Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Other Holocaust

Reading Bearing Witness: A Zen Master's Lessons in Making Peace by Bernie Glassman Roshi and Eve Marko was an eye-opening introduction to Socially Engaged Buddhism, in particular, the Zen Peacemakers' annual (currently 19th) retreat to the old site of the concentration camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

The Zen Peacemakers' Three Tenets are:

Not-Knowing, by giving up fixed ideas about ourselves and the universe
Bearing Witness to the joy and suffering of the world
Taking Action that arises from Not-Knowing and Bearing Witness

Glassman expands on the third tenet:

When we bear witness, when we become the situation — homelessness, poverty, illness, violence, death — the right action arises by itself. We don’t have to worry about what to do. We don’t have to figure out solutions ahead of time. Peacemaking is the functioning of bearing witness. Once we listen with our entire body and mind, loving action arises.

Loving action is right action. It’s as simple as giving a hand to someone who stumbles or picking up a child who has fallen on the floor. We take such direct, natural actions every day of our lives without considering them special. And they’re not special. Each is simply the best possible response to that situation in that moment.

With the greatest possible respect and deference to the victims of the Nazi holocaust, their families and loved ones, my heart will burst if I don’t bear witness to another holocaust that is taking place under our noses. In the spirit of Not Knowing, I won’t say another word about it this year except to share these ten pictures.


  1. Thank you. Refer to John Robbins, "Diet For A New America" published in
    1987. Reading this book is a stark reminder of how cruel we humans can be to sentient beings. As an aside, John Robbins forsake the fortune and the legacy of his parents company Baskin-Robbins to follow a path exposing animal cruelty.

    1. Hi Tommi. Quite the character: "Recipient of the Rachel Carson Award, the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, the Peace Abbey's Courage of Conscience Award, and Green America's Lifetime Achievement Award." Thanks for pointing him out!

  2. Thank you for your recent thoughtful comment on my blog David. I've often read your posts and this one resonated strongly with me in a number of ways. One of the first books about veganism that I acquired for myself was Charles Patterson's "Eternal Treblinka". (

    If you're unfamiliar with it you might find it to be interesting. It appears that devaluing living matter their shape, size, color or species...seems to unhinge we human animals and too often leads to horrid behaviors. The older I become the more easily I think I see the obvious regarding what misleads we human folk (either that or I am confusing endurance with insight). Overvaluing ourselves seems to lead to overvaluing those who resemble us which seems to lead to undervaluing those who seem to differ from us which seems, way way too often, to eventually lead to awfulness.

    Back in the day when I was still active in the work world I ended up in a situation where I had to attend many meetings. I started noticing that very bright people would tout terrific sounding ideas for actions and policies that were only loosely connected to the real world and almost never included a serious and accurate evaluation of their impact on the populations that would be affected. Most frightening of all to me was noticing that these very bright touters were generally seen as "leaders" and were looked up to by almost everyone. Spooky.

    I wish I had a snappy aphorism but I don't. It does seem, though, that humans would probably behave less horridly if the balance of decision power in any situation that was going to affect living beings was given to the group(s) that were to be the recipients of the policy or whatever rather than the implementers of that policy.

    Only in the past few months have I begun to listen seriously to the voices of the human victims of oppression. It's turned out to be a staggeringly disorienting and humbling experience. And...most dismayingly of all...the wisdom of doing such has been hiding in plain site for centuries if not millenia. The victims of the Nazi holocaust spoke and few listened, the Native Americans spoke and few listened, the African Americans spoke and few listened. The problem isn't that the information about awfulness isn't available...the problem is that we ignore it or minimize it or dismiss it and find ingenious and sparkling ways to discount it or make ourselves oblivious to it.

    If we would listen to and heed those with relatively little power (including most certainly our sister/brother non-human Earthlings) a transformation of human behaviors/society would occur almost immediately.

    Oops...the older I get the more I ramble...sorry. Check out Dr. Patterson's book if you're unfamiliar with might like it.

    1. Thanks very much, VE. I checked out Patterson's web site and was immediately struck by his post Animals, Slavery, and the Holocaust. Now I will definitely check out his books. I see one reviewer said the Eternal Treblinka "... totally grabs the reader, not only while reading it, but afterwards also, and probably profoundly disturbs, shocks and destroys." That's how I felt (and still feel) after watching Earthlings.

      I agree that that really hearing the voices of the powerless would have a huge impact. Good on you over at veganelder for speaking for the ones that have no voice at.


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