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Quote of the Week: Bernie Glassman Roshi

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Bernie Glassman (photo from

Last week’s big news was the Symposium for Western Socially Engaged Buddhism, organized by the Zen Peacemaker Community. Later this week, I’ll post a collection of articles about the Symposium.

The guiding light behind the Zen Peacemakers is Bernie Glassman Roshi, whose short bio appears in a previous “Quote of the Week.”  Today’s quote from Glassman Roshi nicely dissolves the duality that we can sometimes create when we think of the term “Engaged Buddhism.”

Roshi starts by asking a question:

“How did [the Buddha] benefit mankind by sitting in meditation?”

Then he goes on to answer it:

“This is a problem with the term ‘engaged Buddhism’ in a broad sense… Anything one is doing to make themselves whole in their own life, or realizing the Way, or becoming enlightened—whatever term you would use—these are all involved in service, because if we realize the oneness of life, then each person is serving every other person and is reducing suffering.

…if you keep on practicing, even in the cave, there is no way of not working on social issues, only the method might be different.”

–Bernie Glassman, quoted by Christopher Queen in Engaged Buddhism in the West (2000)

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