Engaged Buddhism

A tribute to Peacemaker Bernie Glassman, roshi 

Perhaps more than ever before, we need to take wise action in our fractured world with its global problems of climate change, rise in natural disasters, refugee crisis, economic and political instability.  Wise action requires both an inner and outer revolution, not just more reactivity based on the old paradigm. If we do not attend to the inner roots and transform our greed, hatred and delusion, then sadly we will repeat the same old problems in our organisation, our social, economic political systems all over again.  So there is an imperative more than ever to heal ourselves and step up with courageous, clear, non-violent actions for the greater good, for the dear mother earth and its inhabitants.

One of the great towering inspiring figures for me was a highly regarded and deeply loved Zen teacher, Bernie Glassman Roshi who died in November 4, 2018.  He was an American Zen Buddhist Roshi and founder of the Zen Peacemakers, an organization established in 1980.  Bernie was a pioneer in social enterprises and socially engaged Buddhism and “Bearing Witness Retreats” at Auschwitz and on the streets of New York. Both Gilly and I have walked the path of Engaged Buddhism for many years and have along the way been inspired by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh, Joanna Macy, and Bernie’s work. We lead our own ‘World as Self, World as Lover’ retreats in Sydney some years ago. We recited each day of our street sesshin the Bodhisattva Peacemaker Vows, which provide a philosophical and ethical underpinning for wise action in the world. I have added some commentary for each Peacemaker Vow.

Bodhisattva Peacemaker Vows

Are dedicated to: oneness, healing, diversity, peace and harmony.

I vow to penetrate the unknown. As a peacemaker, I commit myself to embracing the openness, receptivity and spaciousness of the not-knowing mind.

I vow to bear witness. As a peacemaker, I commit to keeping my heart and mind open to the joys and suffering in my life, family, community and the world. I vow to awaken to the wholeness of life, to the world as self.

I vow to heal myself and others. As a peacemaker, I take up the way of practicing compassion and transforming suffering into liberation and freedom for one and all.

I vow to be diversity. As a peacemaker, I commit to seeing the world of form in all its variety of race, colour and difference as my true self.

I vow to live in harmony with others. As a peacemaker, I will look deeply inside to release the afflictive emotions of fear, anger and ill will, and release attitudinal divisions that cause community discord. I commit myself to practicing tolerance and promoting harmonious relationships.

I vow to live peacefully. As a peacemaker, I take up the way of non-harming, to practice being peace.

I vow to abide in the present moment. As a peacemaker, I take up the way of living mindfully, to bring my awareness back to the present moment.  In the present moment there is no baggage, no concepts, no rigid fixed views, no self-centeredness …. only the vast immensity of life as it is.

This essay by Subhana Barzaghi roshi was published in the SZC Newsletter of February/March 2019

Photo credit: Zen Peacemakers International Facebook