Flowers on the Edges of Graves: Malgosia Roshi
¬†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.
How to Distinguish Day from Night
By Roshi MaŇāgorzata Braunek (1947 ‚Äď 2014)
Photos courtesy of Roshi Andrzej Krajewski. Pictured above:¬†Bernie,¬†Jakusho Kwong Roshi, MaŇāgorzata Roshi,¬†Peter Matthiessen Roshi,¬†Junyu Kuroda Roshi¬†at Auschwitz-Birkenau
OSWIECIM, POLAND. Bernie says that the places of pain and suffering are our greatest teachers. Therefore we¬†went to Auschwitz – a symbol of the greatest evil that man has done to his like. Usually¬†noticing the ubiquitous suffering around us does not mean that we are immersed in it.¬†Rather, we train not to recognize it, because we are afraid that we can‚Äôt stand it.
The first time I traveled to Auschwitz I just asked myself if I can face the fear, apart¬†from that I did not know what would happen here.
The most important was to understand that every thought to eliminate anything and¬†anyone is the voice of the torturers slumbering in me. It turned out that I had such thinking¬†as ‘eksterminujńÖcych’ (exterminate) in myself, and that there‚Äôs no end to it. For example,¬†sweeping a container of liquid on ants, killing a mosquito or a fly. I think that is¬†accompanied by:¬†“Ugh, that’s awful! This must be eliminated! Dispose! Let them¬†disappear!”; After all, this is the same way of thinking that was applied to the Jews,¬†Gypsies, beggars, gay, to all those who were and are “different”; We see them as foreign,¬†other, dirty (inside or outside), barbarians, worse than us – in a word, vermin disrupting our¬†lives. They are useless, so they must be eliminated! The world would be better without¬†them. The world knows this lesson very well … When I saw the executioner in myself for¬†the first time, I kept crying a long while and could hardly stop again. The whole camp¬†melted in my tears.
When I sit on the ramp or in the barracks for hours, I touch suffering directly. Sure,¬†we are sitting there in warm jackets, we know we‚Äôll soon have something to eat‚Ä¶ Sure I¬†do not know about the cold back then, I don‚Äôt wear those thin striped uniforms. But this is¬†not about historical reconstruction. It is important to listen to what this place has to tell us.¬†You encounter yourself and your own fear. The suffering of the people there was and is¬†unimaginable and incomparable. They were in hell here on earth, but you have to realize¬†that this is not a closed chapter. There‚Äôs hell within us, we go on creating it continuously …
Roshi MaŇāgorzata Braunek (1947 ‚Äď 2014) was an accomplished Polish artist and actresses and a founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order in Europe. She was the wife of Roshi Andrzej Krajewski with whom she co-led the Kanzeon Zen Center and sangha¬†in Warsaw, Poland. (fot. Piotr Kowalski)
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
November 21, 2019