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Lions Roar : March 2019
the essence of Zen and I should swallow it all up and then spit out what didn’t work for me. In fact, when I was ready to go start my own center, he said, ‘I’ll stay away for a year because I don’t want to influence you.’” Maezumi’s desire for Glassman to forge his own way stood in contrast to his rigid emphasis on linear hierarchy. The teacher– student relationship is clearly defined in traditional Japanese culture. As Glassman put it, “You can’t be a friend to some- body who’s studying with you.” Maezumi’s relationship with Glassman was imbued with this formality, yet “in some sense we were like lovers,” mused Glassman. Pat Enkyo O’Hara, who received dharma transmission from Glassman, remembers that once, when she was attending a talk given by Maezumi Roshi, Glassman very lovingly reached over and adjusted his teacher’s robe. “It was such a poignant moment,” O’Hara says. “When they were together, it was very sweet.” Eventually, Maezumi told Glassman that he was planning to make him a roshi, but Glassman said he didn’t want to use that title. “What do you mean?” asked Maezumi. “What do you want to use?” Bernie, just Bernie, was the answer. But that was a no-go for Maezumi, so Glassman relented: “Roshi” would be fine. “I couldn’t have hair when I was with Maezumi Roshi and I couldn’t be Bernie,” Glassman said. “Then he died in ’95, and by ’96 I was Bernie again, and I had a beard and hair.” For Glassman, this marked a shift away from the traditional hierarchy of student and teacher. Maybe he was a little further along on the path than his students, but he believed that they were all learning together. Chuck Lief, former president of Greyston Foundation and now president of Naropa University, says that people always think they know what a Zen master is and isn’t, and Glassman relished breaking these preconceptions wide open. “At night, you’d go to his house,” says Lief, “and he’d have the TV on and he’d be smoking a cigar and eating a corned beef sandwich.” Glassman, Lief asserts, “was the guy that went the furthest to teach and work with people who were least likely to be included.” In 2000, Glassman went to Chiapas, Mexico, as an apprentice with Clowns Without Borders.