Glassman: "Before I left, I was sort of his right-hand person, if you will. I left in December of , and a couple years later there were the scandals and attendance went way, way down. Maezumi encouraged Glassman to start his own Zen community. With donations, he bought a mansion for his small flock in Riverdale, New York.
Glassman's Zen community in New York started a bakery called Greyston. Roshi Wendy Egyoku Nakao, abbot of Zen Center of Los Angeles: "He immediately starts a bakery, and that created a huge mess because people didn't want to work night and day.
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Many students decided not to follow him because they wanted him to be the image of the Zen master in the zendo and he was so brilliant at that. Marko: "If you look at old pictures of when he was a priest, you can see this intensity and fierceness in his eyes. Sometimes it rankled people.
The Shocking Scandal at the Heart of American Zen
Glassman: "I'm pushy. I'm very determined to get things done. If someone is hungry, I want to feed them. If someone is homeless, I want to find a place for them to live. In the s Glassman moved his community to an impoverished area of Yonkers, New York. He conceived of a "mandala" of social services for the community, including a homeless shelter, addiction treatment, child care and jobs at Greyston Bakery. Glassman: "I didn't want to start a business that would provide work for just a few students and help support our community.
I wanted to start a business that could also provide jobs and training outside our community.
Amanrican Zen College
I was looking for a way for business itself to become a force for social change and a way of spiritual transformation. Helen Tworkov, a former student of Glassman's and author of "Zen in America:" "He was tremendously restless. He seemed most comfortable in his office, plotting and planning. Marko: "He used to give excellent dharma talks, but when he started talking about construction and state approvals for grants, people used to get pissed and say, 'That's not Zen!
He watched so many people leave him. Glassman: "When we say that Zen is life, dealing in the moment with what is, that's the essence of Buddhism. So if there's a starving person, giving them food is the essence of Buddhism. Man identified as "Batman" in the documentary, "Instructions to the Cook": "I was living on the streets homeless and suffering, drugging and drinking and everything.
I needed help, and he was there for me. He came up to me and asked if he could sit down beside me and I looked up and saw this strange man in his robes and stuff and I said sure.
He was comforting, reassuring and energizing. It made me feel warm. I felt wanted. He invited me to come up to Westchester and at the time I thought he was joking. Four days later, I decided to make a phone call, and he sent one of the monks down to bring me up to the monastery. The Rev. James Myoun Ford, Zen priest and Unitarian Universalist minister: "Bernie cared about hunger, basic shelter, people at the edge.
Before him, the big social justice issues for many Buddhists were 'in-house' issues like peace. It was social justice from the vantage of the middle and upper class. Bernie talked about soup kitchens. He was going to be the Zen Buddhist Dorothy Day.
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Glassman leads one of his "street retreats. Unidentified man featured in "Instructions to the Cook," speaking to Glassman: "Seeing over the years the things you have done for people who are living with AIDS, people living with no hope, and I was one of them. I am so thankful for the things you pulled together. When I came in this door in with kidney failure, I learned to live all over again. There's a hope for living here and I just want to give it to the next person. Frank Ostaseski, founding director of the Zen Hospice Project: "What I learned from Bernie was a willingness to stay in the room when the going got tough and to take loving action.
It changed the way I practice. I've learned to stay in the room when people are suffering and not leave. Maezumi died unexpectedly in Soon after, Glassman stopped wearing robes, grew his hair out and told people to call him Bernie. He made that decision right after his teacher died, and that is important. He didn't do it before because of his love and respect for his teacher, who was a Japanese man with a family that was well known and very much a part of the hierarchy in the Soto Zen school.
When Bernie disrobed and grew his hair, some of us who were more traditional were like, 'How could you do this? We could practice no matter what we looked like, and we didn't have to hold onto traditions that were not suiting us. But he absolutely stepped away from that. He had already made the decision long before that he did not want to be saddled with that responsibility. He wanted to follow his own path.
That was a radical step -- and perplexing, from what I understand, to the Japanese, who were looking for Bernie to be the point person for their Zen project in America. Nakao: "I don't think he could have done the religious institution thing. I think it would have killed him. Alisa Glassman: "My dad was always a searcher, and I think things unfolded for him through his life.
He was always questioning: What does it mean to be a Zen Buddhist, a human being, just to be? For him, it wasn't about the traditions, the bells, the robes. It was the actions, the way he led his life. That was Zen to him. Then he died in '95, and by '96 I was Bernie again, and I had a beard and hair.
In the mids, Glassman was looking for a new venture.
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He had already begun experimenting with "street retreats. On his 55th birthday, Glassman meditated in Washington, searching for his next adventure. Glassman: "I wanted to figure out, what am I gonna do next? So I decided to do a retreat on the steps of the Capitol, in Washington, D. There were about 20 of us. And I gave as a theme for that retreat: What actions are we gonna take in our lives that will help the aspects of society that we're not dealing with, and society's not dealing with? Shimano wove a web of deceit around him, and his associates added layers of obfuscation and denial.
Whatever the sex may have been like for some of the women involved, the hypocrisy, secrecy, and lies are indisputable. Indeed, one of the most fascinating passages in Zen Predator is when Oppenheimer himself meditates with Shimano, and feels proud that Shimano approves of him. Anyone who has been in the presence of a powerful boss, guru, or other father-figure knows how toxic this dynamic can be. The book is at its weakest, perhaps unsurprisingly, when it hazards theoretical guesses as to why Zen teachers have this problem with their sexual appetites.
For example, Oppenheimer misstates Zen teaching as holding that good and evil do not exist because everything is one. Well, not quite. But on the relative plane, Zen is this-worldly and does not deny ethics, or ontology for that matter. These scandals have more to do with power than philosophy. Zen centers may be no better than churches, corporations, and congresses, but they are surely no worse. Oppenheimer also gets that philosophy quite wrong. He was working in a bookstore in Los Angeles in the late s when he began to study with Nyogen Senzaki, an itinerant Zen monk who had settled in California in the s.
Aitken later went to Japan to train under Nakagawa Soen Roshi, who authorized him to establish a meditation group in his home in Hawaii in He was ordained in Although he was not the first Zen leader to preach social engagement, Aitken was known for his strong commitment to social justice. He counseled draft resisters during the Vietnam War. The fellowship promotes social activism by Zen Buddhists and has led or participated in prison advocacy campaigns and programs supporting sustainable agriculture in Asia, Tibetan education and human rights in Burma, now called Myanmar.
He married Anne Hopkins in ; she died in He is survived by his son from his first marriage, Thomas, and three granddaughters.