Your temple in Villeurbanne is called the Gudo-Ji, is it a tribute to your master Gudo Wafu Nishijima?
Completely. I took up this name because he was a man who marked me a lot and who was like a spiritual father for me. I went to Tokyo at least once a year to Japan between 2003 and 2010 to join his sangha. At the time, Nishijima was still on the same level in the Sôtô school, from which he later moved away a little. So I was ordained as a Sôtô-Shu monk in the “rules” in 2004 after having received the Dharma transmission in 2003. Subsequently, Nishijima distanced himself from the Sôtô current, whose ritualism, he criticized. "high mass" aspect and the business side. But the spirit and the practice remain the same. There are always renovating currents in the schools of Buddhism and meditation, especially in Japan where the context is a bit heavy. In my opinion, Nishijima had above all the idea of broadcasting beyond Japan, which involved detaching himself from the squabbles of national clerics. He had signed a book for me with the following message: “For Jean-Marc Bazy, so that he transmits true Buddhism in France and throughout the world”. Quite a program, isn't it?
What is this Buddhism that you are trying to transmit?
Buddhism is to be in contact with what is not illusion. The access door to what is not illusion is the practice of zazen, this somewhat strange exercise at first glance which allows us to detach ourselves from our mental videos and the mists with which they constantly surround our mind.
During confinement, a period during which communication via the Internet increased significantly, it was important not to confuse the useful instrument with reality. A conversation via webcam will never replace a face-to-face dialogue, where you can really meet the other. Often because of the inherent limits of this communication, one accumulates a mental load, a nervous frustration which inevitably end up disturbing, even interrupting the true dialogue, that of spirit to spirit (“ishin denshin”), dear to the Zen tradition. The world of YouTube looks so beautiful that we forget the real one.
Do you think like Taisen Deshimaru that “Zen is zazen” and only zazen?
I have an intuitive certainty on this: the source of wisdom, and even wisdom, is meditation. That is to say the quiet observation of reality. All the great sages of the world have practiced it. This can, of course, be done without sitting down, but posture is the convenient key to entry. Rather than Deshimaru, I'll respond with Dogen. Of course, practice is essential, but you also have to transmit. This is part of the practice of teaching and explaining, because we are also beings of verbal communication, a communication that can help everyone reach their own enlightenment. The teachings are thus part of the practice which, by the way, has obvious beneficial effects on the body and the mind apart from any Buddhist implication.
What do you mean?
Now that we have proof with the Neuroscience (and Mind & Life, Matthieu Ricard, etc.) of the positive effects of meditation on the capacity for empathy, what are we waiting for to make it a school subject in the same way as civic education?
“Buddhism is being in contact with what is not illusion. The access door to what is not illusion is the practice of zazen, this somewhat strange exercise at first glance which allows us to detach ourselves from our mental videos and the mists with which they constantly surround our mind. »
Even beyond that, I would like meditation to come within the scope of the ordinary. Anything that will ensure that it is trivialized, that we get out of this kind of straitjacket of representations that range, at best, from the "picturesque thing not from here" to the worst, the "sect", seems good to me. to take. It is also for this reason that I had asked to have the double label “lawyer and Zen monk” when I had agreed to join a list for the municipal elections. That the practices of attention and meditation enter the field of the banal, here is one of the small stones that I would like to bring.
A question that arises particularly in “Western-style” Buddhism is that of commitment. If “true Buddhism is reality”, should action be abandoned in favor of contemplation?
No, on the contrary, we must not sit idly by. The bodhisattva way is not a way of Pontius Pilate. Nishijima was very keen to make a distinction that I strive to convey in my teachings, as there is a lot of confusion among Westerners about this. To be a bodhisattva is to do everything to stop injustice if it arises. This is very well embodied Eric Rommeluere in France and Bernie Glassman in New York in their committed Buddhism.
Are there aspects of Zen that should be adapted to local mentalities?
Anything that can facilitate the acceptance and trivialization of our practice is interesting. Personally, I really like the kimono, but I understand very well that we practice in jeans and a t-shirt. "The absolute miracle is to put oneself in the Other's place", said Nagarjuna. We must not forget that cultures are incredibly different and try, as much as possible, to understand others and their journey, including on the path of Zen. I believe that these questions must be approached with humility: sometimes, it is found in my teachings that the dialogue remains blocked or that I cannot transmit what I wanted.
The home page of your site displays this sentence "the question of life and death is the only important question". What prompted you to choose it?
It's a phrase from Dogen that my master Nishijima calligraphed for me the first time I went to Japan. What is life and death? It's time for a sharper awareness. To a man in despair who curses life, where one "comes alone and leaves alone", the Zen monk replies: “Are you sure there is something coming and something going? ".
Basically, “there is neither death nor fear”, as Thich Nhat Hanh wrote in an eponymous book which I recommend reading (1). At the same time, I think that the fact of receiving a human body which allows a possibly high awareness of issues such as history, the relationship to others and to the world is an incredible opportunity. This chance should not be wasted: hence the meaning of the words “So do not spend your life in vain”, which come after the sentence you quoted.
A kôan or a word of a master to meditate on?
I adore Shantideva's texts and can't resist the pleasure of quoting a fitting passage from them: “If the disease has a remedy, why do you grieve? If the disease has no cure, why do you grieve? ".