Tetsugen Bernard Glassman

Bernie Glassman
Religion Sōtō
School Zen Peacemaker Circle
Lineage White Plum Asanga
Education Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute
University of California, Los Angeles
Other names Tetsugen Bernard Glassman
Nationality American
Born (1939-01-18) January 18, 1939
Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, United States
Spouse Sandra Jishu Holmes (deceased)
Senior posting
Title none (lay-teacher)
Predecessor Taizan Maezumi
Successor Joan Halifax
Father Robert Kennedy
Wendy Egyoku Nakao
Pat Enkyo O'Hara
Lou Nordstrom
Don Singer
Grover Genro Gauntt
Anne Seisen Saunders
Francisco "Paco" Lugoviña
Religious career
Website www.zenpeacemakers.org
Bernie's blog

Bernie Glassman (born January 18, 1939), aka Tetsugen Bernard Glassman, is an 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. Glassman is a Dharma successor of the late Taizan Maezumi-roshi, and has to date given inka and Dharma transmission to several people.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

Glassman first encountered Zen when he was assigned Huston Smith's The Religions of Man for an English class in 1958.[4] From there, he continued reading including books by Alan Watts, Christmas Humphreys, and D.T. Suzuki.[4] In the early 1960s, Glassman began meditating[4] and soon after sought a local Zen teacher.[4] He found Taizan Maezumi in Los Angeles, California[4] 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.[2]

In 1982[5] Glassman opened Greyston Bakery in Yonkers, New York, an effort to help alleviate the widespread homelessness in the area.[6] The bakery provided jobs for inner city residents who lacked education and skills.[6] 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.[7] 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 ice cream.[8] Through the success of his bakery—which today brings in revenues 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).[9] 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, child care services, educational opportunities, and other endeavors.[6] In 2003 the bakery moved to a new building, which allows for higher output and more employment opportunities.[8][10]

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."[1] 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."[11]


Bernie Glassman with Elihu Genmyo Smith

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."[1] 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."[2]


Bernie Glassmann has given dharma transmission to a number a students, as well as appointed several "sensei".[12] A number of his students have also given dharma transmission to some of their own students:[12][13]

  1. Ancheta, Alfred Jitsudo
  2. Baker, Nancy Mujo
  3. Barragato, Stefano Mui (b. 1930)
    1. Barragato, Margaret Ne-Eka
      1. Wohl, Peter Seishin Sensei
    2. Paquin, Linda-Lee Abhaya
  4. Byalin, Kenneth (Ken) Tetsuji Sensei
  5. Gauntt, Grover Genro Sensei
  6. Halifax, Joan Jiko Roshi
    1. Kazniak, Al Genkai Sensei
  7. Harkaspi, Helen Kobai Yuho
  8. Hixon, Lex Jikai (1941-1995)
  9. Hixon, Sheila Jinen Sensei
  10. Holmes, Sandra Jishu Angyo (1941-1998)
  11. Kahn, Paul Kuzan Genki Roshi
  12. Kennedy, Robert E. Jinsen S.J. Roshi (b. 1933-)[14]
    1. Abels, Gregory Hosho Sensei
    2. Abels, Janet Jiryu Roshi[15]
    3. Bachman, Carl Genjo Sensei
    4. Birx, Charles Shinkai Sensei (b. 1944)
      1. Thompson, Scott H. (b. 1948) Dharma Holder (Assistant teacher)
    5. Birx, Ellen Jikai Sensei (b. 1950)
    6. Cicetti, Raymond Ryuzan Sensei (b. 1950)
    7. Eastman, Patrick Kundo Roshi[16]
      1. Averbeck, Marcus Hozan Sensei
      2. Woodcock, Jeremy Ryokan Sensei
    8. Hunt, Kevin Jiun (b. 1933-), O.C.S.O (Order of Cistercians of the Strict Order)
    9. Richardson, Janet Jinne, csjp Roshi
      1. Blackman, Bruce Seiryu Sensei (b. 1942)[17]
      2. Craig, Barbara Shoshin, RSM Sensei [Religious Sisters of Mercy] (b. 1932)
      3. Dougherty, Rose Mary Myoan Sensei[18][17]
      4. McQuaide, Rosalie Jishin, csjp Sensei
  13. Lee, Robert Sokan Sensei
  14. Lugovina, Francisco Genkoji "Paco" Sensei
    1. williams, angel Kyodo Sensei
    2. Nelson, Craig Daiken Sensei
    3. Salazar, Joaquin Ryusho Sensei
  15. Matthiessen, Peter Muryo Roshi (May 22, 1927 – April 5, 2014)
    1. Bastis, Madeline Ko-i Sensei
      1. Cantor, Mitchell Doshin Sensei
        1. May, Wilbur Mushin Sensei
    2. Dobbs, Michel Engu Sensei
    3. Friedman, Dorothy Dai-en (Daien) Sensei
  16. Marko, Eve Myonen
  17. Maull, Fleet Shinryu Sensei
  18. Nakao, Wendy Lou Egyoku Roshi
    1. Berge, Raul Ensho, Dharma Holder (2006)
    2. Boyd, Merle Kodo Plum Dragon Sensei
    3. Hawley, Kipp Ryodo Sensei
    4. Janka, Gary Myogen Koan Sensei
  19. Nordstrom, Louis Mitsunen Roshi (b. 1943)
    1. Denton, Timothy Issai Sensei
    2. Hawkins, Roger Sensei
    3. Thompson, Phil Zenkai Sensei
  20. O'Hara, Pat Enkyo Roshi
    1. Eiger, Randall Ryotan
    2. Harris, Jules Shuzen
      1. Rapaport, Al Tendo Fusho[19]
        1. Linda Myoki Lehrhaupt[20]
    3. Hondorp, Catherine Anraku Eishun
    4. O'Hara, Barbara Joshin Sensei
    5. Terestman, Julie Myoko Kirin Sensei
    6. Thomson, Sinclair Shinryu
  21. Saunders, Seisen[21]
    1. Deer, Herb Eko[21]
    2. Wild, Sara Kokyo[22]


Other media


Glassman, Bernard; Fields, Rick (1996). Instructions to the Cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters. Shambhala Lion Editions. ISBN 1-57062-260-4. 


Selected honors

Selected board participation


  1. 1 2 3 4 Christopher S. Queen. "Buddhism, activism, and Unknowing: a day with Bernie Glassman (interview with Zen Peacemaker Order founder)". Tikkun. 13 (1): 64–66. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  2. 1 2 3 James Ishmael Ford (2006). Zen master who? : a guide to the people and stories of Zen. Wisdom Publications. pp. 167–168. ISBN 0-86171-509-8.
  3. Christopher S. Queen (2000). Engaged Buddhism in the west. Wisdom publications. ISBN 0-86171-159-9.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 "Sweeping Zen Interview with Bernie Glassman". Sweeping Zen.
  5. Ari L. Goldman (December 23, 1991). "Cookies, Civic Pride And Zen". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  6. 1 2 3 Perry Garfinkel (2006). Buddha or Bust. Harmony Books. pp. 33–34. ISBN 978-1-4000-8217-9.
  7. "Former Convent To Be AIDS Center". The New York Times. May 11, 1997. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  8. 1 2 Robert Egger; Howard Yoon (2004). Begging for change : the dollars and sense of making nonprofits responsive, efficient, and rewarding for all. HarperBusiness. pp. 136–137. ISBN 0-06-054171-7.
  9. Chris Lazarus. "Recipes for Empowering Community Greyston, Mandala, Yonkers". New Village Journal (1). Retrieved 2010-12-14.
  10. Mark Roseland (2005). Toward sustainable communities : resources for citizens and their governments. New Society Publishers. p. 173. ISBN 0-86571-535-1.
  11. Richard Hughes Seager (1999). Buddhism in America. Columbia University Press. p. 209. ISBN 0-231-10868-0.
  12. 1 2 Sanbo Kyodan: Harada-Yasutani School of Zen Buddhism and its Teachers
  13. White Plum Asanga teachers (Maezumi lineage)
  14. "Morning Star Zendo". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  15. Still Mind Zendo
  16. Wild Goose Zen Sangha
  17. 1 2 "Zen Peacemaker biographies". Retrieved 3 May 2015.
  18. One Heart Sangha
  19. SweepingZen, Rapaport, Al Tendo Fusho
  20. SweepingZen, Lehrhaupt, Linda Myoki
  21. 1 2 "Teachers". Sweetwater Zen Center.
  22. "Sara Kokyo Wildi, Yogalehrerin und Leiterin von sarva". www.sarva.ch. Retrieved 2016-01-09.
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