Zen Peacemakers http://zenpeacemakers.org Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:41:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Greg http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-greg/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-greg/#respond Tue, 30 Aug 2016 14:36:01 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13961 1397736_679970188710271_947401727_o

 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 seems almost impossible to consider the Nazis who committed these crimes as just like us, as of our tribe. Yet if we can’t, we are living the same exclusionary view (…)

This is an excerpt and 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

 

 

 

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ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 2: DIG INTO COMPLEXITY http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/enlarging-the-scope-part-2-dig-into-complexity/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/enlarging-the-scope-part-2-dig-into-complexity/#comments Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:27:40 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14256 IMG_2991

 

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.

0328_black_hills_pcWe 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 there, and we did not have enough Europeans to spell that out.

You could focus on what the Hutu  did to the Tutsis or vice-versa, but there’s that whole history of how this goes on. That’s what I was trying to bring out. Well it’s not so simple, you know. You start looking at who you’re blaming. It’s like in Israel, you dig down and say oh, this is what it looked like in there. And these people were in charge, and these people were killed in their villages. And you dig a little deeper, and you know.

Part of my thing is wanting to show that things are not so simple as you think. And then the Jews wind up talking about how bad ‘these people’ are. Come on man, go back a little. Why did that happen? What went on? They were all caught up in what the thing is, which was enough for them. For me, it was never enough—just to see the one-sided view, or the two-sided view . . .

Rami: And that goes back to that point that you were trying to make about Auschwitz—that it’s not just about Jews, or just about Gypsies. So I’m really hearing from you that there’s a sense of expanding the scope. There’s something very vast, very wide around it.

Bernie: Yeah.

Rami: And I heard you say about that Belgian trooper, you said that he told the story after twenty years, for the first time. And you said, “that’s the kind of bearing witness.” Can you say more? What do you mean by that? “That’s the kind of bearing witness.”

Bernie: Well, first of all, he kept that inside him—what the Belgian government did. The Belgian government told him, “You can’t do that.” The Belgian government set up this goddamned war between these people. But it wasn’t all Belgian, it was Dutch, the French had huge play. If you go far back the Hutus and Tutsis were one knot. But the Europeans created this hatred among them.

IMG_3579 copySo we allowed something to come out. I met him a year later at Frank’s place. He came to Frank’s. And he told me, he tells his wife the story after twenty years. He couldn’t tell anybody. The same kind of thing we heard about the Holocaust. People couldn’t tell what went on. They couldn’t tell. Then twenty years later he tells the story. And now he’s free to tell his wife. His whole life changed.

So it’s a case of what happens—in all of these cases where people are allowed to tell, to bear witness to what went on, and it changes their surroundings. It did not happen years ago. In the past, they didn’t do bearing witness. They just did blaming, or grief. They didn’t go through a bearing witness kind of . . . not just the people—the country. In the country there was no bearing witness. . . .
That was my feeling – to start asking where can I create these venues where you bring more than one voice? How many voices can you bring? Because all of these things are not one voice. Or two voices, more and more, we can’t comprehend, as it gets too big. But that’s what I was trying to do, you know. We keep doing that, and not that many people could understand where I was coming from.

But it doesn’t matter. It’s a bearing witness, whatever you do is a big enough story that it’s really . . . It was a big enough step away from just bearing witness to myself, like in Shikantaza [a form of Zen Meditation], it opened up, and opened up. I’ve always felt that you can go and go and go.

So people now, they call something a Bearing Witness Retreat—I don’t know if I would call it that. They call it, because that’s the genre. But they don’t even think the way I think about what it means. It doesn’t matter. They think about it the way they think about it, and it’s enough. But to leap from doing something as a Sesshin on your own in your own zendo to something that involves another person—that’s a big leap, to try to make it bigger, and bigger.

IMG_4165 copyRami: What is the essence of what Zen Peacemakers, and what you are trying to do in Bearing Witness retreats? how is that different from a Plunge? I was recently asked about the ZPO members-led plunge in Cheyenne River Reservation, if what we did in there was a Bearing Witness Retreat. I thought it wasn’t. I wonder if what you mean in a Bearing Witness retreat is that is it’s beyond just going to a place, and being with it. Because that’s a lot of what I hear people say. “Let’s go to the river to Bear Witness.” What I heard from you now is that in these retreats we are proactively expanding our view of how big is the narrative. There’s no end to the complexity of those things. And how can we involve more and more aspects, and hear more voices and stories that illustrate that complexity?

Bernie: Yeah, that’s my feeling.

 

 

This interview with Roshi Bernie Glassman was conducted in Montague, MA USA in June 2016 by Rami Efal, executive director of Zen Peacemakers Inc. It was transcribed by Scott Harris. Photographs from Rwanda by Aleksandra Kwiatkowska, song ‘In the Center’, in Rwanda video (above) by Morley. Photographs from the Black Hills by Peter Cunningham

 

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ZPO Member Initiates a Self-led MN Native American Bearing Witness Retreat http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/bwminnesota/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/bwminnesota/#respond Mon, 22 Aug 2016 19:41:50 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14205 cloudsinwater

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 […]]]>
cloudsinwater

cloudsinwater

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

Gentle Dragon Laura Kennedy

Gentle Dragon Laura Kennedy

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.

Jim Bear pulpit

Jim Bear Jacobs

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, I am a guest on the Land of the Dakota. As a guest, I have a responsibility to this host, to honor and remember those who died at that concentration camp with dignity. The process of visioning a Bearing Witness retreat, that began 15 years ago has come to fruition. The spirits of Wounded Knee, Auschwitz/Birkenau and the streets live within me. I have directly experienced the expression of love and compassion from Zen Peacemakers participants and these places. I was sustained by the sacred fire and beings in the Black Hills while listening to stories of genocide and resilience. At Auschwitz/Birkenau, which I attend with the Zen Peacemakers in 2015, I was sobbing with agony, overwhelmed with grief in the children’s barrack at Birkenau, and an angel held me in the form of a human. On the street retreat in SF, a noble one would stand guard, so I could take care of my bio needs at 5 am. My heart has been blown wide open for all beings through these loving actions arising from the boundless ocean of compassion. How could I not share this deep love offered to me freely? We are one in this liberation.

Clouds in Water Zen Center has collaborated with many faiths and organizations to sponsor this The Bearing Witness to Native Peoples in Minnesota retreat. There have been many people who have put tremendous energy and life force into this process to bring this offering forward, and its my expression of Bernie Roshi’s teachings. I am honored to be a member of ZPO and a priest at Clouds in Water Zen Center. I invite you to join this Bearing Witness retreat at Fort Snelling, Pilot Knob and Cold Water Springs. These places will be our teachers from November 17-19, 2016. Native Peoples will lead us in Ceremony at each place. We will bear witness to the genocide and resilience of Dakota people. We appreciate and are grateful for the support from the Zen Peacemaker Order.

More of the organizers:

Bob Klanderud

Bob Klanderud

2009-12-31 23.00.00-82

Ken Ford

Ramona Kitto Stately

Ramona Kitto Stately

Scott Russell

Scott Russell

The retreat’s page on Facebook 

Clouds in Water Zen Center Registration page 

The Mississippi in Minnesota

The Mississippi in Minnesota

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ENLARGING THE SCOPE, PART 1: START WITH THE LIVING http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/enlarging-the-scope-part-1-start-with-the-living/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/enlarging-the-scope-part-1-start-with-the-living/#comments Fri, 19 Aug 2016 18:18:00 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14191 IMG_7648x copy

 

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.

Birkenau anniversary 2000
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 spent a year and a half inviting—before we opened it up to people—I first invited certain people to the retreat. And by inviting, it meant that I was going to pay for them.

So there were certain people I invited. And I tried to invite as many leaders of different faiths — The first retreat we probably had about eight, nine different faiths represented — and probably had twenty countries. And because I gave a lot of scholarships (because certain people didn’t have money, but I wanted them there), we raised money for that first retreat. And it was a very important retreat for me. I thought it was going to be one retreat. That’s it. At the retreat we, Eve Marko, Andrzej Krajewski and I, decided that it had to go on.

I tried different things to make the theme be how we treat others. And most people who came were fixated on one group who treated another group badly. They couldn’t generalize. Whether it was the Palestinians being treated badly by the Jews, whether it was the Jews being treated badly by the Germans—and at Auschwitz there were so many groups that were treated badly. And it went on and on, because the seeds of hate and being mistreated . . . and very tenacious, and keep happening. So even though I tried to make that a theme, and bring people that even now are still mistreating each other, or hating each other, I try to make that the theme—to deal with that. It was very difficult to do that. So it’s a theme that goes on and on. I don’t think it’s the whole retreat. But every time you choose a place to do it—of course I chose Auschwitz as the site for this. Obviously a lot of Jewish people came, and they felt that this was their retreat, they owned it.

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Later on we did some other retreats at some other places. I still have difficulties to separate the place from how we treat each other. In Rwanda, we couldn’t just separate that. It was hard to, even when we had Belgians and other people who were quite affected. We couldn’t separate. And then when we did it with the Lakota, you couldn’t separate it and talk in general. The Lakota live there; it had to be about them. As humans we tend to feel that we’re the only ones being treated this way. It’s very hard to make the space of our work large.

I decided to make these retreats, and I went to my old, dear friend, who has passed away, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. And I told him about my thoughts. This is about twenty-five years ago—he had just had cancer. And we all thought he was going to die. But he didn’t, he waited ten, twenty-five years to die. I went to him, and talked about my ideas, and asked how does he feel about it. I was hoping he wasn’t going to say ‘this is for the Jewish people’. He didn’t do that; he’s a much larger person. He said to me he felt it was very important, to do what I’m doing, and that he would have done it by now if he hadn’t had this cancer. And he would go if he didn’t have this cancer. So he said, “Please do it.” And he said, “but one thing, start with the living.”

Ola and KenaiI take that “start with the living” in two ways. How did the people live before this atrocity, or whatever it is, happened to them? Now for example, if we take the Lakota. Before their holocaust they lived in encampments, in the woods. Afterwards they lived in reservations. And it goes on and on. There’s always a before and after.

So there, we were doing it at Auschwitz, we tried to look at the ‘before’. We started off in Krakow, and particular, in Kazimierz, where almost all the Jews were killed. So we started there.

And we talked off an on through the years how this was progressing. The first thing I did was I tried to find some Polish person, living in Poland that would work with me in how to set this up, how to organize. I was lucky; Andrzej Krajewski was the ideal person. He had been in the underground, part of the solidarity movement in Poland. He was also a Zen student, like me. And because he was a Zen student, when he heard what I wanted to do, he says, “Oh, I can help you, create a Sesshin [a meditation intensive retreat in the Zen lineages].” I had no thought of creating a Sesshin. He got that pretty soon… Of course we talked a lot, for a year and a half before it happened. But even a year and a half later, the Polish people who came expected a Sesshin. So they were all surprised.

But in my mind, Andre was perfect. His father was a Catholic intellectual, killed at Auschwitz. His mother was a Jewish intellectual who escaped the Holocaust by fleeing from farm to farm in Poland, carrying this young boy and hiding him. Then of course, after the war he hid the fact that he had a Jewish mother, so that he would not be beat up by the anti-semitics. But eventually, as a youngster he was assaulted by his friends, and beaten up. They’d call him, “Dirty Kike.” And he’d run home, and say to his mother, “What’s going on here?” And she says, “Well, it is true. I hid this from you because of how people treat people.”

So this becomes another big theme for me on this retreat. So first, how we treat each other; The second—how our life gets formed by the fears we have. And for me a natural component were that there were people that waited ten years before they could come to the retreat. That is, they wanted to go, but they were afraid to. And it took them ten years to just get there.

There was a woman who had a stone for somebody who died in Auschwitz – she gave it to a man named Heinz Jurgen Metzger, a beautiful man, and she told him she tried to get that stone to Auschwitz three times. First she couldn’t get a ticket. Second time, she got to Poland, and had to turn back. Third time she got to Auschwitz, and then had to turn back. She couldn’t go, out of fear. So she gave it to him so he could do it, and then she could visit. So the notion of fear became an important one for me. How do you work with that, in terms of this retreat?

So, time goes on. I think it was either the first or the second retreat—we had a man that was at the retreat with his wife. He had been at Auschwitz. He was Catholic. He had been at Auschwitz for the whole time of the concentration camp, and until the release when there was a final march at the release. But he was there the whole time. He went through horrible things. He was an artist. After the war he became Poland’s leading set designer. For fifty years he never told anybody that he was at Auschwitz.

1654888_890293597677928_2631826398672677512_oHe had a stroke. And as part of his recovery he started to draw his remembrances. He called them his bearing witness. Amazing drawings. And I had a lot of time to talk to this man. And the thing that struck me the most is that with all that he went through, what he shared was the experience of love—not of any hatred of any kind towards anybody, the Nazis, the Kapos.

Now just a sideline—on that first retreat we asked people to read the text of a book by Yehiel De-Nur, known by his pen-name Katzetnik, which means a person of a concentration camp. The book is called Shiviti. That book was out of print when our retreat happened. I thought it was such a powerful book that I thought that we should publish it. So we had it at the first retreat. The guy had been living homeless in Tel Aviv for quite a while, but now had an apartment. But he was in hiding. He didn’t deal with people. He said he wanted the title to be “I Could Have been the SS” And the publisher wouldn’t do it. They said, “It’s too much. We can’t publish it with that name.” They didn’t let him do it, but that’s what he wanted

Question: You spoke about Auschwitz not being a retreat as a response to one thing, for the Jews, about the Holocaust, for example. You spoke about a larger context of how we treat others. You also spoke about the very individual and personal stories of people’s fears. What would you say to those who are challenged by holding both aspects at the same time? The personal and the universal?

Bernie: So I would love for people to be able to come away from this seeing how we treat others. We have so much hate in us, so much bile. And I’m going to get to some stories, which illustrate that. I don’t expect anybody to change their opinions.

One story which is amazing for me—one person came to many of these retreats, hearing me say these words each time—the retreat before last, she told me, “Bernie, you’re wrong. It’s not about all that. It’s about the way the Germans treated the Jews. That’s what this retreat is.” She couldn’t change. But you can’t say I’m wrong. I feel that. If you feel different, you feel different. I don’t expect everybody to feel how I feel. And so to see some of these holocausts, and to universalize it is not easy. We get pulled down to our own thing, which is so big. I know that. But that doesn’t mean I can’t try. So in all those years I kept looking for things that can enlarge the scope. And little by little some things happened. But it was always difficult.

I’m going to go back to the first retreat. A man, a German stood up and talked about something in his life. He had an uncle that was his favorite uncle. And whenever the family all got together, everybody ignored this uncle. He loved this uncle. But everybody ignored this uncle. And he found out a few years before this retreat (his first retreat) that his uncle had been an S.S. officer, and sent to Auschwitz to work. And when he saw what was done at the camp, he rebelled. He said, “I can’t be part of this.” And they castrated him because he acted like that. And they kicked him out of the S.S.

1399270_689175164456440_1658429984_oNow this fellow was quite a liberal, so in a sense that should have made his uncle a hero. For him it should have made his uncle a hero. But his family—whom he loved also—ignored this uncle. And he had to live with that dichotomy. How could they for all these years ignore his uncle who stood up for what he thought was right?

And then later on, the same fellow suggested that at the Auschwitz retreat we chant every day the names of the people who died there. And we actually added on the people who might be relatives. And he said, “I suggest that we also chant for the names of the people who worked there. They’ve gone through as much hell as anybody else.“

Out of a hundred people at the retreat, about half of them threatened to leave the retreat. “We can not open our hearts to that extent.” I was talking about how we treat others throughout the whole universe. Here we’re being asked to open our hearts to those who served pain . . . But half the people could not open, and said if we did such a thing, they were leaving.

Question: What do you think, why did they resist?

Bernie: That we should include those people in our thoughts for remembrance.

Question: But why not include them?

Bernie: Why not? Because they couldn’t help it. They couldn’t tolerate it. The hate was so huge. I wasn’t at that retreat. I came home, and heard about it first from Andrzej, this Polish man—but then from many people. And of course they didn’t chant those names, because the retreat would have ended.

So I decided that the next retreat, I would be there and that the theme of that retreat would be what that guy brought up—opening our retreat to the perpetrators, whatever they’re called. And that became the theme in the morning council. But in the evening we had councils for the whole group, with that as the theme, and it was difficult.

One of the women who was going to most of our retreat, and Israeli, she early on had been in the Israeli police force, and then got involved in something called N.V.C., Nonviolent Communication. And she became a teacher of N.V.C. She came up to me one evening after council, and said, “Bernie, if you weren’t here, I would kill this guy.” So with all of her training, and all of what we were trying to do and all, she was still ready to kill the person for bringing up the thought.

I think it took us another couple years, and we started to do that—open it up. And we made a process of thinking of the aggressor within us. We made that a process. And that became very important. So it took ten/fifteen year—I don’t know how long it took before we could do that. So if I go back to my initial entering Birkenau, being overwhelmed by all the souls—of course it had these souls. But we took ten years to even touch them. So for me that was such an important step. And for some, “You’re crazy, man!”

File_007So I’m sure we can open up further, and get more people . . . There are always individual cases. One year we had a beautiful Imam at the retreat. An Imam is a Sufi clergy—not necessarily Sufi, he happened to be Sufi. He lived in Israel, in Yaffa, and was married to a Jewish girl. A beautiful guy, a beautiful gal, they had some children. She was a Tzabra, that is, was born in Israel. When she got married to the Imam (a sweet beautiful guy), her father wouldn’t see her or his grandchildren. And I had him go up and talk one of the evenings that we had people talk. I had him talk.

And after that, an American came up to me—from California—and said, “How dare I invite an Arab to this retreat? And in addition, to even let him talk here? How dare I?” I said, “Oh, is that a problem?” I said, “You know, I talked about how we treat others, Can you look at if anything coming up for you?” He says, “Don’t give me that bullshit. You should not be doing that.” So I said, “OK. Let’s at least do this. Come with me. Let’s go to the Imam, and you talk with him.” He did. His mind got somewhat peaceful. At the end of the retreat he said, “My family and I had a fantastic time at this retreat. But I still warn you, don’t invite Arabs.”

Those are the cases that are so important to me. Not that I only want to see the horror that remains. I would love to see that we make transformations, and can allow others into our hearts, but I know that’s not easy. I didn’t feel anything amiss with this guy. In fact, this guy was a reason for having this retreat.

So as we went on, for me the retreat became more and more about “How do we treat others?” in an expansive way, and my thinking kept going, “How do we do that?”

There’s got to be other ways of doing it, and not just focusing on one. When you focus on one group, automatically you create problems. Council is a testament to that. In Council you try to hear different voices. So I would think that now is a great time to experience all the different voices that are still causing pain to others. What are our voices?

The process that we let in, the dealing with the aggressor within us has been one of the most important processes. How do we expand that? That would be an interesting thing to me.

Question: And by speaking, and looking at the aggressor, doesn’t mean, “dismissing the pain of the victim.”

Bernie: No, that’s part of it. Yeah. You’ve got to bring it in. You’ve got to bring it in.

CONTINUED IN PART 2 (COMING SOON)

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The Woman Sitting Next to Me http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/the-woman-sitting-next-to-me/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/the-woman-sitting-next-to-me/#comments Fri, 12 Aug 2016 19:59:14 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13637 Frauen 2016-04-06 21.39.34

 

By Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller, Spiegel, Switzerland

Tala is three years old. A year ago she arrived out of the war in Syria to Switzerland. Her mother brought her to our women circle. The first time some weeks ago, Tala sat for two hours in the circle, holding the talking piece when it was her turn, looking in our faces, smiling. Tala loves it, as we all do, our sitting in the meditation room around the candle in deep listening of what our one heart wants to share and to the sharing of all the hearts in our circle of women.

Yesterday evening she laid down on the black zabuton and slept during all the rounds of our sharing, but at the end she woke up to blow off the candle. It is a good way – to share in council – about the pain and the joy we hold in our hearts. We invoked the presence of family members who are gone in the war, we called their names and accepted the deep pain of the loss. I often hear in Switzerland people hope not to meet their parents too often because their relationships are not always easy. In the circle, we listen to the pain of loosing everything, home, work, culture, friends, brothers and sisters — and out of this, came to me the idea to write poems in Arabic and work together on translation, to share it in a book. Later when I expressed this idea, I saw light in the sad eyes of the woman sitting next to me.

20160406_195732After the council we had tea and sweets together. Every time the Swiss women come to the circle, or to the meditation, they bring bags full of beautiful outfits and shawls for the others or for their friends or families. The field is filled with love and respect for our different lives as women, all with the wish to be happy and live a precious life.

Later, I wrote to Jared Seide a dear peacemaker friend and director of the Center of Council, asking if he knew anyone who would have Council guidelines in Arabic language. The same day, I got it, with warm wishes from Jack Zimmerman, Leon Berg and Itaf Awad, founder and head teachers and editors of the book “The Way of Council.” I am deeply moved of their generosity and kind support.

They generously shared — this is the essence of council, a wonderful practice to make peace in bringing all the pieces together. I feel deep gratitude to all who invited me in all the years, again and again, to be part in the circle, to practice it in letting my heart learning how to listen and to share.

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Roshi Barbara Salaam Wegmüller is a grandmother, a dharma successor of Bernie Glassman and a founding member of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe and the development of the Zen Peacemaker Circles. She and her husband Roland are Zen teachers offering weekly Zazen practice in Spiegel, Switzerland. They are involved in various socially engaged activities around the world and are actively supporting Syrian refugees in their area. (Read more about Barbara)

 

 

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Iris http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-iris/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/08/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-iris/#comments Fri, 05 Aug 2016 14:18:47 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13963 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 […]]]>
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(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 – but in Israel we were not equal at all. Mainly, our particular communities were not equal at all. It was like a wide opening in my consciousness: the insight, active and alive in me, that I have to do something about this. This special and deep insight into my sick society has brought me to the decision that has become a path in my life. This path was dedicating myself to give my share in making “Arabs” and “Jews” in Israel more equal, bringing them closer, having them experience the same recognition, respect, and dignity.(…)

This is an excerpt and 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

 

 

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Zen Peacemakers Complete Bearing Witness in Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, South Dakota USA http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/bearing-witness-in-cheyenne-river-indian-reservation-south-dakota-usa/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/bearing-witness-in-cheyenne-river-indian-reservation-south-dakota-usa/#comments Fri, 29 Jul 2016 19:46:39 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14124 13698020_10153839874446849_8900015569916737857_o

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.”

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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.

The Zen Peacemakers Inc. supports these members-led plunges and is grateful to Grover Gauntt and Tiokasin Ghosthorse for their offering and for the Lakota people and land of Cheyenne River reservation for their hospitality and generosity.

 



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Gratitude to Bernie’s Caregivers http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/gratitude-to-bernies-caregivers/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/gratitude-to-bernies-caregivers/#respond Fri, 22 Jul 2016 17:14:59 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=14119 IMG_6626

  Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge […]]]>
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Bernie Glassman and Eve Marko bade farewell to Mariola Wereszka and Godfried De Waele of Poland and Belgium, who arrived in Massachusetts in February to support them through Bernie’s stroke recovery. By assisting Bernie’s exercises, coordinating his therapists and doctors, providing simple house choirs and maintaining a constant availability of home-baked double chocolate fudge cakes, your attentiveness and kindness have been an invaluable source of encouragement and energy leading to a remarkable progress in Bernie’s health. Zen Peacemakers Inc. would like to express appreciation to you both. Thank you.

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Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Roshi Joan http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-roshi-joan/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/flowers-on-the-edges-of-graves-roshi-joan/#respond Thu, 21 Jul 2016 14:08:52 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13971 joanAUS2

 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.

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Roshi Joan, Bernie and Kaz Tanahashi in Auschwitz/Birkenau 1997

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 Poland. For Bernie and Jishu, Council seemed to be a practice that was naturally based in the Three Tenets of Not-Knowing, Bearing Witness, and Healing. And it was to contribute to a more profound relationship with our time at Auschwitz.

At Auschwitz, the practice of Council did not necessarily lead us into seeing things the same way. It was not a consensus process at all. Rather, it was a way for people to recognize that each individual in the circle had his or her own experience, take on things, his or her own wisdom. When differing views and experiences were expressed in Council, the depth of field seemed to be much greater. Here we began to discover the importance and richness of differences. The practice of Council allowed people to develop appreciation for differences and to respect the differences of perspective that were held by Germans and Jews, by men and women, by old and young, by rich and poor, by the joyful and the terrified among us. We saw clearly that it was the intolerance of differences that made an Auschwitz possible.

This is an excerpt and 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

 

 

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Zen Peacemakers Complete Year-Long Winter Clothes Collection for Pine Ridge Reservation http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/zen-peacemakers-collect-winter-clothes-for-pine-ridge-reservation/ http://zenpeacemakers.org/2016/07/zen-peacemakers-collect-winter-clothes-for-pine-ridge-reservation/#respond Wed, 13 Jul 2016 15:05:45 +0000 http://zenpeacemakers.org/?p=13685 womenssort

As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed […]]]>
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As a group of Zen Peacemakers are returning to South Dakota’s Cheyenne’s Reservation later this month, following the path laid by the 2015 Native American Bearing Witness Retreat, another initiative in South Dakota is coming to a close. Robin Panagakos, a Zen Peacemaker from Greenfield MA and member of the Green River Zen Center, agreed to send winter cloths for to Alice and Tuffy Sierra of Pine Ridge Reservation, who were among the Lakota leaders of the retreat. Reaching out to other Zen Peacemaker Order training groups, and with the use of social media and the ZPO Members Facebook page, other responded. Hundreds if not thousands of pounds of cloths were sent from Massachusetts, Vermont, New York City and other places around the United States. Members gathered the clothes, boxed and shipped them to the Sierras in South Dakota. Thank you to all the members for your organizing, donating, and contributing to this effort.

Peg Reishin Murray, a Zen Peacemaker Order member from Boulder, Colorado USA, chose to drive her donation to the reservation herself. She writes:

My community responded wholeheartedly, my VW van was filled to the rooftop in a few short weeks, and I drove the van to Pine Ridge staying just long enough to unload the donations, then turned around and drove home. Way boring, no?

van2nd rez runThen Alice sent a second request and in late January 2016 the scenario pretty much repeated itself—except this time I received a Tuffy Teaching and that is the story I’d like to relate.

According to Google maps, the drive from Boulder Colorado to Pine Ridge takes a little over 5 hours. In reality, Google couldn’t be trusted here and on both occasions that I drove to the reservation following its directions (albeit different routes each visit), I entered a hell realm of GPS deceit that added about two hours to Google’s estimated drive time. (Tuffy told me that he has tried to inform Google that their directions are way off but apparently this is another instance of Native Peoples being ignored) But let me be perfectly honest here—the scenery between Boulder and Pine Ridge is one of the most spacious, uncluttered and majestic landscapes you will encounter and at some point in the journey, an unbidden bliss and the thought, this is suññatā (Pali term meaning emptiness; voidness), arose in my mind.

After many wrong turns, I finally found the road that leads to Alice and Tuffy’s home, and a second act in this comedy of errors unfolded as I attempted to contact Alice’s cell phone to let her know I had finally arrived. Of course, no signal. And the half mile long driveway leading to Alice and Tuffy’s home was a trough of scary-deep mud, the traverse of which only a 4WD might survive. After a brief moment of “ruh roh”, Facebook came to the rescue (text messages have a super power that can penetrate the airwaves that phone calls cannot).

clothes in vanSoon Alice and Tuffy arrived from one direction and Genro serendipitously pulled in behind me. Genro climbed up into the truck bed and we efficiently unloaded my vehicle and reloaded theirs. I took a photo of the three of them to share. The whole encounter had been completely low key, routine, and pretty selfless up to this point. But then as I turned to climb back into the van to begin the trip home, Genro beamed a benevolent gaze upon me and said, “Wow, you must be exhausted. Do you have a plan to take care of yourself?” Big mistake on his part to give me an opening to “say more”. Because in my habitual open-mouth-and-stick-entire-foot-in tendency, I started gushing about the Buddhist term suññatā and how driving out there (even if lost) is bliss. Genro was looking bemused, but Tuffy turned his flinty squint upon me and said, “Yah, good. Now listen up. I’m gonna give you directions for the shortest way outta here. Go back to the gas station and turn right…” His direction(s)? Spot on. I arrived home in record time.

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Photo by Peg of Alice, Tuffy and Genro

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Lisamarie McGrath and Ginger Fong, Los Angeles, CA

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Eric Manigian and Village Zendo, New York, NY

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Boxes Prepared and shipped by Ginni Stern of Burlington VT. Postage for mailing the heavy boxes was costly and the donations were collected to cover them.

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Alice Sierra receiving the boxes.

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Alice, her family and volunteers sorted through hundreds of articles.

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Alice organized distribution days for Pine Ridge reservation community

Alice Sierra wrote in response: “Everyday was like Christmas. I enjoy getting presents or packages. Not knowing what was in the packages increased my curiosity and gratitude for the giving to my people. Many many were so grateful for your generosity. My family refers to their clothing as Zen coat, pants, shirts, etc. I’ve even been asked if I would be doing it again???”

 Zen Peacemakers appreciates the thoughtfulness and intiative of all the individuals involved in this effort — a fine example of the Three Tenets — Taking Action Rising from Not Knowing and Bearing Witness.

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