Bernie Glassman and “Underserved Places”

I keep thinking about Bernie Glassman, especially when people are struggling to get involved. Some think there is nothing they can do here, the powerful are always in charge.

Others say that as a Christian, it’s enough for me to put things in God’s hands, to pray for everyone involved in the war and, if I can, to support one or two Ukrainians or initiatives here, where I live. Still others, this time Buddhists, meet to pray for peace: they dedicate their practice or certain chants to peace, to the Ukrainians, to the end of suffering… And of course there are many forms of devotion, beautiful ones that would touch me, but from them we learn nothing.
But what touched me the most – and others too? I would like to share three points of view with you.
1. Bernie Roshi – he didn’t value the Roshi, so I’ll only use his honorary title once – spoke and wrote of “underserved places”. Think of it like an injured hand or an aching organ in our body: When the pain reaches a certain point, we turn to that point of pain as intimately as possible. With the hand, this happens almost automatically, we are so dependent on its functionality, with other disorders and diseases we sometimes miss the signals. Just like we do with the interference fields in the world. Zen peacemakers practice NOT, as is usual, feeling away from the suffering of a part of the body and popping a pill, but instead emphatically turning towards it. One of the chronically “underserved places” is, of course, Auschwitz and Birkenau in particular. Commemorations fulfill our need to give attention and devotional gifts in ceremonies. In shamanism, physical ailments were also dealt with in this way.Our job now is to identify which is the most needy spot? For example in a war, in a conflict, in myself, and how would I like and can I go about it? However, we should keep in mind that our minds, which often keep us from acting anyway, often don’t have time to be questioned. Suddenly there is war, and for many that means dealing with the acute fear of death, and for us it means: what registers do we pull out, where and how to act? Telephone, with what intention? And with whom? And then?Auschwitz-Birkenau, one of the “underserved places” in Europe, taught me so much. Even after six witnessing retreats, he continues to have rich teachings for me. “Go to the places you fear,” wrote Pema Chödrön, and Bernie took that literally

2. Sitting in a large circle, truly on the earth of Birkenau, with men and women of different ages, different religions or value systems, languages ​​and cultures – some of us ordained in a religion, others practicing, others consciously non-religious: THAT was for me the most wonderful experience. Together. We got involved in ceremonies, but also practiced our respective “services” at separate locations in the huge cemetery. We were welcome everywhere. I got to know different fairs. Buddhist ceremonies. Jewish prayers and especially the beloved Kaddish. We prayed in many languages, including Arabic when there were Arabs, and twice in Russian. What I particularly liked and later also organized and celebrated more often myself were circles, in which everyone present could contribute, not just ordained representatives. I have experienced such circles with refugees, with war children and war grandchildren, with locals and guests (on Lampedusa, at sea, in Bonn). And those present are always very touched.

3. Let me sum up: Such peace circles can be called together very effectively with priestesses and priests of different religions/traditions. But these clergymen hardly or not perform any special functions (even in Birkenau there were only a few ordained WITH functions, although many were there “on duty”). It is the Peace Circle (or Zen Peacemaker Circle) itself that also carries out the transformational tasks of a priest or priestess, so all held the field to the best of their ability.

This describes the Sangha of the future, that is, the Sangha of today, in which not only ven. Bernie, but also ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, and anyway we women never stopped doing “our thing” in the family and extended family, praying and healing as we always liked.

I see good food for thought here for our personal and collective response to the war against Ukraine. Where do you see the “underserved place”? Can you imagine turning to this one? And how exactly?

You will find a suggestion for this in my next blog post. I am excited. Note: Those who are creative conquer fear. I bow.

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Bernie Glassman and “Underserved Places”

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