Working in the Cracks

An interview with Bernie Glassman.James Shaheen

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Born in Brooklyn to an immigrant Jewish family, Bernie Glassman began his Zen studies with Taizan Maezumi Roshi in 1967 while pursuing a career in the aerospace industry. After receiving dharma transmission, Glassman established the Zen Community of New York in 1980 and later the Greyston Mandala in Yonkers, New York, which provides social services to local residents.

Glassman and his wife, Roshi Sandra Jishu Holmes (1941-1998), co-founded the Zen Peacemaker Order in 1996, and later the Peacemaker Community, an international, interfaith network integrating spirituality with peacemaking. Glassman is noted for organizing “plunges” such as retreats that immerse participants into the street life of the homeless, and the annual bearing witness retreat at Auschwitz-Birkenau. In 2000, he disrobed as a priest to put emphasis on Zen lay practice.

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