Interview with Roshi Eve Marko

I’m very much looking forward to our first Women’s Retreat that I co-lead with Roshi Eve Myonen Marko this Friday evening and all day Saturday. My first vivid memory of Eve was when we went to Bernie Glassman’s Auschwitz Bearing Witness retreat in the mid 90’s.  Along with Bernie, Eve was a key organizer of this ground-breaking retreat now in it’s 20th year.  In the midst of my retreat experience that was thick with fear, I remember Eve’s courage as she spoke eloquently about her own family’s experience in Auschwitz.

Then in 2001, Bernie invited Robert and me to work with his Peacemaker Community.  So we left Hawaii and joined the Peacemakers in Santa Barbara and then to Western Massachusetts.  Eve was a role model for me as to how a woman could be a leader in the Zen world.

Eve is a founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order and the resident teacher at the Green River Zen Center in Massachusetts.  She co-founded Peacemaker Circle International with her husband Bernie Glassman, which linked and trained spiritually-based social activists and peacemakers in the US, Europe and the Middle East.

I asked her to tell me what inspired her to help organize the Auschwitz Bearing Witness Retreats twenty years ago.

Eve Myonen Marko:  I think it was part of my karma. Family members had died in concentration camps, including Auschwitz. I had no way of knowing it at the time, but it started me on a long, 20-year arc of confronting historical trauma that dealt with my family and my Jewish culture, and ended by raising what I feel was powerful bodhicitta that extended outwards, transcending the boundaries of family and nation. Auschwitz, which started off raising anger and pain, ended up nourishing my deepest wishes for this planet. This was also thanks to our retreat container there and the vision of Bernie Glassman. And of course, it then drew me to other places of trauma, like Rwanda, Bosnia, and our own Black Hills.

June Ryushin Tanoue:  What do you see clearer now in terms of your life as a woman and as a zen teacher?

Eve:  I’m 65 years old.  I am looking how to simplify my life and work with people who have a deep commitment.  I like to work with small groups of people - there’s trust - we can work on our lives together.  I have less and less interest in working with big groups.

As a woman - I spend more time taking care of my body and walking a lot.  I love to walk in the woods of New England.  I love looking at animals, looking at trees. I love to feed birds over the winter.   We had a harsh winter.  Care of the body and care of nature, and how the two come together, is becoming clearer at this point.

Speaking of women, and having worked in areas of conflict and pain, it’s also obvious to me that the roles that women play in these places are crucial.  In my experience, women often have less patience for blame because they have to take care of their families, they have to get back on the bandwagon and get to work. Sometimes they repress the trauma for years, but often they can heal faster and help others heal, too.

June: You were one of my first hula students when I began to teach hula. Why do you like the hula?

Eve: After a “diet” of Japanese flavored Zen, I found hula feminine and flowing. I always appreciated the tremendous discipline involved. I was surprised to see how unself-conscious I was, how I could plunge into those gorgeous movements. And of course, I had a great teacher.

In addition to the Women’s retreat on May 1st and 2nd, she will give the dharma talk at Sunday Morning Zen at 10 am.  Her talk is entitled, “The Practice of Wonder.”  Bring your Hidden Lamp books and have Eve sign the page with the koan “Ziyong’s Earth” that she reflected on in the book. I hope you’ll help me welcome her to Chicago.

Interview conducted by Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue