Christian Galliou: attention for only credo

- through Fabrice Groult

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Note any sensation or thought on a daily basis: Christian Galliou has imposed this rigor of spirit on himself since he discovered Vipassana meditation with Venerable Nyanadharo more than thirty years ago. The Breton, who today shares the method of the Burmese master Mahasi Sayadaw during weekly workshops in Morlaix (Finistère), sometimes practices several weeks alone, at his home, where he lives with his wife, Marie-Noëlle. The spouses find, in the heart of the Monts d'Arrée, the energy necessary for their concentration.

The imposing viaduct, emblematic building of Morlaix, appears through the windows of the yoga room. Dressed in loose sweater and pants, Christian Galliou sits half-lotus on her cushion. Three women one and one man follow the workshop on Saturday evening. Behind his glasses, the Vipassana meditation teacher warns them in a deep, calm voice: "It's not about relaxation, but about transformation work with the aim of reaching nibbana (1)". When his wife, Marie-Noëlle, rings the bowl, the participants begin thirty minutes of attentive walking followed by forty-five minutes of seated meditation. Heat, cold, hardness of the floor, swelling of the belly during breathing, meditators must note each feeling or thought.

Christian Galliou discovered Buddhism in 1977. Not in the Theravada tradition that he follows today, but in Zen, which he discovered by chance in a magazine. “Zen had an exotic and aesthetic side. I was immediately attracted by the clothes, the ceremonies, the philosophy and the poetry which flatter the intellect, and by the personality of Taisen Deshimaru. A contact with him, we remember it for a long time, ”testifies the Finisterian. Ordained as a monk by the Japanese master at the end of the 70s, Christian became head of the Brest dojo for nine years, before leaving it in 1987. "Zazen did not bring me much in daily life", notes- he.

Gratin dauphinois, or the experience of an empty stomach

The same year, he followed a friend to the Bodhinyanarama monastery, in Ardèche, to meet the Venerable Nyanadharo. He still remembers the spiritual shock he felt when he saw the Lao forest monk. The impact is such that Christian decides to go back and forth once a month, for fifteen years, between the tip of Finistère and the monastery of Tournon-sur-Rhône.

“During breakfast, there was a gratin dauphinois on the table. Everyone was rubbing their hands, waiting for the signal to eat. Venerable Nyanadharo waited until it was very cold. We thus waited until 11 am, noting all the sensations that passed through us. This is Vipassana. »

The teaching of the Theravada master is atypical. "With him, it's non-stop from Friday evening to Sunday, laughs the Breton. When we get up from our cushion, when we drink our tea… We never finished practicing. A funny anecdote comes to mind. “During breakfast, there was a gratin dauphinois on the table. Everyone was rubbing their hands, waiting for the signal to eat. The Venerable waited until it was very cold. We thus waited until 11 am, noting all the sensations that passed through us. That's Vipassana,” laughs Christian.

It was in the Ardèche monastery that Christian met his current wife, Marie-Noëlle. Both married at the time, they nonetheless felt a very strong spiritual attraction for each other. But no question of going further. "At the monastery, we weren't there to flirt," recalls Christian. They finally made contact in 1994. Marie-Noëlle wanted to buy a house. The bank where Christian works turns out to be the one charging the best rates at the time. This opportunity gives the two Vipassana practitioners the opportunity to get to know each other better. They moved in together in Lampaul-Plouarze and got married in 1999. “Life as a couple is not easy when one practices and the other does not. But it is facilitated when the practice is shared,” remarks Christian. In 2002, Christian took early retirement. For three years, they stay at the Bodhinyanarama monastery to help Janine Boitel, the administrator of the place. When he died in 2008, the couple assisted the Venerable for six months.

The Buddha's teaching, from Pali to Breton?

Le Breton keeps memories of the Ardèche period in his meditation room, set up on the first floor of his house, in Commana, where the couple have lived since 2005. On a small rudimentary altar, a lotus flower rests on a small wooden box. enclosing a piece of the Venerable's robe. Regularly, the couple sets aside periods of complete solitude for two to four weeks. Christian takes the opportunity to practice careful walking in a corner hidden by the hedge, at the back of the house. The energy felt in this village in the Monts d'Arrée allows him to concentrate on his practice: "At the same time soothing and dynamic, it helps us to return to attention".

In 2016, Christian decided to share his experience through weekly workshops in Morlaix, a town near their home. At the same time, he began the translation from English to French, of the book Mindfulness-Vipassana Meditation by Burmese master Mahasi Sayadaw. This work lasted for months. “The text was first translated from Pali to Burmese and then from Burmese to English. Each term is subject to interpretation. The translator has a great responsibility in the choice of words used. The Finisterian, very anchored to his Armorican roots, confides, amused, sometimes enjoying translating certain texts of the Buddha into Breton. A passage should appear soon in the municipal bulletin. What to make the happiness of the small town where he lives.

photo of author

Fabrice Groult

Fabrice Groult is an adventurer, photographer and Buddhist who has traveled the world since a young age. After studying Buddhism in India, he embarked on an eighteen-month journey through Asia that took him to the Himalayas, where he discovered his passion for photography. Since then, he has traveled the world capturing images of Buddhist beauty and wisdom. He was a guide for ten years, and is now a journalist with Buddhist News.

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