Zen Peacemakers


After completing two decades of Zen training with Taizan Maezumi Roshi and helping him in building the Zen Center of Los Angeles, Bernie Glassman led his Zen students in the 1980’s to create the Greyston Foundation a network of social business and services in Yonkers, NY. Today, Greyston is studied in business and social work schools as a model of conscious business and urban poverty reduction.  Zen Peacemakers has led thousands of participants through street retreats and the annual interfaith Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat. Through these and service projects in the United States, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America, Zen Peacemakers has become a magnet for peacemakers of all backgrounds, consisting today of a network of 73 formal affiliates in 12 countries on 5 continents. Through this work, Bernie’s innovation, vision and inspiration have helped close the gap between what society is and what it could be.  The Zen Peacemakers maintained a motherhouse base in Montague, MA from 2003-2011, where they hosted a number of successful programs, including the first major Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism.

Social Impact

Zen Peacemakers means many things to many people. Today, the Zen Peacemakers is a virtual organization with a small board, advisory board and staff organized around Bernie Glassman for supporting the vision and inspiration for Socially Engaged Buddhism throughout the world.  The Zen Peacemakers  is more a nexus of creative energy than a simply-defined non-profit religious organization.

“Bernie has been the center of gravity for many of us and our projects. As a lover of people and a connector, he manifests the conditions for all of us to empower ourselves. He is the first to remind us that the power never comes from him, but rather through the undaunted capacity to forge ahead pioneering into unknown universes”. -Sensei Francisco Paco Lugoviña, senior Zen Peacemakers teacher.

First Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat (1996)

Never predictable nor conventional, Bernie’s dynamic and visionary leadership has inspired many to experiment with new forms of practice and service over the years. In addition to the Greyston Foundation and Bearing Witness Retreats, many of these experiments have grown into substantial programs that have impacted the lives of thousands over many years. A small sample of programs whose founders identify as members of the Zen Peacemakers Sangha family and who cite Bernie as inspiration include:



  • the Sweetwater Zen Center leads meditation and council in San Diego prisons
  • the Jada Bascom Foundation recruits bone marrow donors
  • the John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School is a New York charter school that supports students with serious emotional challenges by integrating them with other students
  • My Gluten Free Bakery, a North Carolina Bakery based on the Greyston model that will be operated by at-risk and homeless youth ages 19-22 under supervision of 2 seasoned bakers
  • the Peacemaker Institute is dedicated to training, empowering and connecting peacemakers around the world, including running a Bearing Witness Retreat in Rwanda
  • the Upaya Zen Center has  a two-year Certificated Buddhist Chaplaincy Training Program in the areas of Prison, End of Life Care, Peacemaking, Women’s, Youth and Environmental Ministries.
  • The Stone Soup Café, a community meal that continues the tradition of peacemaking in the sense of overcoming separation between social classes and working to bear witness to the whole.  

Current Projects of the Zen Peacemakers

West Bank Settlement, Palestine

The Zen Peacemakers’ is currently focusing on “journeys to the field” to the darkest corners of the globe touched by war, genocide and poverty in order to serve as ambassadors of peace and hope. The Zen Peacemakers will join various groups around the world to provide support, advice and inspiration. Zen Peacemakers will report on, and video-record, the voices of nonviolent activists and share them with their extensive online community. If the past is any indication, the Zen Peacemakers style of deep presence, relationship-building, problem-solving and consciousness-raising will plant seeds that make lasting contributions towards building peace.



We envision an enlightened society where suffering is transformed into wisdom and compassion and all beings live in harmony and are relieved of the afflictions of hunger, war and disease. Spirituality and service are tools we use to help all beings find freedom regardless of race, religion, ability, gender or nationality.


We seek to bear witness to the joy and suffering of the universe, and to realize and actualize the oneness and interdependence of life through study, practice and action for personal and social transformation. We seek to connect and empower peacemakers throughout the world. We are committed to nonviolence, inclusivity, free expression and experimentation.

The Three Tenets

The Three Tenets serve as the foundation for the Zen Peacemaker’s work and practice. They underlie our commitment to broad-based inclusivity, service, multi-faith communion, and to a lifelong peacemaking path that integrates work, training and practice.

Entering the stream of 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