La Gendronnière: A Buddhist temple at the service of the living

- through Fabrice Groult

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“The Castle of No-Fear”. This is how Master Taisen Deshimaru, the founder of the Temple, baptized the place in 1979. Flagship of Zen Soto Buddhism, the Gendronnière, the largest temple in Europe, celebrated its fortieth anniversary in mid-October, by organizing a major symposium “Zen, environment and ethics”. Report in the Loire Valley.

La Gendronniere. Planted on the edge of the road linking Blois to Chaumont-sur-Loire, the sign indicates that we are nearing the goal. After branching off through deep forest on a road bristling with speed bumps, we see ahead a massive castle high in the center of a large clearing. The building is surrounded by outbuildings and a few buildings erected in the 1980s, after the creation of the temple, in 1979, by Master Taisen Deshimaru. Welcome to Mu-i-jo, the Castle of No Fear. This is how its founder baptized it. "Master Deshimaru maintained that if you practice zazen, you can free yourself from the attachment to your ego and your possessions and thus no longer be afraid of losing and even transform losses into an opportunity to let go", slips Roland Yuno Rech, one of his disciples who was ordained as a monk in 1974, and who teaches today at the Gyobutsuji Temple in Nice.

An 80-hectare estate, embellished with two lakes and a deep forest populated by oaks, ash trees and hornbeams, La Gendronnière is the largest Zen temple in Europe. It can accommodate up to 350 practitioners. “All the sanghas that have been created since the death of Master Deshimaru can meet here for sessions, sesshins, colloquia or symposiums. It is both the strategic center and the spiritual center of the International Zen Association (AZI)", continues, in a calm voice, Gerard Chinrei Pilet, vice-president of the AZI and teacher of the Dharma. The heart of the monastery consists of a vast dojo of 400 m2 where zazen and ceremonies take place, flanked, a few tens of meters further, by a small dojo, a building with a wooden frame full of charm.

happy sobriety

To celebrate the forty years of the Gendronnière, a symposium “Zen, environment and ethics” was held there on the weekend of October 12 and 13. On the bill, two speakers: Pierre Rabhi, pope of agroecology and cantor of happy sobriety and Gérard Chinrei Pilet. The announcement of the presence of the highly publicized peasant philosopher and the growing interest in meditation made the difference. The car park located at the entrance to the estate is full. Vehicles from all over France, but also from Switzerland, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands are lined up under tall trees. We even met there, during the weekend, a visitor from Finland and another from Peru. In addition to practitioners and teachers, disciples of Master Deshimaru, who made the trip accompanied by part of their sangha, the public is made up of visitors and curious people in search of meaning.

“Master Deshimaru maintained that if one practices zazen, one can free oneself from the attachment to one's ego and one's possessions and thus no longer be afraid of losing and even transform losses into an opportunity to let go. » Yuno Resh

For about ten years, the temple has been converted to integral ecology. On the occasion of the forty years of the place, the organizers published a brochure entitled "La Gendronnière, a temple at the service of the Living" which sets the course: moving towards a more ecological operation by drawing inspiration from the tools of permaculture. . The document begins by summarizing the ecological approaches initiated by previous generations: installation of large rainwater recovery tanks under the castle and thermal solar panels on "the outbuildings" and on the "new building", construction of a wood-efficient bread oven, self-built, in the early 2000s, of the small dojo and a straw house with natural and local materials. “We did everything ourselves. We used wood from the estate to build the frame and the wooden framework and the walls were coated with sand, lime and hemp. The tiles are in larch. And the interior of the small dojo heated with the help of a wood stove”, explains Hugues Yusen Naas, former administrator of the Gendronnière, while touring the owner. Before drawing up perspectives and an action plan for the years to come. From now on, we will have to develop renewable energies, encourage sobriety and energy efficiency. But also to increase the food autonomy of the place, by favoring seasonal and local products, and by recruiting a second gardener for the vegetable garden.

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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