July 16, 2010

"Buddhism, Reconciliation And Auschwitz: An Interview With Zen Master Bernie Glassman" VIA HuffPost

Monty McKeever

There are few people in the world who have done as much for the advancement of Socially Engaged Buddhism as Bernie Glassman.  As a teenager I had the privilege of working for a summer at the Greyston Foundation, a fantastic community development/outreach network in Yonkers, NY that Mr.There are few people in the world who have done as much for the advancement of socially engaged Buddhism as Bernie Glassman.  As a teenager I had the privilege of working for a summer at the Greyston Foundation, a fantastic community development/outreach network in Yonkers, NY that Mr. Glassman founded in the 80's, while at Naropa University I learned more about Glassman and his work while studying under the Zen Peacemaker Fleet Maull (who recently lead a Bearing Witness Retreat to Rwanda), and recently I was very happy to release this video interview with Bernie conducted by Tricycle contributing editor Joan Oliver about the upcoming Symposium for Socially Engaged Buddhism as well as the popular Tricycle Web Exclusive Jeff Bridges and Bernie Glassman: A Conversation.  It has been quite an honor watching Glassman and the Zen Peacemakers do their work throughout the years, and in a few cases, trying to help out a little myself.  For anyone interested in learning more about Socially Engaged Buddhism, I strongly recommend looking through these links. As a good jumping off point, here are the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers:

Entering the stream of Socially Engaged Spirituality, I vow to live a life of: * Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe * Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world * Loving actions towards ourselves and others The Three Tenets serve as the foundation for the Zen Peacemakers’ work and practice. Using the Three Tenets as an orientation transforms service into spiritual practice. Specifically, these practices suspend separation and hierarchy, and open direct encounter between equals as the spirit and style of the services offered through Zen Houses. Not-knowing drops our conceptual framework from very personal biases and assumptions to such concepts as "in and out" "good and bad" "name and form," "coming and going." Not-knowing is a state of open presence without separation. In this state we can Bear Witness, the second Tenet, merging or joining with an individual, situation or environment, deeply imbibing their essence. From this intimate "knowing," we can then choose an appropriate response to the person or situation, described as "taking loving actions," our third Tenet. This gives rise to the holistic, integrated, wrap-around style of service projects inspired by Bernie's vision. In speaking about the Three Tenets as separate practices and phases of consciousness, we are making deference to the discriminating mind. They are actually a continual flow, each containing and giving rise to the others.

VIA The Huffington Post, a new interview with Bernie Glassman about the Bearing Witness Retreats that he leads to Auschwitz each year.

What do you teach at Auschwitz? Nothing. I am not the teacher there. Auschwitz is the teacher. Its an amazing teacher. I'm always seeking places to learn. Many times, I invite people to do the trip with me. Maybe they'll learn something, too. I try to bring us into a situation in which there is almost no way not to learn. This plunges us into the state of not-knowing and then we can bear witness to the joy and suffering of the world. Many people and groups visit Auschwitz. What makes the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness Retreat unique? Most visit and then leave the same day. We stay for six days. We also bring people from many cultures, countries and traditions. We bring people from both sides: children of survivors and children of SS officers. Those who come consider themselves open-minded enough to come, but when they come together in the same room, it is a different story. Problems erupt and people clash. What happens when people clash on the retreat? If you stay in the cauldron of Auschwitz, by the third or fourth day, changes happen. At one retreat, a Jewish man had become friendly with a German woman and discovered her father ran the camp that killed his family. At first, he was enraged and she was overwhelmed with guilt. Within another day, they went through the cycles of emotions and they were hugging and kissing. I don't know what would happen if any given person came, but I know they won't be the same when they leave. Why Auschwitz? There is a part of us that allows us to dehumanize people. It's an aspect of ourselves that we don't want to touch. Auschwitz is the world-monument of that aspect.

Read the rest of the interview here.

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