Everything Has To Do With Us: Roshi Collande Reflects on Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

Everything Has To Do With Us: Roshi Collande Reflects on Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

This November, 2017, Zen Peacemakers are returning to the extermination camp site Auschwitz-Birkenau for the twenty-second time. Roshi Cornelius V. Collande is one of the spirit holders at the retreat.¬†They are asked to¬†serve, listen and learn ‚Äėthe pulse‚Äô of the retreat. They adjust the schedule and keep the intention of the retreat centered in¬†the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers, and Auschwitz itself as the one teacher. ¬†Below, find Roshi Cornelius’ reflection on returning to the old site.

 

Everything Has To Do With Us:

Reflection on Bearing Witness at Auschwitz

by Roshi Cornelius v. Collande

 

OSWIECIM, POLAND. When we go to pass a week at Auschwitz, it is quite different from being there for some hours as a tourist. As we go to Birkenau every morning to pass the entire day there, we are getting used to the place; we are even getting familiar with it. However, the great paradox is that it never gets normal.

Everything I do and every feeling I have – especially as a German person – is questioned. Can I take photos of “interesting” places? Can I be bored, can I feel OK? Can I sing? Can I even dance with the rabbi? There is no way to be without question marks. Auschwitz leads us into a big not-knowing. That is a great quality of this place.

Yet the greatest quality of this retreat is that it gives you a safe and well organized space in which to bear witness to everything that arises within the big not-knowing. We have been offering the Auschwitz retreat for more than 20 years; as a psychotherapist and spiritual teacher I have experienced that having this (inner and outer) safe space is a precondition to deeply bearing witness to Openness. What does this mean? It means that we become really intimate with this place and its spirit; it means that we realize that everything has to do with us, that we are a part of it‚Äď not as victim or perpetrator, but as life itself. ¬†Bearing witness to one of the darkest chapters of humanity opens us to our own great source of love and transformation.

***

Dr. Cornelius v. Collande, Roshi, has studied Philosophy, Psychology and Educational Theory in Freiburg, Germany, as well as Geology in Wurzburg and Zaragoza, Spain. ¬†Since 2000 he has worked in Gestalt Psychotherapy, Mindfulness and Zen-training. Roshi Collande has a European Certificate of Psychotherapy (EAP), is a teacher of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), and teaches Taiji at the Taiji Chan school. ¬†He was also appointed as Zen teacher of the Zen school ‚ÄúEmpty Cloud‚ÄĚ by Willigis¬†J√§ger Kyoun Roshi in 2009. Roshi Collande first attended the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreat in 2011, for which he is now a Spirit Holder.

 

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Comments

  1. Dear Cornelius,
    like you, I attended the retreat in 2011, we were room mates then. Im am not practicing Zen. The retreat was a real challenge for me. In many ways, I failed. But the week was important for me. Still, I am in touch. May you be blessed.
    regards, Martin

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