Zen Peacemakers International is on a MISSION to change the world through peace, love, and empowerment. Their VISION embraces and enlightens us all. Come with us.
OUR MISSION is to support, inspire, train and mobilize a world-wide movement of members and affiliates conducting humanitarian, peace-building, social and civic action based on the Zen Peacemakers’ Three Tenets: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness and Taking Action.
We envision an enlightened society where suffering is transformed into wisdom and compassion and all beings live in harmony and are relieved of the afflictions of hunger, war and disease. Spirituality and service are tools we use to help all beings find freedom regardless of race, religion, ability, gender or nationality.
Zen Peacemakers International connects, inspires, supports, and trains Peacemakers throughout the world who practice meditation, embody the Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers (Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, Taking Action), live an ethical life, and do social action as a path of awakening and service. It is also the original home of the Zen Peacemaker Order, a religious sect of Western Zen Buddhism.
The group is known for its multi-faith, multi-national Bearing Witness Programs in places of genocide, done to address global and communal suffering. For over 20 years they have borne witness at the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps, coming together from countries the world over to carefully observe the depth of human cruelty and height of human hope, dig into the complexity of our human stories, and reflect on how we treat each other today.
Since 2015, Zen Peacemakers has also conducted programs in collaboration with the Lakota community in South Dakota. These programs evolve every year according to the needs of their hosts and the participants, from periods of hands-on service, impromptu plunges, and a large-scale bearing witness retreat. These programs are co-developed and co-hosted by Native American leaders.
Zen Peacemakers International convenes a membership of nearly 1500 members (as of July 2019) from thirty countries who come to connect, learn, and organize with each other. They act as a hub for spiritually-grounded peacemaking organizations, with a well established and ever-expanding network of affiliated groups that share their mission and vision, bringing it to life in creative ways.
A Perfectly Unsurprising Match: The Dude and the Zen Master
Zen Peacemakers founder Bernie Glassman (1939-2018) was an engineer, teacher, clown, and lover of The Dude. Bernie and Roshi Eve Myonen Marko, his wife, a co-founding teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, headteacher of the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts and leader on many of the Zen Peacemakers Bearing Witness programs, have struck a long and close friendship with Jeff. Come join us on an exploration of their friendship and work together.
The Dudes Abide: On The Friendship of Jeff Bridges and Zen Master Bernie Glassman
By Anthony Saracino, Zen Peacemakers International Staff
In 2012 Jeff Bridges collaborated with Zen Roshi Bernie Glassman to produce The Dude and the Zen Master, a book about the Zen-ish wisdom demonstrated by go-with-the-flow Jeff “The Dude” Lebowski, depicted in The Big Lebowski. Mr. Bridges’ role in the 1998 Cohen Brothers movie earned him a cult following from which sprang a religion of its own, Dudeism. But when Bernie first met Jeff in the late ‘90s and suggested that The Dude was some kind of Zen master, Jeff couldn’t believe it (“What the f--- are you talkin’ ‘bout man?").
It might seem like an unlikely pairing: Jeff Bridges the lifelong film actor, Bernie Glassman the first American Abbot of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. But Jeff’s longtime commitment to ending childhood hunger matched Bernie’s Buddhist vow to serve the underserved and promote Engaged Buddhism — a movement to use Zen insights to improve society. Bernie appreciated the dramatic performance, having formally studied clowning, and the two developed a strong bond. Aside from smoking cigars, channeling The Dude and generally chillin’ hard, they worked together on several creative and humanitarian projects.
Disney’s 2010 film, Tron: Legacy, is one example. Jeff played the dual roles of “Kevin Flynn” and “Clu” in the virtual Grid, and the script is strongly influenced by Buddhist and Christian elements. For the movie, Jeff brought Bernie on set to weigh in on the details and help inform the themes, “to help add some spiritual depth to the thing.”
In the humanitarian realm, Jeff was particularly inspired by Bernie’s Greyston Foundation, a Buddhist-humanitarian organization founded to serve the needs of low-income people in Yonkers, New York. There, Bernie successfully pioneered ‘Open Hiring’— no interviews or resumes required — to give opportunities to the formerly incarcerated and other people considered “unemployable.” Open Hiring is flourishing at Greyston around the world. Moved by their shared wish to serve, in 2011 Jeff and Bernie co-launched the Head for Peace campaign, where 108 ceramic heads sculpted by Jeff were auctioned to support social action projects to benefit those in poverty.
But the strongest connection for the two friends was “The Dude,” and their love of him eventually became a book that made the New York Times Bestseller List: The Dude and the Zen Master. The book captured their sense of The Dude’s messy but somehow artful gliding through life that Bernie had long suggested was characteristic of a Zen Master.
The book came together during a week-long hang session at Jeff’s Montana ranch, filled with chill vibes and cigars. There, Jeff’s old/good friend, brilliant multi-media talent, Alan Kozlowski, videoed and recorded the happening. Bernie’s wife, Eve Marko, then took those chronicles and brought them to life on the page for The Dude and the Zen Master. What began as good food, great cigars, and eye-opening exchanges of ideas and musings between existentially connected soulmates caught the attention of Tricycle Magazine, known as “the independent voice of Buddhism.” Trike brought the buddies to a stage in Union Square where editor-publisher James Shaheen moderated their exchange on the process and their shared ideals. Publicizing the work then led to interviews with Charlie Rose, MSNBC, at the University of the West, and elsewhere.
Bernie was so fond of The Dude that he even worked up a kind of Koan system based on the Dude’s sayings. “That’s just, like, your opinion, man,” became a key piece of Bernie’s Zen teaching — he repeated it in countless talks and interviews he gave around the world.
The two had known each other for nearly twenty years when Bernie passed away in November 2018. Following his passing, a memorial service was held at Greyston in Yonkers, NY, a spot deeply respected by both men. Jeff had the honor of closing the ceremony with a musical performance in Bernie’s memory.
“The Dude abides. I don't know about you but I take comfort in that. It's good knowin' he's out there. The Dude. Takin' 'er easy for all us sinners."
To learn more about the unique relationship between Jeff and Bernie: