The thousand lives of Bernard Ortega

- through Fabrice Groult

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Actor, teacher, coach and lama, the caps of Bernard Ortega impress as they are multiple. He defines himself as a man of experience. And they were many and many. After devouring all of Shakespeare at the age of thirteen and setting up his first theater company at fifteen in his hometown of Millau, Aveyron, he was enrolled two years later in a professional troupe in Montpellier before joining the prestigious Conservatoire National of Paris. In the limelight, he very quickly preferred directing and directing actors. They offer him this distance conducive to the observation of humans. “Theatre is the first illusion I encountered”. Like a prelude to the Buddhist philosophy that he will make his own, where appearances are deceptive.

There are resonances in the protean trajectory of this man whom nothing predestined to be enthroned as a lama. No religious impregnation in his childhood marked by a communist father, necessarily atheist. He took his first spiritual steps with the Benedictines, at the Abbey of Solesmes in Sarthe or in the monastery of Erbalunga in Corsica – since converted into a luxury hotel -, where he likes to take refuge in silence to write his drama show. Bernard Ortega still today finds affinities between Christianity and Buddhism, to the point of organizing meetings between religious of the two confessions in the small chapel or in the meditation room of his estate of Toussacq, in Seine-et-Marne, where he conducts seminars.

The infinite faces of Asia 

Asia invites itself to him when he learns aikido, this martial art imbued with the philosophy of Budô (the way of the warrior). "On the tatami, I learned respect for the master, silence and movement, energy in motion", he marvels. In Japan where he stays, he discovers the Nô theater. But his founding journey will be that of Ladakh, at the age of thirty. On the advice of one of his students, Bernard Ortega made a one-month retreat there with Dudjom Rinpoche and met his root master, Togdän Rinpoche. When this chief lama passing through Paris offers him to follow an initiation, the neophyte accepts without knowing where it will lead him.

“I find this fascination with Buddhist teachers and lamas false. She reminded me of the one that actors create on stage. »

The first impression is that of an invasion. At his Parisian home, where he lodges his master for a month, Bernard Ortega sees around forty people parade! He observes this ballet with the acuity of the director. "I was cautious," he admits. But not to the point of spoiling his appetite for Buddhist philosophy. Numerous retreats followed in India, Nepal and Tibet, where the man deepened his practice and his knowledge of Tantrism. When he was contacted by a training organization to give oral communication lessons to bosses, Bernard Ortega discovered a new vocation as a coach. Until founding his own company TAO Communication and proposing an original method - called MBO for Method Bernard Ortega - combining his experience of the stage, his talents as a teacher, his art of self-control acquired with aikido and his practice of meditation. When he agrees at the same time to animate the Drikung Kagyü Ratna Shri center in Paris, at the request of his master Togdän Rinpoche, the man with multiple hats prefers to compartmentalize his activities. It is only very recently that he publicly assumes to be a lama, in particular with the business leaders he coaches. The click took place this summer, during his last stay in Ladakh. “While I asked my master why I had the privilege of attracting to me and to my home the greatest eminences of Tibetan Buddhism, I expected once again that he would oppose me with his enigmatic silence. And suddenly, he unfolded my entire previous life, which began in the XNUMXth century, giving a host of details, for example, about my places of meditation. It was overwhelming! “, he testifies. “A kind of official confirmation. »

An area populated by animals

It is true that Bernard Ortega doubted to the point of wanting to relinquish responsibility for the Drikung Kagyü Ratna Shri center and its community of some 35 people, after ten years of service. “I thought this fascination with Buddhist teachers and lamas was wrong. She reminded me of the one that actors create on stage. I wanted to devote myself more to meditation and to my estate in Toussacq, which I populated with animals – a donkey, a mare, peacocks…- these sensitive beings. Bernard Ortega then went to meet his master, who was passing through Munich to present his resignation. But he is taken aback. Because Togdän Rinpoche chose this moment to enthrone him as a lama. “When he put his hands on my head, I cried for ten minutes! ". The emotion passed, the new lama Düdul Dorje still wants to make sure that he is not an impostor. Because he has not completed the three years and three months of retirement required to obtain this title. He seeks the opinion of another luminary, Lama Tenpa Gyatso. Since his perpetual retirement in Vichy, this wise man gave him this answer: “A marmot when it comes out of its burrow after winter is still a marmot”. In other words, if it were enough to remain isolated for three years to become a teacher (lama), it would be known. A lama is most recognizable by his students. On this point, Bernard Ortega is served. He is now demanded in Brussels, where he officiates every other week, alternating with Paris.

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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