In Memorium: Jishu Holmes

Zen teacher Sandra Jishu Angyo Holmes died of heart failure on March 20 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at age fifty-seven. Sensei Holmes, together with her husband, Roshi Bernie Glassman, co-founded the Zen PeacemakerImage 4: The late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche at Paro Taktsang, date unknown. Photo © Matthieu Ricard. Order, which emphasized meditation, engaged spirituality, and interfaith expression.

Image 1: From left to right: Roshi Bernie Glassman and Jishu Holmes at Soji-ji, in Japan, circa 1994; at Birkenau, 1997; Jishu at UCLA, circa 1993.
Image 1: From left to right: Roshi Bernie Glassman and Jishu Holmes at Soji-ji, in Japan, circa 1994; at Birkenau, 1997; Jishu at UCLA, circa 1993.

From 1982 to 1998, Jishu Holmes and Bernie Glassman founded and developed the Greyston Mandala in Yonkers, New York, a group of non-profit and for-profit companies dedicated to improving the lives of inner-city people. She served as the first Executive Director of Greyston Family Inn, which provided permanent housing and services for homeless families, and with her husband developed a model that encouraged homeless families to move into permanent housing and supported them with long-term services that would take them from welfare dependency to economic self-sufficiency. She also developed the initial programs for Issan House and the Maitri Day Program, housing and health services for people with HIV and AIDS in Yonkers. After living for fifteen years in Riverdale and Yonkers, New York, the couple had moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, in the Spring of 1998, arriving just days before her death.

Born in Oakland, California, in 1941, Jishu earned a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Columbia University in 1976, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in human genetics at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. She was ordained as a Zen priest in 1983 by Roshi Glassman and in 1995 received dharma transmission.

In 1992, Jishu wrote in her journal: “I’m beginning to see how hard I’ve worked to free myself of my conditioning that I’m inadequate, not worthwhile, unlikeable. How important it is to like myself first and to have compassion for myself. To love and embrace that person who is trying so hard to be a full human being.” Shortly before her death, another journal entry read: “Only the wounded healer is able to heal. As long as we think that spiritual leaders need to be perfect, we live in poverty. I have a perfect teacher inside; there is no perfect teacher outside.”

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