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

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

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2017 ZPO EUROPE Bearing Witness Retreat in Bosnia-Herzegovina

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

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Sharing a Meal with Hungry Hearts

by Cassie Moore, Upaya Resident “Calling all you hungry hearts All the lost and left behind Gather ’round and share this meal Your joy and sorrow I make it mine.” —from The Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy Most nights, people line up outside of the Santa Fe homeless shelter, Pete’s Place, well before the glass doors stretch open for dinner at 6 p.m. For dozens of people, “Pete’s” (formerly the Pete’s Pets building on Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, now the Interfaith Community Shelter) is a winter emergency shelter that offers nourishment and beds, as well as community and safety. To serve meals, the shelter relies on legions of volunteers, like us. A Upaya team of eight, we’ve come dressed not in our usual Zenblack, but in “normal” clothes. We unpack a Subaru full of prepped veggies, spices, oils, and kitchenware and lug it all into Pete’s kitchen. Debbie who works at the shelter greets us with boundless energy, and orients us on how to prepare dinner, how to serve, and when to sit to join the shelter guests for dinner. Over several days, we have been preparing for this dinner with the help of local sangha members. Our menu feels like a pre-Thanksgiving feast for the 105 people who will fill Pete’s dining hall tonight. As we unload the car in trips, walking back and forth through the parking lot, we pass a dozen people looking in through the still-locked glass doors, pacing outside, resting on the sidewalk, catching up, smoking. A sangha volunteer whispers to me, “This is where I get shy.” Internally, I feel an old shyness fog me, too. I feel intense waves of differentiation coming up, noticing the clients who appear to be on drugs, seeing a group of women yelling in the parking lot corner. A man in the lot catcalls me. I notice this feeling arise that says, These people are different than me. I feel self-doubt. I’m afraid I don’t know how to show up with these people, that our differences are too big for us to connect, that I won’t know the right thing to say or do. As we settle in, the kitchen begins smelling like holidays: it’s snowing out and our chicken soup and...

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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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2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz Retreat Summary

‘This [Auschwitz retreat] is an opportunity to love, and to give up fear.’ Bernie called, spirited yet tender, from the middle of the auditorium on his way to his quarters after delivering his opening remarks for the 2016 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz-Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat.   He was surrounded by eighty participants from seventeen countries who have traveled seas and land to participate. Forty-five of them, an unprecedented number, had come to Auschwitz for the first time with the Zen Peacemakers. In the following five days, through rain, snow and sunshine, we shared time at the camp, visiting the barracks of children, women and men in places where they spent their last nights and days, we dedicated ceremonies at the remains of the crematoriums and ash fields where they were killed and disposed of, and we sat silently at the selection site where this very decision of their fate was made by other fellow human beings. From the silence, we called their names and those of our own loved ones that died there. Above us, crows circled and swooped.   “I came quite “not knowing” and plunged into one the most meaningful experiences in my life. I felt cared for, safe and guided through this week with enough flexibility to find my own pace. I felt as part of a compassionate community and I am deeply thankful for all these moments of deep humanity. ” – Retreat Participant   Day by day, we further revealed the layout of the camp and the schedule was marked by extended time for self reflection, private practice and exploration. We bore witness to moments of grief of soft lullabies in German, Hebrew and French and moments of celebration of life by songs in Arabic, Dutch and many other tongues. We heard from Yaser and Rabia, two Palestinian siblings, refugees from present-day war-torn Syria of their moments of despair and inspiration, of caring for family and friends, and joined them in the Al-Fatiha – the most essential Muslim prayer – in closing our final silent circle, kneeling palms up by the alter at the selection site. Their presence at the retreat anchored our experience in the present suffering of their people and many others around the world.   One afternoon, Bernie, wheeled by chair and surrounded by the participants, visited...

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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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Bernie Off to Poland

(in photo, Bernie exercising with Ari Setsudo Pliskin)   By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, ZPO   Bernie goes off to Poland on Friday. Back in June, when he barely walked and had only just mastered the stairs, he began to say how much he wanted to join the November retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Zen Peacemakers’ 21st annual retreat at the concentration camps. To be honest, I thought it was pretty crazy. When we filled out questionnaires for the Taub Clinic in Alabama, one of the questions asked what specific and practical outcomes Bernie hoped for from their intensive therapy, and he asked me to write that he wished to go to the retreat in Poland. Again I thought it was pretty crazy. On Friday he’s going. Without me. There will be people accompanying him on the planes between Boston and Krakow, and someone with him the entire time he’s in Poland, not to mention some 80 other folks who’ll be happy to see him and do everything they can for him. He’s been practicing his walking outside on uneven terrain, as he’s doing with Ari in the photo. At the camps themselves he’ll need to use his wheelchair, and momentarily I think of one of the exhibits at the Auschwitz Museum showing the various canes and prosthetics the people arriving on the trains used. They were the very ones who were quickly ushered to extinction while the mechanical aids, seen as more valuable than the humans, were given a longer life. I wonder what he’ll think when he sees that exhibit. If he sees it. The Museum is not wheelchair accessible and it’s a lot of walking. Bernie will have to pace himself, see what he can do, how far he can go, how far he can let himself be from a bathroom. The camps are meant to be arduous. No drinking or eating is allowed inside those fences, and Birkenau itself is huge. But over the 21 years quite a number of people with some disability have joined this retreat. Since I’ve heard of his wish to go back there I’ve thought of the old scenario of human approaching the officer in elegant uniform and told whether to go right or left. I...

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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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From War in Syria to Bearing Witness in Auschwitz

Story by Roshi Barbara Wegmüller, Switzerland, September 2016 My friend Rabia is an extremely courageous woman and I am happy to share my story of how we met. It was in 2006, only days before Beirut was bombed, and our friend Sami Awad from Bethlehem, Palestine, who is a Peacemaker, gave a talk against the planned war in Lebanon. He was invited to speak at a big peace demonstration in Bern the capital of Switzerland. The square was packed with people and I waited for him at the edge of the crowd. Small children with dark curly hair were playing right next to me, their mothers urging them to keep quiet. I was playing with the children and tried to have a conversation with the women. One of them spoke a little French and was desperately fumbling for words. She told me she had arrived in Berne the day before and I spontaneously handed her my business card saying that if she learnt to speak German we could communicate. Ten months later my phone rang and a female voice said, “this is Rabia speaking, I have learnt German and would like to speak with you.“ I immediately knew who it was and we arranged to meet for coffee and that’s how our friendship began. Rabia is from Palestine and her parents fled from there with small children. They travelled a long way through distant countries, from Yemen to Syria. The war in Syria made life for the extended family unbearable and with the help of Peacemaker Switzerland we could arrange to evacuate many members of the family and get them out of the war zone. We had the entire family stay with us for one week in our home. On the last evening Yazer told us his story. He had not eaten for 3 months, just some leaves to have something in his stomach. He had given his last ration of food to some hungry children. Yazer, the brother of Rabia, a young dentist arrived in Switzerland after a long ordeal and totally famished. What helped him to survive and safe his life was a film he had seen several years earlier by Steven Spielberg — “Schindler’s List“. In the film a few people had survived despite...

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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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Diversity Fundraiser, Auschwitz 2016

  Celebration of diversity has been a hallmark of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreats and in particular in Auschwitz-Birkenau, once a symbol of extreme intolerance towards others. Through the years the Zen Peacemakers hosted there countless nationalities, faith and ethnicities. In 2015, our large community collected donations to bring Lakota Native Americans, Croats, Bosniaks & Serbs, the indigenous of Australia and Palestine. Barbara and Roland Wegmueller of the Zen Peacemaker Order have been working with Syrian refugees for several years. Two of their friends, a brother and sister who had to flee Syria and are currently in asylum in Switzerland, would like to join the retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau this year. Their presence will connect the retreat and all its participants with the horrors of the present-day war in Syria and the excruciating difficulties encountered by those fleeing its shores. We are raising $5000 towards their retreat tuition, travel and lodging. Contribution in any amount will help us bring them there. Donation can be done online with Paypal or credit card at the link below, US checks can be sent to: Zen Peacemakers ATTN: Auschwitz Diversity Fundraiser 2016 POBOX 294 Montague MA. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. is a 501(c)3 tax exempt organization for your tax...

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

PREFACE:The following invitation is to a ZPO members-led retreat organized in the spirit of the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets of Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers. This event is another expression of the building momentum between the Native American of Turtle Island and the Zen Peacemakers, following the 2015 Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreat in the Black Hills and 2016 ZPO Members-led plunge in Cheyenne River reservation this past July. The retreat’s page on Facebook  Clouds in Water Zen Center Registration page  Article by ZPO Member Laura Gentle Dragon Kennedy, Clouds in Water Zen Center, Minnesota This Bearing Witness retreat began over 15 years ago. As many processes in life what I thought would take place and what is actually unfolding are different. About 15 years ago I read Bernie Glassman Roshi’s book “Bearing Witness.” There was an immediate resonance with Roshi’s teachings. Practicing meditation for years and working with people who appeared on the edges of life, Bernie Roshi expressed engaged Buddhism for me. I have always felt a deep connection to Beings who intersect with suffering and resilience. Direct experience combined with training in spiritual practices and formal education supports having a chance to help. I understood genocide and resilience was everywhere. After reading, “Bearing Witness”, I decided to meet Fleet Maull, Bernie Roshi and coordinate a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. This was not to happen until many years later. In 2012, I participated in a workshop with Fleet Maull at Upaya and asked him if he would come to Clouds in Water Zen Center and share his teachings with us. This was a direct bloom of my bodhisattva vow. In 2014, I went to Upaya again, this time to see Bernie Roshi. I explained my dream of a Bearing Witness retreat at Wounded Knee. Bernie Roshi said, Zen Peacemakers Inc. was already coordinating this retreat in August of 2015 and I could come at that time. I went to the Black Hills and it was clear — the retreat was to be where I lived. In Minnesota there was was a concentration camp for 1700 Grandmothers, mothers, children and elders in the winter of 1862 and 1863 at Fort Snelling. Minnesota’s legacy of genocide is embodied at Fort Snelling. As a non-native person,...

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ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING

  ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING Interview with Roshi Bernie Glassman, Conducted in Montague, MA USA in June 2016 Transcribed by Scott Harris Preface: As we are gearing towards the 21st Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, Bernie requested to bring to view his questions, intentions and themes that were shaped by twenty years of co-leading these retreats in Poland, Rwanda and the Black Hills. The narrative of events that led to the first retreat is described in the article “Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness”. Below is part 1 of this interview. Part 2 will follow.   BERNIE:  So, I just want to talk and lay out the history of the retreat in Auschwitz. When I entered Birkenau the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sense of souls. And at that time I called it a remembrance of souls. In English it’s an interesting word—remembrance or re-membering, putting together of souls. Now, I did not fix a label on the souls. If you think of it—and I didn’t think of it at the time, at the time I just thought I was remembering souls. But there were so many souls there. Definitely it wasn’t just Jewish souls. There’s Poles, and Gypsies—so many different souls. So at this time, that’s a feeling I had, and I didn’t know what that meant, for remembrance of souls. At that time I didn’t go deeper into “what does this all mean?” I was just overwhelmed by remembrance of souls. And I decided I need to sit here until that becomes clear—perhaps as I’d done before. And I felt I had to do it here. I had to sit until I had that experience that cleared it up for me in some way. I had to go deeper. I don’t know when I decided that I would invite other people to join me in that. It was either then, or on the plane going home with Eve—I don’t remember now, things get a little mixed up. But by the time I got home I decided that I was going to invite people to join me, and that it would not be a Jewish retreat. That it would be a retreat honoring all those souls that had been desecrated. And so therefore I...

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris

(Iris, on right, during 2013 Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat)  This post is another in the series “Flowers on the Edges of Graves” – reflections from 20 years of participants in the Zen Peacemakers Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreats since 1996.   By Iris Katz, Israel It was in November 2010. It was my first time in the Bearing Witness Retreat in Auschwitz. Three months before I have visited Bernie in Montague, USA. He had been telling me about the retreat, I told him that I had never been to Auschwitz. I used to have my own fears which prevented me to go there. They were connected to all that I have known about Auschwitz. Bernie convinced me to go. I went. I had “my” two tenets to follow: Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. The first one was very important for me. Forgetting all I knew, all that had made me afraid and horrified of the Holocaust and its Jewish victims that for me was the main issue about Auschwitz till then. Not-Knowing helped me to go, to be there and to bear witness with some sort of empty mind. Many experiences and few transformations were the outcome of my first retreat in Auschwitz. But one of these experiences changed my life. This one was connected to Ihab, the Israeli-Palestinian from the city of Jaffa, Israel. Ihab, my husband Tani and I became close friends during the retreat. We felt like cousins (which we are, mythologically) or friends who grew up together since childhood, many years back. We speak the same language, share the same history, and have the same background and ideas. I mean, I felt close or oneness with many people in the group. I felt close to psychologists or therapists, for example. I felt close to the victims and I even could feel their guards who had been “sharing” their lives on that place. But with Ihab it was different. We had our jokes, our joint stories, our small idiosyncratic talks, our combined ideas. But … I was an Israeli, a Jewish Israeli, and Ihab was Israeli as well, but “Arab” Israeli, as we keep saying in my country, or Palestinian Israeli, as “they” keep saying in my country. “They,” that is the “Arabs” in Israel. It was a painful recognition to reflect on that in Auschwitz Ihab and myself were equals, close, just the same people, having different religions...

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

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

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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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THE WOMAN, THE MAN, AND THE SPACE IN BETWEEN

By Eve Marko  Photo by Jadina Lilien   Bernie’s going up the stairs, I pass him walking downstairs, and suddenly hear Phump!Instantly I turn around. “What happened?” “Nothing, I saw this gorgeous woman and I almost fell over.” My brother gave me a book in Hebrew, teachings by and anecdotes about Rabbi Menachem Fruman, who passed away a few years ago. There is much to relate about Rabbi Fruman, whom we met on a few occasions: a settler rabbi, a lover of the Holy Land who insisted it belonged to God rather than to Jews or Muslims, who cultivated friendships with Muslim religious and political leaders, including the heads of the PLO and Hamas. He also believed deeply in the importance of couples, of intimate relationships. For this reason, whenever he was interviewed by a newspaper photographers liked to photograph him together with his wife, Hadassa. Once he said to the photographer: “Here’s a major scoop for you. You can take a picture of God and bring it back to the paper! Just point the camera here,” and he pointed to the space between him and his wife. The Zohar, the basic text of Jewish Kabbalah, states that God isn’t to be found in the one person, but rather between two people. There’s myself, there’s my husband, and God is in the middle, in the emptiness between us, never in the one. No, not even in the Great Man. It doesn’t matter how many years you’ve meditated, how many kenshos (enlightenment experiences) and dai-kenshos (great enlightenment experiences) you’ve had, or even what you’ve done for the world. That’s not where God resides. Often people ask me how my practice has helped me over these past six months since Bernie’s stroke. I think they’re asking the wrong question. The practice isn’t what I do early mornings when I go to my office, light a candle and sit. That’s the easiest, most comfy part of the day. The practice is when I then get up and return to the bedroom to ask Bernie how he’s doing, how he slept. To look again at what happened, his loss of weight, his unsteady but determined walk with cane, the splint on his right hand, the question in his...

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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: Fr. Manfred

 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 since 1996.   BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS Manfred Deselaers, Germany/Poland (In photo, first on left)   I live in Oświęcim since 1990, in the Catholic Community Mariae Himmelfahrt, and since 1995 I work as a minister for the Centre for Dialogue and Prayer (CDiM). From the beginning on I was aware of the [Zen] Peacemaker Retreats, from a big distance at first. In the nineties, I heard from priest Piotr Wrona, director of the CDiM at that time, that an American international Buddhist inter-religious group with Jewish roots (or something like that, I don’t remember exactly) was planning and conducting contemplative days in Auschwitz. I had no idea what that meant. Then coincidental meetings happened, conversations in between, invitations and then, eventually, at some point the request to take over the role of a Christian Spirit Holder. Later I often said that for me, the Peacemaker Retreats belong to the most important events in Auschwitz and Birkenau. Why? There are few groups, which listen so intensively to “the voice of this ground”. Sightseeing – yes, of course. Meetings with contemporary witnesses, too. But sitting in silence on the tracks, from time to time chanting the names of those who were murdered… feeling the space while meditating, becoming aware of the many different dimensions in different spots of the camp site… this is such an intense offering to take this place and its victims (and even its offenders) seriously that even former inmates came back to participate. I also learned a lot from the method of Silent Sharing. Mornings in small groups, evenings in bigger groups. It’s not the lectures that account for the atmosphere, it’s the respectful listening to the inner wealth everyone brings in. “Auschwitz” – that was the annihilation of others. Nearly none of all the groups coming to Auschwitz these days is bringing together different nations, biographies, faiths and religions so intentionally. The healing of broken identities and broken relationships belongs together, there is no other way, I’m convinced of that. New trust comes from honest listening to each other. For that, it needs a safe space, allowing for trust. That is what this retreat offers. I’m a Catholic priest, not a Jew, not a Buddhist. This means, I...

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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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Welcoming Zen Peacemakers’ New Executive Director

  The Board of Directors of Zen Peacemakers is extremely pleased to announce Rami Efal as the organization’s new Executive Director. Rami is a visionary leader who brings strong execution skills and a deep commitment to meditation, social action, and the arts to Zen Peacemakers. Bernie Glassman, Spiritual Director Grant Couch, Chairman Chris Panos, President   Rami Efal was born in Israel, lived in the US since 2002 and recently became a citizen of the United States. He has been a student of Zen Buddhism with the Mountains and Rivers Order since 2006, including 4 years of residential training at Zen Mountain Monastery and at the Zen Center of New York City. He began his training with the Zen Peacemakers at the 2013 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat, where some of his family had perished. Before his hiring by ZP, Rami graduated from the School of Visual Arts in NY and has been a visual artist working in animation, film and graphic novels and presented art in NY galleries and Europe. He has contributed to hunger, community and hospice projects, participated in and worked for the Palestinian/Israeli Dialogue Project, translated Israeli soldiers’ testimonials for Breaking the Silence and was board member and field-director for the Inkwell Foundation, an non-profit organization of artists visiting children in hospitals. He is a graduate of School of International Training in Vermont where he studied Peacebuilding and Intercultural Conflict Transformation. Rami is also a graduate of the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication Integration Program and has facilitated numerous intensive NVC trainings. He presented on peace-building on NPR, at the Warsaw Museum of Modern Art and at the United Nations Headquarters in NYC. Since Joining ZP in March 2015, Rami has supported Bernie in his travels and has coordinated the planning, operations and staff of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness retreats and the Zen Peacemaker Order....

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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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Bearing Witness in South Dakota July 25 – 29, 2016

(The following invitation is to a members-led retreat organized by members of the Zen Peacemaker Order. Zen Peacemakers, Inc. supports but does not administer the retreat. Please follow the instructions below to contact the organizers.)   BEARING WITNESS IN SOUTH DAKOTA JULY 25-29, 2016 Ever since Zen Peacemakers canceled its retreat in the Black Hills, a number of people have said that they would like to return to South Dakota anyway this summer, reconnect with our Native American friends, and perhaps contribute in some way. Tiokasin Ghosthorse is offering to facilitate a group of people at Cheyenne River Reservation, north of Pine Ridge as of July 25. We think being able to visit other places of the Lakota would bring a broader perspective on how the people have creatively survived and adapted to the differences in a culture and a society, as opposed to the consequences of not adopting a Western thought process but evolving within the ‘adaptive’ cultural continuity of the Lakota Oyate. Tiokasin, who comes from Cheyenne River Reservation, will connect the group with various communities and give us opportunities to work hands-on in home construction, community gardens, and children and teen projects. We also hope to meet with elders and learn more about what Natives are doing to preserve their language and culture, and strengthen their connections with the land. Visits to Pine Ridge and Standing Rock Reservations are also possible. We hope that our coming together at Cheyenne River Reservation this summer will strengthen the energy and connections that began with the retreat last summer. We plan for the group to remain together for five days (even as they split up during the day to work in different areas), after which, depending on individual interests, people can continue to work on their own in various projects that interest them, return to the Black Hills or to Pine Ridge to renew friendships from last year, or go back home. This is not an organized retreat, so there is no retreat fee. Zen Peacemakers is not doing any organizing or logistics. Each participant is responsible for his/her own travel and accommodations (tents or motel). More details will follow, depending on your interest. You may place a comment to the organizer below, The...

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Bernie Glassman Recognizes Grant Couch as Dharma Successor

(photo by Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao)  On April 30th, 2016, after a ZPO International Governance Circle meeting, Bernie Glassman, who has been recovering from a stroke since January, performed a short ceremony to mark the recognition of Grant Couch as a dharma successor in his lineage. Grant Couch, sensei, worked for over 40 years in the financial services industry, with a focus on commercial and investment banking. Following his retirement as President and COO of Countrywide Capital Markets in 2008, Grant’s desire to contribute to other’s personal growth led him to take the position of CEO of Sounds True, a publisher of spiritual teachings where he served for two years. He was Chairman of Manhattan Bancorp and its subsidiary Bank of Manhattan from 2010 – 2015. His current focus is as the Co-Founder of the Conservative Caucus of Citizens Climate Lobby. In 1990 Grant began to explore various spiritual paths. After 4 years of religious and philosophical self-study he found a deep personal resonance in the Buddha’s teachings. Since then he has studied with many Tibetan, Zen and Vipassana teachers. And after attending a 2010 bearing witness retreat in Auschwitz he began working closely with Bernie Glassman and Zen Peacemakers’ three tenets. Grant graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA from Lehigh University. In addition to serving as the Chairman of Zen Peacemakers; he is on the investment committee of Aravaipa Ventures, a Colorado-based, impact technology VC fund; and is a financial advisor to The Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. Now retired, Grant is focused full time on finding a conservative solution to the challenging nexus of energy and the environment – aka climate change. Grant is the Chairman and Secretary of Zen Peacemakers, Inc.non-profit 501(c)3...

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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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Flowers of Wisdom on the Edges of Graves

The following are two of many testimonials of those who have attended the Auschwitz/Bikrenau Bearing Witness retreat. They appear in full in the book “AschePerlen – Pearls of Ash & Awe” (English & German language) at https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en       All of Life in This Moment By Roshi Cornelius Collande Five days of meditation in Auschwitz. I imagined it to be a place of horror, but what I found was a holy place. A place where grief and joy, despair and hope, hate and love, tears and laughter are intertwined in an incomprehensible way. A place that constantly questions your being, a place that doesn’t leave you out, that doesn’t allow you to return to your everyday agenda. In the afternoon, rituals are performed in the barracks of the labor camp, at the gas chambers and crematoria. Everybody can choose between Jewish, Christian and Buddhist ceremonies. I specifically remember a celebration by Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi. A beautiful clear autumn day, bright blue sky, old oaks with golden yellow leaves next to Gas Chamber III, birds twitter and some deer are grazing at a distance. We are beside a pond, where the ashes of the killed were dumped. The water reflects the trees. Kaddish, the Jewish Prayer for the Dead, is being read; in Hebrew, German, Arabic, in all the languages of those who are attending. May the Great Name whose Desire gave birth to the universe Resound through the Creation – Now! May this Great Presence rule your life and your day and all lives of our World …” Who can grasp all this, who can endure it? Then Jewish Songs of Grief; many tears flow while we sing. And now, a Wedding Song, a song that a well-known rabbi had requested to be sung at his funeral. The “Great Name,” the “Great Presence,” as life and death. A Wedding Song, very tender at first, then more dynamic, then dancing, wildness, joy, yes joy and laughter in the company of 1.5 million dead. Deeply shattering, incomprehensible, unbearable for the individual. Only love can endure this … JOIN THE ZENPEACEMAKERS IN AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU IN 2016 LEARN MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT AND REGISTER After all the Years of Looking By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmuller I remember one afternoon when our group of 100 people was sitting on the selection ramp in a big circle. In the center of the...

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UPDATE: 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat CANCELED

UPDATE: 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat CANCELED Dear members, friends and supporters, The Zen Peacemakers and our Lakota friends in South Dakota would like to thank all of you who supported the Native American Bearing Witness Retreat this year with your enthusiasm and patience. As it stands, we did not receive enough registrations to cover the costs of the retreat and arrived at a point on our planning timeline it was no longer possible to continue. Today the Zen Peacemakers board of directors, with full hearts, concluded that it is necessary to cancel the retreat. In our years of Bearing Witness we have learned to pay attention and respond to the unique needs of the moment. Last year that has resulted in the tremendously successful 2015 Native American Bearing Witness retreat. This year, the needs and fruition seem to have changed. We have also learned that things don’t end but change form and direction. This moment is such a moment, and we are excited and dedicated to see the form of the next unfolding in seventeen years of relationship with our Lakota allies, friends and elders. If you are one of the many who have fully registered to the retreat, you have received an email regarding your money refund options. If you have not received it yet, please check your inbox, write Suzanne Webber, our retreat’s registrar, at suzanne[at]brooksbendfarm.com, or me at rami[at]zenpeacemakers.org, 347.210.9556 We are glad that many relationships and actions rose from last year’s retreat. We hope you continue and share them with our community. Thank you. Rami Efal ZP Operations Coordinator and Assistant to...

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UPDATE to ZEN PEACEMAKER ORDER MEMBERS, SPRING 2016

  Dear Member of the Zen Peacemaker Order, On April 29-30 2016, the international ZPO governance circle gathered at Bernie and Eve’s house in Massachusetts USA with the circle’s members flying from California, Germany, Belgium, Colorado, Israel and driving up from New York City. All the ZPO regional governance circle stewards were in attendance. For information about the ZPO’s governance structure and the list of all stewards, click here. First and foremost, we listened and set an intention to address concerns and requests coming up from members through the local regional circles. Many of the topics, such as ZPO training paths, ZPO Bearing Witness Retreats, ZPO membership and ZPO training groups, were discussed in the context of what became the new ZPO transition group. Marushka Glissen, ZPO Steward on the New England Governance circle who attended the meeting as a witness, wrote: “It was clear to me that Bernie had come a long way from when he first had his stroke on January 12th 2016 especially in his ability to speak clearly. Some of his relationships with people in the International Circle spanned 45 years and the interconnection of all present was palpable. The most significant thing that got accomplished at this meeting was the installation of a transition group. They will help the ZPO move from a leader based organization to a vision based organization. The vision for many is how to create and expand a community based on meditation, social action, and peacemaking through the 3 tenants.” Zen Peacemakers Inc., the 501(c)3 nonprofit US organization has been established to support Bernie in his teachings and projects, which included Bearing Witness retreats as well as the ZPO. As the Order developed, the need to birth it from being a project into an actual legal entity that would support its growth, its vision and its members was evident. This group is mandated with proposing to the International governance circle and ZP Inc. board of directors how to seamlessly as possible facilitate that. It is my impression and conviction that the individuals in this circle are whole-heartedly dedicated to listening to our members’ needs as we weave the vision Bernie holds and to which I suspect many of us responded, and I hope this communication...

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Greyston’s Founder Wins Social Innovator Award

  Greyston’s Founder Wins Social Innovator Award As Organization Continues to Expand Impact (from Greyston press release, April 2016)   April 8, 2016. Yonkers, NY – On April 7, 2016, The Lewis Institute at Babson presented the Social Innovator Award to Greyston’s founder, Bernie Glassman, for pioneering an organization dedicated to job creation and community empowerment. Bernie joins the ranks of past Social Innovator Award recipients, such as Dr. Paul Farmer and Ophelia Dahl, Founders of Partners in Health. This award celebrates extraordinary global social innovators and informs the Babson community on what it takes to create real and lasting change in the world. Bernie created Greyston on the foundation of Open Hiring, which embraces an individual’s potential by providing employment opportunities regardless of background or work history while offering the support necessary to thrive in the workplace and in the community. Greyston continues to champion and expand Open Hiring 33 years since its founding. The event also marked the launch of an innovative partnership between Greyston and Babson. Babson will be the first school to participate in Greyston’s immersive social innovation learning program, which will change the way students learn and approach social change. Mike Brady, CEO and President of Greyston, says, “33-years ago Bernie had a vision for combining business and the values of non-judgement, transformation and loving action to change the lives of people most in need. His vision continues to inform innovative approaches to poverty alleviation three decades later. We are delighted to be launching the education program with Babson College to create a new generation of courageous leaders who will push Bernie’s vision forward. Businesses need to embrace solutions like Greyston’s Open Hiring if we are to break the cycle of poverty and the address the social injustices in the world today. ” “We are excited to co- create this innovative program. Social Innovation is best taught in context and there is no better context for our students to learn from than inside one of the most admired and sustainable social enterprises,” Cheryl Kiser, Executive Director, The Lewis Institute. About Greyston: Founded in 1982, Greyston is an integrated network of programs that provides jobs, workforce development, child care, after-school programs and community gardens, reaching more than 5,000 community members...

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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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“ONE HOOP, WIDE AS DAYLIGHT”

“ONE HOOP, BROAD AS DAYLIGHT” by CHAS JEWETT I had wondered aloud several times about what kind of crazy white folks were wanting to bear witness to our people’s genocide. The folks from the Wantabe nation are pretty clueless, well meaning maybe but clueless, this could be dangerous, I was skeptical. The genocide of my people, the Mnicoujou is ongoing:  the mascots, the boarding schools, the textbooks, the incarceration, the whiskey, the meth, the white flour, the white sugar, the treaties, the land. Genocide like ecocide are words to me that hold breath taking unspeakable meaning. I had gone to visit the rainbow tribe a month earlier, their coming was with much fanfare and some segments of our tribal community in the black hills mistrusted their intentions. I was unsure, so I went to investigate and on the road to the camp I saw a couple of kids from my UU fellowship running barefoot and fancy free, when I arrived they fed me pancakes and I sat for a while in their drum circle.  I left, not needing to linger, they were respectful to the land, they seemed genuinely happy, mostly self-interested I suppose, had I been ten years younger, I might have camped and become engaged, but I was chockful of engagement with white folks, there was nothing for me to learn besides, my dog Luta was geriatric, and I had been having to leave her more and more, I wanted to get back to her. Later on that summer, investigating again, I came in the first afternoon while most everyone but Tiokosin and Jadina were touring Pine Ridge, you folks had a bigger tent, a tipi and looked a little more ligit than the hippies, but I had no real way to know you folks weren’t going to be donning regalia and dancing around said tipi, so I came back the next day. I was still so curious to see what bearing witness looked like.    The first day, I learned some stuff and met some people, so the next morning, Luta secured at her second home, I came back with my tent and began my relationship with the Zen peacemakers.  I stayed all week, soaking in the good vibes and the honest,...

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COMING SOON: NEW WEBINAR SERIES with BERNIE GLASSMAN

As many of you may know, back in January 12th ​2016 Bernie has suffered a stroke. ​His recovery, according to his therapists, is nothing short of spectacular, other than the peculiar phenomenon that he sometimes, while speaking about his condition, forgets the word ‘stroke.’ He will pause, then recite an esoteric mantra revealed to him in the bardo of neuroscience blackout – ‘Bowling…? Strike..? Stroke.’ – and off he goes resuming his spiel. Watching him do that is like watching a dynamo engine winding itself up, only to release with great gusto. Once he returned home from rehabilitation, between therapies and espressos, Bernie began working on a new book and found great enthusiasm to share his post-stroke insights and current expression of Zen practice, which to him feels fresh and unconventional. “What else is new, right?” Bernie decided to share his process and study with all of us, for the first time, through periodic video internet calls (webinars). The webinar series will be open to all ZPO Member. If you are not a member yet this is the time to join this international community of spiritual practitioners and social activists and take part in this special opportunity to study with Bernie. >>CLICK HERE TO ENROLL AS A ZPO MEMBER<< >>If you are an enrolled ZPO Member, you may register to the webinar now and be notified once the dates become available. Click Here to Register<< Bernie is offering these teaching sessions free of charge. Any dana will appreciated and will support the Zen Peacemaker Order. No bowling experience or shoes...

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Join the Zen Peacemakers in Auschwitz/Birkenau, October 2016

  JOIN THE ZEN PEACEMAKERS FOR THE 21st RETURN TO THE CAMP OF AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU “What could Auschwitz— this place oceans-deep with death and the source of so much fear-turned-hate in the hearts of people I deeply love— possibly teach me about living a full, beautiful, wise, compassionate life?” – Kineret Yardena. Participant of 2015 retreat. REGISTER AND READ MORE ABOUT THE RETREAT Still Poem by Wisława Szymborska (Polish poet and recipient of Nobel Prize in literature) In sealed box cars travel names across the land, and how far they will travel so, and will they ever get out, don’t ask, I won’t say, I don’t know. The name Nathan strikes fist against wall, the name Isaac, demented, sings, the name Sarah calls out for water for the name Aaron that’s dying of thirst. Don’t jump while it’s moving, name David. You’re a name that dooms to defeat, given to no one, and homeless, too heavy to bear in this land. Let your son have a Slavic name, for here they count hairs on the head, for here they tell good from evil by names and by eyelids’ shape. Don’t jump while it’s moving. Your son will be Lech. Don’t jump while it’s moving. Not time yet. Don’t jump. The night echoes like laughter mocking clatter of wheels upon tracks. A cloud made of people moved over the land, a big cloud gives a small rain, one tear, a small rain-one tear, a dry season. Tracks lead off into black forest. Cor-rect, cor-rect clicks the wheel. Gladeless forest. Cor-rect, cor-rect. Through the forest a convoy of clamors. Cor-rect, cor-rect. Awakened in the night I hear cor-rect, cor-rect, crash of silence on silence. (translated by Magnus J....

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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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BEAR WITNESS TO THE BLACK HILLS IN 2016

BEAR WITNESS TO THE BLACK HILLS IN 2016 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 In 2015, the Lakota Nation and Zen Peacemakers conducted the first Native American Bearing Witness retreat in South Dakota. It hosted over 180 people from over a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia who came to the Black Hills to bear witness to the land and to individuals from the Shawnee/Lenape, Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Mohawk, Lakota and Dakota nations about first-hand accounts of intergenerational trauma, present-day teen suicide epidemic, acute poverty, alcoholism and addictions, as well as presentations on historical bulls leading to the genocide and ecological justice issues. Together, each morning, we awoke to a ceremony appreciating the bounty of all that was around us – we bore witness to the majestic Black Hills – the running water streams, the tall grasses – referred to by the Lakota as Cante Wamakhognake – “The heart of everything that is.” We bore witness to our own lives and hearts – all that the hills gave rise to. Following the retreat in 2015 several members-led actions came forth, including the delivery of several thousand pounds of winter cloths and distribution in Pine Ridge reservation throughout the year. A Lakota delegation accompanied the 2015 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness retreat and shared their ceremonies alongside with Muslims, Christians, Buddhist and Jews. The Zen Peacemakers, together with the Lakota Nation, will return to the Black Hills this summer for the 2016 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in South Dakota, to continue this ongoing and long-term process of restoration of trust. Why Return? In the Zen Peacemakers, we practice bearing witness to the oneness of life, and to all that which veils this from our experience. Auschwitz, Rwanda, the Black Hills, Bosnia/Herzegovina are not the same. Each place, at each moment, is subjected to its own climate and politics, bathed in its own lore, its own history, its own forms of kindness and its own forms of ruthlessness. Coming to the Black Hills is unlike coming to Auschwitz. Coming to the Black Hills is unlike returning to the Black Hills. While bearing witness to a specific place...

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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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Join Our Bearing Witness Programs in 2016

JOIN OUR BEARING WITNESS PROGRAMS IN 2016 “In the old Buddhist traditions in India and Tibet they had what they called charnel practices where you would go to the cemeteries and sit with the spirits that are coming in. It’s a very similar thing [to Bearing Witness Retreats] and a way of dealing with our own insecurity, our own fears, our own wanting to be ignorant of certain things and not really grasping that that means that we are not connecting to all that which is us. We are all one, we are all interconnected.” – Roshi Bernie Glassman For twenty years, the Zen Peacemakers, founded by Zen Teacher Bernie Glassman, created Bearing Witness Retreats in places of deep suffering around the world, such as in the Black Hills, Rwanda and in Auschwitz, where this retreat has recently celebrated its 20th anniversary. These retreats are open and all-inclusive, crafted in intention to bear witness to suffering and to heal by bringing together as many, often estranged, constituencies as possible.   AUSCHWITZ/BIRKENAU BEARING WITNESS RETREAT OCT 31-NOV 4 2016 “I felt tormented…Bearing witness in Auschwitz, I am no longer alone with my ardent longing for peace.” – M.W. (Retreat Participant, Germany) This year, the Zen Peacemakers will return for the 21st year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat, a decades-long process of leaping into Not-Knowing where so much knowing is stored in suffering. Last year, the 20th Anniversary return to the camp was marked by 130 participants from over twenty nationalities, including Gaza, Palestine, the Lakota Nation of Turtle Island and Kalkadoon & Kiwai Nations of Papua New Guinea and Australia. Muslim, Jewish, Lakota, Buddhist and Christian spiritual ceremonies celebrated the diversity of faiths present. LEARN MORE ABOUT 2016 AUSCHWITZ RETREAT NATIVE AMERICAN BEARING WITNESS RETREAT, JUL 25-29 2016 “Individuals bearing witness […] can break a corrosive and demoralizing silence.” – C.H. (Retreat Participant, Lakota, Turtle Island) In 2015, the Lakota Nation and Zen Peacemakers conducted the first Native American Bearing Witness retreat in South Dakota. It hosted over 180 people from over a dozen countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia who came to the Black Hills to bear witness to the land and to individuals from the Shawnee/Lenape, Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Mohawk, Lakota and Dakota nations about first-hand accounts of intergenerational trauma,...

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Exploring the Bodhisattva Way, Free Adventures Every Day, Part 2

EXPLORING THE BODHISATTVA WAY, FREE ADVENTURES EVERY DAY, Part 2 By Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt A talk given at Upaya Zen Center on September 28, 2015 Download audio recording, Continued from Part 1 Transcribed by Scott Harris, Photo above by Peter Cunningham GENRO: […] So we don’t have much more time. It’s like a few minutes before the dinner bell rings. So I want to be open to questions. Please say your name before your questions. Audience member: Nancy. Genro: Hi Nancy. Audience member: What was it like in the Black Hills? What were the interactions with . . .? Genro: That’s a big one. That’s a big question. It was really wonderful. We camped for five days. There were some people that stayed in lodges. So if you want to come do that with us, you don’t have to camp. But I highly recommend it, because the Lakota name for the Black Hills is Cante Wamakhognake. And the translation for that is “The heart of everything that is.” So I would not want to go to my lodge room, and take a shower. I want to be on the land. Because it’s holy land for sure. The natives that were there, they were really surprised. The question that I heard most often was, “How do you know so many nice people?” They can’t imagine two hundred people that are not bigoted—seriously—or don’t have awful opinions of them, and how they should be living their lives, and not being at the tit of the state. That’s what they run into all the time. So the normal way of native people around Wasichu, and that’s what they call the non-Indians — Wasichu’s an interesting word. It means “the one who takes the fat.” That’s what they call the non-Indians, who were the explorers and the colonizers. The fat eaters, Wasichu. But their normal attitude around white people mostly is distance and fear. You know, “What are they gonna ask me? What are they gonna call me? What kind of judgment are they gonna make of me?” But in the Black Hills [retreat], in this container that arose, the native people were saying, “I’m just so happy. I’m just so full of joy to be here, and to be...

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Exploring the Bodhisattva Way, Free Adventures Every Day

  EXPLORING THE BODHISATTVA WAY, FREE ADVENTURES EVERY DAY By Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt A talk given at Upaya Zen Center on September 28, 2015 (downloadaudio recording) Transcribed by Scott Harris, Photos by Jesse Jiryu Davis   Genro: Good evening everybody. It’s lovely to be here, lovely to be here with you. And this room, the energy during zazen—good work. It feels great. Joshin mentioned that I’m here because we’re doing a Bearing Witness retreat tomorrow in Albuquerque. And the whole idea of bearing witness came out of Bernie Tetsugen Glassman Roshi’s practice. Back when he was in college—he did his graduate work at UCLA, in Los Angeles, got a doctorate in mathematics. And when he was there, before he dreamed of Zen practice, he realized that he wanted to do three things. He wanted to start a monastery, somewhere. I’m not sure he knew what tradition he wanted to be in, but he wanted to start a monastery. And he wanted to be a clown. And he wanted to live on the streets as a homeless person. And he’s managed to do all of them. His early practice at the Zen Center of Los Angeles, which started in about 1967 with Maezumi Roshi . . . His doctorate at UCLA was in mathematics. And the Zen Center wasn’t up to full speed yet. It was still growing. And so he would work during the day. And during the day he was in charge of the manned mission to Mars project at McDonnell-Douglas. So they say you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to be a Zen person, but he was. When he left the Zen Center of Los Angeles in 1980 or so, he came to New York, started a Zen community, and quickly sort of revolutionized Zen practice. Because it became clear to him rather quickly that Zen shouldn’t be practiced only in a meditation hall, only in the temple—that in order to really manifest it, we need to really manifest it in our daily lives, in service to all beings. If our practice is to realize the oneness and the wholeness of life, and that we’re really one with all beings, then we have to take care of them. We have to...

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STAND ON THE LEG YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HOLD YOU

STAND ON THE LEG YOU DON’T KNOW CAN HOLD YOU by Roshi Eve Myonen Marko February 2nd, 2016   I continue to watch closely as my husband, Bernie, does physical therapy to strengthen the right side of his body, afflicted by the stroke that sent blood coursing through the left side of his brain. He stands with some difficulty while holding on to a bar with his left hand, and begins to walk slowly while the therapist on the other side helps him step forward with his right leg. Like almost all of us, Bernie assumes that once he walks the legs will go by themselves, so he moves his chest forward thinking the legs are there, only the right one isn’t. He can’t assume that what worked before is working now. And without much feeling in the right leg, he has little awareness of where it actually is. I stand behind the two men, feeling how each small scene paints such broad strokes. I myself, who haven’t suffered a stroke, also tend to move forward with my upper body ahead of the legs that carry me, ahead of myself, mind working out some future plan or scenario while the body lags behind. I remember Bernie often telling me that Maezumi Roshi, his teacher, used to caution him: “Tetsugen, when you move fast, people stumble.” I’ve stumbled. And now Tetsugen, or Bernie as he’s presently known, moves very, very slowly. The therapist is also concerned that Bernie will favor the left leg, which he’s aware of, over the right: “Don’t stand on the leg you know can hold you,” he tells him. “Stand on the leg you don’t know can hold you.” Let go of what you know, the working limb that gives you confidence, and lean on the other side of the body, the side you don’t trust, that you can barely make out is there or not. “Don’t wait for the brain to figure it out, you do it first.” And I remember 1986 when I participated in my first public interview. In that highly ritualized, public ceremony, one student after another approaches the teacher and asks a question. I approached and quoted a verse from the “Gate of Sweet Nectar” liturgy:...

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Bernie’s Trainings: Street Retreats

Bernie’s Trainings: Street Retreats By Bernie Glassman 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 remembrance 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...

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“What Should I Sing To You?”

“What Should I Sing To You?”   Conversation with Krishna Das and Bernie Glassman Transcribed from a recording at Bernie’s house in Montague, MA USA, 9/21/2015     BERNIE: So we all talk about the interconnectedness of life, the oneness of life, but if we look carefully at ourselves and see how many aspects of life we shy away from or won’t come in contact, and then try to figure why. I think the biggest reason is fear. So that’s how these Bearing Witness retreats… Well, I don’t know if they started because of that, but that’s where the large numbers started. KD: I had a lot of fear before my first retreat, “How am I going to deal with this?” Just the fear of going, being in that place where so much suffering happened and so much torture and so much inhumanity was manifest. So I just didn’t know what was going to happen to me, you know. So just to go and go through the process and the practice of being in the camp at that time was] very freeing from that fear that I had. Just not that simple. And then to be talking about fear, how much fear there must have been in the camp at the time of the war. The atmosphere was extraordinary. BERNIE: We were just together in South Dakota, in the Black Hills and we met with the Lakota folks. And the fear, the elders went to boarding schools ran by Church, Catholic Church, and the fear that must have existed there, because if they spoke any Lakota they were beaten up, if they wore any traditional clothes they were beaten up. In that school there is a track where people run around and underneath that there’s graves of children that died there. So they had a reason to be afraid, but that fear permeates everywhere. The other reason for these Bearing Witness retreats is our ignorance, which I think that is with most of the non-Native Indians that came, they] had no idea of what went on in their own country, of what we did. KD: And are still doing.     BERNIE: And are still doing. And why we have these ignorant things? Again,...

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BERNIE’S HEALTH: 1/17/2016

BERNIE’S HEALTH: 1/17/2016   By Rami Efal   “Oy vey” Bernie muttered over the mushroom soup at lunch. His speech is clearer when his energy is up, and along with talking about the state of work he is very concerned about the recent cigar order that’s been sitting in the post office. To stay fresh they need to go into a humidifier — STAT, which, our dedicated nurse explained, is faster than ASAP. Saturday, Bernie spoke with Marc his son on the phone, and Alisa, Eve and myself were all struck by the candidness and vulnerability in his voice. Later that evening Alisa left back to DC and will return to his side soon. This morning Sunday, He read Eve’s written updates and chuckled. We acknowledge this simple act being an unimaginable progress over the first few days after the stroke. He read some of the comments and emails he received and leaned back, seemed tired, and, we suspected, moved. The doctor prescribed him to exercise his right arm. Many of us have heard Bernie teach using his body — how Mary and Joe, his two arms, are part of Bernie, the whole – so they care for one another. Today he turned to Joe, warm but limp on his right, and called out ‘Hey! Tip’sha (Hebrew for silly)! Move!’ Eve and Bernie laughed. He dons Boobysttava’s clown voice and goes into a fascinating, and hilarious, dharma spiel. Eve, assuming a challenging tone and pointing at his arm, asked: ‘If you can’t feel it, is it still part of you?’ They exchanged a glance. Then Bernie raised his working left arm, reached over and lifted the other – pushing and pulling – doctor’s orders. We were getting ready to leave. A young RN pops into the room and gasshos to Bernie – “You did it to me yesterday coming out of the MRI, so I wanted to return the favor.” The old Cambodian man in the bed next to Bernie, we learned, was a Buddhist monk who had been living for years at the Peace Pagoda in Leveret MA. Each day, his grandson hitchhikes three hours back and forth to see him. We saw no other visitors. Several flower vases arrived for Bernie. They really lit the...

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BERNIE’S HEALTH / The Dude Says: “Lotta Ins, Lotta Outs, Lotta What-Have-You’s”

By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Jan 15th 2016 In the morning Bernie seems rested and not much changed from yesterday. Soon he, Alisa and I are greeted by Mark Keroack, President/CEO of Baystate Hospital, accompanied by senior staff, wanting to make sure Bernie’s getting the quality care he needs. We have no trouble assuring him that his staff and hospital are terrific. After that, terrific specialists examine Bernie’s body-mind, he gets that “too many people” look on his face again and says little. They’re satisfied with his progress, but we feel he may have slid back a little from yesterday. Afternoon: Nap, lunch, and picture time. Alisa shows him photos of his family of origin: parents, four older sisters, aunts and cousins.Bernie points at each and calls them by name: Edith, Bea, Selma, Sally, my mother (who died when he was 7), my father. He looks at a photo of him surrounded by four adoring sisters who came to part from him when he sailed to Israel in the early 1960s. “Where were you going?” we ask. “Ship,” he replies. He studies each photo carefully, telling tales of his Communist aunts of whom he’s very proud. We follow most of it. He asks Rami about who’s attending the planning meeting for the Black Hills summer retreat (he and Eve had to cancel). He begins to tease his nurse. She asks him: “Do you know your name?” “Yes,” he answers, and nothing more. She shakes her head. “Funny man!” Alisa says that soon we should ask you to offer prayers for the nursing staff taking care of Bernie as well as for Bernie. At some point he chats so much, lots of it quite coherent, that we wonder whether it’s really such a good idea for him to learn to talk again. Other times he subsides into a tired silence, or else the words are too slurred for our ears. The right side of his body is still fairly—well—still. Still no better antidote to expectations than reality. But when the staff takes him down for an MRI he thanks them with a half-gassho, which we explain is a gesture of respect and appreciation. “I thought he was trying to shake my hand,” the young aide says....

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Bernie’s Health

Dear Family and Friends, Bernie suffered a stroke on Tuesday 1/12/2016 around 1pm EST. He spent 36 hours in Intensive Care, was “downgraded” to Neurological Intensive, and as of this evening was “downgraded” again to a regular hospital room in Baystate Health Springfield Hospital. His condition is stable ​and the plan is for him to enter an acute rehab program, probably early next week, for a period of 2-4 weeks. The stroke, due to a hemorrhage, affected the left side of his brain, thus resulting in very little movement in the entire right side of his body and also undermining his speech, which is now so slurred that we can only understand around 20% of it (a substantial improvement over Tuesday). No change to his eyebrows. We are immensely grateful to Baystate Hospital and all its staff for superb care of Bernie and patient and honest interactions with us. The Montague town police and ambulances came some 10 minutes after we first called, and Bernie got “anti-stroke” medications within 30 minutes of the stroke itself, a great tribute to these first responders. This quality care continued in Franklin Medical, our local adjunct hospital, and then in the far larger Baystate in Springfield. Bernie has his struggles. His understanding of words, too, is diminished but doctors expect that to be fully remedied. When there are too many doctors around him he mumbles “too many people” and wants them to leave him alone. But nobody’s second-guessing the wonderful and loving care he’s getting here at Baystate. Yesterday, the day after his stroke, our alarm went off for the noon minute of silence for peace. He lay quietly, and then, with difficulty, raised his good hand in half-gassho. Right now the prognosis for recovery from neurologists and rehabilitation doctors is good to very good; healers and prophets are saying excellent. They expect some permanent deficits in his right arm and hand, a little less in his right leg, and they believe his speech will begin to improve within 2-4 weeks (we don’t know if that’s good or bad). They believe he will become independent and self-sufficient within several months, and cantankerous and bossy in 4 days. Alisa Glassman, Bernie’s daughter, flew in from Washington, D.C. and she...

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Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness

(Pictured above right to left: Michael O’keefe, Peter Matthiessen, Siddiq Powell, Bernie, Alisa and Mark Glassman,(Bernie’s children), Brendan Breen. Auschwitz/Birkenau 1996)   Bernie’s Training: Bearing Witness By Bernie Glassman Photographs by Peter Cunningham   (Continued from Bernie’s Training: Social Engagement)  I had a student that many of you probably know, named Claude AnShin Thomas. And when I met him he had already been pretty heavily involved with Thich Nhat Hanh. He had been in the Vietnam War. He had had a mental breakdown. He was a very confused person. He couldn’t sleep at night, you know. He’d be kept up by the bombs, and all kinds of things. He had been a tailgate gunner on a helicopter, shooting people. And then he had a nervous breakdown. At any rate, he came to me wanting to know if he could ordain with me, and be my student. And for many different reasons I agreed. And it turned out that he was soon going to be involved in a walk. He did a lot of walking. His practice was walking. He walked across Europe. He walked all over. And very soon—maybe a year, I can’t remember the timing—he was going to join a bunch of Buddhist monks who chant the Lotus Sutra while marching and beat a drum, and chant— as they walk. Their practice is walking and social engagement. So somebody here was confused about Japanese maybe not being involved in social engagement—their leader, sort of a Gandhi kind of guy in Japan told them if they weren’t in jail half of the year, they weren’t being a good monk. They had to do resistance. That was part of their practice, and walking. So they were planning a walk from Auschwitz to Hiroshima—through all of the war-torn countries. And AnShin had decided to join them. So I said that I would go with him to Auschwitz, and give him Precepts, as a layperson. And I would do that at Auschwitz. And then I would join to the last month of that walk, and ordain him as a Priest at the helicopter site where he was stationed in Vietnam. And it turned out there was an interfaith conference being held at Auschwitz, in regards to this walk. And so...

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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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The Gypsy Girl

    The Gypsy Girl   By Roshi Eve Myonen Marko Drawing by Manfred Bockelmann   On the window ledge behind my altar is a charcoal drawing of a Gypsy girl who was killed at Auschwitz/Birkenau, done by the Austrian artist, Manfred Bockelmann. For the past ten years Bockelmann has done charcoal drawings of children and young people killed by the Nazis from photos taken by the SS (http://manfred-bockelmann.de/arbeiten/zeichnungen/zeichnen-gegen-das-vergessen/). The photo was given me by a participant at the Auschwitz retreat that took place in early November. The girl seems to be around 10, dark, fringed hair parted down the middle and waving down the sides almost to her chin. Short, dark, upraised eyebrows under a high forehead. Eyes slightly slanted, pupils high and penetrating, the corners of her small lips turned down. A blouse with a V-shape collar, and what looks like a beaded necklace from which something dangles below the bottom edge of the picture. I’ve looked at this drawing every day since coming home, at the round face and pale, defenseless skin below her neck, and mostly the eyes that seem to call out with some kind of plea: To be remembered? Understood? Loved? Are they asking me to bear witness to what happened to Gypsy girls like her, to the starvation and exposure, their terror and despair? Recently I read about Settela Steinbach, who was murdered along with her mother and 9 siblings at Auschwitz. Do I bear witness to the scale of such atrocities each time I look at the Gypsy girl’s face? Or does that face become a catch-all for my own confusions and fears, my own dread of being blown away one unexpected, disastrous day?    Learn more about and register to the 2016 Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat here.       Our last day at Birkenau is always Friday; having been there for four days, we arrive like old hands. Our routine, too, feels like a daily practice. I go through the familiar gate and down the tracks to the shed housing our equipment, pick up a chair, bench, cushion, or mat, and continue down the tracks to the site where they once did selections of who’d die right away and who’d die later. People offer...

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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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Book: “Pearls of Ash & Awe” & 21st Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat

20 Years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman & the Zen Peacemakers In 1996, Zen Master Bernie Glassman went to bear witness at Auschwitz-Birkenau for the first time – together with 150 other people from ten nations. Ever since, peacemakers from many cultures and religions all over the world have joined this retreat each year. In the infamous place where the mechanized murder of more than a million people took place, participants not only encountered the horrors of the past but also explored the limits of their own humanity, examining how they themselves deal with the “Other”. For many, it was an inter-faith “plunge” that pierced deeply and transformed their lives. This book compiles the testimonies of more than 70 participants over the two decade span of the retreat. Those who wish not just to comprehend the events of the Holocaust, but also to confront its challenges to spirit and heart, will find themselves moved and inspired by these honest stories. They encourage all of us to open up and expand our understanding of what humanity truly is and can be. Edited by Kathleen Battke (D). Inspired and co-edited by Ginni Stern (USA) and Andrzej Krajewski (PL) Bilingual Edition: English-German Hardcover, ca. 300 pages, ISBN 978-3-942085-47-2 Ebook (ePub) ISBN 978-3-942085-50-2 Order the book on : https://www.janando.de/steinrich/en In 2016, enter and listen at Auschwitz yourself in the 21st Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness rereat Oct 31-Nov 4 Learn more about the purpose, planning and staffing of the ZPO Bearing Witness Retreats...

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2016 Bosnia/Herzegovina Retreat Postponed, Process Continues

The Zen Peacemaker Order has decided to continue the peace work process in Bosnia while postponing the retreat to 2017. Please read ahead on some of our reasonings. We at the ZPO are grateful for all those who have contributed, participated and supported this process to date. We are particularly grateful and excited to keep our collaboration with our friends at Center for Peacebuilding in Bosnia as we develop and listen to the process of bearing witness, to take action, together. We say Never again. But the impulse towards having one way of life in a particular area, is a very familiar one right now. It’s the wish to look around us and see people who look like us and speak our language, whose children dress and behave like ours. It’s our resolve to preserve our heritage and way of life to the exclusion of others whenever we feel they’re threatened. Many of us deeply feel the reality of Europe these days. Thousands of thousands refugees flocking there seeking safety and met with kindness and hospitality from some and violence, fear discrimination from others. In Bosnia, Muslims have lived together with Christians since the 15th century. Sometimes one dominated, sometimes another. Walking along Ferhadija Street in Sarajevo is a tour of both space and time, bearing witness to different religious and cultural streams as they come together and split apart. The architecture, the places of worship, stores and restaurants all testify to that unmistakable quality of aliveness when different cultures come together in a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation. Not so the thousands of bullet holes in the walls of almost every building built before 1992. Not so Srebrenica. more than 100,00 Muslims Roman Catholics, and orthodox Christians were hurt and killed. The complexity that is Bosnia/Herzegovina requires more listening. Times of great change test us strongest. It’s easy to lower our voices and withdraw in the face of violence by extremes on both sides. It’s easy to say that we don’t know what to do. Already today innocent people are persecuted even as a great, silent, fearful majority waits to see what happens. On this day the drowned, washing ashore on Mediterranean beaches, amidst our indignation and shame silently call us to...

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Gate of Sweet Nectar at ZCLA Part 2: Mudras

This talk was given  by Roshis Bernie Glassman and  Egyoku Nakao at their workshop on the Gate of Sweet Nectar liturgy in April 2015 at ZCLA. It was transcribed by Scott Harris. All right, you have a handout with all the mudras. As Bernie mentioned, Michael O’Keefe has been doing these mudras for several decades, doing The Gate every day. On a recent trip to L.A., he and I (Egyoku) got together, and I had a tutorial from him. And then I asked Jitsujo, who many of you from Sweetwater know, to do the finger drawings. OK, so let’s get started. And while we’re at it, we’ll also do the mudras. Any questions you might have about how we do certain things—feel free to bring it up. Especially those of you from Sweetwater, who do this once a week, you may have a variation. I’ll try to remember to point out where there are actual changes in the text. So, our plan at ZCLA is after this workshop is over. Probably some time in June, we will sit down with our version of The Gate, and start to reimagine it, rethink it, and relook at it. And there’ll probably be some changes that will arise from that. At ZCLA we use the five Buddha families as our organizational mandala. And I think we may do that at Sweetwater. It’s something Bernie has always encouraged us to do. And so we have mudras for each of those families, but they’re not necessarily duplicated in The Gate. I want it to be much more integrated with our organization as well. All right, to begin, as Dharma Joy mentioned, it takes about eleven people to do this version. And the way we do things at ZCLA is when you appear, we ask you to do something. So it’s always a joyful celebration of our whatever is arising. We’re gonna make a meal with that. So we begin with what we call our “Usual Officiant Entry.” Ching ching, ching ching, ching ching, ching ching. I believe in the handout you had this morning you have the Officiant Entry, for those of you who might be interested in what that looks like. So the Officiant enters. And I wish we...

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Black Elk Still Speaks 

Image Courtesy of SHEPARD FAIREY/OBEYGIANT.COM AND AARON HUEY   Two Weeks Left to Register for 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat   From a talk given at the Green River Zen Center on June 16, 2015 by Eve Marko In the book Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk described how, at the age of nine, he had a powerful vision and was told by the great Thunder Beings to share this vision with his tribe. Afraid and unsure of himself, he was miserable for the next eight years: “A terrible time began for me then and I could not tell anybody—not even my father and mother. I was afraid to see a cloud coming up, and whenever one did, I could hear the thunder beings calling to me, “Behold your grandfathers, make haste.” I could understand the birds when they sang, and they were always saying, “It is time, it is time.” The crows in the day and the coyotes at night, all called and called to me, “It is time, it is time, it is time.” Time to do what? I did not know . . . Sometimes the crying of coyotes out in the cold made me so afraid that I would run out of one tepee into another, and I would do this until I was worn out and fell asleep. I wondered if maybe I was only crazy, and my father and mother worried a great deal about me. I could not tell them what was the matter for then they would only think I was queerer than ever. I was seventeen years old that winter. When the grasses were beginning to show their tender faces again, my father and mother asked an old medicine man by the name of Black Road to come over and see what he could do for me. Black Road was in a tepee all alone with me and he asked me to tell him if I had seen something that troubled me. By now I was so afraid of being afraid of everything that I told him about my vision. And when I was through, he looked long at me and said, “Ah,” meaning that he was much surprised. Then he said to me, “Nephew, I know...

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Four Weeks to Black Hills

“What we would like you to do is to pray. Come and pray with the Lakota. Come and pray with us, for the Lakota, for ourselves, for us, and for this earth.” – Lakota Elder and Bearing Witness Retreat Spirit Holder In this rare event the Lakota Elders have invited all those who wish to come and bear witness at the sacred Black Hills to the present day expressions of the genocide and suffering of the Native Americans in the United States of America. We are entering the last month of preparation to the Zen Peacemaker Order Bearing Witness Retreat in the Black Hills, South Dakota USA. August 10-14 2015 LISTEN to a radio interview Lakota Leader Tuffy Sierra and Zen Peacemaker Order Spirit Holder Roshi Genro Gauntt. READ Roshi Eve Myonen Marko reflection on the vision of the retreat. WATCH Aaron Huey’s TED talk on America’s Native Prisoners of War. REGISTER here and get detailed information about the retreat. For questions please call 347.210.9556 or...

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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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Two Months to Black Hills

First nations around the world have lost their lands, languages, and ways of life at the hands of American and European colonialists pursuing an agenda of domination, genocide, theft, and the elimination of indigenous cultures and identities. Entire nations have vanished. This catastrophe is not just theirs; it belongs to all humans, and to the earth itself, for it has been succeeded by the calamitous loss of animals and plants, and the specter of global warming. What does it say about us and our separation from this earth? What does it say about our relationship not just to biodiversity, but to human diversity? What does it say about our cultural assumptions of superiority and how they continue to underlie our historical narratives? It is time to bear witness to our systems of thought and values, and to their actions and results that persist to this very day. While hundreds of Native American tribes have been eliminated, drastically reduced in number, exiled, and traumatized, the Lakota/Dakota people of the Western Plains have gained a prominent position in the world psyche as a major archetype of what has befallen America’s native people. The massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890, is viewed by many as a defining event in the genocide of the American Indians, but it is just the tip of the iceberg. What we are most blind to is the continuous institutional violence practiced on the Lakota Nation and other tribes, comprising treaty violations, Congressional acts that permit thievery of their land and resources, the building of dams and flooding of burial grounds hundreds of years old, and the constant encroachment of corporate interests looking to “develop” lands commercially and mine sacred sites for various metals, including uranium. The Native American Bearing Witness Retreat in August 2015 is but the first step in a process of coming together with Native Americans, many of whom continue to distrust the Wasichu, or white man, punning the name with wašin icu, which means he who takes the fat, someone who is greedy and dishonorable. This first step is bearing witness to the trauma, pain, and loss suffered by members of the Lakota Nation at the hands of the American government and corporations, supported by the...

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Twenty Years Ago, Long Long Ago: Reflections On How It (Auschwitz Retreat) All Started by Eve Marko

This article will appear in: AschePerlen. Zeugnisse aus 20 Jahren Friedenspraxis in Auschwitz mit Bernie Glassman und den ZenPeacemakers Pearls of Ash and Awe. Testimonies from 20 years of Bearing Witness in Auschwitz with Bernie Glassman and the ZenPeacemakers Lieferbar Oktober 2015 / available October 2015 I first accompanied Bernie Glassman to Auschwitz-Birkenau in the first days of December 1994, before anyone conceived of a bearing witness retreat at the site of the concentration camps. He was going there to do a Transmission of Precepts ceremony for Claude Thomas, a Vietnam veteran, at an interfaith convocation convened there by Buddhist activist Paula Green and the Nipponzan Myohoji Zen community. Claude was later joining a group that would walk from Poland all the way to Hiroshima, Japan. In my family, two aunts and an uncle died at Auschwitz. Another uncle barely survived the hard labor and lived the rest of his life like an extinguished candle. My grandfather died in 1944 and my mother and her other siblings hid in cellars before getting caught and sent to the Terezin camp near Prague, Czechoslovakia. They were close to death when the Russian army liberated the camp in 1945. Given all this history, I thought, what better way to go to a place like Auschwitz than with one’s own teacher? But as I sat alone on a bench along the Vistula River on the weekend before meeting Bernie, I wasn’t so sure. Years of Zen practice slipped off me like snakeskin, revealing underneath the Jewish woman whose forbears lived, prayed, starved, and finally left Poland for Czechoslovakia. “Don’t just go to see where they died,” my brother had told me on the phone, “also go to where they lived.” So I had indeed flown to Warsaw and taken the train south to Krakow, peering out the windows at dark, hushed houses and even darker twilights. Other Westerners in the compartment, en route to the convocation, talked eagerly and happily; they were not Jews. They didn’t listen to the clanging wheels or the shriek of brakes, they didn’t look out at bare, wintry farms and remember shtetl markets, they didn’t try to pierce through black beech and pine trees and wonder about unmarked graves in the forests. Only...

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“America’s Native Prisoners of War” by Aaron Huey

Aaron Huey’s effort to photograph poverty in America led him to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where the struggle of the native Lakota people — appalling, and largely ignored — compelled him to refocus. Five years of work later, his haunting photos intertwine with a shocking history lesson in this bold, courageous talk. (Filmed at...

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Centennial Memorial of the Armenian Genocide

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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Lakota tribe struggles to stop surge in teen suicides

The people of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation are no strangers to hardship or to the risk of lives being cut short. But a string of seven suicides by adolescents in recent months has shaken this impoverished community and sent school and tribal leaders on an urgent mission to stop the deaths. On Dec. 12, a 14-year-old boy hanged himself at his home on the reservation, a sprawling expanse of badlands on the South Dakota-Nebraska border. On Christmas Day, a 15-year-old girl was found dead, followed weeks later by a high school cheerleader. Two more young people took their lives in February and two more in March, along with several more attempts. The youngest to die was 12. Students in the reservation’s high school and middle school grades have been posting Facebook messages wondering who might be next, with some even seeming to encourage new attempts by hanging nooses near homes. Worried parents recently met at a community hall to discuss what’s happening. And the U.S. Public Health Service has dispatched teams of mental health counselors to talk to students. “The situation has turned into an epidemic,” said Thomas Poor Bear, vice president of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, whose 24-year-old niece was among two adults who also committed suicide this winter. “There are a lot of reasons behind it. The bullying at schools, the high unemployment rate. Parents need to discipline the children.” Somewhere between 16,000 and 40,000 members of the Oglala Sioux Tribe live on the reservation, which at over 2 million acres is among the nation’s largest. Famous as the site of the Wounded Knee massacre, in which the 7th Cavalry slaughtered about 300 tribe members in 1890, it includes the county with the highest poverty rate in the U.S., and some of the worst rates of alcoholism and drug abuse, violence and unemployment. Suicide has been a persistent problem, a fact that is hardly surprising considering the grim prospects for a better life on the remote grasslands, say tribal officials. Most people live in clusters of mobile homes, some so dilapidated that the insulation is visible from outside. At night, trailers are surrounded by seven or eight rusting cars, not because someone is hosting a party, but because 20 or 25...

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Sharing The Mountain: Dharma Talk by Roshis Bernie Glassman and Eve Myonen Marko

Living a Life that Matters #1: Sharing the Mountain Top By Roshis Bernie Glassman and Eve Myonen Marko Given on March 5th, 2015 at Sivananda Yoga Retreat at Nassau, Bahamas Transcribed by Scott Harris, photos by David Hobbs and Rami Efal PDF Version Introduction: We would like to welcome all the new guests that arrived at the Ashram today. And we would like to welcome that came for the program on “Living a Life That Matters,” that will start tonight. And to those that are here to participate in the annual gathering of the Zen Peacemakers Order. So it’s a great honor to have our distinguished presenters. And we’ll introduce them shortly, and their group—like we mentioned last night. So tonight we’ll begin a four-day program called, “Living a Life That Matters.” And it will be presented by Roshi Bernie Glassman, and Roshi Eve Myonen Marko. And we’ve been holding this program for several years—in fact we just had it in December. And it’s always a great pleasure to welcome Roshi Bernie and Roshi Eve. They’re great masters in the Zen movement in the United States, and in fact all over the world. And they do wonderful things, very good things, for the world—great believers in social action, and turning social action into spiritual practice. But this time we have a special occasion, because we started talking about it two years ago—to actually hold the annual gathering of their organization, which is called the Zen Peacemakers, and to have it here at the Yoga retreat. So it’s really wonderful to hold this event here. And tonight we’ll have the opening lecture in this program. So I’d like to introduce the presenters. Roshi Bernie Glassman is a world-renowned pioneer in the Zen movement, and founder of Zen Peacemakers. He’s a spiritual leader, author, and businessman, and teaches at the Maezumi Institute and the Harvard Divinity School. A socially responsible entrepreneur for over thirty years, Bernie developed the Greyston Mandala to provide permanent housing, jobs, job-training, child-care, afterschool programs, and other support services to a large community of formerly homeless families in Yonkers, NY. Bernie is the coauthor with Jeff Bridges of The Dude and the Zen Master, and with Rick Fields of Instructions to the Cook:...

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Reflections by Eve Marko on Visit to the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge Reservation

Reflections by Eve Marko on Exploratory Visit to the Black Hills and the Pine Ridge Reservation Whiteclay, Nebraska Whiteclay, Nebraska Birgil Kills Straight Tuffy Sierra Tuffy Sierra Retreat Site Winter Retreat Site Retreat Site Retreat Site Map Retreat Site Retreat Site Tiokasin Ghosthorse Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills Black Hills The slideshow is paused and the title is shown when your mouse hovers over the picture. Whiteclay, Nebraska, is not a town like others on the map. It consists of some half dozen very large, red sheds facing each other across the muddy road that winds down from the Pine Ridge Lakota Reservation a mile north. Pine Ridge, in the state of South Dakota, has been dry for over a century, but this town is just as wet as could be, and not just from the sickly clay that turns to sludge with each rainfall. “This is where they come to drink,” Bennett “Tuffy” Sierra tells us. We reach the end of the row of beer stores in a few seconds flat so he pulls onto the broken pavement. Instantly a gaunt, ageless woman appears at his window, wearing nothing over her thin gray sweatshirt though it’s almost freezing outside and a cold rain flattens the thin strands of hair on top of her head. He mouths no, shaking his ponytail for emphasis, wrinkles deepening in his dark brown face. “My father died from drink. My uncle was hit on the head right outside that store and made it to the side of that trailer there—see it?—where he went to sleep, only it snowed that night and he died of hypothermia.” A cousin sobered up for 20 years, then went back out. Police shot and killed him when they found him waving a gun outside a bar. Went back out. Not fell off the wagon, not started drinking or using again, but went back out. It usually starts with drinking at Whiteclay. A few, like Tuffy Sierra, once a champion bull rider in rodeos up and down the state of California and throughout the West, finally stopped coming down here. But of those who’ve stopped, many still go back out. Some are Tuffy’s relatives: The girl who went into...

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One month left for Early Bird Discounted Fees

For Native American Bearing Witness Retreat This retreat will focus on the American Indian genocide, oppression and neglect that began at the end of the fifteenth century and continues to this day.  A defining event of this era is the massacre at Wounded Knee, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. Although hundreds of Native American tribes have been either eliminated, drastically reduced, moved or vastly traumatized, for many reasons, the Lakota / Dakota people of the western plains have gained a prominent position in the world psyche as a major archetype of what has befallen America’s native people. The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemaker Order’s Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Taking Action that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness. and Auschwitz/Birkenau Bearing Witness Retreat Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are returning for the 20th year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat in November 2015. Bernie Glassman began the annual Bearing Witness Retreats in 1996, with help from Eve Marko and Andrzej Krajewski. They have taken place annually every year since then. Much has been written about these annual retreats; at least half a dozen films have been made about them in various languages. They are multi-faith and multinational in character, with a strong focus on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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The Wounding of the Native American Soul

In the early ’80s, a Lakota professor of social work named Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart coined the phrase “historical trauma.” What she meant was “the cumulative emotional and psychological wounding over the lifespan and across generations.” Another phrase she used was “soul wound.” The wounding of the Native American soul, of course, went on for more than 500 years by way of massacres, land theft, displacement, enslavement, then—well into the twentieth century—the removal of Native American children from their families to what were known as Indian residential schools. These were grim, Dickensian places where some children died in tuberculosis epidemics and others were shackled to beds, beaten, and raped. Brave Heart did her most important research near the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, the home of Oglala Lakota and the site of some of the most notorious events in Native American martyrology. In 1890, the most famous of the Ghost Dances that swept the Great Plains took place in Pine Ridge. We might call the Ghost Dances a millenarian movement; its prophet claimed that, if the Indians danced, God would sweep away their present woes and unite the living and the dead. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, however, took the dances at Pine Ridge as acts of aggression and brought in troops who killed the chief, Sitting Bull, and chased the fleeing Lakota to the banks of Wounded Knee Creek, where they slaughtered hundreds and threw their bodies in mass graves. (Wounded Knee also gave its name to the protest of 1973 that brought national attention to the American Indian Movement.) Afterward, survivors couldn’t mourn their dead because the federal government had outlawed Indian religious ceremonies. The whites thought they were civilizing the savages. Today, the Pine Ridge Reservation is one of the poorest spots in the United States. According to census data, annual income per capita in the largest county on the reservation hovers around $9,000. Almost a quarter of all adults there who are classified as being in the labor force are unemployed. (Bureau of Indian Affairs figures are darker; they estimate that only 37 percent of all local Native American adults are employed.) According to a health data research center at the University of Washington, life expectancy for men...

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Personal Reflections by Eve Marko on the Nov 2014 Retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau

Thursday night was our usual night at the barracks. On this evening before Friday, the last day of the retreat, it’s customary for us to return to Birkenau in the darkness and sit in one of the barracks by candle and flashlight. Years ago some of these vigils lasted till midnight and even all the way till morning. As we arrived at the main brick gate through which the train tracks tubed into the camp and directly to the sites of the crematoria, we went upstairs to the guard tower built above the gate. Here, looking out over their machine guns, SS guards enjoyed a bird’s-eye view of men, women, and children stumbling down from train cars that had been their prisons for days and even weeks, with no food or water, pushed and prodded by other guards with clubs and snarling dogs in the direction of the extermination sites. This has always been a chilling spot, inviting us to bear witness to guards with a panoramic view of the terror and suffering below, drinking coffee, laughing, complaining about the hard work and bad weather, gossiping, wishing the shift would end. Somewhere in that scene many of us could find ourselves, preoccupied by our own problems and our own lives, fitting with more or less ease into a system we may bemoan but won’t violate. We then walked single-file to the barrack, where Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi invited us to look closer at perpetrators and victims. He especially invited the German participants to talk about their lives and families, their parents and grandparents who went through the war. Stories were related about depression, guilt, silence, denial, and the quiet violence that goes along with keeping secrets. I was moved to hear them. But I felt frustration as well, not with the stories but with the heavy, mechanistic view that if we can understand the past we’ll be able to change the present and future. The Dalai Lama has said that karma is a subtle thing. In my understanding, it has dimensions that are so vast and numberless they are practically unknowable. We are given tours by well-trained guides who provide numbers, data, and facts, but can’t explain the effects of the Auschwitz genocide on the...

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Reflections by Rabbi Shir Yaakov Feit on His Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat

I  checked into our hotel right near Rynek Główny, the ancient and vast Main Square of Kraków. I had about an hour to settle in, change some currency, then walk to Cafe Młynek in the old Jewish Quarter of Kazimierz where I led a short and sweet Kabbalat Shabbat with my new sister, Yiddish singer Marsha Gildin. Our training began Saturday. The Center for Council’s compassionate and wise Director Jared Seide guided us masterfully and gently into this deep and transformative practice, which has been developed by Joan Halifax, Jack Zimmerman and Gigi Coyle and others over the past two decades. Sunday we returned to Kazimeirz for a guided walking tour of old Jewish Kraków. I led some prayers in the synagogue of the Rema. We sang Shlomo Carlebach’s Kraków Niggun at the fragment of the wall of the ghetto; it was Reb Shlomo’s twentieth yahrtzeit. Schindler’s Factory Museum drives the story home. There is so much left in the little that remains. Buses took us to Oświęcim, the town formerly called Ushpitzin in Yiddish and Auschwitz in German, early on Monday morning. Following the first tenet of the Zen Peacemaker’s Order of Not-Knowing, I really went into there retreat having done no research, no homework. The first most surprising details: Auschwitz was much smaller that I’d imagined; Birkenau was exceedingly vast; and both sites are very busy with tour groups. I want to urge you to register for the 2015 Bearing Witness at Auschwitz-Birkenau retreat now. I will be there as the Rabbi for the Retreat. Dozens of other spirit-holders will be there, guiding a brilliantly crafted encounter with one of the most important places in modern human history. The place is a teacher and if you have even the smallest inkling to join, I unflinchingly encourage you to go. Going into the retreat without preconceived notions was an incredible gift. It makes me want to stop writing now, and to again encourage you to register. There are already 45 people signed-up for 2015 and the retreat will be capped at...

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2015 Bearing Witness Retreat in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

Registration is Now Open For September 1-5, 2015 Bearing Witness Retreat in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo. To read more and/or to register click here. The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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Reflections on Rwanda (1): Creating Us and Them by Russell Delman

I recently participated in a “Bearing Witness Retreat” sponsored by both the Zen Peacemaker Order, based in the U.S. and Memos- Learning from History, based in Rwanda in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.  Having just returned, I am both deeply grateful for the inspiring human beings I have met and reeling as I process what I have experienced.  I come away both devastated and extremely hopeful for our potential as human beings. Brief history: in 1994, inflamed by their leaders, the largest group in Rwanda called Hutu’s, went on a 100 day rampage of collective insanity with the intention of eliminating the minority, yet socially dominant group, called Tutsi’s.  This genocidal campaign in which neighbor turned on neighbor with machete’s and clubs is perhaps the most violent short term instance of genocide in human history. (Note- there is, of course, much more to the story and many angles: how colonialism worked to divide people, aggressions by the Tutsi’s etc., I am only focusing on the specific genocide in the spring of 1994.)   “Genocide is not one million deaths, it is one death a million times” (quote seen in the Rwanda genocide museum)  We are in the genocide museum in Kigali the capital of Rwanda.  The history of these incomprehensible acts is presented through words and large panoramic pictures.  I see Allison (name changed for confidentiality), one of the Rwandan retreat participants lingering in front of one picture.  Although we do not share a common language we have exchanged deep, warm looks over the previous day.  As I stand next to Allison she leans into me.  I put my arm around her.  She points to the picture: the woman in the picture is missing much of her right arm as is Allison.  The woman in the picture has a large cut on the right side of her face as does Allison.  Suddenly I see- we are looking at Allison!  I discovered that it is impossible for me to process so many deaths.  My body freezes, a lump in my belly won’t move, stuck like an undigested mass. The feelings can not move.  When I sit with one person, someone with a name, perhaps their picture, then I can feel...

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Possible Congo Bearing Witness Retreat

The Zen Peacemakers is considering hosting, with Congo partners, a Bearing Witness Retreat in the Congo. It would most likely occur in early 2016. If you would like to be notified if this retreat becomes a reality, please fill out the form below. In April, 2014, we held a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda which included folks from the Congo. It was an amazing retreat and we discussed holding a similiar retreat in the Congo with the Congolese...

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Rwanda: April 2014, Report on Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat by Eve Marko

zazen-grave wreath wreath-laying weomen step-sitting spiral skulls rain rain-walk photos morley,children morley-women mass-grave man landscape juliette,pauline hands flower flower-putting eve,bernie,congo dorms crowd candles bernie-bus art alice All Photos by Ola Kwiatkowska Monday, April 14. We’re at the EPR, the Presbyterian Church’s well-known guesthouse in Kigali, seated on chairs assembled in a circle. Downstairs a children’s choir practices for the Easter weekend services; they will sing for us tomorrow at our orientation. But right now we’re 11 Council facilitators, 6 “internationals” and 5 Rwandans. It’s supposed to be 6 Rwandans.  Where is Albertine? Albertine withdrew. Why? Death in family. No, Noella corrects, speaking in English very slowly in a clear, mellifluous voice: They discovered the whereabouts of the remains of her family members and the family is preparing to receive them and prepare them for burial. Are remains still being found even now, 20 years later, I ask our host, Dora Urujeni, and she explains that prison inmates are still revealing the whereabouts of those they killed so long ago. Someone else is assigned to take Albertine’s place so that now we’re what we should be, 6 and 6, and can continue the preparations begun last January when Jared Seide, Director of the Center for Council, flew to Rwanda and trained a group of young Rwandans to become council facilitators and lead, in their words, peace circles. Out of that group Jared chose 6 to co-facilitate during this retreat. But Albertine’s absence casts a shadow over our small group, a micro version of the vaster shadow hanging over Rwanda in April 2014: the almost 1 million Tutsi men, women and children who died over a period of 100 days starting April 1994. That year, Easter fell on April 3 in Catholic Rwanda. Five days after mourning Christ’s crucifixion and three after celebrating his resurrection, Rwandans started killing each other. And no matter where you go, whom you talk to, no matter how green and pastoral the hills (Rwanda is known as the Land of One Thousand Hills) and how bountiful the rains, the pain is there: in the keening and wailing of women during the annual ceremonies, in the testimonies of survivors, in the memorial piles of skulls and bones, in people’s eyes. “It was...

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Personal Relections on Bearing Witness in Rwanda by Roshi Eve Myonen Marko

People often don’t understand such a bearing witness trip. I have been asked why anyone would travel a long way to East Africa to listen to people describe a genocide perpetrated on them close to 20 years ago. Someone asked me candidly if I felt a peculiar attraction to terrible suffering. I can only speak of my experience. Of course, as a member of a family that suffered from the Jewish Holocaust, I have a special interest in how another ethnic group of humans fared after being designated cockroaches, or untermenschen. The two genocides share differences and similarities. But more generally, I went to Rwanda to witness how these survivors are struggling with the question of what it means to be human. In some way many of us would say that we struggle with the same question in our own lives. But the Rwandans can’t fake it. They’ve seen their families wiped out and must find some way to move on, face the killers, and plunge into the inquiry of what to do: Remember? Forget? Forgive? Hate? Take revenge? Remember God? Forget God? To me it doesn’t matter what the answer is; the question matters, the readiness—out of choice or lack of choice—to bear witness, to own completely one’s individual life and that of society. What loving action emerges may well differ from person to person, but what the people we talked to had in common was a readiness to fully engage with this most basic of human challenges. Yes, they each expressed sincere appreciation for our coming there to listen to them. It’s crucial to them that the world wants to listen, to join in their pain if only for a short time. But to me it’s clear that I brought home something immeasurably precious: various soft, clear, courageous voices articulating age-old experiences of suffering and the quest to relieve suffering. Each person did this in her own way, with a simplicity that had no patience for the trivial but that only spoke of what was done, and now what is to be done. Instead of running away, they had to face the killers. Instead of denying, they wished to walk down the streets of their village and meet the Other face to...

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Zen Peacemakers: The Beginning

1994-2000: Zen Peacemakers: The Beginning I have written about my beginnings in zen and my formative years in zen training. This post starts at the conception of a Zen Peacmaker Family serving as a container for people wanting to do spiritual based social engagement. On my 55th birthday in January, 1994 I did a retreat in Washington D.C. working on the question of what should I do to serve those rejected by society, to those in poverty and to those with AIDS. Upon returning home, I discussed my vision of a container for people wanting to do spiritual based social engagement with my wife, Jishu.  We decided on developing a Zen Peacemaker Order and on developing Peacemaker Villages with the theme of spiritually based social engagement. The Zen Peacemaker order was to be based on Three Tenets (Not-knowing, Bearing Witness and Loving Actions) and Peacemaker Precepts developed by a group of founding Teachers of the ZPO (Grover Genro Gauntt, Bernie Glassman, Joan Jiko Halifax, Sandra Jishu Holmes, Eve Myonen Marko, Wendy Egyoku Nakao and Pat Enkyo O’Hara.) Not-knowing, the first tenet of the ZPO is entering a situation without being attached to any opinion, idea or concept. This means total openness to the situation, deep listening to the situation. It is the role of the Bodhisattva to bear witness. The Buddha can stay in the realm of not-knowing, the realm of blissful non-attachment. The Bodhisattva vows to save the world, and therefore to live in the world of attachment, for that is also the world of empathy, passion, and compassion. Ultimately, she accepts all the difficult feelings and experiences that arise as part of every-day life as nothing but ways of revelation, each pointing to the present moment as the moment of enlightenment. Bearing witness gives birth to a deep and powerful intelligence that does not depend on study or action, but on presence. We bear witness to the joy and suffering that we encounter. Rather than observing the situation, we become the situation. We became intimate with whatever it is – disease, war, poverty, death. When you bear witness you’re simply there, you don’t flee. Loving Actions are those actions that arise naturally when one enters a situation in the state of not-knowing...

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Formative Years of Zen Practice

Last week I wrote about the various streams of study and practice that have gone into the White Plum lineage through its founder, Taizan Hakuyu Maezumi Roshi, adding up to an unusually rich mix of teachings. At the end of that posting I said that each of us in the family of teachers has added his/her own practices and methodologies as well. Below I want to talk a little more about the ingredients in my own Zen practice, what brought me to study with Maezumi Roshi, what caused me to finally separate from Soto Sect, in short: how the personal koans of my own life affected the teachings I wished to transmit to future generations.   1966-1975: Formative Years of Zen Practice In my early days of Zen practice with Maezumi Roshi, we were meeting regularly and talking about meditation, Zen texts, and appreciating our life as the Dharma. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t know anything about Japanese Zen, most of my readings were of the Chinese masters and hermits, not of Japanese temple priests. I was most interested in a communal life and in experiencing the interconnectedness of life, not in a religious institution. In the years since, I have learnt much about institutions, including the Japanese Soto Zen School. In the early days there weren’t very many people at the Zen Center of Los Angeles (ZCLA). I’d go to sit every morning and often it would just be Maezumi Sensei, myself, and maybe a few other people. But in the 1970’s the number of practitioners began to grow. Maezumi Sensei already had Dharma Transmission in the Soto lineage via his father (that was done at a very early age, before he came to the US), which is common in Japan. Until he finished koan study with Koryu Roshi and Yasutani Roshi, he would not do koan study with people;  instead he would talk about meditation, Zen texts and life. When I started to study with him in 1966, he was not introducing any of the Soto liturgies. What we now take for granted as Soto Zen liturgy was introduced to us during my ango (three month training period), which was in 1973. That was the first time we heard about oryoki...

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Bernie’s Training in Zen: The Early Years

The first time I encountered Zen was in 1958. I was attending the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn studying to be an Aeronautical Engineer. In an English class, we read The World’s Religions, at that time it was called Religions of Man, by Huston Smith (it had just come out). There was a page about Zen and it just struck me, I felt I had come home reading it. So I started to study Zen at that time (basically by reading). There wasn’t that much in English–Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, D.T. Suzuki, and I got quite interested in it. And then, around 1961 or 1962, I actually started meditation on my own. None of the books that I had read talked much about meditation. In 1963 I went to the Japanese Soto Zen temple, Zenshu-ji, in Los Angeles, in Little Tokyo, and met for the first time the person who was going to become my root Zen teacher, Hakuyu Taizan Maezumi. He was a very young monk and he was assisting in that temple. But I meditated at home and did my own sesshins (retreats), and got into a regular meditation practice (and kept reading, of course). I had been dabbling in many religions from maybe the age of 12 or 13, but I started to concentrate on Zen at age 18. In 1966 I ran into Maezumi again. At that time he was still not a teacher; he was translating for Yasutani Roshi, who had become somewhat famous in the Zen world because of the book, Three Pillars of Zen, edited by Philip Kapleau and Koun Yamada. I was at a workshop where Maezumi was translating for Yasutani and I saw that his English was really good, so I went up to him and asked if he had his own place, which he did. I started to sit with him on a daily basis. What follows is my understanding of the lineage and Zen traditions that run through Maezumi Roshi and a description of how they affected our early years in ZCLA: Maezumi Roshi received ShiHo (Dharma Transmission) (1955) from his father, Hakujun Baian Kuroda Roshi, with a Lineage Chart from the Japanese Soto Sect. He also studied and received Inka (Seal of Approval)...

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Bernie’s Opinion on Zen Priests and Dharma Teachers

Keizan Zenji, the mother of the Japanese Soto Sect, helped spread Zen to the masses by nurturing the construction of Temples, by developing prayers for health, wealth and good being and by developing a priestly class to conduct these services. In time, the Soto Sect developed a unique plan for enlightened ancestors. At the time of one’s passing, the Priest gives the deceased a new name and the Soto precepts to start them on the path to becoming an enlightened ancestor. After a 49 year journey, if accompanied by appropriate services along the way, the deceased becomes an enlightened ancestor. If the services are not done, the deceased winds up in Hell. Thus, the Soto Zen Priest has a very important function in helping the deceased reach enlightened ancestorship. My teacher, Maezumi Roshi, did not appraise me of this priestly role. I learned about it from Nara Sensei (previous head of the Soto Sect University, Komazawa) who has published a paper on this system (he claims it is unique among the Buddhist countries.) In Japan this has basically become the only function of the Temple Priest, funerals and memorial services. Priests are not trained in individual or family counseling. In the Japanese Soto School, you have to be a Priest to become a Zen Teacher. That is, you have to have the ceremony of Denkai (Full Priest) before having the ceremony of Denbo or Shiho (Dharma Transmission.) ……Read More of My...

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Who Are the Zen Peacemakers?

Like many Dharmic traditions, Zen Buddhism stresses the importance of lineage based on the one-on-one relationship and direct transmission and succession from teacher to student.  Successors of one teacher share commonalities and form  a community.  Bernie and the other successors of Taizan Maezumi Roshi, or Bernie’s “Dharma brothers and sisters” formed the White Plum Asanga, an Affinity Group of Zen Teachers within the Maezumi Roshi Lineage. The 73-affiliate Zen Peacemakers Sangha includes communities started by successors of Bernie Glassman and also spiritual groups from other lineages and traditions who wanted  to find affinity in their commitment to social action. The following list of affiliates has been sorted first by Country, then by State, then by City, then by ZPS Affiliate name.There are ZPS Affiliates in 5 Continents and 12 Countries. There are 21 categories in the list of Affiliates by Socially Engaged Theme. …….Read...

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Koans on the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers

Roshi Eve Myonen Marko and I (Bernie Glassman) have started a Koan System based on  the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers.  We will probably wind up with two different sets of koans (hers and his) and I have posted my initial thoughts on this koan system. The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers  Entering the stream of Socially Engaged Spirituality, I vow to live a life of: Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world Loving actions towards ourselves and others The Three Tenets serve as the foundation for the Zen Peacemakers’ work and practice. Using the Three Tenets as an orientation transforms service into spiritual practice. Specifically, these practices suspend separation and hierarchy, and open direct encounter between equals as the spirit and style of the services offered through Zen Houses. Not-knowing drops our conceptual framework from very personal biases and assumptions to such concepts as “in and out” “good and bad” “name and form,” “coming and going.” Not-knowing is a state of open presence without separation. In this state we can Bear Witness, the second Tenet, merging or joining with an individual, situation or environment, deeply imbibing their essence. From this intimate “knowing,” we can then choose an appropriate response to the person or situation, described as “taking loving actions,” our third Tenet. This gives rise to the holistic, integrated, wrap-around style of service projects inspired by Bernie’s vision. In speaking about the Three Tenets as separate practices and phases of consciousness, we are making deference to the discriminating mind. They are actually a continual flow, each containing and giving rise to the others. …….Read More about the Koan...

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What are Bearing Witness Retreats? – Bernie Glassman

In the days of Shakyamini Buddha, during the rainy season, Buddha would stop his meandering and spend time with his monks and nuns in one locale. In Japanese this period is called Ango, a period in space and time of peace. In English we use the word retreat to often mean “getting away from the issues of the world.” A Bearing Witness Retreat is becoming one with the “issues of the world.” A Zen Meditation Retreat is to bear witness to the wholeness of life. I use the word “plunge” for my Bearing Witness Retreats. To plunge into the unknown, i.e., to plunge into that which my rational mind can’t fathom. These plunges or Bearing Witness Retreats have helped folks let go of their attachments to their ideas or concepts and experience things as they are. Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat Nov 4-8, 2013 READ MORE/REGISTER  Bernie Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers are returning for the 18th year to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau, in Oświęcim, Poland, for a Bearing Witness Retreat in November 2013. Rwanda Bearing Witness Retreat April 14-19, 2014 READ MORE/REGISTER In April 2014, Zen Masters Bernie Glassman and Grover Genro Gauntt will go to Rwanda to bear witness to the Rwanda genocide. You are invited to join them for this Bearing Witness Retreat.  Dora Urujeni and Issa Higiro, representing Memos, will be our hosts in Rwanda.The retreat will be multi-faith and multinational in character, based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Loving...

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The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers

Not-knowing is the first tenet of the Zen Peacemakers. Not-Knowing is entering a situation without being attached to any opinion, idea or concept. This means total openness to the situation, deep listening to the situation. It is the role of the Bodhisattva to bear witness. The Buddha can stay in the realm of not-knowing, the realm of blissful non-attachment. The Bodhisattva vows to save the world, and therefore to live in the world of attachment, for that is also the world of empathy, passion, and compassion. Ultimately, she accepts all the difficult feelings and experiences that arise as part of every-day life as nothing but ways of revelation, each pointing to the present moment as the moment of enlightenment. Bearing witness gives birth to a deep and powerful intelligence that does not depend on study or action, but on presence. We bear witness to the joy and suffering that we encounter. Rather than observing the situation, we become the situation. We became intimate with whatever it is – disease, war, poverty, death. When you bear witness you’re simply there, you don’t flee. Loving Actions are those actions that arise naturally when one enters a situation in the state of not-knowing and then bears witness to that situation. It has nothing to do with the one’s opinions or other’s opinions as to whether it is loving actions or...

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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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Bernie Q12: What is Your Vision Today for a Better World in Future?

Questions by Christa Spannbaur Recorded at Rowe Conference Center by Ari Pliskin Zen Master Bernie Glassman Bio 12) What is your vision today for a better world in future? I’ve got no vision for the...

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Engaged Buddhist Visions of the Future by Kenneth Kraft

“The Kind of World We’d Like to Live In” The Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism held recently in Montague, Massachusetts was an extraordinary event. The reports that emerge will surely be as varied as the people who attended. As the discussion unfolded, I took notes on a developing theme: the promise of the future. Here are some further reflections. (purchase DVD’s of Symposium) Prophetic Engaged Buddhists use a variety of voices in relation to the future. Those who speak in a prophetic voice call for massive change. Robert Aitken Roshi, who was honored in absentia, liked to carry a protest sign that read, “The system stinks.” Peter Matthiessen quoted a tribal elder from an Arctic region decimated by oil spills and climate change: “God may forgive you, but your children won’t.” Alan Senauke and David Loy insisted that an effective movement must have a sharp countercultural edge. Assimilationist Others seek ways to make Buddhist resources more widely available in mainstream culture. This is an assimilationist voice. We learned, for example, that the low-ranking United States women’s hockey team won Olympic silver after adding mindfulness to their training regimen. Daniel Goleman’s book Emotional Intelligence has been translated into thirty languages. Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction is fast becoming a standard part of modern medicine. Visionary A third variation, the visionary voice, takes best-case scenarios seriously. “We can say a lot about what we’re against,” Rabbi Michael Lerner told the group, “yet we don’t have a coherent vision of what we’re for.” Jan Willis invoked Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a Beloved Community. Jon Kabat-Zinn suggested that we are on the verge of a second Renaissance. Melody Chavis, who works with prisoners on death row, applied nonlinear thinking to the future—however gloomy current trend lines may be, good things unexpectedly happen. Each of the Symposium’s chosen themes—justice, social entrepreneurship, wellness, the arts, community—became a domain ripe for realization. The following summary can be read merely as a wish-list. But it can also be read, in the spirit of the conference, as a mini-visualization of a possible world. Justice. Restorative justice replaces retributive justice. Nonviolence is the norm. Nuclear weapons vanish. The work of peacebuilding spreads exponentially, yielding reconciliation near and far. Humanity lives in harmonious balance with...

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Support Bone Marrow Donation

Dear Friends, Jeana Teiju Moore, a good friend and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Circles, has been walking across the country to raise awareness for the need for bone marrow donors, under the auspices of the Jada Bascom Foundation. Her infant granddaughter was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia at birth and is now thriving, thanks to a donation of bone marrow from a young man in Germany. You can see the story on the website www.stepstomarrow. Both she and the Jada Bascom Foundation have been nominated for awards through the Classy Awards. The nomination and becoming a finalist for the awards were based on merit, but whether they get the award or not depends on how many votes they get. The voting will take place until Oct. 22 (and began Oct. 9). The way it works is that people can vote daily, in each of the two categories. So I’m asking you as a friend and supporter of Jeana and the Jada Bascom Foundation, to look at her website and decide for yourself if you’d like to engage in this process of voting for her and the foundation. To do so you need to: 1. Go to the Classy Awards website, stayclassy.org. 2. Scroll down to near the bottom of the page on the left and click on Nominations. 3. Then click the LA tab (back at the top) and look for the Volunteer category. Please vote for Jeana if you think she is the best candidate. 4. You will then need to register so you can get back in easily daily. 5. Vote again, this time clicking on the NY tab. This time you will be looking for the Small Category of the Year category. (You may need to exit the site and then re-enter in order to cast this second vote. At least I did need to do it this way this morning). Thanks for your attention. If they win in either of these categories it will catapult their foundation’s work to the national stage, which will increase donors for more people in Jada’s situation. If you’d like to pass this on to people in your network, and suggest that they also pass on the info, that would...

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Auschwitz II — Zen Peacemakers' retreat, June 2010, from Jiko

I did not go to Auschwitz to find out what happened there, nor to understand the worst that the human mind can do. Nor did I go in sympathy with the suffering of the Jews and others killed and tortured there. The only reason to go was to discover to what my own heart and mind could open from staying with such a dire, unbearable, and unfathomable event. I asked how the potential or actuality of what produced Auschwitz, is present and manifesting in my life? Can this experience help me learn and connect with my own humanness, help me in choosing love/identity as the only motivation for action in my life? We are taught in many religions that there is a “peace that surpasseth all understanding,” the stillness at the center of the storm, the great wisdom in which the small discomforts that can absorb our days and our energies are as nothing in the grand functioning of the cosmos, in the mightiness of God, or the cosmic void. What we experience is never personal — only our self-protective responses make it seem so. For the first three days at Auschwitz I was uncomfortable at hearing, seeing all the horror, viewing reconstructed, imagined lives of Jewish communities before the holocaust, and imagining the dislocation and cruelty of their precipitous deaths without dignity, the removal of their freedoms in the grossest of ways. I tried to imagine the mind that could be unmoved while doing such terrible actions. I was wondering if my being relatively unperturbed in the midst of all this came out of such a mind, unable to connect, distant and cold. Or was it acceptance of the human condition? My thoughts considered that I have studied old age, sickness and death intimately and deeply over quite a few years. We will all die, and death does not look too bad — my own near death experiences have felt like release and enfolding rather than fearful deprivations. Many of us die prematurely. Many of us suffer sickness and pain. Many of us, our lives and our passionate, loving dedication of sustained effort, are abused and misused. We lose hope, we lose our loved ones, our children, our countries, homes, possessions, and our...

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Video: Engaged Buddhism Symposium Welcome

View the trailer now for excerpts of the welcome at the August 2010 Symposium For Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  If you purchase the DVD, you could view this segment and others while supporting the community work of the Zen Peacemakers. Related Blog Posts: Eve: Organic & Protest History Contextualize Symposium Campus Bernie Establishes Hopes for Symposium. In this trailer Sensei Eve explains how the Montague property serves as the mother house of the Zen Peacemakers Sangha.   Bernie explains how the Symposium is rooted in the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers and Chris Queen describes the “Thus Have We Heard” feature in which Ari Pliskin and Kaji Ruhl guide reflection on Symposium...

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Engaged Buddhism: Service or Revolution? by Alan Senauke

Musings on Montague: The Western Socially Engaged Buddhism Symposium — August 2010.  Originally posted at the Clear View Project. What is socially engaged Buddhism? Over the course of the week it was easy to see a number of contrasts or kinds of activities that all can be considered “Engaged Buddhism” or “Socially Engaged Buddhism.” I don’t see a particularly useful distinction between these two rubrics.  Engaged Buddhism, Socially Engaged Buddhism — both include a systemic view of suffering and liberation.  Elsewhere I have written: What is socially engaged Buddhism? It is dharma practice that flows from an understanding of the complete and endlessly complicated interdependence of all life. It is the practice of the bodhisattva vow to save all beings. It is to know that our liberation and the liberation of others are inseparable. It is to transform ourselves as we transform all our relationships and our larger society. Or, as Gary Snyder wrote, nearly fifty years ago in the Journal for the Protection of All Beings #1: The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both. Social Service These definitions, of course, demark a wide field of action. (The notion of a Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is something I will address later.)  On one end of the field is social service.  This might include hospice, tending the ill, feeding the hungry, bringing material and spiritual support to institutions and places in which people are suffering.  These places are essentially dukkha warehouses, with their own gravity or magnetism, drawing in and generating further suffering. In his early teachings the Buddha set down Four Requisites for establishing a practice of liberation: food, shelter, clothing, and medicine.  Providing these requisites in the spirit of compassionate, selfless action, without the smell of charity and without proselytizing, is Buddhist social service. Social Activism On the other end is social activism, social change, and even, as Snyder proposed, social revolution. This is the prophetic dimension of engaged Buddhism.  Since Buddhism really has no prophetic tradition, this vision of social transformation is truly a merging of West and East. Yet it has been transmitted from Asian teachers like Thich Nhat Hanh and Sister Chan...

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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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Podcast: Comments from Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism

From Interdependence Project: Joshua Adler and Patrick Groneman took time at the Symposium for Socially Engaged Western Buddhism to speak with some of the participants and panelists about the socially engaged work that they are practicing, what drives them to do this work, and what, if anything, makes their work “Buddhist.” Music in this episode is taken from a live performance by Akim Funk Buddha. Organizations and Projects Referenced in this episode: Zen Peacemakers The Linage Project Buddhist Global Relief Akim Funk Buddha Wherever You Are Is The Center of the World Download the Podcast Here Subscribe to the ID Project Podcast Here or Via iTunes Here Please consider supporting the ID Project Podcast by signing up to become a member. More information is available on our donate...

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David Loy at the Tricycle Book Club

Join us Monday, September 20 at the Tricycle Book Club for the discussion of David Loy’s The World is Made of Stories. In this small book about big ideas, Loy attempts to tell the story of stories by engaging in a playful, energetic dialogue with wisdom quotations from a wide variety of sources. Everything that we know, Loy contends, we know from stories. He writes: “We play at the meaning of life by telling different stories.” If stories hold this much power, and we’re all storytellers (Loy also points out that to not tell a story is to tell a story), then what can we take away from this understanding? What stories should we tell about ourselves and our world? Come talk it out with us at the Tricycle Book Club. It’s free and easy to sign up. We’re looking forward to seeing you there. Buy the book from Wisdom Publications here. David Loy is a frequent Tricycle contributor. His previous books include The Great Awakening: A Buddhist Social Theory and The Dharma of Dragons and Daemons. He is the Besl Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Xavier University in...

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Photos: Patch of Grass to Abundant Harvest!

Deerfield Academy’s boys lacrosse team helping set the garden fence posts. On Earth Day April 2010, we broke ground on a 1/4 acre garden at the Montague Farm. Now in September we are harvesting and serving organic vegetables every week to 60-70 people at our Montague Farm cafe free community meals. This garden was created by many people: Karen Idoine, Ike Eichenlaub, Laurie Smith, Tim Raines, Doug Donnell, Janice Frey, Bonnie Bloom, Dan Smith, Charlie Kerrigan, Henry Marshall, Kanji Ruhl, and the Greenfield Farmers Co-operative Exchange. The fabulous Big Brothers/Big Sisters crew (Ashley, Brooke, and Rachel) and the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team and their coach Jan Flaska have been instrumental. Rosalind Jiko McIntosh has coordinated nurturing of the garden since June. Cucumbers, zucchini, basil, cilantro and carrots being harvested right now. Volunteers to maintain the garden and process the harvest are very welcome. A plot of grass transformed into the Montague Farm Zen House garden Tim Raines on the first round with the rototiller in April. After the Deerfield Academy lacrosse team helped dig a fence trench and set the poles. Karen Idoine and the chicken wire fence in mid May. At last, early plantings in June! Abundance in...

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Beyond — Zen Peacemaker retreat at Auschwitz June 2 to June 12, 2010

The setting is beautiful, walking to Birkenau in the early morning. The sun is already bright and very hot. In the flat narrow fields striped with different greens, heads of grain grow and glisten, stirring in the sweet earth-scented breeze along with blue cornflowers and red poppies. Hay has been scythed and is being tossed by the pitchforks of bare-chested farmers, or swept into loose beehive shaped stacks. Morning doves call, and cuckoos repeat — just like the wooden bird popping out of its little carved clock house over the antipodean dinner table of my 1940s childhood. Icy shivers chill my spine and freeze my stride even before my mind registers the watchtowers and barbed wire enclosures – the endless ordered ranks of barracks and chimneys that appear over the fields. Too vast, too determined, they speak of an intent that is intolerable in its horror – the calculated efficiency of terrorizing, torturing, humiliating, degrading, murdering and annihilating 1.1 million children, women, and men of many kinds, nations, and faiths. Along with them were destroyed the humanity of the SS guards – the humanity that is the one quality giving value to our human life. Yet, over a few short days, Birkenhau was to become a place of such tender love, joy, and affirmation of spirit that it was incredibly hard to leave. It seemed at first that I felt only shallowly my own and others’ pain here, and yet I cried out in agony of spirit — with, and as, both victim and perpetrator. From that cry was released a love for each particular person encountered here, now, and for those from the past. For a brief moment I glimpsed how deep is our oneness in this glorious endeavor of apparent embodiment we call life, with all its capacity for joy, and its suffering from separation. This retreat at Auschwitz with Zen Peacemakers offered profound affirmation that when we continue to listen to ourselves and others with an open mind and heart, death and pain of body and spirit, however terrible, can never offer a final answer. And this truth exists even while such horrendous events seem beyond the realm of forgiveness and far beyond any possibility of consolation. So what is the...

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Socially Engaged Dudeism

Just had a nice conversation with Rev. GMS.  He is part of a church known as Dudeism and he attended the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism.  He and others are exploring possibilities for Socially Engaged Dudeism. Several years ago Roshi Bernie Glassman met Jeff Bridges and thus began a long-term friendship. Bernie said to Jeff, “You know, a lot of folks consider the Dude a Zen Master.” Jeff replied, “What are you talking about … Zen?” Bernie said that quite a few people had approached him wanting to chat about the Dude’s Zen wisdom. Jeff said that he had never heard of that. This article revives a series of posts to let that conversation go on with those interested in the Dude. Bernie did a koan study using the Big Lebowski as source material and featuring Koans by the Coens. These koans will be posted on this blog with comments by Bernie and Zen students. The first one follows: What to do? Lebowski Koan: “What do you DO Mr. Lebowski? A Harvard student asks: “How do I choose my vocation?” Koryo Roshi* says: “Why do you put on your patchwork robe at the sound of the bell?” KoOn’s interpretation: “What will Gandhi do when he grows up? Roshi Bernie replies: The vocation chooses You! *Koryu Roshi is quoted frequently in this blog. Roshi Bernie calls him his “heart teacher.”  Koryu Roshi approved Bernie’s presentation of his first koan and also for his subsequent first one hundred koans. He finished his koan study (around 1000 koans) with his root teacher, Maezumi...

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Community Ambrosia at Montague Farm’s Free Family Café!

A young man with his seven-week-new baby daughter wrapped snugly against his chest is making salad at the dining room table. With three other guys. Work is focused, conversation easy. At the sink Maryl plunges with a sweet smile into quickly dissolving a huge mound of cooking dishes. Then Gary and she (they are celebrating their 27th wedding anniversary this weekend) happily process box after box of garden and donated herbs and vegetables to make 20 quarts of oh-so-fresh gazpacho. Totally awesome! I have collected this week’s raw ingredients and dishes that have been so joyfully and generously donated to our Montague Farm Zen House Free Family Cafe. (Included this time is a huge box of peaches, unbelievably juicy and sweet, and richly, intensely and beautifully colored.) I have dreamed up a great menu (…DESSERT – Local Farm Fresh Peaches on Maple Cream Pie in a Walnut Crust…) and sent it for printing. And I realize once again that I have bitten off more than I can possibly make for 70 hungry guests in the time available. And amazingly, once again, fabulous people just turn up from out of the blue — and ease and joy flow out of the kitchen along with all the food, fresh, ready and delicious to eat, right on time. So many willing hands and smiling faces contribute to this family community offering in our rural valley. Such loving angels stay to clean up so that no trace is left that it ever happened. (Except the delight.) And it happens every week! It takes no-effort, and happens in no-time! A miracle, no less. Do come join us! The open heart and hands of community in action — you. Just for you! (Food preparation every Friday afternoon and Saturday early in Montague Farm...

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Can Green Buddhism Save the Earth?

Peter Matthiessen, Daniel Goleman, Stephanie Kaza, Others Discuss Buddhist Environmentalism at Symposium “I wrote about vanishing wildlife 50 years ago. I wish I could say we’ve made more progress,” remarked the naturalist, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and Zen teacher Peter Matthiessen during a panel discussion on the environment held at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on Thursday, August 12. “We’ve made some progress, but there are more extinctions now than ever in the history of our planet.” That in itself is deeply alarming. But in addition, Matthiessen said, “Things that affect wildlife almost always impinge on people. And generally,” he stressed, “poor people are the first affected.” That includes native peoples, whose cultures are exceptionally rich but whose economic resources may be scant. Matthiessen spoke of traveling to an Arctic region west of the Brooks Range, “the last refuge of Ice Age megafauna — all three kinds of bears, and wolves; glorious — and a tremendous variety of migratory birds. There are no roads at all. The Indian people there are hanging on to their culture, they depend on the caribou, and they’re resisting the bribes of the oil companies. The oil companies call that area ‘the 10-02’; the native people there call it ‘the sacred place where life begins.’ It’s so sacred they won’t walk there. The oil company wants it.” People living in the Arctic, Matthiessen continued, “are our first global climate change victims. Whales stay next to the icepack, and as the ice recedes farther out to sea, the people have to go farther to reach them. At the same time, the permafrost is melting. As usual, our government is not taking good care of our native people. The spill in the Gulf of Mexico is very serious, but the Arctic is so much worse. The oil doesn’t break down in very cold water. And the oil companies themselves say there’s at least one spill a day.” Matthiessen quoted a tribal elder who said, “God may forgive you, but your children won’t.” The problem is complicated enormously by the fact, Matthiessen contended, that “Big Oil owns the country. They own Congress and the White House. Greed is their true nature.” Greed, however, is the good news for Daniel...

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Symposium: Ricard Says "You Just Need to Do It"

Buddhist Monk Advocates Compassion, Action “Compassion without action is just sterile,” keynote speaker Mathieu Ricard told a packed hall at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on Tuesday, August 10. “When people see suffering in the street and say, ‘It’s not my job,’ I don’t see that. If something comes your way, engage in compassionate action.” Ricard, a Buddhist monk for nearly 40 years at Schechen Monastery in Nepal, a close student of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, and personal interpreter for the Dalai Lama, is also well-known as a photographer, a trained scientist (with a Ph.D. in cellular genetics) and a bestselling author. Less well-known, as Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman pointed out when introducing Ricard, are his donations of money to serve the poor. Ricard does not advocate simply giving money, however. “Compassion is about removing suffering in all its forms,” he told the Symposium, “in the world, in the street.” To undertake such work, he said, requires having “inner strength — emotional strength — and balance.” He also invoked the image of a wounded deer, seen as one’s mother and begging for help, as a technique for awakening compassion. “Compassion without wisdom is blind,” he emphasized. And when a situation arises that requires compassion, he said, the response is clear: “You just need to do...

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Burma's Saffron Revolution Comes To Symposium

Socially Engaged Buddhism at the Edge: Burmese Monks Speak of Torture, Imprisonment Two veterans of the “Saffron Revolution” — the peaceful revolt in August and September, 2007 of saffron-robed Buddhist monks in Burma, who led thousands of people in street marches to protest the brutal military dictatorship in that nation — spoke on Wednesday, August 11 at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism. The monks shared a harrowing account of repression and cruelty. “We marched for freedom of speech, of writing, freedom of the press,” said one of the monks (whose names and photos are being withheld in this report to protect their families in Burma from possible government reprisals). “We marched for human rights.” The monks, who have received political asylum in the United States after their dangerous escape from Burma, are members of the All Burma Monks’ Alliance. One of the monks explained that in the street marches of 2007 they protested with “loving compassion. Just breath and chant. We chanted, ‘May all human beings be free from killing one another. May all human beings be free from torturing one another. May all human beings be well and happy.’ We didn’t break any law. We were met with brutality and arrests. Monasteries were raided at midnight and shut down.” These events, well documented in Western news media at the time, resulted in harsh treatment of monks detained by the Burmese police. One of the monks at the Symposium spoke of being repeatedly tortured while imprisoned. Other monks were killed. Three years later, an estimated 450 Buddhist monks remain locked up in Burma, under terrible conditions. “We’re supporting the monks in prison,” one of the speakers said. Many other monks live in hiding, disguised as laypeople. According to an All Burma Monks’ Alliance flyer distributed at the Symposium, the Alliance members work to achieve a fourfold mission: 1. “To support the many monks currently being held as political prisoners in Burmese jails. Prisoners in Burma are not given food, medicine, or any other sustenance. Their families must provide them with everything, and their families are desperately struggling to do this. We are helping them.” 2. “To support refugee monks who have escaped from incarceration and torture in Burma. Some live...

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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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Montague Farm Café at Turner’s Falls Block Party

(One of the) Best Afternoon(s) of My Life. A small watermelon falls on path of the Montague Farm Zen House and bursts open to reveal black seeds in glistening intensely yellow flesh. Higgledy-piggledy, we are loading the little red truck with paper plates, chairs, chopping board, cymbals and bells, coolers filled with jars of coffee and pesto pasta, and box after box of vegetables all carefully bagged or wrapped in bundles courtesy of a generous organic farmer. Through the rear view mirror, miraculously, the stuff is not flying off as we drive from Montague to the summer block party at neighboring Turner’s Falls.  Our weekly meal, which typically occurs on our own farm, is taking a field trip. Our people jauntily play an assortment of instruments to lead the party’s opening parade, as we assemble our offerings in the shade of a tree on the cordoned off main road and begin shouting over the hubbub “Free food! What would you like? Come and eat!” That was at 1:30 pm. Somewhere along the way someone hands us a godsend bottle of cold water saying “Don’t get dehydrated!” Then suddenly it is 6:00 pm and we are loading the little truck with empty boxes and trash to head precariously back to Montague Farm where a large Symposium gathering sits talking about social action through microphones. What happened in between is a blur of action. Faces… closed, curious, doubting, toothless, on bicycles, in wheel chairs, ulcerated, bejeweled, speaking not-English, babies and children. “Would you like some pesto pasta or some rice and beans, cold coffee or tea? Have a slice of watermelon or some juice! Here is a piece of panettone cake!” “Would you take home some of these vegetables to cook? Who do you know who would like some? Take it for them! Feel this beautiful squash in your hand – it’s yours! It’s free!” “People give it to us — we give it to you. Join us noon to 3 o’clock every Saturday for free fun and food at Montague Farm. Come and serve, come and eat! See you there!” “Thank you very much! You are so welcome!” Yes it really is free! It is the best food on the block (I made it!) and...

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Symposium: Jon Kabat-Zinn on stress reduction

By Fleet Maull: What follows here is myparaphrasing of Joh Kabat-Zinn’s presentation: he is interested in strategies for change that do not lead to polarization, burnout and further conflict. While he has deep respect for the teachings and practices of the Buddha and feels connected to this tradition and its wonderful lineages, teacher and practitioners, he also feels the need to not personally identify himself as a Buddhist or with any particular religious identity and a need for us to move to a universal Dharma that can reach and/or include all people rather than being tied to Buddhism or Buddhadharma as a more limited identification alone. His work has largely focused on bringing mindfulness-based interventions into the fields and practice of medicine and psychology: mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (MBCB), mindfulness-based relapse prevention and so on. When he was a graduate student at MIT in molecular biology he was very aware that MIT was involved in all kinds of high tech weaponry development, he spent a lot of time not being in the laboratory but trying to bring a mirror of awareness to what was going on at MIT. As a graduate student and going forward he felt there must be another way to do science. He wrote a piece for the newspaper there at MIT about the need for an orthogonal institutions, institutions rotated 90 degrees in consciousness, meaning a 90 degree shift in consciousness and view that would move the work at MIT in a new, healthier direction. A 90 degree shift where everything is the same as it was before and nothing’s the same at the same time. This led to deciding to make this orthogonal shift his work and leading to the development of MBSR. After practicing mindfulness meditation for many years, beginning in 1966, thought why not create a clinic in a hospital, which are “dukkha magnets” (magnets of suffering). Called the clinic initially simply, beginning in 1979 at the UMASS Medical Center, a stress reduction clinic, so that it would not appear as something foreign, strange or esoteric to patients or the the medical staff. What meditation is … is paying attention and being kind to yourself. Working with referrals from physicians at the hospital, enrolled...

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Thangkas by Mayumi Oda

Dear Friends, Thangkas (pronounced TAHN kahs) are Tibetan paintings portraying Buddhist deities or mandalas. Rich in symbolism and allusion, thangkas act as a teaching tool for students of Buddhism. Mayumi’s thangkas were painted during her activist years when she founded “Plutonium Free Future” in Japan and Berkeley, California. Known to many as the “Matisse of Japan,” Mayumi Oda has done extensive work with female goddess imagery. Born to a Buddhist family in Japan in 1941, Mayumi studied fine art and traditional Japanese fabric dyeing. In 1966 she graduated from Tokyo University of Fine Arts. In 2010, California Institute of Integral Studies awarded Mayumi an honorary degree of Doctor of Arts and Spirituality. Her work is included in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, the Yale University Art Gallery, and elsewhere. Mayumi has wonderfully donated the unique, museum-quality thangkas shown here to the Zen Peacemakers. There will be a silent auction during the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism (Aug 9-14) to raise funds for the Zen Peacemakers activities in Socially Engaged Buddhism. Purchases are half tax deductible. We are inviting those on our mailing list to also bid. Each day we will announce the largest bid for that day and give individuals and organizations the opportunity to bid during the next day. At the end of the week we will announce the winning bid for these beautiful art treasures. White Tara [2003] Size: 11 feet by 5 feet Retail: $50,000 Minimum bid: $25,000 Dakini, the Sky Walker [1987] Size: 11 feet by 5 feet Retail: $50,000 Minimum bid: $25,000 Zen Peacemakers is a 501(c)(3) organization. You can bid on either or both of these extraordinary thangkas by calling Laurie at 413-367-5272 or by sending an email to Thangka Bid. With deep appreciation and with much love, Bernie...

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How do we finance and structure enlightened engagement?

What is the structure of the Engaged Buddhist Sangha and how is it financed? At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism various leaders are shedding light on the question of the structure of Buddhist community.  On Monday, Bikkhu Bodhi explained that according to the sutras, the Buddha taught that lay people should donate to support monastics. Robert Thurman reminded us that the meaning of ‘bikhu’ is not monk, but ‘free luncher.’ This reflects host Bernie Glassman’s question of whether some kind of ordained or lay order would be useful today to organize Buddhist communities. While our culture doesn’t have the tradition of financially supporting a community of religious devotees, we do have the structure of the charitable non-profit and also of social enterprise. How we organize ourselves reflects how we present ourselves. Steve Kanji Ruhl, founder of the Appalachian Zen House, talked about his decision to use his dharma name in rural Pennsylvania in order to challenge the dominant assumption that we live in a Christian nation. Is this a contrast to groups like Interdependence Project and Mirabai’s Center for Contemplative Mind in Society who take out explicit reference to Buddhism? In our own society, we find new, appropriate forms of Buddhist practice that account for contemporary relationships and financial structures. In the BASE (Buddhist Alliance for Social Engagement of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship) discussion group, participants discussed the challenge of living in community, including the realization that not all interpersonal issues can be solved. In the Zen House group, we discussed the challenge of finding capital and ongoing funding for a project that has people who are excited to become engaged and inspiring vision to guide...

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Symposium: Has Buddhism always been engaged?

One major question we are exploring at the Symposium For Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is whether Buddhism has always been engaged. I explored this topic in the past and Symposium presenters are providing new insight. On Monday, David Loy shared ways in which traditional Buddhism was and was not engaged, including the view that the Hebrew concept of prophetic justice and Classical ideas of democracy added a new element. Likewise, Alan Senauke talked about the role of European anarchism in the development of Aitken Roshi’s philosophy. On Tuesday, the view that Buddhists have always been engaged spreading awakening and non-violence and providing medical services was expressed by Robert Thurman and also Jan Willis. Both argued that to suggest that Buddhism has not always been engaged is to accept the Western colonial view that Buddhists are escapist and quietist. Likewise, on Monday, Bhikkhu Bodhi argued that ethical principles regarding social conduct including treating others well and caring for the poor are an important part of the Buddha’s original teachings. Reflecting the difference between Western and Asian understandings of society, Sallie King provided a Buddhist critique of the concept of justice, which spurred some controversy. Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism Panel: David Loy, Sallie King, Bhikkhu Bodhi and Chris Queen by Clemens M....

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Socially Engaged Buddhism: Suffering or Happiness?

Many people, when they think of Buddhism, think of the Buddha’s First Noble Truth: life is Dukkha, commonly translated as “suffering.” When people think of Socially Engaged Buddhism, they often conjure images of earnest meditators leaving their cushions to tackle pressing social problems – hunger, war, environmental degradation, poverty – and the suffering those problems create. So can Buddhist social engagement actually be a path of happiness? At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, noted Buddhist scholars Robert Thurman (pictured above with Symposium Host Bernie Glassman’s clown nose) and Jan Willis say yes. Speaking at the Zen Peacemakers’ Symposium on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism in Montague, MA, on August 10, they offered a compelling case for the importance in Buddhism of not focusing exclusively on suffering, but of realizing a happy life. “Enlightenment can be jolly!” Thurman said. “Only out of happiness can Socially Engaged Buddhism happen. I want to tell you: pursue the extraordinary and really pump up to be happy.” Citing the Dalai Lama’s bestselling book The Art of Happiness, he mentioned the consternation initially caused by the title among people who assume that Buddhism only speaks of suffering. “Happiness is nirvana, which is the cessation of suffering,” Thurman emphasized. “Freedom from suffering is bliss.” The Buddha didn’t say this more frequently or more explicitly, according to Thurman, because he was being conservative, speaking in a social context of Brahmin priests who mediated between the happy gods and the miserable people on earth. Part of the Buddha’s revolution was to show people in this life, right here and now, a path to happiness. Jan Willis declared that “Buddhism has always been engaged because it has always emphasized compassion, and it starts from the principle that everyone is exactly the same, in that all people wish to attain happiness and avoid suffering.” Yet this is not a shallow, or blithely oblivious, happiness. It’s not “don’t worry, be happy.” It’s “be concerned. Be very concerned. But manifest happiness.” Enlightened happiness, Thurman said, has to be lived while engaging other people in samsara, the realm of suffering. Thurman and Willis each gave moving examples of that samsara. Thurman mentioned a historical line that included the “genocide of Native American people” – including, he said,...

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Peacemaker Institute, Interdependence Project Enrich Symposium

Program participants are sharing their reflections on the Buddhablogosphere.  Fleet Maull from Peacemaker Institute responded to Sallie King’s critique of justice, Fleet shares his defense of a Buddhist basis for a concept of justice.  On his coverage of the 2nd day, Fleet asks whether engaged Buddhists can collaborate and whether new partnerships will emerge from this gathering.  Patrick Groneman from Interdependence Project has also been sharing daily synopses and...

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Top Seven Challenges of Western Socially Engaged Buddhism

The following seven challenges were expressed by participants at the first major Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism taking place August 9-14, 2010.  The event is hosted by the Zen Peacemakers and you could check out detailed coverage of the Symposium at the Bearing Witness Blog. 1. To practice social engagement as a Buddhist without being “drummed out of Buddhism” and accused of “staining the Dharma” (Bernie Glassman). Glassman mentioned that such accusations had been leveled at him by peers in his early days as a pioneer of socially engaged Buddhism. Yet, he said, according to Dogen – the thirteenth century founder of Soto Zen Buddhism in Japan – “the Dharma cannot be stained.” Certainly, he implied, such an argument should not be used to restrict social action by Buddhists. 2. To sustain a radical and internationalist Dharma vision (Alan Senauke). According to Senauke, the Buddha’s original vision was a politically radical, egalitarian one, which continues to be embodied by socially engaged Asian Buddhists today, such as Thich Nhat Hanh or the untouchables in India who engage in mass conversions to Buddhism in order to defy the restrictions of caste. We can’t limit our view of socially engaged Buddhism to the West, Senauke declared: “our labors are interwoven with those of people far away and out of our sight” across the oceans. He also mentioned Gary Snyder on the need for not only a Western social revolution, but for the inward-directed insights of the East. 3. To have contemplative and mindfulness practices accepted by our broader society (Mirabai Bush). Bush emphasized that the acceptance of such practices is better than it was 15 years ago, but resistance remains. She mentioned specifically universities, where mindfulness practice often is seen as an obstacle to critical thinking; and social activists, who find it hard to accept that they can work from compassion rather than anger; and lawyers, who ask, “How can I be a zealous advocate if I have compassion?” Nevertheless, Bush said, “The opportunities for practice among people you’d least expect to be open to it is extraordinary. We need to start by honoring where people are, and learn to speak their language without diluting the practice.” 4. To propagate a sense of hope (Bill Aiken)....

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Symposium: Robert Thurman- Buddhists Have Always Been Engaged

Robert Thurman was a monk ordained by the Dalai Lama and also became an Ivy League professor of religion.  One debate that is surfacing at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhsim is whether social engagement is part of historical Buddhism or whether it was introduced by a synthesis with Western concepts of human rights.  Thurman came down strongly in the side that Buddhists have always been socially engaged.  He described the monastic Sangha as ‘free lunch’ community organizers.  ‘Bikkhu’ doesn’t exactly mean monk, but rather ‘free luncher’.  In a society that recognizes that cultivating awakening takes time and energy and provides social benefit, people support monks.  So the monks go begging for lunch and after lunch, they throw in a sermon or some mediation.  This is a type of community organizing. This idea goes against the dominant Protestant ethic of ‘there is no such thing as a free lunch.’  The dominant ethic, wrapped up with American consumerist culture, is also reinforced by the university system, where dissertations that acknowledge enlightenment to the interconnectedness of life are regarded as fluffy romanticism.  The roots of the word Buddha come both from awakening and spreading it.  Historically, he argues, Buddhists have spread their faith less violently than other groups.  While they have been involved in some unholy wars, they have not generally gotten involved in holy wars.  Thurman talked about the upcoming Newark Peace Making Summit, which follows a similar conference 10 years ago and includes the participation of the Dalai Lama. photos by Clemens M....

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Symposium: Sallie King- Buddhist Critique of Justice

Sallie King offered a Buddhist critique of popular conceptions of justice based on her experience at an international, interfaith peace council, where leaders of world religions gathered to address conflict. Listening to people struggling in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict left the Buddhist contingent squirming.  From the Buddhist perspective, they heard same story from both Israelis and Palestinians. Dhammananda, one Buddhist nun,  said “I can’t understand what they are saying!  They seem to nourish their suffering, while I’ve been taught to let it go.” At Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel at Hebrew College, Buddhists heard stories of suffering and heroism.  Geshe Sulpan, a Tibetan monk, explained that the Tibetans were invaded by the Chinese because of their collective karma.  In past lives, he explained, the Tibetans harmed the Chinese. The monk challenged the Israelis to imagine having been a Nazi soldier in a previous life.  The main thing is to have compassion for mistakes made from egocentric or ignorant viewpoint.  The Chinese are now creating terrible karma for themselves and it is important to feel compassion and find peaceful solution for all.  King argued against four common forms of politics that perpetuate conflict instead of ending it: Identity politics: The sense of victimhood nourishes suffering and keeps it going generation to generation. Righteous Indignation.  The angry sense that we are justified and the others wrong. Justice: The insistence on finding justice before there can be peace.  King reported that while the Buddhists at the summit find ‘human rights’ to be a useful concept, they think justice is not so useful. Revenge: In particular the concept of justice based on retribution perpetuates conflict. During the question and answer time, Fleet Maull said that he doesn’t think that Buddhists should stick their heads in the sand all together regarding the idea of justice.  While he prefers a model called integral transformative justice, he says that even retributive justice, is a desire to return to wholeness, albeit a misguided one. If we don’t engage in these feelings and thoughts, Fleet argued, we risk irrelevance. King challenged us to engaged in a thought experiment, in which we ask ourselves whether there is anything we could achieve with the concept of justice that we cannot achieve without it, referring instead to...

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Symposium: David Loy Explains Institutionalized Delusion

David Loy asked ‘What was Buddha trying to achieve when he started teaching?’ He asked whether we can explore this question without projecting our modern understanding of private/public sphere separation, based on the Protestant Reformation.  He explained that what we today call religions are really “reduced civilizations” which were much more ambitious in their origins.  Thus Buddhism in Asia is both a great cultural and social tradition. We know very little about whether the Buddha envisioned broader social change.  His texts were handed down orally for generations before being recorded and of course they were edited. After Buddha’s passing, the Sangha became more dependent on royal patronage, which meant Sangha had to support royalty in turn.  While early Buddhism was anti-caste, the notion that an individual deserves their current position reentered the tradition. Maybe in order to survive in an increasingly autocratic world, it had to only address individual Dukkha and not social suffering. Eventually, the Asian tradition interacted and was influenced by Western ideas of human rights influenced by the traditions of the prophets of Israel and Greek democracy.  The Asian worldview doesn’t have much to say about justice, except for the concept of karma, which is often used to justify oppression. Now we can ask what is social awakening?   Asian Buddhism couldn’t challenge authorities.  Western revolutions have failed because its lacked the internal, personal change.  Its got to be both.  A root problem is that the sense of self in our society is haunted by sense of lack.  We project from our minds and we see this lack as something external that we don’t have- money, sex, fame.  The dissatisfaction based on clinging that the Buddha elucidated so clearly has become institutionalized in the forms of consumerism and militarism.   Our media is institutionalized delusion.  We must experience social awakening to overcome this...

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Symposium: Bikkhu Bodhi Elucidates Cannonical Roots of Engaged Buddhism

At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, Chris Queen asked Bikkhu Bodhi to speak on the Canonical roots of engaged Buddhism.  Bikkhu Bodhi explained that many see Buddhism as a means of world-renouncing liberation, detachment and personal inward meditation.  Bikkhu Bodhi approached this task from the question of ‘What is the function of a Buddha?’, according to text. In the text, a Buddha is also known as a Dhamma Raja ‘king of the Dhamma’, who discovers, realizes and proclaims the Dhamma in full range and depth, including its applications to human life in all dimensions.  It is path to world-transcending liberation, but is also the total body of truth, goodness, justice and reality.  It is one person who arises in the world for the welfare of the multitude. In his book In the Buddha’s Words, he organizes the Buddha’s teaching according to 3 categories: Welfare in this life: teachings on moral commitment, social responsibility Welfare in future life: principles of ethics and cultivation to lead to desirable rebirth based on the law of karma Nirvana: the ultimate attainment, the escape from rebirth Many focus on third (though in a watered down form of being happy here and now) without attention to first two.  Engaged Buddhism has to do with the first two.  If we compare Buddhism with Jainism, Brahmanism and the Upanishads there is much more focus on addressing social ails. The Suttas identify greed as the source not only of personal suffering, but also of social problems: “Whatever action a person does because of greed, hatred, and delusion are unwholesome.  Whatever suffering a person overpowered by greed, hatred, and delusion causes upon another—by killing, imprisonment, confiscation of property, false accusations, or expulsion—all this is unwholesome too.” (Anguttara Nikaya 3:69) The internal causes are linked to external effects. Buddha proposes two primary practices to deal with the mind.  1) One is practice of giving generously.  If people knew the benefits, he proclaimed, they would never eat without sharing or allow miserliness to enter their hearts at all.  (Itivataka 26) 2) The second teaching from the Buddha is Silla (virtuous behavior/moral practice) This is summed up for lay community in the 5 precepts.  For example, “By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble...

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Queen Introduces Roots of Engaged Buddhism

Introducing the Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism panel (including Bikkhu Bodhi, Sallie King and David Loy), Chris Queen stated that amazingly, there are conservative practitioners who believe that changing the mind is all that matters.  However, when he was visiting formerly untouchable converts to Buddhism who were victims of other people’s greed, anger and ignorance, facing discrimination, beatings and murder in India, it was clear that people suffer as a result of injustice as well.  Queen read an excerpt citing panelists David Loy and Sallie King from The Making of Buddhist Modernism by David L. McMahan.  McMahan speaks of the power of Buddhism to provide a powerful critique of dominant culture and the risk of the tradition getting watered down into a mere consumerist product: What, then, is the capacity for Buddhist modernism, now entering a post-modern, global phase, to challenge, critique, augment, and offer alternatives to modern, western ideas, social practices, and ethical values?… The Buddhist analysis of the relationship between craving (trnsa) and dissatisfaction (duhkha), for example, as well as its ascetic tendencies, can be fashioned into a formidable critique of the very foundations of consumerism, materialism, and the pathological aspects of capitalism (see, for example, Loy 2003; Kaza 2005). At the opposite end of this continuum are forms and fragments of Buddhism that have been absorved into western culture so thoroughly that they lose any potential to offer any real alternatives to or crituqe of its values and assumptions or offer anything new.  This is where Buddhism fades into vague New Age spiritualities, self-help therapies, and purely personal paths of self-improvemet…At the continuum’s furthest extremes, these fragments fade into pop culture, splintering into shards of Buddhist imagery that become tropes for countless products: Zen popcorn, Zen tea, Buddha bikinis, and Buddha...

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Bernie Establishes Hopes for Symposium.

Introducing the panel on the challenges of Socially Engaged Buddhsim, Bernie explained that when he first organized the Symposium, he wanted to honor the pioneers, give them chance to get together, see each other, share and network.  It would be a chance to learn new things and serve as sort of job and volunteer fair. The focus is on taking action and doing something!  After the Symposium, we will look at what new things may come of this event.  By the end of the Symposium, we will be explore putting together a declaration, a set of affirmations that reflect that. During the Symposium, Ari Setsudo Pliskin and Steve Kanji Ruhl will review salient points of the event during Thus Have We Heard sessions every day and Bernie will lead a session reflecting on What’s the Deal Here?  (A great Koan, he joked, introduced by Lenny Bruce.)  In this way, we will be looking for major developments. photos by Clemens M....

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Organic & Protest History Contextualize Symposium Campus

Sensei Eve introduced and contextualized the Montague, MA campus on which the first major Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism is taking place (She is the head teacher of the Montague Farm Zendo, the local mediation group.)  She discussed the campus’ role as the headquarters of the international 70-affiliate Zen Peacemakers Sangha and also as a multi-faith practice center.  Before it became the home of the Zen Peacemakers, the campus was a socially engaged commune.  From the commune, members of the Liberation News Services distributed information that the New York Times did not find ‘fit to print’ and in the 1970’s, it developed into a center of organic gardening (which continues to this day and provides vegetables for our community meals) and a center of anti-nuclear activism. photos by Clemens M....

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Zen Peacemakers to host Buddhist symposium

From the Daily Hampshire Gazette MONTAGUE CENTER – Most people probably know Jeff Bridges for his roles in Hollywood films, like his recent Oscar-winning role as troubled country singer Bad Blake in “Crazy Heart” or his role as The Dude, a slacker bowler in the Cohen Brothers 1998 film “The Big Lebowski.” But, most people probably don’t know about Bridges work to end world hunger. On Aug. 13, at 3:15 p.m., he will be giving a talk at Zen Peacemakers Ripley Road Farm about his No Child Hungry in 2015, a group with which first lady Michelle Obama is also working. READ...

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Buddhism symposium draws 500 looking to make a difference.

from the Springfield Republican Often, when people picture devout Buddhists, they see images of bald-headed monks performing foreign rituals in east Asia. But, Bernie Glassman, former aerospace engineer and founder and president of the Zen Peacemakers in Montague, is trying to change this perception with his organization’s presentation of the six-day, Socially-Engaged Buddhist Symposium, that starts Monday. The event will honor Zen master and author Robert Aitken and other pioneers and promoters in this country of mindfulness practice including the well-known author and travel writer Peter Matthiessen, who is an ordained Zen priest, and Jon Kabat-Zinn, founding executive director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. “Buddhism is about realizing that we are interconnected,” said Glassman. READ...

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All the Scrumptious Zen Tradition, None of the Patriarchy

Implementing shared stewardship at the Montague Farm Zendo. We just had an evaluation session after our first six months practicing a shared stewardship model of leadership in our Zen Buddhist community. The model was inspired by the Zen Center of Los Angeles, who discarded a system in which multiple male teachers abused their unquestioned authority by taking advantage of female students. Responsibilities typically held by the head teacher are now divided according to the five Buddha families, which create a holistic framework that looks at all aspects of life as spiritual practice. Elected seat-holders of each family reported the following accomplishments: Karma/Social Action: The Karma steward has guided members of the sangha (community) in participating in serving a meal at a local soup kitchen and also in staffing our weekly community meal and wellness offerings on the same campus as the Zendo. Ratna/Resources: The Ratna stewards created a new membership structure and a brochure to reflect it. Padma/Relationships: The Padma steward (yours truly) posted fliers locally of the meditation schedule, DJed a danced party to raise money (over $500) for Haiti and created a Facebook page for the Zendo. Vajra/Training: The Vajra steward completed his training to become a preceptor and led a group through receiving precepts, coordinated a training in giving basic meditation instruction and trained people in our liturgy. Another sangha member committed to stewardship organized a library. Buddha/Not-knowing: The Buddha stewards (including the head teacher) administered a survey that asks people about their schedules and preferences and seeks to find a structure of intensive meditation retreat that accounts for people’s commitments to social action and profession. Challenges We also looked at challenges: Holistic practice: How do we honor each buddha family as a field of practice? Mission: How do we structure study to develop a shared mission and vision? Structure: How de we develop effective structures and processes of stewardship and create a system of accountability that encourages follow-through? Group Ownership: How do seat-holders and share their work while taking ownership over their field of responsibility? How do we broaden participation and collective ownership in stewardship throughout the sangha beyond the seat-holders? Communication: How can seat-holders communicate their work to others so that others feel inspired to participate and not overloaded...

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New Book on Bearing Witness in Rwanda

This new book made by Fleet Maull and Peter Cunningham recounts their experiences at the first Bearing Witness Retreat in...

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Huffington Post: Jeff Bridges & Zen House Fight Child Hunger

From Child Hunger and How Zen House Can Help at the Huffington Post: By Bernie Glassman My vow to feed as many hungers as possible includes the physical suffering of food insecurity. According to Jeff Bridges’ End Hunger Network, 16.7 million American children — nearly one in four — live in households that do not have access to enough nutritious food to lead healthy, active lives. …The Montague Farm Zen House is teaming up with my friend Jeff Bridges to channel the energy of the entertainment industry and other partners towards achieving President Obama’s ambitious goal of eliminating childhood hunger in the U.S. by 2015. We will explore this partnership further at this summer’s Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism… As I said in a recent interview, dharma centers that were set up to help people become less egoistic instead became middle class enclaves of self-absorption. Today, the structure of the residence training of the Montague Farm Zen House recognizes that family life is a rich field of practice. The Zen House supports family life for the residents and for the families in need who come to our meals and wellness programs READ FULL...

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Bernie Q7: How Do You Train Students To Enter The Center Of Suffering?

Questions by Christa Spannbaur Recorded at Rowe Conference Center by Ari Pliskin Zen Master Bernie Glassman Biography 7) How do you train your students to be able to go right into the centre of the suffering of the world without loosing their spiritual trust in life and their inner balance? Hotei has the right things in the bag.   You fill the bag with as many tools as you can.  Then you approach each situation, unbiased, unconditioned and totally open.  There are tools or upayas that will help us realize the three tenets.  For me, meditation was a great helping in getting to not-knowing.  I know many people who have reached not-knowing without meditation.  What has been more important is what I call ‘plunges.’  A plunge is to take you into a situation in which your rational mind has no way of dealing with it.  Normally, we don’t go there.  A common plunge that many of us go through is the death of a loved one.  Others are the Auscwitz retreats or street retreats. Planning the first Auscwitz retreat took 1.5 years.  The idea of the first day is to overwhelm people’s senses.  Bearing witness is to stay there-be in that situation, feel...

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This Obon: Can We Feed All the Hungry Ghosts?

Can I Acknowledge My Sickness? In a Huffington Post article, Zen Master Bernie Glassman, the founder of my Zen community explains: In the Zen Peacemakers, we recite Sanskrit spells and provide food for hungry people in our community. We prepare a food offering and use ancient spells to invite the hungry ghosts into the room. He explains the origin of the Obon rituals of making offerings, setting boats into the river and doing a traditional dance. He explains how those rituals form the basis of our weekly liturgy, which represents our commitment to serving the community. As they explain in the video below, Bernie developed our liturgy with the kirtan singer Krishna Das. Sitting with people or aspects that I don’t want to acknowledge is part of my daily practice, both on the cushion and in the meals program of our Montague Farm Zen House. At our meal last Saturday, a guest said something to me and I didn’t acknowledge her. Looking back, I realize that I had a sense that her mannerisms and behavior were weird. They didn’t conform to typical social standards. Why didn’t I want to let her in? It makes me think about attending a group therapy session for the mentally ill of a dear family member of mine. I previously didn’t want to accompany that person. I didn’t want to acknowledge that people can lose control. I didn’t want to acknowledge how people’s psychotic delusions reflected my own personal delusions. But staying in that space and returning to similar spaces has deepened my connection to that family member, to myself and to...

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Future of Buddhism: Zen Houses

An Interview with Bernie Glassman By Ari Pliskin These comments are part of a longer interview with Bernie Glassman in January, 2010. The questions were written by Christa Spannbauer, journalist and assistant to Roshi Willigis Jäger, and the interview was conducted by Ari Pliskin. Your own social activism as a Buddhist Zen master is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of taking care of others. Despite the first vow in Zen, which is to save all sentient beings, in the Zen tradition there’s not much real engagement in taking care of the poor and the underprivileged, which is often the case within the Judeo-Christian tradition. What do you think are the reasons for that, and what’s your vision of Zen in the modern world? Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that within Japanese Buddhism, martial arts became associated with Zen. The samurai, for example, thought about having no subject-object differentiation while you cut off someone’s head. READ...

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Appalachian Zen House promotes Permaculture

“Husband and wife pair Bob Flatley and Kelle Kersten run Ahimsa Village, an intentional living community near Julian, Pa…Both also practice Engaged Buddhism.  “It’s not just the meditation—looking in—but it’s going out into your community,” said Kersten, who serves as director of Appalachian Zen House.  The pair facilitates a “Wisdom Circle” that focuses on nonviolent communication, and Kersten leads a summer camp at Ahimsa Village for 8 to 15-year-olds, which focuses on creating a deeper understanding of and concern for the natural world.” The Appalachian Zen House was founded by Steve Kanji Ruhl, who now directs the residence program in Montague, MA.  Kanji will be presenting at the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism on Zen Houses.  The excerpted article comes from VOICES of Central Pennsylvania: As a teenager, Kersten checked out a book by Bill Mollison and began her lifelong fascination with “permaculture,” a combination of the words permanent, culture and agriculture. It refers to small-scale, intensive farming based on observing and replicating natural patterns, arranging components in relation to each other and the landscape and minimizing the use of manufactured energy. Flatley and his college roommate Greg Martin dreamed of starting an intentional community since their days at Dickinson College. The three founded Ahimsa Village in 2006 to create “a space that exemplifies the joyfulness of life while serving as an educational center for sustainable and compassionate living.” Today the 68-acre property boasts a garden and an orchard containing 69 fruit and nut trees, 25 raspberry bushes and 100 strawberry plants and is designed according to permaculture principles. Flatley andKersten also maintain bee hives, harvest maple syrup and grow shitake mushrooms on the property. Several energy-saving projects are underway, including a solar-powered water pump, a solar hot water system, an Amishbuilt wood-burning cook stove and “humanure” toilets that allow human waste to be composted. But for Flatley and Kersten, permaculture goes beyond food production. “We look at it as a whole system of living which includes the physical, the spiritual, the mental and the emotional,” Flatley explained…. “I think we’re entering…a period of the spiraling down of the Western culture, the whole system that’s built on the erroneous idea of constant growth,” said Flatley of the need for a place like Ahimsa. “It’s...

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Symposium Presenter Anne Waldman Appeals for help for Naropa

Waldman will present in the first Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism on the topic of arts and social change.  Read her full letter at Elephant Journal, co-authored with Lisa Berman or read the following excerpt: We want you to know that we are here, that we support and acknowledge our students, that we are up and running, and that the SWP staff, Reed Bye, Interim Chair of the W&P Department, and Naropa administrative staff and trustees are willing to meet with students to clarify and listen to concerns. We are part of a larger world and culture that is going through tremendous change, paradigm shifts of all kinds. We will all have to do with less and continue to cultivate our empathy and compassion and our artistic paths. We exist amidst huge waves of suffering as the oil spill continues to gush and harm many sentient beings and the vegetal world, as war rages, as financial cuts are made that affect everyone.  It is our duty to stay awake and to provide feedback in our own communities. The writing community here at Naropa has always been an activist one, and a spiritual one. We honor this...

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Dudeism=Buddhism? Bridges, Bernie and Symposium

Watch the Tricycle Web Exclusive Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation, click here. Jeff Bridges is scheduled to perform and present at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism. What is Dudeism? According to dudeism.com, a website dedicated to deploying the wisdom of The Dude (Jeff Bridges) from the comedy The Big Lebowski, Dudeism is a religion with the following creed: The idea is this: Life is short and complicated and nobody knows what to do about it. So don’t do anything about it. Just take it easy, man. Stop worrying so much whether you’ll make it into the finals. Kick back with some friends and some oat soda and whether you roll strikes or gutters, do your best to be true to yourself and others – that is to say, abide. In short, Dudeism is not Buddhism. However, dudeism.com does list the Buddha as one of the “Great Dudes in History”—along with Snoopy, Gandhi, and Jerry Garcia—citing the fact that “he bailed on his birthright and taught that you should go with the flow.” Read Full Article at Tricycle Image: Dude-vinci, from...

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SEB Symposium presenter Anne Waldman to perform Ginsberg’s “Howl”

At an exhibit on the photos of Allen Ginsberg displayed at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., beat poet Anne Waldman will do a reading of Ginsberg’s famous poem “Howl.” Like Ginsberg, Waldman was a key figure of both the Beat Generation and the transmission of Buddhism to the West. On August 14, Walman will give a keynote address, participate in a panel and lead a discussion on arts and social change at the first Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  You can register for that day alone or for as many days as you please of this historical event.  Read the full report of the gallery exhibit in the Washington City...

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Boston Herald Reports on Jeff Bridges' Participation in Symposium

“That Oscar winner Jeff Bridges will sing his Crazy Heart out at an Aug. 13 concert with his songwriter bud John Goodwin during the Zen Peacemakers’ ‘Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism’ in Montague. Goodwin co-wrote ‘Hold on You,’ a tune sung by Bridges in ‘Crazy Heart.'”  Bridges studies Zen with Bernie Glassman and you can watch a video of their discussion.  While Bridges has visited Montague in the past to participate in events, we hope that he doesn’t get whisked away by an unplanned demand to film a new movie. READ FULL ARTICLE LEARN MORE APPEARANCE AND...

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Video: talks by Symposium Presenter Bikkhu Bodhi on Integral Buddhism

Watch it at Danny fisher’s blog Bikkhu Bodhi, who is a leader of Buddhist Global Relief, will be participating in a panel and leading a discussion on the Roots of Socially Engaged Buddhism at the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism in August. Buddhist Global Relief was inspired by Bikkhu Bodhi’s teachings and it works to relieve hunger around the world. There are still spots available at the Symposium. Sign up while you can!  You can sign up for part of the event or the entire...

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Audio podcast: A Jew in Germany, insights from Auschwitz

Sensei Beate Stolte and Natalie Goldberg recently attended a Zen retreat at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. Natalie is Jewish and Stolte grew up in Germany; both share intimate stories and insights from their experience at the retreat. Discussion transpired about the human capacity for genocide, and the concepts of embracing fear and darkness, and creating meaning in one’s circumstances.  Listen to the podcast from Upaya Zen...

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Dispatch from the Train to Auschwitz

“My choice to travel by train in Poland is intentional. It is part of my pilgrimage here. I am mindfully aware that this rail track from Warsaw to Krakow, on which i now ride in comfort and in a bright and sun-filled rail car, is like the very route so many traveled to their deaths a mere generation ago. I hold them all in my heart” -Michael Melancon a few weeks ago leading up to the retreat read the entire article at Maia Duerr’s Jizo...

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Local Western Massachusetts Paper Lauds Zen House

From the Recorder: “On Saturday the Zen Peacemakers Center in Montague hosted its third community meal (at the quiet, rural setting near North Leverett. Here Ben and Jerrys ice cream, which (supports the centers work, is served for dessert; at left Nan Niederlander, of Leverett is (served by Eve Marko, head teacher of the Zendo. MONTAGUE — The menu last week included not only barbecued hamburgers and fresh, local greens, but also rice and lentil dhal, cucumber and feta salad, veggie noodle salad and deviled eggs.” read...

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Reflections on last week's Auschwitz Bearing Witness by Fleet Maull

June/24/2010 Today we completed the fourth day of the Zen Peacemaker bearing witness retreat here at Auschwitz & Birkenau. This is my eighth retreat here, and I’ll be back in November to help guide another bearing witness retreat for Palistininian and Jewish youth from Israel as well as youth from other countries. In past years I have written and shared daily reports, more recently in the form of blogs, each day of the retreat. This year I have not been inspired to do so up until now. Perhaps I’m just too full, having co-lead our first Peacemaker Institute bearing witness retreat in Rwanda this past April. Perhaps it is the overwhelming size of this retreat. We are 155 strong this year, participants and staff, much, much larger than usual, with the exception of the very first Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat in 1996. At any rate, as we sat in one of the barracks at Birkenau this evening,barracks originally designed as stables for 50 horses that held four hundred death camp inmates, listening each other as we shared our experience, hearts and minds in council (a deep listening circle or talking stick circle), I suddenly realized that I need to share something of this retreat with all of you. We have followed the usual format, beginning with a deep plunge at Auschwitz I, where we watched incredibly graphic films recording the horrific truth of the Nazi genocide as the camps were liberated at the end of the war and then stepped out from the darkened theatre into the sunlit reality of the concentration camp. We toured the barracks and many exhibits with professional guides, splitting into five groups of 30. We gathered again as, 155 strong, inside the gas chamber at Auschwitz I, where we stood in silence, filling half the chamber shoulder to shoulder where 300 were gassed at on time. We proceeded to the infamous killing wall between Blocks 10 and 11. Block 11 was the SS punishment barracks where any form of resistance or misbehavior in the camps was punished to the extreme… torture, starvation, poisoning, and executions by gunfire at the killing wall. There we held our first interfaith service with Jewish, Christian and Buddhist services and the offering of candles...

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Q10: How Can We Deal with the Dehumanizing Aspect in Ourselves?

10) In an interview that you gave in Auschwitz you said: “There is a part of us that allows us to dehumanize people. It’s an aspect of ourselves that we don’t want to touch. Auschwitz is the world-monument of that aspect of ourselves.” How can we deal with this aspect in us so that it doesn’t cause so much harm in the world? The first way to deal with this aspect is to remember.  “Re-membering” as the opposite of dismembering – putting back together what’s been taken apart.  After the 8th year of remembering victims, Heinz-Jürgen Metzger, the coordinator of Peacemaker work in Europe said it was time to start remembering the perpetrators.  Heinz’s uncle was castrated because he wouldn’t do the work of the SS.  Heinz didn’t learn about this for 25 years because his family was disgraced because his uncle wouldn’t comply.  When Heinz proposed remembering the perpetrators, about half the participants were ready to leave. I brought up the issue of remembering and honoring the perpetrators at a later retreat, which was very difficult.  Honor means we site their name, like we do for those who died there.  The goal was to change from just blaming and hating the perpetrators to get into what was going on- to change the mode.  So we did a ceremony in guards tower, where each person honors a time when they were a perpetrator or someone was a perpetrator to them.   How far can you go in this remembering?  If this is one world, and the point is to re-member the whole world, where do you stop?  That’s where your practice has to be. To go into the spaces of what the perpetrators went to and what happened after- many committed suicide. Another way is to recognize who we exclude and invite them in.  The most common way of dealing with outsiders to our club is to avoid them.  At the worst, there is Auschwitz, war, lynching, imprisonment, gay bashing. I’m a Democrat.  I’ve never voted Republican.  I will talk with Republicans and invite them to my house.  I can’t get angry at people outside my club.  I don’t like their viewpoint, but I’m not going to be angry at the guy for having it. ...

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Zen Master Bernie & Jeff Bridges Video II

To watch part 1 of this conversation filmed by Tricycle, click here. To watch part 2 of this conversation, click here. To learn more about the Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism this August in Massachusetts, where Jeff is scheduled to perform,  click here. To watch Joan Oliver’s interview with Bernie Glassman on the Symposium, click here (we improved the sound quality since the original post). And finally, to help support more great material like this, become a Tricycle Community Sustaining...

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UMass Donates Compost to Zen House Garden

Our garden keeps growing.  There are still spots available in the residence program for people who want to participate.  You could meditate, garden and work at the Montague Farm...

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Civil Eats: Buddhists Reap Their Karmic Fruits (And Vegetables)

“While children zip around the Northeastern rural property, adults mingle and serve up heaping portions of macaroni and cheese and colorful salads,” says yesterday’s article covering The Montague Farm Zen House from Civil Eats, a group dedicated to promoting sustainable agriculture and food systems.  Read the full article or check out the following excerpts: More than anything, the scene resembles a small-town fair. But it is simply another night at the Montague Farm Café. The free dinner is hosted by the Buddhist Montague Farm Zen House in Montague, Massachusetts, as part of the group’s efforts to promote sustainable food and health… The specter of hunger hovers in the consciousness of Werner and Montague Farm residents. Nearly a third of the families in the Zen house’s area experience food insecurity, meaning that they do not always have access to or money for enough nutritious and safe food. Montague Farm provides transportation to their dinners for less affluent folk, who may not have the resources to drive into the country—or prepare organic, local fare. With the meals, “there’s an idea that everyone bears witness to experiences outside our own. We offer a space to serve with love and dignity,” Werner says. Religion and farming are seldom closely associated in our minds, but historically, strong ties unite Buddhism and working the...

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Forget Farmville: Watch Our Organic Farm Grow in Real Time Part II

Join our residence program or come volunteer and get involved with our organic community...

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Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation (Part 1). A Tricycle Web Exclusive

Watch here! Look for Part 2 next week and for Katy Butler’s interview with Jeff Bridges in our upcoming Fall 2010 issue! (recorded by Ms. Mars of Cenozoic Studios for Tricycle, Photos taken by Seabrook Jones for...

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Instructions to the Cook wins Filmaker's Choice Award

I did a blog post a few days ago where you could view Instructions to the Cook at the Culture Unplugged online film festival.  Thanks to your votes, this film one one of the ten best! From the Culture Unplugged Studios Team (www.cultureunplugged.com) We would like to thank you for your film submission to Culture Unplugged and participating in “Humanity Explored” We are happy to inform you that your film ‘Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master’s Recipe for Living a Life That Matters ‘ is selected among the top ten films for Film-Maker’s Choice Award (best art). This group of ten films for the mentioned award is selected by the public and C.U. festival team. We have sent this 10 films to esteemed film- makers /Producers / Social Scientist / Activists  across the globe. They are: Andrew Cohen (is an American guru, spiritual teacher, magazine editor, author, and musician who has developed what he characterizes as a unique path of spiritual transformation, called Evolutionary Enlightenment), Barrie Osborne (Producer, New Zealand, 7 times – Oscar winner), Michael Peyser (Producer, Film Executive, and/or Professor of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California), Elza Maalouf (Integral Insight Consulting Group), Shekhar Kapoor (Film-maker/Director, India, Oscar Nominated 2007), Dr. Amit Goswami, Ph. D(professor emeritus in the theoretical physics department of the University of Oregon, pioneer of the new paradigm of science called “science within consciousness), Michal Levin (writer, spiritual teacher, and pioneer of her own independently developed LEAP (Life Energy Activation Process) Meditation). Along with you we are anxiously awaiting to hear their voice and receive the vote. We will be contacting you soon. Our best wishes to you for this as well as future films. Yogesh on Behalf of, Culture Unplugged Studios Team www.cultureunplugged.com Promote Films. Promote...

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Saffron Revolutionary Monks from Burma to Present at Symposium

The Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism will now include three monks who were major leaders of the Saffron Revolution, and who have cameo’s in the excellent Burma VJ (below), who now live in Utica, NY. These are mature monks with remarkable experience to share. They are working with Symposium presenter Alan Senauke and the Clear View Project. Senauke discusses the role of social media in the Saffron Revolution in the Bearing Witness article Translating Cybersangha into Action at the Zen Peacemakers.  The Clear View Project has lead many Western Buddhists to support the Burmese monks in solidarity. While the primary focus of the Symposium is on Western Buddhism, there are a two special “spotlights” that go beyond this focus. The other spotlight is Rabbi Michael Lerner, who will speak about an interfaith effort for a Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S....

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A conversation with Jeff Bridges & Bernie Glassman

From Tricycle Last week, Tricycle contributing editor Katy Butler sat down for a joint interview with Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman (left) and actor Jeff Bridges (right) in Austin, Texas. To find out what they discussed stay tuned to tricycle.com for a video of the interview. Based on the photographs, it looks like it was a lively conversation! Photographs by Seabrook Jones,...

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Bernie Glassman/Krishna Das workshop

“Secret notebooks…wild pages” blogs about her trip to Montague for the Bernie Glassman/Krishna Das workshop in which they discuss service. Great pics as well.

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Watch Instructions to The Cook: A Zen Master's Recipe for Living a Life That Matters

View this movie at...

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Video: Krishna Das & Bernie sing/explain origin of ZP theme song

At a workshop at the Zen Peacemakers’ Motherhouse last Saturday, Krishna Das and Bernie described the origin of the Gate of Sweet Nectar, the Zen Peacemakers’ primary liturgy and “them...

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Seaweed donated to MF Zen House

I am so happy about the 6 bags of seaweed donated for the Montague Farm Zen House community meals -thank you Larch Hanson, seaweed man.

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Forget farmville: watch our REAL garden grow in real time!

The Montague Farm Zen House garden-to-be, fence posts in, ground tilled.  Join our residence program and get...

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Lacrosse team digs trench for Zen House organic garden

Thank you Deerfield Academy lacrosse team for the trench and tall cedar posts you dug in the garden for the soon-to-be-placed fence. One step at a time, we are creating a hearty garden (20ft x 50ft.) Spots available in residence program for people who want to join in the fun! Please help spread the...

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Montague Farm Zen House launches community meal

Montague Farm Café –the family-oriented community meal organized by the Montague Farm Zen House– had an extraordinary launch on April 10th with over 85 people, including tons of kids, attending. Residence program trainees (now accepting applications) will these meals in the future.  Our meals fill a gap in the free community meals offered in our surrounding towns (where a staggering 30% of families experience food insecurity and 18% experience hunger) and offer a wonderful and safe place for kids to play. We do outreach with the family shelters and community meals in the area, as well as the Department of Transitional Assistance, WIC (Women, Infants, and Children), Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and youth who have been in the foster care system. We also reach out to neighbors and friends and create a festive gathering. We are getting excited for our Montague Farm garden, where we will grow veggies for our community meals. We have a donation of seeds from both Fed-Co and Justin Idoine, in addition to one ton of compost from UMass-Amherst. Between April 22-27, the Deerfield Academy boys lacrosse team and Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Franklin County helped us set up the garden and put in a fence. An ever widening circle -extra hands always...

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Detroit Street Retreat: May 13th-16th

DETROIT STREET RETREAT SOCIAL ACTION THROUGH BEARING WITNESS May 13th – 16th, 2010 “When we go… to bear witness to life on the streets, we’re offering ourselves. Not blankets, not food, not clothes, just ourselves.” -Bernie Glassman, Bearing Witness We will live on the streets of Detroit, having to beg for money, find places to get food, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc. By bearing witness to homelessness, we begin to see our prejudices directly and to recognize our common humanness. We will stay together as a group and twice a day participate in meditation (in the Buddhist and Christian traditions) and sharing. The donation for the retreat is $250.00. All funds will be donated to Homeless Service agencies and to the non-profit forming to address systemic causes and find solutions to homelessness in Detroit. Registration and payment deadline is May 7, 2010. The retreat is limited to 12 participants on a first come, first served basis. Jeanie Murphy O’ Connor and DaeBulDo Stuart Smith will lead the retreat. To learn more about bearing witness to homelessness, read Bearing Witness by Bernie Glassman. If you have any questions or to register, please contact Jeanie or Ch’anna Lynda Smith at:...

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SEB Symposium Presenter Jules Shuzen Harris, to Participate on New School Panel Discussion: ‘Conversations on Change’ in New York City

As announced by the Business Wire, Jules Harris will be a panelist for a conference in New York City tomorrow. At the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism this summer, he will be part of a panel on Special Ministries along with Fleet Maull and Francisco Lugoviña.  From the Business Wire: the Vera List Center for Art and Politics to participate in a panel exploring new possibilities for civic engagement. Purposely designed as a conversation that crosses boundaries, the panel will address both commonalities and distinctions about how meaningful social and political change can be achieved. Appearing alongside Harris will be the physicist Sean Gourley, who has been researching the mathematics of war, and activist artist AA Bronson, currently leading the program, ‘A School for Young Shamans’, at the Banff Centre, an arts and culture center located in Alberta,...

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Volunteers clear space for expanded organic garden

Montague Farm Zen House volunteers are working in our field right now to clear wood and pipes in order to clear space to expand our organic garden.  Volunteers include staff from Big Brothers Big Sisters as well as former a tenant of the farm from its days as a commune.  Working in the garden will be a task for people in the residence...

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Bernie Interview Q2: What is Zen?

Questions by Christa Spannbaur Recorded at Rowe Conference Center by Ari Pliskin 2) When people in the West think of Zen, they tend to think of people wearing black robes sitting in meditation-halls for many hours, in strict silence, without moving. Your practice of Zen seems to be very different from that. What is Zen for you? Bernie Glassman: My teacher, Maezumi Roshi stressed that Zen is a synonym for life.  The practice of realizing the oneness of life means that it has to be for all of life.  It can’t be just what you do on the cushion.  A metaphor that illustrates this is the metaphor of One Body.  Imagine that I identify with this bag of bones.  I get thirsty, I ask for coffee.  I take a sip.  Imagine that I have a disease-it is associated with not experiencing the oneness of life.  Let’s imagine my right arm is called Bubela and the left one is Sally.  My head is Bernie.  Sally and Bubela have meditated and they study, but they don’t experience it the oneness of life.  They only talk about it.  Sally sees that Bubale is bleeding, but Sally says: I don’t want to get my dress dirty, or she says, I don’t have the training or my spiritual training tells me not to get involved.  Bubale dies.  Bernie dies.  Sally dies.  Or they are activists and Bernie is hungry, but they fight over feeding him.  Bernie dies.  They both die.  But if they truly experience the Oneness of the Body, of course they feed...

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I'm not that afraid of nettles

I joined my co-worker Karen after work yesterday to harvest the nettles growing by our compost bin.  “How should I cut them?,” I asked.  “Well, that depends on what your vision for them is.” Karen answered.  I stared back blankly.  I’m a bit unfamiliar with harvesting food, but eager to get over it.  All the cool kids around here are doing it and for good reason. Karen told me how Milarepa turned green from eating so many of the outwardly prickly weeds that hide deep inner health benefits.  Excellent way to conclude the last of my three-day pizza break.  We discussed a podcast with a Buddhist perspective on ecological issues from meditation/gardening teacher Wendy Johson, the new community garden on our campus in which residents will work and the possibility of hosting a skill share or using nettles in a Zen House social enterprise. Right before joining Karen, I took my camera out of my pocket, convinced that I should prove that my interest in gardening is more than a passing fad before I broadcast it to the world, but when Karen suggested that we make a blog post, I went running into the house to get it.  I don’t think I’ll eat pizza today...

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Bernie Interview Q1: How do you bring together the poles of spirituality and activism?

Questions by Christa Spannbaur Recorded at Rowe Conference Center by Ari Pliskin 1) You’re one of the most important Buddhist pioneers in bridging the gap between spirituality and social activism, a gap which is still very wide in the Western world. Many people on the spiritual path are convinced that they do enough for the betterment of the world by sitting on their meditation-cushions searching for their inner peace. Because of that, many socially and politically engaged people are very suspicious of spiritual people and think of them as being egocentric and selfish. How can we bring these opposite poles together? Bernie Glassman: As a teacher, I come up with things that work for this place and time to help my students realize the oneness and interconnectedness of life. I’m strongly committed to the three tenets of the Zen Peacemakers. Our first tenant is not-knowing, our second tenant is bearing witness and our third tenant is loving actions. By not-knowing, I don’t mean not collecting knowledge and studying and learning. What I mean is not being attached to any of that. Enter a situation as open as you can be. We have different things we do to reach not-knowing. For those who have done koan study, that is the state that is the essence of mu or the essence of one hand. Bearing witness is removing the dualism between you and the object. If you are bearing witness to suffering and you are not suffering, then it isn’t bearing witness. Bearing witness to joy is joy. Bearing witness to suffering is suffering. Third is do something about it: loving actions. Get involved. It’s not enough to just sit in a group and talk about it or read interviews about it. My experience is that if you can enter the space of not-knowing and bear witness, then unplanned loving actions arise. As people deepen their understanding of the oneness of life, the loving actions are the side effects. My biggest interest is in bearing witness to the system. My reflection has been that people honor those who attend those hurt by the system, but we kill those who try to change the system. Many wonderful people, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahtma Ghandi were...

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New Buddhist Geeks Podcast Interview with Bernie Glassman

Episode Description: We’re joined this week by one of the pioneers of the socially engaged Buddhist movement, Zen Master Bernie Glassman. Although he grew up in a family that valued social action, after some years of Zen practice he had an experience that amplified his calling to serve those in need. At that point he made a vow to feed all hungers. We speak about the interconnection—and accordingly to Bernie, the inseparability—between contemplative practice and social action. He shares details of many of the projects he has been part of, including the Greystone project in Yonkers, New York, which helped to cut homelessness in that area by 3/4’s. He also shares some of the key tenants from the group that he founded, called the Zen Peacemakers. These tenants link together the “not knowing” of spiritual practice with the “loving action” of social engagement, and make it possible for us to turn our spiritual awareness into a vital force for all those in need. read transcript or...

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Interview Questions for Zen Master Bernie Glassman

As I explained in a previous post, a Zen journalist in Germany sent us a set of excellent questions that became the basis of a workshop given by Zen Master Bernie Glassman.  Here are the questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for answers. Interview with Bernard Glassman Roshi by Christa Spannbauer Berlin, 2010/01/20 1) You’re one of the most important Buddhist pioneers in bridging the gap between spirituality and social activism, a gap which is still very wide in Germany and the Western world as a whole. Many people on the spiritual path are convinced that they do enough for the betterment of the world by sitting on their meditation-cushions searching for their inner peace. Because of that, many socially and politically engaged people are very suspicious of spiritual people and think of them as being egocentric and selfish. How can we bring these opposite poles together? 2) When people in the West think of Zen, they tend to think of people wearing black robes sitting in meditation-halls for many hours, in strict silence, without moving. Your practice of Zen seems to be very different from that. What is Zen for you? 3) It’s become almost a sort of spiritual dogma in the Western world: the belief that you first have to find inner peace before you can commit yourself to peace-work in the outer world. Your own opinion is very different from that and refreshingly rebellious. Would you like to explain your opinion? 4) Your own social activism as a Buddhist Zen-master is deeply rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition of taking care of others. Despite the first vow in Zen, which is to save all sentient beings, in the Zen-tradition there’s not much real engagement in taking care of the poor and the underprivileged, which is often the case within the Judeo-Christian tradition. What do you think are the reasons for that, and what’s your vision of Zen in the modern world? 5) You are the founder of the Zen-Peacemakers and you initiated many social projects within the last decades: AIDS-houses, the Greyston bakery, housing-projects for homeless people. Your newest project is the foundation of Zen-houses. Can you explain what they’re for and what the idea is behind them? 6) Some people say...

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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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Spreading Socially Engaged Buddhism at Home and Abroad

Hello, I’m Ari.  I train and serve on staff at the Zen Peacemakers, working with Bernie Glassman to coordinate our online community, among other things.  I’ll be one of your hosts for this blog, which will accompany our free online monthly newsletter on Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.  The About page explains what this blog will be about. Last January, Geoff Taylor (who took these pictures) and I accompanied Bernie to the Rowe Camp and Conference Center, where he led a weekend workshop.  We  thought it would be a good opportunity to answer questions for an interview that will appear in the German magazine Connection, in anticipation of Bernie’s June/13 appearance with musician Konstantin Wecker in Berlin. To get a taste of Konstantin’s work, check out Sage Nein!, which implores us to say no to fascism and xenophobia. The interview questions were prepared by Christa Spannbauer, journalist and assistant to Roshi Willigis Jäger.  We  look forward to working with her to promote Socially Engaged Buddhism in Europe.  Bernie’s answers were shaped by Christa’s insightful questions, the current projects of the Zen Peacemakers and the comments of workshop participants. Rowe director Rev. Douglas Wilson came out of sabbatical to join us and raised powerful questions about working towards systemic change.  Zen teachers Mervyn and Cecilie Lander asked about developing Socially Engaged Buddhism in their zendo in Australia.  After the conference, they visited us for a few days in Montague and later joined the Zen Peacemakers Sangha.  It was a pleasure to record Bernie’s answers to Christa’s questions.  Stay tuned to this blog for this previously unpublished interview and much...

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