May your hearts be vessels of peace for others.
Many of you know that Roshi Bernie Glassman, lover of humanity, has passed from this world Sunday morning. He was Nur’s heart friend and teacher in the Way of Zen, and their relationship gave the fruit of Living Buddha Zen. He was also the teacher of some of you and of Shaykha Amina, Ali and myself. We received initiation from his blessed hand. His friendship to humanity showed itself as a flourishing community of hearts called the Zen Peacemakers whose dedication is to enlighten hearts and minds through the living Truth witnessed by the great Masters of Zen and by contemporary sages and ordinary people. And also to bear witness to human suffering, and in a spirit of not-knowing to help alleviate human suffering. Bernie was always ready to plunge into a new unknown if it seemed to hold promise of good for people. So he was initiated into clowning and went to Mexico to visit poor communities with his teacher to bring laughter and fun to he children. Amina and Ali and myself wore a red clown nose with Bernie and walked backwards in the streets around the NY Dergah stepping on all the cracks. And he was cracking jokes the whole way so we didn't even notice how crazy we looked to everyone else.
Bernie knew that humanity would not find peace until all spiritual paths found peace with each other. He and Nur founded the House of One People which was to be a tent of Abraham welcoming devotees of all paths and conducting sacred practices from all paths. During Nur’s lifetime some of our dervish community would gather for Juma in the House of One People located in a former Convent in Yonkers. Nur would ask Wali Nureddin to open the Quran and choose a verse and he would then give a spontaneous hutba. A larger than life size statue of Buddha who presided over the room was delicately veiled with a shawl for the duration of the Juma to respect Islamic sensitivity regarding no representation in the prayer chamber. It was a very joyous time in the waves of friendship created between Bernie and Nur. So much was envisioned between these two great soul mates. Some of it has been realized. Much is still to come. It will come through their communities.
Bernie was particularly dedicated to the poor and homeless and helped to rebuild abandoned communities, especially in Yonkers where he lived for many years. He began the practice of bringing people to live out in the streets of NY city as the homeless do. Ali and I joined one of those retreats. It is the fastest way of opening our eyes to the reality of being poor. And it is a powerful spiritual practice for stripping oneself of personal identity. It is like a Ramadan fast times ten. His representatives continue this practice in various cities on the earth. His representatives also feed the poor. His representatives bear witness to human suffering and strive to alleviate it. His representatives hold councils of peacemaking and prayer. His representatives study koans and plunge into the unknown realm of living truth.
I have been writing this letter to you while Ali is driving us up to Montague Mass where Bernie and Eve Marko have their home. Eve has opened their house to all those who wish to come and visit Bernie’s beautiful body vessel for the last time before it is cremated tomorrow morning. We have just arrived. Please offer a Fatiha for Bernie’s soul and for Eve and their Community.
Fariha Fatima Nur