Yukai: the joys of asceticism

- through Francois Leclercq

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Meeting with the founder of the Shingon Komyo-in temple, in Burgundy.

He chose to live in prayer, far from the hustle and bustle of the world, in this isolated corner of the Yonne countryside, in the north of Burgundy, and yet this man does not run away from life. On the contrary, it is extraordinarily full of them. With his eloquence and his imposing build, Yukai is almost the antithesis of his wife, discreet and frail. He corrects: “When we are in Japan, it is she who is inexhaustible. Of course, since she is a native of the Land of the Rising Sun. "The land of the cold", he corrects again, laughing, referring to his body chilled by the rituals of purification with ice water, during very long asceticism - 50 days -, Goumonji, to which they are folded. These two met as neighbors in Neuilly-sur-Seine, when Yukai, who was still called Daniel Billaud, was studying medicine, after an education at the very chic Sainte-Croix college in Neuilly. A relatively bourgeois life – his father, from a family of workers, was the owner of the Chézy cinema – jostled by the reading of Mahavairocana sutra, one of the founding treatises of esoteric Shingon Buddhism. He had unearthed a French translation “by chance” in a bookstore in the Latin Quarter. Yukai does not believe in chance.

“Asceticism is much more exciting than going to the cinema or buying a Rolex! »

He, who trained in psychology out of interest in the workings of the human mind, says he inherited the gift of intuition from his mother. "Everything is resonance in the universe, including dreams," he says. He remembers one of them, premonitory, in a house on stilts surrounded by water. Men dressed in robes of all colors perform a ceremony. Among them, an old Vietnamese points to him: "It's him, it's him!" ". He will understand its meaning a few years later at the Entsuji temple in Tokyo, where he has chosen to follow, with his wife, the hard way, the teaching of the venerable Aoki Yuko, a great figure of the school of True Word. With him, together, they embrace the vocation of monk. And become Yukai (joy) and Yusen (purity).

Recite thousands of mantras to circulate the energies of the body and cleanse the emotions

The gaiety with which Yukai recounts his life made up of rituals and meditations is a makeover. "Asceticism shakes you", testifies the one who cites the Carthusians as an example. “Your heart opens up, you become light, you enter invisible worlds, it's funny. We enter into that of emptiness which frees us from attachment to beings or things. It's much more exciting than going to the cinema or buying a Rolex! According to him, reciting thousands of mantras a day circulates the energies of the body and brings out the mud, that of the emotions. But it was above all to be “useful to the world” that Yukai founded the Komyo-in (“light for life”) temple almost thirty years ago, in Villeneuve-les-Genêts. “My job is to be a force of love and appeasement. If you pray a lot, you can influence the world, even invisibly”. A requirement of life for this mystic who sometimes admits to being angry. In such moments, Yukai philosophizes: “It is part of my purification asceticism. The hassle allows me to work on my gray areas”. Yukai, refusing any proselytism, also makes his destitution his strength: “I prefer to have few followers but that they want to practice”. And, when there is an urgent need to redo his roof, the monk remains optimistic: “every asceticism brings in money! ". He's only half kidding. “This is how the statues in the temple were given to me. "As a kind of grace

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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