Photo by Regina Pietsch. At the Ash-Pond in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Embodying the Great Thanks.
Let the lotus blossom with each step.
This is the only way to create peace:
Including everyone in this practice.
Don’t expect everyone to participate
at the same time.

Instead, imagine that we are powerful.
that we would all awaken at the same time.

As in the true story told by Zoketsu Norman Fischer at the beginning of his book “The World Could Be Otherwise”:

A group of doomed prisoners in a concentration camp are saved from certain death because one of them, Robert Desnos, follows a sudden inspiration and begins to read the future in each of their hands. He grabs one hand, looks closely and says: “I see you in a beautiful house in the country, with your radiant wife and three healthy children. You are so happy in your work.” – “And you, my friend”, he continues taking the hand of another, “I see you completely and happily absorbed in your tasks, surrounded by eager students and uplifting everyone who passes by”. – “I want to read you over there, come closer. You are honored by the beings, leaders consult you, from near and far, you are healthy and call six children your own…”
And so he continued. The group became more and more excited, some of them jumped into the air, they joked and fooled around, and … everyone survived! Even the guards were mesmerized by the concentrated, totally relaxed atmosphere around them.

Could we also BE LIKE that? So madly believing, so soulfully convinced, perceiving ourselves and each other in the best of all realizations?

We doomed ones.

We are all doomed, open like a book, at the mercy of life’s arbitrariness: rewarded, we think, punished, we think – but no.

We go on, step by step, each of us a balm for the wound of the OTHER, as Etty Hillesum says,

touching the wound of Auschwitz every day, never ignoring it.
Auschwitz is everywhere, even within us,
if we are not careful.

“Calling out to hungry hearts” we sing, softly and loudly.
Betraying no one’s suffering,
not our own inner child,
not the children of our fellow beings,
not the gentle snail,
the mangy street dog.

Letter by letter,
word by word,
step by step.

In everyone’s hands we read longing,
A longing for peace.
Even and especially,
while weapons make angry noises again and old people lament.

And if the world would draw to a close,
we would light the candle within us,
offer up what is, and



Books/poems/songs used (authors in alphabetical order):

Manfred Deselaers: Touching the Wound of Auschwitz (not yet translated into English)
Manfred Deselaers: And Your Conscience Has Never Haunted You, Rudolf Höss? – The biography of Rudolf Höss
Norman Fischer: The World Could Be Otherwise – Imagination and the Bodhisattva Path. Pages 1-3.
Norman Fischer: Taking Our Place – The Buddhist Path to Truly Growing Up
Bernie Glassman: Bearing Witness
Bernie Glassman: Instructions for the Cook
Etty Hillesum: I want to become the chronicler of this time
Thich Nhat Hanh: Love means living with an awakened heart
Recited poems by:
Paul Celan: Todesfuge (Deathfugue)
Nelly Sachs: Peoples of the Earth
Rainer Maria Rilke: Autumn
Thich Nhat Hanh: Please Call Me By My True Name
Wendy Egyoku Nakao: I call you. A blessing for the path

Krishna Dass: Calling Out
Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Von guten Mächten treu und still umgeben (Faithfully and quietly surrounded by good powers)
Hymnal: Lord, abide with us

Kaddish: Translation by Rabbi Don Singer and Peter Levitt