Tetsugen Bernard Glassman

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Fast Facts
Spiritual Teacher
Main Countries of Activity: 
Date of Birth: 
January 18, 1939
Place of Birth: 
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, United States
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Date Left His/Her Body: 
November 4, 2018
Ancestor Gurus: 
Other Related Gurus: 
Joan Halifax, Father Robert Kennedy, Wendy Egyoku Nakao,Pat Enkyo O'Hara ,Lou Nordstrom, Don Singer, Grover Genro Gauntt


Bernie Glassman (born January 18, 1939), aka Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, is a Jewish-American Zen Buddhist roshi and co-founder of the Zen Peacemakers (previously the Zen Peacemaker Order), an organization established in 1996 with his late wife Sandra Jishu Holmes. He passed on leadership of the organization to Paul Genki Kahn in May 2008. Glassman is a Dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi, and has to date given inka and Dharma transmission to several individuals including lesbian Enkyo Pat O'Hara and Catholic priest Robert Kennedy. Glassman has become known for his "street retreats"—excursions by Glassman and others into the streets for weeks at a time to live amongst the homeless.According to author James Ishmael Ford, as of 2006 he has, "...transferred his leadership of the White Plum Asanga to his Dharma brother Merzel Roshi and has formally "disrobed," renouncing priesthood in favor of serving as a lay teacher and leader of what is now called the Zen Peacemaker Family."

Bernard Glassman was born to Jewish immigrants in Brighton Beach[1], Brooklyn, New York in 1939. He attended university at the Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and received a degree in engineering. Following graduation he moved to California to work as an aeronautical engineer at McDonnell-Douglas. He then received his Ph.D. in applied mathematics from the University of California, Los Angeles. After reading Philip Kapleau's book "The Three Pillars of Zen" in 1967, Glassman sought a local Zen teacher. He found Taizan Maezumi in Los Angeles, California and Glassman became one of the original founding members of the Zen Center of Los Angeles. He received Dharma transmission in 1976 from Maezumi and then inka in 1995 shortly before Maezumi's death.

In 1982Glassman opened Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, an effort to help alleviate the widespread homelessness in the area. The proceeds helped to fund what he called the Zen Community of New York, who in turn would transform condemned or old buildings into new housing areas for the homeless.] He employed low-skilled workers from the neighborhood, many of whom were homeless themselves, and sold his baked goods to shops and restaurants in Manhattan. In 1989 he entered an agreement with Ben & Jerry's, and Greyston Bakery has become the supplier of brownies for several lines of icecream. Through the success of his bakery—which today brings in profits of $3.5 million annually, Glassman then founded the Greyston Foundation (sometimes called Greyston Mandala) with his wife Sandra Jishu Holmes. He retired from the Greyston Foundation in 1996 to pursue his desire for international peace efforts (i.e. Zen Peacemaker Circle). As of 2004 the Foundation had developed $35 million worth in real estate development projects in Westchester County, New York. The Foundation offers HIV/AIDS programs, provides job training and housing, childcare services, educational opportunities, and other endeavors. In 2003 the bakery moved to a new building, which allows for higher output more employment opportunities.

In 1996 Glassman, with his wife Sandra Jishu Holmes, founded the Zen Peacemaker Order (today the Zen Peacemaker Circle). According to professor Christopher S. Queen, "The order is based on three principles: plunging into the unknown, bearing witness to the pain and joy of the world, and a commitment to heal oneself and the world."Richard Hughes Seager writes, "The Zen Peacemaker Order...has the potential to rival Thich Nhat Hanh's groups and the Buddhist Peace Fellowship as a force in American activism."




Glassman teaches about what his teacher, the late Taizan Maezumi, called the "unknowing." Unknowing is the first precept of the Zen Peacemaker Circle, and Glassman says of it, "In Zen the words source and essence are the equivalent of Unknowing, and they come up again and again. We have the absolute and the relative perspectives about life, and Unknowing is the one source of both of these." Also, Glassman has become known for his many "street retreats." Author James Ishmael Ford writes, "...'street retreats,' for instance, moves sesshin into the streets: participants eat in soup kitchens, and, if they know they're not displacing homeless people, sleep in homeless shelters or, otherwise, sleep in public places. Zazen takes place in parks and dokusan in alleys."



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