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

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

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roland

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

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No Pretension, Much Humor: Bernie’s Visit to Vassar College, April 2017

“Not once in his speech did Roshi Glassman use words like ‘consciousness,’ ‘freedom,’ or even ‘enlightenment,’…What he spoke repeatedly of was ‘taking action'” — Rick Jarow​, Professor of Religion/Asian Studies and Chairman of the Carolyn Grant Endowment Committee at Vassar College, hosted Bernie Glassman​ and reflects on his visit on campus.

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Inspire Us – Request for Blog Writings

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

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The One Body Had a Stroke

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

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“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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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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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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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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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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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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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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