Members of the Zen Peacemakers Sangha 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 Sangha.
The Zen Peacemakers make use of the two Buddhist Models:
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.
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.
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.
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
A diverse multi-faith group gathers every year, in November, to bear witness at Auschwitz/Birkenau. Another kind of Bearing Witness Retreat will be taking place, with Bernie in April 2012, on the Streets of New York.
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.
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 (www.sociocratie.nl). 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:
This is best learned through formal training from the Center for Council Training in Ojai, California, or one of their approved instructors (www.counciltraining.org). There is also a wonderful book which describes the practice: The Way of Council, by Jack Zimmerman and Gigi Coyle.
The Center for Nonviolent Communication (www.cnvc.org) 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.