Martine Batchelor: “Becoming a nun was the best choice of my life. »

- through Henry Oudin

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In her youth, in full quest for meaning, Martine Batchelor found “Sound”, Zen, in Korea. A discovery that changed his life. For ten years she lived as a nun before returning to Europe, where she discovered the Vipassana meditation technique. Now, she teaches both methods and tries to apply benevolence on a daily basis.

“Since I was eleven, I wanted to change the world,” recalls Martine Batchelor. But, when leaving the house, at the age of eighteen, the native of Béziers (Hérault) comes across a text from the Buddha. She understands that “before wanting to change others, you may have to change yourself”. A click. “I stopped being interested in politics and turned to meditation. »

Between 1972 and 1974, the young woman went to meet different spiritual currents, particularly in England, then took off for Asia where she landed in Korea at the age of twenty-one. “I went to a convent that was recommended to me, because the person in charge, as well as several foreign residents, were fluent in English. »

She arrives at the temple of Songgwang (southwest) while the biggest ceremony of the year is taking place, which commemorates the death of the founder, Bojo Kuksa. Everyone is busy in the kitchen, Martine lends a hand. “During a break, a Korean lady in her fifties asks me if I am married, if I have children, if I go to university, if I work… After answering her no, she asks me said: “How lucky! If I were you, I would become a nun”. It clicked. I had no ties. I thought maybe I would learn something that would help me change myself.

Getting out of a bad relational routine

Martine therefore took her vows as a nun without waiting too long, in 1975. “I immediately realized that I had made the best choice of my life. She stayed ten years at the monastery and learned to change her habits. “Often, I repeated the same gestures which caused the same suffering, for me and for others. So I thought that with meditation, I could get out of this bad routine. After six months in Songgwang, I realized that I became less self-centered, that I thought of others more often. I have always wanted to develop wisdom and compassion. So I continued on this path. »

In his Korean convent, the rhythm is very codified. Zen (Son in Korean) monks and nuns meditate ten hours a day for six months, then four hours a day for the other half of the year. “And the practice continued outside of formal exercise,” she says, adding, “Meditation helps develop creative, caring, and enlightening mindfulness, both broadly and more specifically. For example, when I work in the garden, I bring loving attention to my back; and when I find myself with my mother who is losing her memory, I am more patient. »

“For me, meditation is not dogmatic. It all depends on what works for each person, when and how. »

In parallel, Martine became, in 1981, interpreter of the master Kusan Sunim. She mediates between him and foreign visitors who come to the temple, translates his books and teachings, and accompanies him on his travels to the United States and France. Even today, the Korean master remains a reference for the practitioner Son: “On the one hand, he was always very simple and on the other, he remained very upright and very ethical. Above all, he applied what he said. I learned a lot from him. »

When Korean Sound meets Vipassana

It was in Songgwang that Martine met her future husband, Stephen Batchelor. The English monk, who practices Vajrayana Buddhism, wants to experience Korean Son meditation. When in 1985, they returned to Europe after a short trip to Japan, Taiwan and China, Martine then joined the Buddhist community of Sharpam, in Devon, and worked for the Gaia House center, still in this south-western county. from England. "I stayed there for fifteen years, I wrote books, worked in various associations for women's rights and interreligious dialogue..." This return to working life was an enriching experience: "When I was a nun, I dedicated myself to the practice, protected in a system. So I returned to an ordinary existence. It was very interesting to earn my living and to be in a non-hierarchical relationship with others”.

Across the Channel, Martine Batchelor continues her inner exploration. “Usually we try to be kind and clear, but sometimes we can't be when we're frustrated, too busy, or having bad feelings. What interests me is understanding my limits and those of others,” she says. His curiosity led him to follow his first meditation retreats according to the Vipassana method, "very complementary" to his Zen practice. Since then, Martine has been teaching both techniques. “For me, meditation is not dogmatic. It all depends on what works for each person, when and how. Generally, I dwell first on anchoring and exploring what is, before defining how it can be done: either more by the Vipassana method of Mindfulness, or more by the Sound method, questioning”.

“I try to find myself where the others are”

Martine and Stephen Batchelor now teach Vipassana all over the world. In 2000, back in France, the couple settled near Bordeaux. From time to time, the spouses share their knowledge with the association Terre d'Éveil, in Aquitaine. “We continue to travel in Europe, particularly in Austria, Denmark and Finland. But I travel a little less today, because I take care of my mother, who is 93 years old. She is the one who benefits the most from my practice,” she acknowledges. But she is not the only one, since Martine Batchelor initiates French seniors to meditation, in Caen, once a month, for a scientific study, Sylver Santé Study, of which Matthieu Ricard is the ambassador. “It's very interesting to follow a group of beginners, over eighteen months”. For her, one thing is important in teaching and practice: “Our way of being, of revealing ourselves to be in line with what we say. I try to remain calm, benevolent, to find myself where the others are and to accompany them on their journey. With a deep desire: that their spiritual journey bring them the same joy as hers, because "I consider myself very lucky", she admits.

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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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