot in our sanghas. We didn’t have any of that. So we had lots of violent communication—lots of violent communication.
So I think this whole issue of relationship was not honored in those days. Now it’s funny because Zen has teachings about relationship, in a particular way. So one of the most basic teachings in Zen is the differences in the oneness. And the idea is that we are all different, and we’re all one. And we’re both, all at the same time. So as Bernie explained this morning, the biggest work of a Zen teacher is to help people experience the oneness of life. But sometimes the differences, and that experience of differences, and what to do with those differences, which is the work of relationship, I think was deeply neglected.
So, as I said Tuesday night—and I apologize if I repeat it, but I think it was very important—when I was in Israel (and I write, so it’s very often that I write about what I go through), I couldn’t write about what was going on there. It was so crazy. Instead what I did was I made a list of all these opposites. And it was all going on at the same time.
“They’re bombing us.”
“No, they’re bombing us.”
“You know, our fighters have to go out through tunnels to get to them.”
“No, we’re sending fighters through them to get to them.”
“Our survival is at stake.”
“No, our survival is at stake.”
“Our sons are doing this.”
And my brother’s saying, “My sons are doing this. Do you know how it feels like to me?” Or one of his sons-in laws is part of an elite unit. And he would say to me, “I was one of those who goes to the West Bank, and puts a mask on his head, and has to go into the family, and find the Hamas operative, and get him. And I go in, and kids are screaming from fright. And the mothers are screaming. They’re crying. And they say ‘there’s nobody here.’” And then he says, “And I hate to do that, because I have sons that age, and I can’t imagine what trauma I’m creating when I go into the house like that. But I have to do it. I have to do it. I hate to do this, but I have to do it.”
“I hate to do this, but I have to do that.”
“I hate to bomb hospitals, but at the same time, they have weapons in the basement of the hospital, so I have to do that.”
And there were all these opposites—all these differences, huge differences. And the whole time I was there, I had this whole list. And it was like this. But what I was experiencing was how do you experience the differences? Not just sit on the cushion, and say, “Well, there’s differences, and there’s one. And that’s the practice.” But how do you practice differences? How do you practice differences in one? For me, through the practice of relationship.
So I also mentioned Tuesday night, I was so moved by a YouTube of an Orthodox Rabbi, who after these three young boys were killed, or they disappeared, before the whole everything else started happening, somebody asked him, “How do we deal in this situation?” And he said, “I will tell you.” He said, “The two men who killed those three teenagers—Jewish teenagers in the West Bank—they are asking for peace.” And then he says, “You must think I’m crazy. You say, ‘Two people killed, in cold blood, these three teenagers, and you think they’re asking for peace?’” And he said, “Yes, but I’m telling you they’re asking for peace.” It could be that outside, because of karma, history, conditioning, circumstances, anger, all the things they are manifesting, and they are reacting in a very aggressive, murderous, terrible way. But deep inside, they are (in our language), they are A, and something else is B. And the A and the B have to come together. In our words, they have to form a relationship.
If you don’t believe that all these differences need to come together in peace, then what you’re saying, he said, “Is that God made a mistake. God was confused when he created these two Palestinians who killed those three guys. Do you think God was confused? Do you think that God is perfect, except for those two, and those two were the only mistake that God made? No. They too are part of that perfection. And they need to come together with the others. And they need to come together to make peace.” And yes, outwardly we manifest in all kinds of crazy ways. But deep inside, we have to come together. And that for me is what relationship is about.
And yet, I knew all this. I knew the study of differences. I got that. But I didn’t get to the practice of relationship till this term Bearing Witness came, and the practice of Bearing Witness. That is what really pointed to this thing of relationship.
I’m just remembering somebody showed me an ad when I was in Israel, like a commercial, and it goes like this. So an Arab woman, covered, says in Arabic (and there’s subtitles), “You don’t belong here.” And then the next picture is of a Jewish man wearing a Yarmulke. “You don’t belong here.” Next picture is of a young Palestinian, and he says in Arabic, “You don’t belong here.” And the next picture is of an older European Jewish woman, “You don’t belong here.” And this goes on, and on. And at the very end, the message says, “This was presented to you by the Israeli Palestinian Bereaved Parents Group,” the group of parents who lost children—both Palestinian and Israeli.
So what they’re saying is, “We don’t want you to belong with us. We don’t want you to be parents that are also losing your children.” But the way they did it is, “You don’t belong here.”
“No, you don’t belong here.”
“No, YOU don’t belong here.”
“No, YOU don’t belong here.”
You see? And there are all these opposites. And how to really hold these differences? That for me is the practice of Bearing Witness, and the practice of working with relationship. And all the tools—we had to develop tools—and learn tools from other people. We didn’t invent council. Council was created by other people. And to this very day, there are many sanghas that have no interest in council. They don’t want to. They think, “Ah, it’s too much talk, and it’s too . . . You know, it’s not Zen. N.V.C, what’s that got to do with anything? It’s not Zen. Zen is sitting on your cushion in silence. That’s Zen.”
Audience member 1: One thing that came up for me is when you say that for example, the Palestinians and Israelis have to come together in a relationship, and I wonder whether they are already in a relationship, but they’re not bearing witness to those relationships?
Eve: Yeah. I mean, I know the Jewish liturgy very well, because I was raised in that kind of family. I was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. So the word peace, “And God will make peace. God who makes peace in the heavens will make peace on earth for all Israel and all people. Amen.” That verse ends every single prayer three times a day. It ends the grace at the end of a meal. You know, it’s like a mantra. “God makes peace.” You know, so everybody knows that. Everybody recites that. But what’s the experience of it? What’s the experience of it? If this is the way you’re behaving, and “it’s always them,” and “they don’t belong here, they’re the killers, they’re this”? How do you work with each other? What is the practice of that?
What is the Zen practice of relationship? What happens when you go home? What is the Zen practice of raising children; of getting along with your partner? What is that Zen practice?
I mean certainly when I studied with Bernie, I did talk with him about situations in my life with other people. But he’s told me that he never had one interview—or dokusan—with his teacher in which he ever talked about his life. Not once.
Bernie: It was either koans, or “how do we build the center bigger?”
Audience member 2: May I ask a question? If you say, “God makes peace,” this is God on the object level, it’s the outside. Somebody will do it. So my question is where is God?
Eve: Yeah, but the idea is that if you are a godly person, you are fulfilling the work here on Earth. I mean that’s what is understood by that. It’s not somebody else is gonna do it. Maybe some people think that, but I think many understand that it’s our work to do that. And what is that work?
So I think this was a big area that was neglected in those years.
Bernie: I just want to throw in one message, that in terms of Zen, the image of God, or that concept (in my opinion everything is a concept), that concept is our first Tenet—that which can’t be known. That’s all. So when we talk about the first Tenet of not knowing, that is the Buddhist concept of God in the Christian, or the Jewish, or the Muslim traditions. And within each of those traditions, there are schools of thought that say that God is that which can’t be known. So they’re using their language of God to relate it to our language of the first Tenet—in my opinion.
Audience member 3: I hear you saying that there’s opposites. There’s nothing but opposites. But, I’m seeing it as the same. I’m seeing the dilemmas.
Bernie: You’re seeing what?
Audience member 3: The same. I’m seeing everything as the same. You know, and they are in relationship. They’ve been in this kind of relationship for a long time. And to me, the only thing that will change that adversarial relationship is for them to see that they are in the same boat. They’re both losing their children. They’re both suffering. They’re all . . . It’s the same. So it’s interesting.
Eve: Yeah, so that’s why this group, this bereaved parents group was started by parents who lost their children. We met the founder, Yiyzhak Frankental, who’s son was kidnapped by Hamas and killed. And when we met him, I remember he said, “I felt that I was a failure as a father, because my job as a father was to protect my son. And the way I raised him, with the idealness of Zionism, you know, ‘they are out to kill us, you go into the army’ and so I didn’t protect my son. I did the opposite. I actually encouraged him in the wrong way.” And then he met a Palestinian who also saw, and that was the beginning. And that group, they act as mirrors of each other. And they see that.
And I’m glad you raised that, because one of the things about relationships is that . . . This is my opinion. It’s not Rocky’s opinion, you know. It’s Tootsie’s opinion. And Tootsie’s opinion is that “Boy I can sit on that cushion a long time [in Tootsie voice], but there’s a lot of things I’m not gonna see.” You know, there’s a lot of angers, and there’s a lot of . . . or just a denial of areas where I don’t want to engage even. Places where I’m blind, where I’m deaf. And I don’t think I want to see them on the cushion. Or I might see them after many years. Where I’ll see them a lot faster is in relationship—a lot faster. You know, when I talk with my husband, and he says this, and I say that, I can see what comes up. And everybody here has that experience. Am I gonna be able to see those things just sitting on a cushion and meditating? That has not been my experience.
So what is wonderful is to see those things in relationship. And some of the way that I will work with it is on the cushion. Is being on the cushion the only way? No. Over these last years I have done therapy. We have done couples therapy. I have done different things. You know, wherever I can get different kinds of help, to help me work. And I also sit on the cushion. But what I learned from relationship, what I see in that mirror when I’m in that relationship, what I learned from my own students about myself—oh, it will take me many years to learn if I just sit on the cushion.
Audience member 4: So that could be, really another understanding of sangha. Because my feeling it was a kind of a failure that in our sangha we began to fight because of competition. And my idea was when I had this practice for a long time, and all the others too, so we should really relate in a good, peaceful, etc. way. And when one of the big fights last year started, I thought oh, something must have been wrong. But when I understand what you said now, I can understand sangha as a place where I really can see here. Like in a relationship or a sangha, here I have this, and here’s this problem, and I can deal with it. And I have a space where I can find ways how to be with all these differences—perhaps with fighting, but without destroying each other.
Eve: Yeah. So what we’re discovering is that even though we practice many years, you know, we’re not so different from other people. Really. You know, we still fight with our husbands or wives. We still fight with our parents. You know, we’re not some all-wonderful peaceful people. We really aren’t. For me, that’s not what Zen practice means. But what Zen practice means, and what sangha means, is that I’m going to engage with it. I’m going to look at that differences—the oneness and the differences in the oneness. And when I’m with sangha, I’m with other people who are committed to looking at it the same way, and working with it also. That’s what that means for me. It doesn’t mean that oh we’re wonderful, perfect people that have no trouble.
Audience member 4: But it’s really different from my beginning. My beginning was practice, and then . . .
Eve: Never fight again.
Audience member 4: Yeah, something like that.
Bernie: That was your concept?
Audience member 4: Yes.
Bernie: Yeah, all concepts are concepts.
There’s a koan that relates to this. The koan is What is sameness? And the intellectual answer to the koan is that sameness is differences. Sameness is the fact that everything, everything is different. Now how do you experience that?
So when I started the Auschwitz Retreat, as an example, every year I would talk about why I started it. And I kept hearing people over the eighteen years talking about the Auschwitz Retreat having to do with all about the Holocaust, and it was all about the Jews and Germans—it was about the Holocaust. And every year, at Auschwitz, I would talk about that that retreat was about the differences, and how we deal with differences. I would make that a huge point. And every year that would be forgotten, because it’s very difficult to deal with the differences. We want it all to be the same. Or we want it all to be no suffering. Or we want, you know, we want everything to go away. And life, to me, aint that way.
It’s like my own body, if I look inside my body, and I say oh yeah, I always like inside my body no germs come up, no diabetes systems to come up, no cancer cells to come up. What kind of game am I playing with myself? I’m denying that my body is all differences, and that my ears fall apart—now I need hearing aids. My teeth fall out, and I need a partial . . .
Eve: [in Tootsie voice] Rocky, you’re all fukakt.
Bernie: I’m all fukakt!
[In Rocky voice] I think the practice is learning that I am fukakt, and not trying to be not fukakt. I mean if I’m gonna sit around worrying about how am I gonna be un-fukakt?
Eve: [as Tootsie] Forget about it.
Bernie: Forget about it.
But I could learn. I could learn, I think, how to deal with it, you know. What does that mean? It means try not to forget your teeth when you leave. [Audience laughs] I now have left my teeth in different places, but usually in Christian places. [Audience laughs] I’ve left my ears, my hearing aids, usually in Christian places. So I’ve gotten in the habit of leaving my body parts at different Christian retreats I attend.
So I’ve got to live with that now. But bearing witness to it . . . Tootsie every time I’m ready to leave somewhere says, “Did you remember your teeth and ears?” So the solution came out of her bearing witness to the fact that I keep forgetting things all over the place.
Anyway, the point I want to make is that the word sameness is very tricky. It’s very tricky. I’m gonna make it easy for you. Forget the word sameness. The only thing you can say is the same is that everything is different.
You know, I want to add because it’s such an interesting thought; Eve just wrote an article that went out on our E-mail about the trauma that’s in Israel. That her mother, when something happens like what’s happening now (and it doesn’t even have to be this big), her mother goes into shock. Because her mother’s out of the Holocaust, and the shock that she has is that it’s happening again. That’s got nothing to do with anybody saying, “Well, you know, you’re not realistic,” or whatever. My Rabbi, who just passed away—a beautiful man, Zalman Schachter, he says that all of Israel is in post-traumatic stress. That’s their condition. And everybody looks at them, and says, “Why did they do such-and-such?” It’s like looking at somebody in post-traumatic stress, and saying, “Why don’t you behave differently?” That’s not so simple. And most of the Palestinians are in trauma. So you’re dealing with two groups of people in trauma—and very deep trauma. And you say, “Why don’t they all stop fighting?” “Don’t they know that they should be at peace?” “Haven’t they read any good books about . . .” whatever.
Because many of you work with people in stress, I mean, in the U.S. we have so many soldiers coming back in really bad post-traumatic stress, it is not so easy to tell those folks, “Hey, don’t worry. Do a little meditation—no problem.” Yeah, thank you.
What’s much more important to me is (but it’s not the first twenty years, so we can’t talk about it), you brought up Bearing Witness . . .
Eve: I want to go. I want to make one other point, because it came up so much this morning. What about taking care of yourself?
So for me, that still relates to relationship, which is what is my relationship to myself? And a few of you know this, that we’re trying to put together a collection of household koans, or personal koans.
Bernie: I just read it. It’s great.
Eve: Thank you.
I . . . Now I lost my thought.
It’s work that I like to do with people, personal koans, or the householder koans—not the monastic koans that we usually get. And a few people made contributions. There was one woman who sent me this koan. It was very interesting. She said the koan was Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about! That was the name of the koan. And the situation she described is that she came back (She lives in New Zealand) after being away for many years. And she brought her baby with her. And she was nursing the child. She was talking to her older sister, and talking about how wonderful it is to nurse. And her older sister said, “Shut up, you don’t know what you’re talking about!” So she said, “Of course, when that happened, I got very angry. I said, ‘You always talk like that to me. You always made fun of me. You always belittle me. Ever since we were children, this continues. And I hate you.’” Something like that.
Now she has sat for many years. So after many years of sitting, she said, “I now know that that was wrong. I know the practice should have been, I should have let go of the self, and said to her, ‘Tell me, you’re my older sister, what do you think?” That’s what she said. “That is the practice that I should do.”
So I looked at this, and I thought well, that’s your opinion. That’s not my opinion. And I really wanted to be sure, so guess who I live with? I live with my own teacher. So I asked him, “This is what I think, Bernie [I said to him], I don’t think that’s the right thing.” Because I think that letting go of the self, in Zen, doesn’t mean that you neglect the self, that you don’t pay attention to yourself, that you eliminate yourself, and you’re just with the other person. The situation includes me. I can’t take my self out of it. And in her way, when she says, “Oh, OK sister, tell me what you think.” She has completely denied her own self. She has denied her feelings, her emotions. She has denied her upset. She has denied what is coming up for her.
But I realize many people think of that as Zen practice. Letting go of the self—that’s what it means. It’s not taking care of your self. And that was not my understanding. My understanding—and so I wrote her this, and actually it’s in my commentary on her koan in this publication that we hope will come out—that no, you enter into relationship, and what that means. That means that you may sit down and say to her not, “Oh you’re all crazy, and I hate you.” No, that isn’t going to do. But relationship, it’s not knowing, and now bear witness. “Well, I’m bearing witness to how I feel, and I’m upset, and I’m sad. I haven’t seen you in fifteen years, and this is how you talk to me? This is how I feel. Can you please tell me why you said this? Or how do you feel? What is this?” And come into a relationship. You know, but don’t leave your self out.
So you know, Bernie said, “Well, I think you can take care of others. You don’t have to necessarily take care of your self.” I feel, I think you have to do both at the same time. In fact, I don’t know how to do one without the other.
So he has his opinion. I have my opinion, although Tootsie thinks, “You’re crazy. I’m right.”
[In Tootsie voice] What do you, you don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, Rocky.
Bernie: [In Rocky voice] That’s true.
I always say that this is my opinion, and that’s right now. So I have a different opinion now than when we talked. I don’t know when we talked, but I wouldn’t say that I had that opinion anymore. My opinions are always changing. If opinions don’t change, that means you think they’re right. And that’s, for me, a problem. If you think anything you say, or anything you hear, you think it’s right—including, for me things like The Bible, or the sutras. So in Buddhism, somebody has written, and said that the Buddha had four noble truths. I call it four noble opinions. In my opinion, there is no such thing as a truth. Somebody that calls something else as the truth, and justifies what they’re doing, that’s not a way of bearing witness. It’s just quoting somebody else.
And I don’t know of any emotions that could come up that I would call bad. So for example, I’m looking at this Gatha of Atonement—which of course I can’t read, because I don’t read German, but maybe somebody could read it. We’ve changed it. If you look on the Zen Peacemaker Order website, if you look at the Gatha of Atonement that we put up. We changed it to “Not holding on to my anger.” There’s nothing wrong with anger. It’s just another emotion, as far as I’m concerned. Every emotion is an emotion. It’s hanging on, getting stuck there, that’s another issue. And in terms of practice, bearing witness to those things is a good thing, to me.
So, we do a lot of things at Auschwitz which promote a lot of anger, which then allows work to happen in council. For me the retreat would be wasteful if everybody just came and got blissed out, or talked about how wonderful . . . I don’t personally like for people to talk about how wonderful it is, because that’s not the point. The point is what are the issues that occur. And that’s my . . .
Eve: But again, to go back to this thing of taking care of your self. Like I say, when I was in Israel, and there was all these sirens, and missiles, and all this coming, and all this upset, and depression, and anxiety coming. It is clear to me, so I do what I can. And at the same time, if I don’t take care of my self, it’s trouble. So I have to do both.
It was clear for me coming back on Tuesday, coming to Switzerland, and arriving, and someone talking about the weather. And I looked at them like, “Where are you coming from? I mean, who cares about the weather?” You know, it was like I was on a different planet. But there’s so much to work out, so much to process in whatever ways you find. Maybe it’s just by sitting for a long time, and really taking it in. Maybe it’s to go talk with someone. Maybe it’s to have a cup of coffee with someone. But I think both have to happen. In order to be able to go on, you have to take care of your self. You know, you have to know your self.
And it’s good over years, what traps you fall into about this, “Oh I want to serve. I want to serve.” I mean that was really good, Bernie said this morning, “Serving is too dualistic.” Once you use “I have to take care,” it’s obvious that I’m included. I have to be included. So that’s a much better term. Once you see that, then you also, “Well how do I take care?” You know, and I learned some ways of taking care this time, because I learned from making a mistake when I didn’t take care, and what happened.
So my opinion is that the two, you know, they’re so intertwined I can’t differentiate them. I think the problem is the differentiation from the beginning. “Oh first you’ve got to get enlightened, and then this, and then you can go enlighten the world.” Eh, that’s just too separate for me.
You know, do meditation, and get busy, and work, and watch what comes up. It’ll come up for you. It’ll come up in the world. There’s no inside, no outside. We know that. Those voices in Palestine, Israel, believe me there were echoes of that in me. In different ways, I could see it. I could hear it. For me there was no difference.
So that didn’t mean that I just took care of others, and hoped that I would be taken care of by that. I had to do both. I don’t know any other way to go on and do this kind of work. So, we had different opinions about that.
Anyway, we have maybe a few minutes. Any questions? And if not, we’ll have a break.
Audience member 5: One thing that came up, when you talk about using this word sameness. I think often in our language, almost every word can trigger a different kind of problem. One word for me that came up was when talking about Palestine; you talk about the word peace, because there’s so many different meanings. I see in relationships, and social work so many people needing harmony. So it’s an important need, but often there are other needs that can be satisfied that are much more important. Maybe there will never be harmony with Israel. There are other things between them. So the question for me, is what do you mean by this word peace?
Eve’s Remarks on Bernie’s 1st 20 Years of his 60 Year Journey in Zen: Zendo Practice
Eve: I’ll tell you my sense of it. So harmony is a funny word. It’s not a word that I like, because it evokes a picture of everybody smiling, and everybody loving each other. And I don’t think that’s what it is. It’s much more. You know, I told my sister, who lives in Jerusalem, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do. It’s just totally crazy. I don’t know what to do.” And I said to her, “OK, I’ll give you an idea what to do. In the next year, go and meet one Palestinian, and form a relationship. You know, you talk about your daughter. They talk about their children. You talk about your work. They’ll talk about their work. You talk about your family. They’ll talk about their family. Just one—forget 1.8 million Palestinians on the West Bank—just one.” Because for me, it’s forming that relationship that even if tomorrow they signed a peace agreement—that’s a political document. It means very little. They already did that once. But they didn’t do this work—the work of the relationship. If each person met one person on what’s called “the other side,” and they’ll form a relationship.
Bernie mentioned this morning that the Buddha talked about suffering. You know, we all suffer. And somebody who sits with me said, “Would I really, really bear witness to that? Would I really see the suffering that somebody else goes through?” It actually humbles me. Because I realize that that’s what we all do. It’s common to all of us. Whoever it is, we all want something else. We struggle, we’re disappointed, we feel bad. There’s a real brotherhood and sisterhood in that world. And so there’s something about bearing witness to that that just makes me feel like “Oh I’m just like Carl. I’m just like you. I’m really in my own way, I’m just like them.” You know, those are the small things we can do. I don’t know would you call it peace? Would you call it harmony? Those are big words. But just that thing, that kind of relationship, one to one, I think is a very big deal.
At the invitation of the Zen Peacemaker Order, Center for Council has been working with NGOs in Rwanda to develop their capacity to facilitate council circles at a number of villages in-country and, now, inspired by our work in California, inside several prisons, where perpetrators of violence during the Genocide Against the Tutsis are being held. Many of these prisoners are reaching the end of their incarceration and are being released into the communities where the violence occurred and the Rwandan Correctional Service and associated NGOs have asked Center for Council to partner in developing programs to ease that transition and to promote healing.Learn More
Just Posted New Edition of Rocky and Tootsie – Live!, Take It To the Cleaners!, Hear it at http://zenpeacemakers.org/rocky-and-tootsie-live/Learn More
In January 1994—it was my 55th birthday—I did a retreat in Washington, DC, bearing witness to the question of what should I do to serve those rejected by society, those in poverty, and those with AIDS? As a result of bearing witness in that retreat—I had gone there with no ideas of what to do. I had completed work on a major project in Yonkers, NY called Greyston, but I had no idea what I should be doing. So I sat in a five-day retreat, and I sat with that question. I bore witness to that question. And out of that came the vision of a container for people wanting to do spiritually based social action. I discussed it with my wife at the time, Jishu, and we decided on developing the Zen Peacemaker Order. And that is now being revitalized.
Now, in August 2014, I am faced with another question that has been burning a hole in my soul. For many years my wife Eve and I worked in the Middle East, in Palestine, in Israel, in Jordan. We had staff there. Eve was going there every two months. I was going every three or four months. We worked for many years. And then we stopped to build a big retreat center in Montague, NY.
And recently—as most of you who are listening to this know—there’s been major battles going on between Israel and Gaza (Hamas and Gaza). Even before that happened, I had become so frustrated with what’s going on between Israel and Palestine that I took an easy way out, which many of us do. I boycotted. I decided I wouldn’t read anything about it, and I would stop going there—even though I had family there, even though my wife is Israeli, and all her family is there, and we had been going twice a year. I stopped going. And I stopped reading the Israeli newspapers, which I used to do on a daily basis. That is an easy way out called denial, boycotting, avoiding. And it’s not in my nature to do that—although it’s in the nature of all of us to do that with issues that are too frustrating to deal with.
So recently, just within the past few weeks, I decided I have to go to Israel—actually to a place where I can invite some Israeli activists, and Palestinian activists to join me if they wish, in a retreat. And I’m choosing a place in the West Bank, called A Tent for All Nations on a hilltop surrounded by settlements. And it’s a place where conferences for peace have been held, and all kinds of peace activities—and where settlers on a regular basis come in and destroy trees, and destroy properties.
So I’m going to go and sit for three days, with no idea what to do, and bear witness to the whole gestalt of what’s happening there—the occupation, the siege, the rockets, the killing back and forth. I will sit and bear witness to what’s happening there. And I will take the actions that arise out of that not knowing, and bearing witness. These are the Three Tenets of Zen Peacemakers. The action may be to do nothing. But whatever actions arise out of that bearing witness, I will take.
And as I said, I’ll invite a few people too, that are activists right now, both in Israel and Palestine to join me if they wish. And after that—even if nothing comes up—I will bear witness to individuals in Israel (right wing, and liberal), to Palestinians (in Israel, and in West Bank), and hopefully with some people in Gaza—to bear witness to their stories, and their gestalt.
I’ll report back after I do this.Learn More
Thirty-five years ago, Hanuman-ji flew onto this land and into our lives. Since that time, the number of devotees packed into the small shrine room grows year by year, and the need for a new temple becomes ever more clear. In the following video, Ram Dass remembers how the murti of Hanuman made his way to New Mexico. He talks about how Hanuman's arrival here represents the establishment of the spirit of love and service in America, and how Maharaji is manifesting his love in the West through the heart-felt service of his devotees. Please share this video with your friends and students and help us to hold the vision of Hanuman-ji in his beautiful new temple. We appreciate any support that you can give to make the new temple for Hanuman a reality. To explore the plans for the new temple and learn more visit http://www.nkbashram.org/newtemple/. Ram Dass Video Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yQ9kdh7vzsLearn More
On the streets, At Refugee Camp in Chiapas, Auschwitz Interfaith Ceremony, Riverdale NY 1982
Bernie and Eve just returned from leading a retreat at Felsentor, Switzerland where Bernie spoke on his 60 year journey in Zen. The talks have been posted here (href=”/?page_id=10055). Transcripts will be posted as they are completed.Learn More