Pierre Taïgu Turlur: Buddhist without frills

- through Francois Leclercq

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Originally from Hauts-de-France, this crude-speaking intellectual became a Zen monk and professor of literature in Japan. Not to get closer to his faith, he assures us, because it is lived everywhere and all the time.

Converts have a bad reputation. They would be more rigorous than practitioners "by tradition" or habit, obsessed with the letter to the detriment of the spirit, constantly trying to rally those around them... If this portrait is often justified, Pierre Taïgu Turlur would however be an exception: this disciple of the he de Soto school rejects nothing so much as pageantry, artificial Buddhisms and sermons. At first glance, certainly, here is a Frenchman born in Valenciennes in April 1964, having turned his back on Christianity as a teenager to today shave his head, put on a "kesa" - a monk's robe - and live in Nishinomiya , a small town in Japan near Kobe. “But I didn't go there for Zen, which is rather moribund there, by the way. This travel enthusiast just loved the country on a first visit and isn't a sedentary soul – he's also lived in England in the past. A divorce from his British wife simply led him, in 2006, to leave Europe to live by begging by the bowl (“takuhatsu”) in the streets of Kyoto.

Already awake

He was no novice. Pierre Turlur was introduced to “zazen” – seated meditation – as a teenager by the monk Francis Baudart and received his ordination himself after intense practice at the dojo in Lille. “By begging, I wanted to experience a way of being in acceptance: learning to receive a thousand yen bill like being rejected or insulted, always with the same detachment. The experiment lasted three months, but he still sometimes takes his straw hat and his bowl. “Extreme living conditions help to break down barriers, he explains, to perceive what is always there when nothing seems guaranteed anymore. This is perhaps the heart of his practice: his Buddhism is fundamentally about becoming aware of what is rather than aiming for anything else. It's hammering like we all already are awake, that there is nothing to expect from meditation, from Zen or even from Buddhism. “I met many people who, without having ever heard of all this, were perfectly awake to their reality. »

Ideal of simplicity

This idea is extensively developed in his two main essays, Taming Awakening (Albin Michel, 2018) and more recently The flavor of the moon (2019). It leads him to strongly criticize the obsession with spiritual masters, methods of awakening and happiness, and even monastic orders. "I let myself be impressed for a long time because I was neither Japanese nor Asian," he confides. It's over all that, now I open it. »

“Extreme living conditions help to break down barriers, to perceive what is still there when nothing seems guaranteed anymore. »

To see rock stars of Japanese Buddhism shopping in Europe with their wives, at the expense of much poorer disciples, is unbearable. For him, the way is not lived through special or extraordinary things: "On the contrary, it is rather to free oneself from all these projections that we place on the world and on ourselves", in particular through our fears and hopes. It is also, he insists, accepting reality as it is – with its imperfections of course – and not as we imagine it. The paradox being that it can be extraordinarily difficult to go for the simplest and closest to oneself.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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