What culture did you grow up in?
My parents were of Muslim origin with great openness and never imposed anything on us. My father came to France in 1946 and made a career at Renault. He loved this country and its republican values. My mother, who arrived in 1953 after having divorced, was a “rebel at heart”. I am the 5th in a family of eleven children, born with a twin brother. We all grew up in Belleville. I only went to Kabylia once.
How did you come to Buddhism?
Baccalaureate in hand, after having passed a diploma in accounting studies, at 21, I found no meaning in my existence. I had had enough and went to live with friends in the south of France. In their library, I came across Buddha's Buddhism byAlexandra David-Neel, La Vie of Milarepa and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse. It was the trigger. In June 1982, at the age of 24, and without any experience of meditation, carried by an immense motivation, I made my first Vipassana retreat.
Did you realize the difficulty?
No way ! I had not read the rules. I didn't know it would be the “noble silence” and with my talkative nature, it was very difficult! I was the first surprised by my ability to comply with the rules. I had such a thirst to advance that I played the game, and little by little, I realized that Buddhism was going to become my way. It was the biggest test of my life. I came out of it grown and happy.
In 1982, you went to India to the lands of Buddha: what did this first trip bring you?
Left with friends, I left the group to go and live alone in this Mecca of Buddhism in Bodh Gaya. As I immersed myself in this particular energy and continued to read, as the days went by, everything I was learning became clearer and clearer in my mind. The path of Buddhism gave me the keys to freeing myself from my suffering. Back in France, I deepened my study and my practice. I also joined Father Guy Gilbert, a neighborhood neighbor I met in 1971, with whom I worked for a year with young people in difficulty.
What do you remember from your experience with Father Gilbert?
By seeing him put love and compassion at the heart of all his actions, and by seeing certain young people come out of their problems, I realized how much the practice of these values could change things and contribute to the happiness of beings. I felt fully in my place in this place of sharing and benevolence.
“Many of my friends, Christians, Jews or Muslims, saw me so happy that they wanted to know my secret! They asked me questions, I discussed with them and that helped them to understand that Buddhism is above all a philosophy, a way of seeing existence, not a religion. »
Has your Buddhist practice prompted you to meet a master?
For six years I followed the Hinayana tradition, but I sometimes went to the Tibetan temple of Vincennes for collective meditations. First, out of curiosity. But one day, a meditation guided by Kalu Rinpoche opened my eyes. I understood that in Buddhism, one cannot realize oneself without a master and I wanted to find one. So I went to South India, to Mysore, where there is a large Tibetan community. There I met an Italian who introduced me to his master Gheshe La Tachi-Bum, who became mine. I stayed three months at the monastery.
What has this meeting changed?
The Mahayana teaches the importance of benefiting other beings through action. So that made sense to me. I felt more in tune with myself in this way, for which the Hinayana had prepared me. It was a natural path.
Moreover, the monastery was not very well kept and I told myself that if Buddha saw this place, he would not be happy! I then invested my severance pay to help clean it up, organize a garbage can and collection service, improve hygiene...
In the process, you created in Mysore a center dedicated to Buddhist teaching and meditation...
I began by organizing conferences with my master; It worked so well with Indians and Westerners that in 1989, with my Italian friend, we set up a center dedicated to Buddhist teaching and meditation, under the authority of Gheshe La Tachi-Bum.
I was also received in 1993 by the Dalai Lama, it was a defining moment for me.
In the South of France where you live, how does Buddhism fit into your daily life?
Mindfulness lives in me permanently, whether in my daily life or in my practice. Loving to share around me what Buddhism has brought me, I have sensitized many people informally, without ever trying to convince them. Many of my friends, Christians, Jews or Muslims, saw me so happy that they wanted to know my secret! They asked me questions, I discussed with them and that helped them to understand that Buddhism is above all a philosophy, a way of seeing existence, not a religion.
Buddhist for forty years, have you “changed”?
Buddhism has provided answers to my questions about the meaning of existence. The practice of the six virtues (the paramitas: generosity, ethics, patience, enthusiasm, concentration, wisdom) freed me from certain inner sufferings by allowing me to develop more confidence, esteem, attention, altruism and of sympathy. I also realize now how precious life is! And with nearly 23 stays in India, spiritual retreats and meetings with masters have allowed me to integrate values that I share with my wife (a disciple of Arnaud Desjardins) and we try to pass them on to our children.
How do you view Islam?
My parents instilled in me respect for elders, generosity, giving… My father went to the mosque every Friday and observed Ramadan every year. His courage, his rigor, his devotion, his discipline, are all values that have inspired me and echo my own spiritual practice.