Remembering Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

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Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi with H.H. the Dalai Lama    

On July 3rd, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, one of the Garrison Institute’s three spiritual advisers passed away, at home and in peace at the age of 89.

Rabbi Zalman Schechter had a voracious mind and an enormous heart. He was the ultimate integrator, deeply grounded in the Jewish Tradition that he was raised in, but endlessly weaving connections between all spiritual traditions. He was welcomed at Father Keating’s Snowmass Monastery, was an active member of the Sufi community, and for many years held the World Wisdom Chair at Naropa University. He was a scholar, a Rabbi and a Rebbe, a beatnik and a hippie, a prolific author and wonderful teacher.

Zalman was a living model of compassion, radiating kindness. Yet he also had discerning wisdom, and deeply perceived the economic, social and environmental issues of the times that he lived in. He taught “Tikkum Olam”, that it was our responsibility to repair the fabric of the world.

Zalman was acutely aware of the aging process, and in his sixties, began talking about moving from “age-ing to sage-ing” (It was typical of Zalman to invent a new word like “sage-ing” in express his thoughts). His most recent book, The December Project, published just a few months ago, is about how to fully live the end of ones life, and to make peace with dying.

As one of the Garrison Institute’s three founding spiritual directors, along with Father Thomas Keating and Gelek Rimpoche, Zalman taught deep contemplative practices, developing a method of prayer he called “Davenology”, the art of davening. In his book with Joel Segel, Davening–A Guide for Meaningful Jewish Prayer he wrote: “We strive to make our prayers a vessel for our own experience — and yet, at the same time, to transcend all that heart and mind can grasp. We aim to be most truly ourselves, to stand in our fullness before the living God.”

But, as expressed in the Institute’s mission, he deeply believed that the fruit of that contemplative life should be connected to creating a compassionate society. We celebrate Zalman’s life, and work, and look forward to the continued growth of the seeds that he planted.

— Jonathan F. P. Rose

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