Models and Methodologies

Members of the Zen Peacemakers Family combine Zen training with a variety of Buddhist principles and peacemaking techniques.  Each group chooses from this toolbox in their own way.

Along with Zen training, the following models and methodologies within the toolbox of techniques used within the Zen Peacemakers Family.


The Zen Peacemakers make use of the two Buddhist Models:

  • the structure of Mandalas consisting of five energy spheres.
  • the vision of Indra’s Net, which is a metaphor of our life

Mandala Energies

 The following is excerpted from Instructions to the Cook by Bernie Glassman and Rick Fields, Bell Tower, 1996. This book is a primer on how to work with the mandala energies.

A Mandala consists of five main “courses” or aspects of life. The first course involves spirituality or vision; the second course is composed of training; the third course deals with our resources; the fourth course is made out of action, and the last course consists of integration.

All of these main courses are an essential part of our life. Just as we all need certain kinds of food to make a complete meal that will sustain and nourish us, we need all five of these courses to live a full life. It’s not enough to simply include all these courses in our meal. We have to prepare the five courses at the right time and in the right order.

The first course, the course of spirituality/vision, helps us to realize the oneness of life, and provides a still point at the center of all our activities. This course consists of spiritual practices. This practice could be prayer or listening to music or dance or taking walks or spending time alone—anything that helps us realize or reminds us of the oneness of life.

The second course is training. Study provides sharpness and intelligence. People usually study before they begin something, but I like to do it the other way around. I like to study my life or social action along with the other things I’m doing and not in the abstract. For this reason, the course of study always goes with the courses of spirituality, resources, integration and action.

Once we have established the clarity that comes from stillness and study, we can begin to see how to prepare the third course which is resources. This is the course which sustains us in the physical world. It is the course of work and business—the meat and potatoes. Taking care of ourselves and making a living in the world is necessary and important for all of us, not matter how “spiritual” we may think we are. At this point we also become aware of all the resources we have, e.g., money, elders, facilities, people.

The course of action grows naturally out of the courses of spirituality and resources. Once we begin to take care of our own basic needs, we become more aware of the needs of the people around us. Recognizing the oneness of life, we naturally reach out to other people because we realize that we are not separate from them.

The last course is the course of integration. This is the course that brings all the seemingly separate parts of our life together into a harmonious whole. It’s the course that turns all the other courses—spirituality, resources, social action, and education and training—into a joyous feast.

All the courses make up the supreme meal of our life. But it is not a question of trying to arrange our life so that we prepare equal amounts of each course. We all need different ingredients, and different amounts, at different times in our lives.

Characteristics of Five Buddha Families

Buddha Vajra Ratna Padma Karma
Family Member Me Brother Father Mother Sister
ZPO Family Foundation Study Livelihood Relationship Social Action
Color White Blue Yellow Red Green
Skandha Form Story Line Feeling Perception Conception
Element Space Water Earth Fire Wind
Realm Animals Hell Hungry Ghost Human Fighting Spirit
Paramita Patience & Samadhi Wisdom & Knowledge Generosity & Power Effort & :Upaya Right Action & Vow
Precept Non Killing & Ill speaking of 3 Treasures Non Ignorance & Anger Non Stealing & Greed Non Lying & Stinginess Non Blaming, Errors & Faults
Awarenesses Enjoying Serenity & Practicing Samadhi Right Thought & Wisdom Few Desires & Being Satisfied Idle Talk Meticulous Effort
Eight-Fold Path Mindfulness & Concentration Views Livelihood & Effort Speech Intentions & Action
Image Shakyamuni Manjusri Mahakasyapa Formless Forms Avalokitesvara
Tathagata Vairocana Akshobhya Ratnasambhava Amitabha Amoghasiddhi
Dakini Akasadhatis Logana Mamaki Pandaravisin Tara
Sutra Shobogenzo Wisdom Avatamsakra Lotus Bagahavad Gita
Wisdom All Pervading Space Mirror Like All Enriching Discriminating Awareness All Accomplish-ing Action
Poison Ignorance Anger Pride Greed Jealousy
Character-istics Dullness All-Pervading Foundation Sedate Precision Textures Relationships Systemizer Fertility Earthiness Depth Domineering Acquiring Union Facade Communication Compassion Seduction Efficacious Openness Energy Controlling
Human Activity Religion Education Business Art Politics
Direction Center East South West North
Season Winter Autumn Early Spring Summer
Time of Day Midnight Dawn Mid-Morning Noon Dusk
Symbol Wheel Vajra Lion Dance Jewel Elephant Adornments Lotus Peacock Song Sword Garuda Food
Mineral Crystal Gold Amber
Bodhisattva Jizo Samantabhadra Avalokiteshvara
Smell Flowers Incense Candle Perfume
Inner Element Complexion Fluids Flesh Heat Breath



Indra's Net

Indra was an ancient king of India who thought a great deal of himself. One day he went to the royal architect and said that he wanted to leave a monument of himself, something which all people would appreciate.The king’s architect created an immense net which extended throughout all space and time. And the king’s treasurer placed a bright, shining pearl at each node of the net so that every pearl was reflected in every other pearl. And each single pearl, each person, each event, contains the whole of Indra’s Net, including all of space and time.

When we realize that we are all bright pearls in Indra’s Net, we see that within each one of us the whole body of the universe is contained. Since we are all already connected in Indra’s Net, there are no limits to the possibilities of connecting with other people in our lives and our work.

Still, it’s natural for most of us to begin “networking” with the people closest to our own interests and needs. Accountants network with other accountants, poets with other poets, and social activists with other social activists. This kind of networking certainly has its uses. It’s especially effective, for example, when we need help in solving a very difficult problem. But it is not a very effective overall strategy because it leads to a narrowing instead of a widening of your network. It results in ever diminishing returns. The tax accountants end up talking only to other tax accountants; the free verse poets end up talking only to other free verse poets; and the social activists of one school end up talking only to social activists of the same school.

When we network according to the vision of Indra’s Net, on the other hand, we begin by casting the widest possible net. We do this by defining our mission in the broadest possible way.


Bearing Witness Retreats

Zen emphasizes daily meditation with periodic periods of multi-day meditation retreats.  Many Zen meditation techniques allow us to let go of our attachments to our thoughts, drop subject-object differentiation with the “outside” world and bear witness to the wholeness of life.

In a Bearing Witness Retreat, participants plunge into an environment that is so overwhelming that they have no choice but to drop their conditioning and habitual thought patterns.  By staying in the  Environment, our initial refusal to accept the undesirable reality dissipates and we are left to see the situation for what it is.

Council practice allows us to express and bear witness to our own reactions and to the reactions of others.  While a Zen teacher will lead a Zen retreat, on a bearing witness retreat, the Environment  is the teacher.  While Zen retreats may involve Zen meditation and koan study, on a bearing witness retreats, participants of a variety of faiths and practices sit in silence and in circles, with the invitation to deeply listen and share their feelings with each other.

First Street Retreat (1991)


The first Zen Peacemakers Street Retreat, led by Roshi Bernie Glassman, occurred in 1991, in the streets of New York City’s Bowery.  In 1994,  Bernie Glassman was part of a multi-faith gathering and prayer vigil at Auschwitz.  Moved by his sense of the millions of souls wanting to be remembered, Bernie initiated  the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz in 1996.  This retreat has occurred annually since then.

Current and Upcoming Bearing Witness Retreats

Walking to the meditation site at Birkenau (1996)

A diverse multi-faith group gathers every year, in November, to bear witness at Auschwitz/Birkenau. Another kind of Bearing Witness Retreat takes place on the Streets. We are also holding a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda.

While a number of teachers within the Zen Peacemakers family continue to lead street retreats and participate in the annual Auschwitz retreat, several have also innovated new Bearing Witness Retreats.  Fleet Maull started a retreat in Rwanda in 2010.  Heinz-Jurgen Metzger has led retreats in slaughter houses and at the Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany.  Grover Genro Gauntt is developing a retreat with Native Americans in the U.S.  Bernie’s Journeys to the Field will all involve Bearing Witness Retreats.

The ability to work effectively within an Indra Net and within a Mandala organization requires a set of skills which may be acquired through training and education in several areas. In particular, there are four methodologies which are considered by the Zen Peacemakers to be highly effective.


Sociocracy is a method of organizing a task-focused group, such as a Zen Peacemaker Circle, by accomplishing three things:

  • It creates equivalency in decision making among the participants of a sociocratic circle,
  • It consciously creates feedback loops which are essential for steering a dynamic organization, and,
  • It creates linkages between the various levels of the organization.

The process also requires that decisions be made in accord with the Principle of Consent and utilizes special facilitation methods for discussions and elections. This methodology is heavily used to inter-link the Zen Peacemaker Circles both functionally and geographically.

It is also important to see and understand that the Sociocratic method of organizing and decision making apply only to the establishment and definition of policy. The operational procedures and programs by which policy is implemented or practiced are in the realm of day-to-day operations and execution which utilizes other models of organization.

The process was originally developed by Dr. I. Gerard Endenberg and trainings are offered by the Center for Sociocracy ( A resource work is Dr. Enderberg’s book, Sociocracy: the Organization of Decision Making.

We have borrowed from the “Sociocratic” model as our foundation. This model is an outgrowth of both cybernetics and democratic decision making. It is designed to address three common problems in organization models:

  • People in traditional models do not have equivalency in decision making power or access to decision making processes. Through a process of electing representatives to the next higher level, a degree of equivalency is achieved.
  • It is very difficult in hierarchical organizations for information to flow up and down through the “chain of command,” especially bad news from below. In order to steer a dynamic process such as an organization in the midst of constant change, it is essential that there be a “feedback loop” that provides timely information about what is actually happening within the organization.
  • In most hierarchical organizations, there is usually a “disconnect” between the executive level and the operating management and between the operating management and the people actually doing the work of the organization. Through the selection and participation of people into the “feedback” role at the next higher level, this disconnect is bridged.

Way of Council

The origins of the Council Process are attributed to the Iroquois Confederation in the North Eastern United States although other versions of it have probably been around a long time. Council is a gently structured process of sharing and listening which allows for all sides to be heard in a context of mutual respect and trust. Using a set of simple intentions or ground rules, it can be used to air differences of opinion, to take a reading on a particular issue, to solve a problem or arrive at a group decision. The intentions are:
  • When speaking, speak from the heart,
  • When listening, listen from the heart,
  • Be of lean expression, and,
  • Maintain the confidentiality of the group.

This is best learned through formal training from the Center for Council Training in Ojai, California, or one of their approved instructors ( There is also a wonderful book which describes the practice: The Way of Council, by Jack Zimmerman and Gigi Coyle.

Nonviolent Communication

When feelings are raw and groups or individuals have issues with each other, Nonviolent Communication, as developed by Marshall Rosenberg, is a highly effective method which uses a simple, four-step process:

  • Sharing observations,
  • Expressing feelings,
  • Describing needs, and,
  • Articulating a request for what we need.

The Center for Nonviolent Communication ( offers a variety of training opportunities around the world as well as a number of other resources. A basic understanding of the process may be gotten from the book Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion, by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.


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