Jacques Castermane: “A path whose sole purpose is inner calm, serenity and confidence. »

- through Sophie Solere

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Jacques Castermane received from 1966 to 1988 the teaching of Karlfried Graf Dürckheim who offers Western man a path of transformation plunging its roots into the tradition of Zen. Since 1981, he has been running the Dürckheim Center and has been working to pass on the Way traced by his master: a path of experience and exercise to "become the person you already are in the depths of yourself". .

The meeting with Karlfried Graf Dürckheim, in the 1960s, do you write in your book The wisdom exercised, changed your life. Who was he ?

Karlfried Graf Durckheim (1896-1988)) comes from an aristocratic German family known since the 1933th century. His grandfather was chamberlain to the King of Bavaria. Professor of philosophy, he specialized in phenomenology. He was also a doctor of psychology. In XNUMX, after being banned from teaching at the university by laws enacted by the ruling National Socialist Party – his grandmother, related to the Rothschild family, was Jewish – he left for Japan. His interest in the teachings of the Buddha and Lao Tzu dates from his university studies. Also, as soon as he arrived in Japan, he became interested in Zen. He began to practice Zen after meeting the great connoisseur of this tradition, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, who told him: "If you try to approach Zen by relying on your understanding as a philosopher and a psychologist, you you'll never really know what it is. We must not seek to understand what Zen is. To experience which is the foundation of Zen, one must practice an exercise”. For ten years, he practiced zazen and archery. His experience so moved him that when he returned from Japan in 1947, he decided to devote the rest of his life to proposing to Western man a path of self-transformation that has its roots in Zen tradition.

The Zen teaching that he proposed, and that you have been perpetuating for 1981, would not be strictly Buddhist, but universal?

He is not a Buddhist for the simple reason that the Buddha was not a Buddhist. Karlfried Graf Dürckheim has always said that what interests him in the Zen tradition is what it conceals that is universally human. This is what he practiced and taught for forty years and what I propose at his invitation, in his name.

How would you define Zen? 

Kanji zen can be translated as the word calm. Zazen means finding stillness while sitting. It can also be found when lying down, or when standing and walking. It is a path whose sole purpose is the fundamental state of health of every human being, whether born in the East or in the West, and which manifests itself in inner calm, serenity and confidence, these qualities of beings that today's man misses the most.

What is the Way of technique that Dürckheim proposed?

This path has no connection with the development of our habitual consciousness, with discursive thought and with dogma. It is a path of experience and exercise. The word technique is here synonymous with exercise. It is by constantly renewing the same exercise that, suddenly, the one who exercises arrives at another approach to himself and to life.

What does zazen, the heart of the practice, bring to those who practice it daily?

I prefer to leave it to the practitioner to find out what Zen is for. This is why we speak of aimless meditation. One does not practice zazen relying on premeditation. The Zen master Ryokan says that "zazen is not a cause, but a proof".

Does Zazen transform the person who practices it?

Zazen is rather a path of maturation. It's about becoming who you already are deep inside yourself.

What essential things have you learned by practicing the art of tic archery ?

I practiced the archery with the Japanese master Satoshi Sagino, whom Graf Dürckheim had known during his stay in Japan. Archery is a sequence of eight gestures repeated day after day and year after year. The external goal is to nock an arrow which we will then uncheck. But the exercise actually allows an encounter with oneself during each shot. I will never forget this remark made by the master Satoshi Sagino, when he saw me desperate not to hit the target: “It is your fault, because the center of the target is the vocation of each arrow. When you shoot, you do so with an obsession to succeed at all costs. And this obsession is necessarily accompanied by the fear of failure. That's why you miss the target. Archery became an opportunity for me to free myself from this ego's desire to succeed at all costs and from the fear of failing. Thus, the exercise opens you up to another way of being in the world.

Why do you make a distinction, in the path traced by Dürckheim which is both a spiritual path and a therapy, between the body that one IS and the body that one HAS?

The German language is, in this respect, richer than ours. The Germans have two words to express the word body: “körper”, phonetically close to the Latin word corpus which means object. And “Leib”, from the verb Leben, to live. "Leib" is the living body, the body that we ARE. For us, the body is the sum of all the elements that compose it. “Leib” is something else. It is this global reality that I AM, the living body in its entirety and its unity.

What is the leibtherapy that you practice at the Dürckheim Center?

When he uses the word from the German language “therapy”, Dürckheim envisages the accompaniment of a person on the path of his future. "Leib" is our way of being as a body.

What does leibtherapy bring?

What Dürckheim proposes under the term leibtherapy is an exercise that tends to free us from our latent anxiety, from our underground fear, from anguish. The mind is the domain of anxiety and the states that accompany it, and what we should learn today is that this living body that we are is the domain of serenity, inner peace, inner calm. With leibtherapy, all you do is remove the stones that prevent the water in the stream from flowing. After a leibtherapy session, it is not uncommon for people to say to me: "It's amazing how life is flowing in me at this moment". This practice allows us to declutter, to free ourselves from our identification with the ego.

“The Zen master Ryokan says that 'zazen is not a cause, but a proof'. »

How important is the relationship with nature on your path?

The human being lives with the idea that he lives in nature and that he can do with it what he wants. This is what led to the ecological disaster that we know. The animal, on the other hand, lives from nature, and not in nature. Likewise, when we practice these exercises which have their roots in the Far East, we discover that we are OF nature and that we cannot do what we want with the laws of nature. This awareness is generally not collective, but individual. We can hope that when a critical mass of individuals make this realization, perhaps the relationship of the human collective to nature can change.

Do you practice zazen today in the same way as at the age of 50 or 60?

At first, I practiced like everyone else. I had to learn zazen. Now, when I sit down, zazen teaches me who I am. That's the swing. Zazen is truly a path of discovery through inner experiences.

Does Zen provide the keys to living well in old age?

Living your old age well means accepting what old age is and the sensations you feel. Those who practice zazen have the chance to be confronted with impermanence: all that is alive is not definitively there, but changes constantly. We keep changing like the fruits on their branches until they fall from the tree. There is no obsession with death that can remain attached to the mental functioning of those who practice zazen. It is not that we deny it or that we flee it. The most important thing is to make and renew the experience that I am currently living.

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Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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