Jérôme Ducor: a bonze in all humility

- through Henry Oudin

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Meeting with this bonze of the True School of the Pure Land, with a spiritual commitment that goes against the fashions of the moment.

In this café on Place Saint-Sulpice in Paris, where he is seated in front of a white beer, Jérôme Ducor is disarmingly simple. This religious and great scholar, who will publish a translation of the writings of Tanluan, a Chinese master of the 65th century, next September with the Belles Lettres editions, could impose. On the contrary, he is deeply, spiritually, anchored in the natural and in the spontaneity, which he recalls are at the heart of the doctrine and practice of Shinshu, the True School of the Pure Land that he has made his own. . How did this XNUMX-year-old Genevan, educated in the Protestant faith, become one of the masters of a Buddhism so popular in Japan and so misunderstood in the West? Don't talk to him about conversion. No rejection on his part, just a discovery. This germinates in adolescence in front of the testimonies of Tibetan refugee monks, broadcast on television in a program by Arnaud Desjardins. Challenged, the young spectator wants to know more. In the library, he devours books on Buddhism, including Buddha's teaching by Walpola Rahula. “I discovered there the notion of karma, the real definition of which is intention. And also the postulate of a world ordered according to a natural law where causes and effects are linked together. At the antipodes of a divine creation”.

“In Shinshu, there is nothing to do, and that is the hardest part to understand. When we seek to do, we deviate from the goal. »

Jérôme Ducor was only 16 when, thanks to a lecture given by a Tibetan lama, he met Reverend Jean Eracle, a former Catholic priest who had just been ordained a bonze in the Pure Land School. A decisive meeting. “This man opened up a simpler, more accessible Buddhist path for me, where substance takes precedence over form. “And to push the caricature:” No need to be seated cross-legged! » More seriously, Jérôme Ducor develops : « In Shinshu, there is nothing to do, and it is the most difficult to understand. When we try to do, we deviate from the goal”. Nevertheless, before reaching this degree of letting go, the successor of Jean Eracle at the Temple of the Sereine Faith in Geneva went into overdrive. He who dreamed of being a cardiologist then anesthesiologist enrolled at the university of letters in Lausanne which provides a certificate of Buddhist studies, "a teaching today replaced by that of Islam", he points out, a bit nostalgic . There he learned to read the four sacred languages, Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan and Chinese. “I especially liked the Chinese language with its significant ideograms. This writing, also used in Japan for centuries in Buddhist texts, opened up treasures for me. At the same time, this son of an antiques dealer is studying art history. Then he obtained a doctorate in Japanology at the University of Geneva. The first of his many trips to the Land of the Rising Sun dates back to his 23 years. It was at this age, in Kyoto, that he was ordained in the mother temple of the main branch of Jôdo-Shinshû. Contrary to Theravada customs, Mahayana – in which Pure Land Buddhism is situated – does not impose monastic vows. “I am not a monk, but a bonze,” he underlines. The equivalent of a cleric”.

Neither ethnologist nor anthropologist, orientalist

Moreover, Jérôme Ducor devotes a large part of his time to his professional activities. In the wake of his mentor Jean Eracle, this teacher became the curator of the Asia department of the Geneva Museum of Ethnography, the MEG, supervising a collection of 14 objects from the shores of the Bosphorus to Borneo. He who is neither an ethnologist nor an anthropologist, but an orientalist, is passionate about these sometimes utilitarian creations. For example, he evokes two moving flutes in white wood, designed in Iran in the 000s as urinary drains for swaddled babies. For nearly thirty years, he has endeavored to show how people from such different civilizations provide similar answers to questions of the same order. Recently retired from the MEG, the one who officiates at the Temple of the Sereine Faith every Monday evening plus one Sunday a month and on feast days with a small community of around fifty faithful, now wishes to devote himself fully to his vocation. religious. “A commitment against the tide when the attraction for Buddhism wanes in Europe. It is enough to observe the shelves of bookstores where the sacred texts are replaced by books on Mindfulness and other spiritualities stripped of the religious dimension”. Even if he is worried about his succession to the Temple, Jérôme Ducor continues on his way: “I want to deepen the teaching in order to be able to transmit it and master the rituals in order to celebrate them”. He who abandons himself to the wishes of Buddha Amida welcomes the uninitiated. When laymen ask him to officiate the funeral, he accepts. With ease

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Henry Oudin

Henry Oudin is a Buddhist scholar, spiritual adventurer and journalist. He is a passionate seeker of the depths of Buddhist wisdom, and travels regularly to learn more about Buddhism and spiritual cultures. By sharing his knowledge and life experiences on Buddhist News, Henry hopes to inspire others to embrace more spiritual and mindful ways of living.

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