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Bernie Gassman: Bearing witness leads to Loving action

Bernie Glassman is a Zen teacher and known for the Greyston Bakery near New York where homeless people bake cookies and for leading retreats to the camps in Auschwitz, Poland. I was happy to attend his workshop.

The Greyston Bakery was founded in 1982 by him in Yonkers NY. The Bakery produces high end pastries for the best restaurants in Manhattan, provides Brownies for Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and provides jobs for the poorest members of Yonkers Community.

He summarizes his work in the Three Tenets.

Entering the stream of Engaged Spirituality, I vow to live a life of:

  • Not-knowing, thereby giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
  • Bearing witness to the joy and suffering of the world
  • Loving actions towards ourselves and others

There are a lot of similarities with the U: Not-knowing and seeing instead of downloading patterns of the past. Bearing witness and the sensing journeys that we are organizing. But he takes these journeys a level deeper. He goes to the places where he is scared. He is a Jew and brings people to Auschwitz. He comes together there with different ‘clubs’ as he calls them: Jews, gays, handicapped, children of SS soldiers and many more. For five days they stay there, have council in the barracks and for all it becomes a transformational experience: ‘We leave there as one big family. People who before didn’t dare to relate to each other.’

He skips the presencing phase and goes directly in the loving action mode. At the moment he is founding another bakery in Israel with the same principles as the one in New York. The workshop was co-led by my colleague Walter. This led to wonderful conversations and a deepening of my understanding of Buddhism. More about him at 

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