Zen Peacemakers

The Great Plains Zen Center is happy to announce that we are now a Zen Peacemaker Order Member Group. This means that in addition to all of our current activities, we will offer Zen Peacemaker Order related events and trainings.

The Zen Peacemaker Order is an organization supporting the vision and inspiration for Socially Engaged Buddhism throughout the world with 83 affiliates in 12 countries on five continents.

Click here to learn about our Peacemaker-inspired programs for home practice, including the Day of Reflection and the Month of Everyday Precept Practice.

Our Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony is inspired by ZPO as well. Scroll down to learn more about this unique ceremony.

Zen Peacemakers organization was established by Bernie Glassman, the first Dharma Sucessor of Maezumi Roshi and the only teacher to receive Inka from him. The Zen Peacemakers Family includes communities started by successors of Bernie, communities started by their successors and also spiritual groups from other lineages and traditions who want to find affinity in their commitment to social action. The organization is now being re-envisioned by a group of founding teachers in the United States and Europe. The mission of the Zen Peacemakers is stated as follows:

We seek to bear witness to the joy and suffering of the universe, and to realize and actualize the oneness and interdependence of life through study, practice and action for personal and social transformation. We seek to connect and empower peacemakers throughout the world. We are committed to nonviolence, inclusivity, free expression and experimentation.

For more information about Zen Peacemakers, please visit the website here.

2017 Chicago Street Retreat (April 27-30)

A street retreat is a plunge into the unknown. It is an opportunity to go beyond our imagined limits. It's the barest poke at renunciation. We will live on the streets of Chicago with no resources other than our true nature, experiencing homelessness first-hand, having to beg for money, find places to get food, shelter, to use the bathroom, etc. By bearing witness to homelessness, we begin to see our prejudices and boundaries directly and to recognize our common humanness. It is a way to experience our interconnection and realize our responsibilities.

The retreat starts on Thursday, April 27 at 2:30 PM and will end on Sunday, April 30 by noon. Led by Roshi Grover Genro Gauntt. Meeting place TBA. Further details are available here.

To sign up, or for more information, please email our retreat coordinator Annie Myoshin Markovich: anniemarkovich@mac.com

The Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony

The Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony is based on a sutra commonly chanted in Japanese monasteries today, called the Kan Ro Mon. The Kan Ro Mon is said to have originated as a prayer given to Buddha's disciple, Moggallana to help his mother who was suffering in the Hell of Hungry Demons. Whenever she attempted to eat, the food burst into flames, causing even more suffering. By the offering of this prayer, her suffering was relieved. In the 18th century, a priest named Zuiho Menzan added some Shingon ritual, creating the version we are familiar with today.

Roshi Bernie Glassman, founder of the Zen Peacemaker Order, was very drawn to the ceremony, which is about bringing nourishment to those who are forgotten, marginalized and not cared for. He began working on a translation of the sutra with his teacher, Maezumi Roshi, over 35 years ago. It continues to change and has acquired elements from other spiritual traditions, such as the Hebrew psalm translation (“This is our life, the length of our days...”). The Gate of Sweet Nectar is regularly chanted during Bearing Witness Retreats --- Auschwitz, Rwanda, Black Hills, Bosnia and street retreats in many locations. It is chanted weekly or monthly at some centers and individuals have taken on the practice of chanting it regularly at home.

The Gate of Sweet Nectar begins with a beautiful song by noted kirtan singer, Krishna Das, inviting all to partake in the meal, followed by an invocation of the Ten Buddhas. In the next part, we raise the Bodhi Mind, declaring our intent to invite all those who hunger to partake in a meal to ease their distress. We then actively invite hungry spirits, praying that their throats be opened so that they can receive the offering presented. We invite the five Buddha families, which represent energies in our lives and functioning: Buddha family (spiritual foundation, meditation); Vajra family (study, not being ignorant, not getting angry); Ratna family (livelihood, generosity, resources); Karma family (social action, right intention); and Padma family (Integration, relationship). At the heart of the ceremony are the Dharanis of Raising the Bodhi Mind and Giving the Bodhisattva Precepts, amid much celebration with conch and bells. The ceremony finishes with the transference of merit and a dedication.

The Gate of Sweet Nectar is the central liturgy of the Zen Peacemaker Order. It is a beautiful way of encouraging ourselves to reach out to include and care for those who are marginalized, forgotten and neglected in our society and to bear witness to the parts of ourselves we have attempted to abandon and distance ourselves from. Please see the Great Plains Zen Center Calendar for upcoming dates for the Gate of Sweet Nectar Ceremony.