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Lions Roar : March 2019
R OSHI BERNIE GLASSMAN never did anything by half. An aeronautical engineer turned pion- eering American Zen teacher, he threw himself into mastering Zen’s many sutras, liturgies, and customs. Then, unsentimentally, he abandoned everything in Zen he felt didn’t fit him or the Western mind and broke open our ideas about Buddhism, showing us that it isn’t separate from social engagement. Of course, Glassman threw himself headlong into that too, as he found innovative ways to feed the hungry, care for the sick, and bear witness to the world’s pain. He was the founder of the Zen Peacemakers and the Greyston Founda- tion, and it was his brainchild to take retreats out of the zendo and right into the pain of the world—into the streets with the homeless and to the sites of genocide in Auschwitz, Rwanda, and Wounded Knee. But Glassman was also a clown—literally—and he was always keen to don his clown nose, even while giving a dharma talk or talking politics. After all, something simple and silly like a red nose can change the whole tone of a room. Fierce and funny and freewheeling. Kindhearted and whip smart. That was Roshi Bernie Glassman, a man who was larger than life. Zen Is All of Life Remembering Roshi Bernie Glassman Bernie Glassman broke open our idea of what Buddhism could be, says ANDREA MILLER. He fed the hungry, cared for the sick, and bore witness to the world’s pain. PHOTOS BY PETER CUNNINGHAM Taizan Maezumi Roshi (center) was a pivotal figure in the transmission of Zen Buddhism to the West. Bernie Glassman (top, left) was one of his twelve dharma successors. Early in the morning on November fourth, Glassman, aged seventy-nine, died of sepsis. His body was brought home, washed with water scented with herbs, and dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, jeans, and suspenders. They were his favorite clothes, which he’d LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2019 45