Roshi Ken (ICS President Ken Byalin) says: "I’m not a typical Zen teacher. My Zen practice manifests as social action. Integration Charter Schools is a manifestation of the practice."

Visionary Leadership

I love the story of the Golden City which the Buddha tells in the Lotus Sutra. It has inspired me. It is all about the journey, not the destination. All of life is a process. All of life is change. There are no final destinations, no final plans. And yet, this is a lesson in […]


Stumbling into the magic of success is not something to be taken for granted. It has always seemed to me Bernie made that mistake, taking what he had accomplished in Yonkers for granted. Greyston, during Bernie’s tenure as founder and leader, was becoming a beacon of engaged Buddhism and social entrepreneurship, a rare blending of […]

What is Social Action?

What is social action? There are four phrases that come to mind, two are from traditional Buddhist teaching. From the Eightfold Path, Shakyamuni Buddha’s initial teaching of the way of the path to the end of suffering, “Right Livelihood” stands out. This has been one of the great blessings in my life. I inherited the […]


“No!” Jesse and Theresa Peterford first met at ICS. Theresa, star teacher, chief joy officer, is now our Vice President for Education, Integration Excellence. And she has stepped in at a moment of crisis as Acting Principal of the Lavelle Prep Middle School Division. Jesse was a founding Lavelle Prep Teacher’s Assistant and our first […]

Infinite Onion

When I was doing koan practice with Jishu, very briefly in the last year of her life, before she and Bernie left Yonkers for Santa Fe, it seems now that she was always telling me, “Go deeper.” I didn’t know where she was pointing. Where is deeper? Delusions are inexhaustible, I vow to transform them. […]

Infinite Circle

As we have built our schools, I have been guided by, anchored in an image of peacemaking from Bernie’s book, Instructions to the Cook, seeing Healing Our Selves and Others, — Bernie later called this, the Third Tenet, Loving Action, I now would call in Peacemaking,  — as “bringing to the societal table those who […]

Crane in the Tree

The Crane in the Tree A monk asked Gokoko, “When a crane stands upon a withered pine, what then?” Gokoko said, “On the ground below, it’s a shame.” *** Master Tozan previously said, “The spirit tree is sublime, but the crane doesn’t stay there.”[1]             This is an example of a koan that I do […]

Leadership Principles and Style Part II: Leadership Principles

Now, leadership principles. I am endeavoring to lead like Kuei-shan. I am endeavoring to leave the work of learning to “my students”, the rising leaders of ICS. And I am trying to transmit my way of teaching, my way of embodying Kuei-shan. Right now, I can sum it up in four Principles. First Principle: It […]

Leadership Principles and Style Part I: Leadership Style

One day Kuei-shan said to Hsiang-yen: “I am told that you have been under my late master, Pai-chang… Let me have your view as to your own being before your parents were born.” Hsiang-yen couldn’t respond. He retired to his room and looked through all his notes of Pai-chang’s teishos, but he could not find […]

What are Charter Schools?

What are charters? I had no idea when I first heard of them. Jamie  My daughter was in kindergarten in a Montessori School, and all the parents were talking about what to do as first grade approached. One of the other parents, a professor of education at a local college, suggested that we create a […]