Marc Puissant: “Buddha and Jesus invite us to die to the little self in order to be reborn to our essential being. »

- through Henry Oudin

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The way of the Buddha was for him a path of transformation and healing. A lay Dharma teacher and student of Thich Nhat Hanh, Marc Puissant has been leading Mindfulness and Reconciliation retreats for fifteen years. He mentions in his book, From evil to good, from suffering to happiness, which unites Christianity and Buddhism, and the importance of building bridges between these two traditions.

The meeting with your Master Thich Nhat Hanh would have played a decisive role in your process of transformation and healing?

The first encounter that gave me a taste for life was with Swami Chidananda in India. This was done at a time when I was sick and dependent on drugs. I was welcomed and cared for in his ashram in Rishikesh, at the foot of the Himalayas. It was Swami Chidananda who gave me back access to this life force which was in me and which I did not know. After this meeting, it took me another twenty to thirty years of work on myself and psychotherapies to begin to release my potentials. But it was my meeting with Thich Nhat Hanh and his presence full of tenderness that allowed me to crack the armor that enclosed my heart and look at myself for the first time with benevolence. Meetings with Thich Nhat Hanh, but also with other "guides" such as Arnaud Desjardins, Karl Grief Durckeim and Annick de Souzenelle, allowed me to progress on my path. They have perfectly integrated the teachings imbued with wisdom that they have received, from which they have been able to make a living word that opens and sets in motion. A living word that I no longer found in the Christian tradition that was mine.

What do these two traditions, Buddhism and Catholicism, have in common?

It is thanks to Annick de Souzenelle, who made me rediscover the Bible, that I understood that the message of Jesus, like that of Buddha, are paths of transformation and healing. Paths that jostle us and invite us to a radical transformation of ourselves. Buddha and Jesus both tell us that they are of the world without being of the world. They invite us to die to the ego, to the small me to be reborn to the Self, to our essential being. In both cases, it is often an experience or an encounter that precedes faith. Alas, among Christians, dogmas have very often been put forward without telling us that we could also experience the encounter with the living Jesus. In Buddhism, on the other hand, there is much more emphasis on the living experience of an encounter with what is called our “Buddha nature”, which is greater than ourselves. And it is this encounter that opens us to trust, to faith in the Dharma – the practice.

“It was my meeting with Thich Nhat Hanh and his presence full of tenderness that allowed me to crack the armor that enclosed my heart and to look at myself for the first time with benevolence. »

We found this same path, formerly, in the message of Jesus. But, over the centuries, the Church has erased these aspects, this possibility of letting go, of a symbolic death-resurrection which alone allows the mystical encounter with Christ, and she has gradually come to turn faith into belief. However, as Thich Nhat Hanh shows in his book living Jesus, living Christ, Christ, like the Buddha, continue to be alive through their disciples who are on the way and live their teaching. It is the encounter that is decisive, it jostles us, turns us around and opens us to a new state of consciousness. We then feel carried and inspired by an energy of life, love and peace.

Why is it important, in your opinion, to build bridges between Christianity and Buddhism?

This is important, because Buddhism is still a minority in the West, even after two or three generations of acclimatization. There would be, in Europe, according to some estimates, about 500 practitioners, and two or three million sympathizers. Few practitioners, on the other hand, really rely on the Dharma – the teaching of the Buddha – to make it a way of life and healing. The message of Christ remains much more present in the collective unconscious even if it is in strong regression. It permeates our humanist culture. I have the intuition – which is also that of Thich Nhat Hanh – that Buddhists can help Christians, who have ceased to practice and those who still practice, to rediscover with a fresh look – that of interdependence – the Source of living water in them announced by Jesus to the Samaritan woman. I also observe a strong progression of mindfulness – or full consciousness – in our society. Its success is undoubtedly due to the fact that it is a “secular” practice, detached from any religion, which nevertheless allows access to a certain transcendence. This practice carries a global ethic that our society, which has lost its bearings, badly needs.

What do the interreligious dialogues in which you take part bring to the world today?

As “committed” practitioners, we must testify that beyond our differences, we are brothers and sisters, and that we can participate together in common projects that can open up alternative paths to the old world. We must also walk with all the non-religious alternative movements: ecologists, pacifists, spiritualists... Beyond our religious, geographical, political, or social differences, we can work together, provided that each cultivates listening to the other. , benevolence and respect for it in its differences. The Buddha invites us to emerge from the certainty of possessing the truth and to enrich ourselves with the treasures of other traditions, without seeking to achieve syncretism. We can also pray together, united in the same source that animates us all. Our meetings testify that it is possible to live our differences by listening deeply to the words of others, in a benevolent and respectful way. Within our consumerist and individualist society, we have to bear witness to our common values: sharing, solidarity with the most deprived, tolerance, compassion, sobriety and respect for people and the planet. We also have a role to play in ethical debates relating to bioethics, artificial intelligence, assisted reproduction, etc. We are among the last "dinosaurs" to still nurture an anthropological vision of man, which leads us to ask decision-makers to take the time to become informed, to study these questions in depth and to take into account the insights great traditions before adopting, after careful consideration, new technologies

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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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