RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Roshi Bernie Glassman

Dispatch from the Train to Auschwitz

Posted on

Photo by Peter Cunningham

I received this email (below) on Sunday from Michael Melancon, a friend who is in his second year of the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. He is on his way to take part in the Bearing Witness Retreat at Auschwitz with Roshi Bernie Glassman and others from the Zen Peacemaker Community. Thank you, Michael, for your deep intention to practice with suffering.

It is Saturday morning June 5 as I write this. I’m on a train from Warsaw to Krakow, Poland… Starting this Monday we will sit a Retreat of Remembrance at Auschwitz… In total we will be about 150 people from all over the world on retreat together.

I’m not Jewish myself, but I was “adopted” by a dear Jewish family about 20 years ago. My adopted Jewish mom Hedy stood in for my own mother when Glenn and I were married. She offered a Hebrew prayer of blessing over our rings; everyone was dry-eyed until that moment in the ceremony. Hedy’s daughter Eve stood up for me as my Best Person. These people are my family.

Hedy’s family of origin — her mother, father, sister and grandparents — were all killed at Auscwhitz.

In my Rakusu case here at my side are photos of Hedy’s family members the way they were when she last saw them. Her parents hid Hedy away in a convent in Belgium, just before the Gestapo took most of the rest of the family to the death camps. Later this week in a ceremony of remembrance we will honor those family members I’ve met only through Hedy’s cherished memories.

My choice to travel by train in Poland is intentional. It is part of my pilgrimage here. I am mindfully aware that this rail track from Warsaw to Krakow, on which i now ride in comfort and in a bright and sun-filled rail car, is like the very route so many traveled to their deaths a mere generation ago. I hold them all in my heart: the victims as well as those who risked their lives to defy and stop the madness. I also hold the perpetrators, and the innocent and not-so-innocent bystanders. I know I am not so separate from either the willing or the unwilling participants. A single cloud hovers in this clear blue sky, as I consciously untangle their entwined karma, while weaving it more deliberately together with my own . . . and with yours.

Here, you are not far from me.

The many beings are numberless, I vow to free them.

Greed, hatred and ignorance rise endlessly, I vow to abandon them.

Dharma gates are countless, I vow to perceive them.

The awakened way is unsurpassable, I vow to embody it . . . fully.

Love in cubits . . .

Michael ‘Daiun’

Quote of the Week: Bernie Glassman

Posted on

Bernie Glassman is both an iconoclast as well as a steeped-in-tradition Zen master, in the White Plum lineage of Taizan Maezumi Roshi.

Brooklyn-born and bred, Bernie studied engineering and mathematics and worked for a number of years as an aeronautical engineer for McDonnell-Douglas. The book The Three Pillars of Zen by Philip Kapleau inspired him to study and practice Buddhism. Bernie received dharma transmission from Maezumi Roshi in 1976 and then inka in 1995.

Bernie’s output over the past three decades has been amazing. He started the Greyston Bakery in 1982 in Yonkers, NY, which eventually grew into the Greyston Foundation — an array of social services to the surrounding neighborhood that was based in Zen principles and aimed to empower all who were part of its mandala. He also started the Zen Peacemakers, devoted to the exploration and practice of socially engaged Buddhism. One of the main practices of the Zen Peacemakers is “Bearing Witness” — retreats that invite participants to intimately enter into the stream of reality of those who are homeless or in other situations of suffering.

Bernie’s latest project is “Zen Houses.” These will be small, Buddhist-based residential communities around the world that focus on serving the needs of members of that area.

This quote is from Bernie’s book Bearing Witness: A Zen Master’s Lessons in Making Peace:

When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. Peacemaking is the functioning of bearing witness. Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.

Loving action is right action. It’s as simple as giving a hand to someone who stumbles or picking up a child who has fallen on the floor. We take such direct, natural actions every day of our lives without considering them special. And they’re not special. Each is simply the best possible response to that situation in that moment.

Quote of the Week: Roshi Joan Halifax

Posted on

For this week’s quote, I’m very happy to feature my friend and root teacher Roshi Joan Halifax. Roshi has led a remarkable life, one filled with adventure, great humor, intelligence, creativity, compassion, and, most of all, friends.

Trained as a cultural anthropologist, Roshi has spent time with indigenous people in Africa, Tibet, and Mexico. During the Sixties, she was deeply involved in Civil Rights and anti-war movements.

Roshi began practicing Buddhism with Korean Zen master Seung Sahn, and through the years has also studied with Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh and Roshi Bernie Glassman. When Glassman Roshi gave her inka in 1998, she became the first female dharma successor in the White Plum lineage.

Roshi Joan has created many engaged Buddhist institutes and programs including the Ojai Foundation, Upaya Zen Center and Institute, the Being With Dying program that has pioneered work in contemplative end-of-life care, and the Upaya Buddhist Chaplaincy Program. And that’s just to name a few. I’ve often thought that a day in Roshi’s life is the equivalent to about a year in mine, in terms of her creative output and the number of people she reaches through her work.

She is  very passionate about the intersection of neuroscience and meditation and serves on the board of the Mind & Life Institute. Roshi is also one of the most digitally accessible dharma teachers around – she’d be happy to have you follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

This quote is an excerpt from Roshi’s book The Fruitful Darkness, published in 1993. It’s a beautiful book, blending Buddhism, tribal wisdom, and deep ecology – one well worth putting on your reading list.

Many Buddhists have believed that the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (enlightened hero of compassion) is beyond gender. According to the Lotus Sutra, this deity transforms the body and becomes a female, male, soldier, monk, god, or animal to save various beings from suffering. When he/she looked out into the world and saw the immense suffering of all beings, he/she shed tears of compassion….

…The eyes of Kanzeon see into every corner of Calcutta. The ears of Kanzeon hear all the voices if suffering, whether understandable to the human ear, or the voices of felled cedar and mahogany or struggling sturgeon who no longer make their way up Mother Volga to spawn. The hands of Kanzeon reach out in their many shapes, sizes, and colors to help all forms of beings. They reach out from the ground of understanding and love….It is understood that the craft of loving-kindness is the everyday face of wisdom and the ordinary hand of compassion. This wisdom face, this hand of mercy, is never realized alone, but always with and through others. The Buddhist perspective shows us that there is no personal enlightenment, that awakening occurs in the activity of loving relationship.

%d bloggers like this: