Infinite Circle

A Plunge into Community Engaged Buddhism (Taking applications soon for 2021)

Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community offers this practice, study, and service program for those who wish to serve people close to home in their communities. Community Engaged Buddhism is a way of practicing and serving locally, to alleviate suffering associated with poverty, economic insecurity and homelessness in neighborhoods, on city blocks, in rural towns and regions, within groups, and in social service organizations. Infinite Circle is designed to deepen your practice of bearing witness and your engagement in the everyday life of your neighbors.

“If you are unable to find the truth right where you are, where else do you expect to find it?”

The program, which lasts either one or two years depending on your path, links together Zen Peacemaker training, contemplative practices, online study, and local service projects that help you address suffering related to being poor and/or marginalized.  You may be a caring neighbor, nonprofit worker or volunteer, a donor or a board member, a chaplain, sangha leader or steady practitioner. You do not need to have a formal background in Zen; however, you should have an established spiritual practice. Study group members are from diverse backgrounds and together we will form and maintain a practice and support network that is wide, varied, ongoing and global.

Three Tenets Training: Not Knowing, Bearing Witness, Taking Action

The Three Tenets of the Zen Peacemakers are the foundational training of the program. We will study from three books by Roshi Bernie Glassman (and teachings from others), and practice in an embodied way with the Three Tenets. In doing so, we will learn to open to the complexity of poverty-based suffering, become intimate with its causes, conditions, and impacts, and with the people experiencing it firsthand. We will also learn how to take appropriate action to serve people affected by it and transform the systems that perpetuate it. 

Lojong Training in Compassion as a Liberating Power

We will work explicitly on the cultivation of compassion and resilience in ourselves in order to care about other people who are sad, angry, overpowered by addictions of all kinds, stressed and strained. We train in compassion also as a safeguard for ourselves, so that we don’t succumb to some of the dangers of working in places of extreme suffering, such as burnout, compulsive helping behaviors, and the inability to maintain healthy boundaries. We will use Roshi Norman Fischer’s book, Training in Compassion, as a guide to this practice. 

We will meet online each month for seminars and small group discussions. After the first year, successful candidates will be given a certificate in Community Engaged Buddhism. Second year candidates can go on to become Community Engaged Buddhist Ministers, authorized to create programs in poor neighborhoods and marginalized communities close to where they live. This may include projects such as Zen Houses and free cafes.

To learn more about the program, please contact us at:

Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community is a 501c3 organization and was founded to support a practice of neighborliness, community building and kinship. We invite those who feel lost and left behind into the embrace of community. Joshin Byrnes, the founder of BLMZC, has a background in AIDS work and community philanthropy, and trained as a Zen priest and teacher at Upaya Zen Center.