Ti Yab Zen: "Going through the mud to cultivate benevolence. »

- through Sophie Solere

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Zen Buddhist monk, rapper, lecturer and trainer in personal development, Sébastien Dijoux, alias “Ti Yab Zen”, discovered Zen when he was going through a particularly difficult period in his life. Thanks to meditation and the teachings of the Buddha, he manages to find, little by little, inner peace. Today, Ti Yab Zen continues to deepen his spiritual practice while persevering in rapping. Married and father of three children, this atypical monk works in the social field to help all people, even the most unexpected, to find benevolence and inner balance.

How did you encounter Buddhism? 

It happened a little by chance, well if chance exists... I must have been around 23 years old, a friend had lent me a little red book, The practice of Zen of master Taisen Deshimaru, which explained how to sit in a meditation position. Right away, I tried Zen practice, found it hurt really bad, and thought, "They're completely crazy!" I put the book aside and I continued to evolve in the middle of the rap. But, from time to time, I came back to it. I wanted to try again, but no more. Until I went through a difficult period in my professional, family and also sentimental life. The problems kept piling up. I felt like everything was falling apart around me. Faced with all this, I thought of that little red book again and went to sit in the lotus position in a small, dark room. This is how I started meditating. I felt things were happening, so I never stopped digging in until this day.

What Buddhism do you practice? 

I practice Zen Soto Buddhism. It is of Chinese and Japanese tradition, and consists of sitting in silence, facing a wall. There are a multitude of currents in Buddhism, this one suited me for the simple reason that I was not asked to believe in something or to listen to someone preach a word, but to experiment in order to learn by myself, with my body and my mind. We learn to let go of the thoughts that poison our lives. So that's what I did: experience detachment, non-judgment, compassion, understanding and deepen all of that. Finally, the Buddha's teaching tells us: “I don't ask you to believe what I say. I'll explain how it's done, take your cushion and go experiment for yourself”. That's what appealed to me from the start. For me, Buddha is not a god, he is simply a teacher.

You could have been "content" with practicing Zazen, why did you choose to become a monk? 

I felt that it corresponded to me, I was completely "aligned" with this practice. Things in me were obviously changing, but also in my environment. By deepening the practice of Zen, I learned to ask myself: on a cushion, but also in the face of arguments, tensions, complicated situations... Being able to continue this state beyond sitting helped me a lot. , and that's why I decided to deepen this practice and share it. Suffering affects everyone. If I can walk this path, many people can do it too. I was almost 30 years old. I asked myself what I wanted to do with my life. The answer was: service to others, social commitment. This is my revelation.

What are the monastic rules you must follow? 

I am what is called a lay monk, I am not forced to practice celibacy, for example. I have a wife and three children, a social and professional life. I don't live in a temple or dojo 24 hours a day. Personally, it wouldn't have made sense to do that, on the contrary. I like to practice and, above all, practice outdoors. In reality, there are no monastic constraints. I don't have to wear my robe daily, I only use it to practice, share and teach. Of course, we have rituals like meditation in silence, prostrations… But I don't see Soto Zen as a religion in the usual sense of the term, but in that of “connecting”. It is quite possible to practice Zazen, to apply it in one's life, without being a monk… Fortunately! The important thing is to connect to our benevolence and the love within us. For me, the monastery is not the dojo, it is everywhere! Ditto for my dress: if I wear it in step, there is no separation, I always have the same language.

In your speeches and in your texts, you deal a lot with the notion of suffering, inner peace and the link that connects them. Do you think that going through difficult stages remains a necessary step to find inner peace? 

This is a very good question. I would say that it is not essential, but ultimately, we all go through suffering, at some point and that, since birth. No one is spared. Suffering is part of the journey. When we cross this symbolic mud that represents suffering, we can all discover, within it, a flower of benevolence. Through my actions, I associate with inmates in the prisons in La Réunion and I always bring my lotus flower to illustrate my words and share this message: even the person who makes such serious mistakes has the ability to make this flower bloom.

“When I became a monk, I asked myself the question: should I stop rapping? The answer came quickly. I told you above: the monastery is everywhere, there is no separation. Music is a monastery. »

Suffering teaches me something depending on the attitude I adopt. I have the choice to sink into it or to raise my head and wonder what this situation teaches me. When we take a step back from things, we realize that this suffering teaches us to grow. This is how you connect to your inner peace.

You are a rapper, do your music and your texts testify to your spiritual practice? 

It may not be common to see a Buddhist monk rapping, but I was already a rapper before, since the 90s. Initially, what interested me in rap was to be able to carry and express a message with values ​​of solidarity, justice, being able to denounce things. I love rap for its messages. My texts always speak of peace. In the minds of most people, the rapper represents an angry person and the monk someone calm. I'll be honest: when I became a monk, I asked myself the question: should I stop rapping? The answer came quickly. I told you above: the monastery is everywhere, there is no separation. Music is a monastery.

You created the Academy of Benevolence, what is it? 

The Académie de la Bienveillance is a training school where we share human-related values ​​and where we express what we feel. What are my emotions, what is going on in my head, what are my deep needs, what tools are at my disposal to communicate more serenely, how to really listen to the other? These are all the values ​​that are put forward in our training: in colleges, in prison... It's a different medium. We are not talking about Buddhism or rap, but rather about positive psychology and well-being.

photo of author

Sophie Solere

Sophie Solère is an economic and social journalist who has been interested for years in the environment and interdependence. She works for Buddhist News, a media platform dedicated to Buddhist spirituality and wisdom. By practicing yoga and meditative dance, Sophie discovered the power of spiritual journeys, which offer so many paths to (re)find yourself. She is dedicated to sharing inspiring stories and valuable advice on spiritual practice and the environment with Buddhist News readers.

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