Zen has settled down in Martinique

- through Sophie Solere

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Founded in 2008, the Zen Soto Buddhist Cult Association of Martinique-Godaï-Ji has its origins in the story of a disciple: Philippe Boniface, an ordained monk in the line of Gudo Wafu Nishijima.

“I feel at home. This is what Philippe Boniface said to himself when he retired in 2004, at the Gendronniere, Europe's largest temple of Zen Soto Buddhism, located in central France. This is the first time he has set foot in a dojo. He saw a click. Like many practitioners, he is impressed by the atmosphere of the dojo and the posture of zazen (legs crossed, back straight, hands brought against the abdomen, editor's note). His choice is made: he will practice Zen Soto. However, on the island of Martinique, where he resides, there is no sangha. Spontaneously, he asks his master Jean-Marc Tenryu Bazy to form a group of practitioners. “In Zen and more generally in Buddhism, one cannot remain isolated in the long term. If for each retreat, you have to go to mainland France and spend 1200 euros on plane tickets and living expenses, the practice becomes expensive and selective. »

Collective break times

Thus was born in 2008 the Zen Soto Buddhist Cult Association of Martinique-Godaï-Ji. It now brings together around thirty people. Martinique being a land of interbreeding, their origins are plural: Argentina, Brazil, Vietnam and France. However, it is in Martinique that two thirds of them grew up. On Tuesdays and every other Sunday, the group meets to practice in a room located in the town of Schoelcher and in a Creole family dwelling converted into a temple, near Fort-de-France. For two years, each year, in May and December, two sesshins (name given to meditation retreats, editor's note) allow about twenty practitioners to advance in the understanding of the dharma. On the program: four daily sessions of 1h30 of meditation, teaching times, meals prepared and eaten together in the peace of silence, etc. The group also organizes the rest of the year conferences designed for the general public, késa sewing workshops, traditional dress, and introductions to the musical instruments used during meditation sessions. : the bell or the "mokugyo", the wooden drum. Finally, Mahayana masters such as Jean-Marc Tenryu Bazy, abbot of the Gudo-ji Zen temple in Lyon, or Christain Reiyu Payen, former president of the Paris Zen dojo and President of the Nuage et eaux Zen association, come regularly from hexagon to enable them to deepen the teachings in their daily life, far from any mental vagrancy.

meditation at sunset

Over time, strong ties have been built within the group. "Friendship and love emerge between us", confides with a smile Maria Rosa Mattioli, 65, member of the sangha since 2012. She lived with the group "many beautiful memories". The Strongest ? “Perhaps an outdoor meditation at sunset. »

“Our practice is similar to trees growing in the middle of rocks,” he explains. They struggle to grow, but are stronger. The idea is not to live in a protected environment, but to be constantly forced to readjust. » Venerable Philippe Eison Boniface

Born in a small Alsatian town, Fabrice Betti, 48, describes his encounter with the sangha as "a major turning point in his life". "The daily practice of zazen is a real resource for rebalancing my body and my mind", he specifies. A vision shared by the founder of the small community and 92nd patriarch in the succession of Shakyamuni Buddha, the Venerable Philippe Eison Boniface, with a busy schedule. At 58, the Martiniquais works as director of training in a consular chamber and teaches the sciences of education within the faculty of the University of the Antilles of Schoelcher. With his managerial responsibilities and family life, he says he would have every reason to fuel the three poisons – anger, ignorance, greed. But like his masters, in line with Gudo Wafu Nishijima, he anchors himself in the world and learns to live his spirituality in the reality of everyday life. “Our practice is similar to trees growing in the middle of rocks,” he explains. They struggle to grow, but are stronger. The idea is not to live in a protected environment, but to be constantly forced to readjust. »

The Zen Soto Buddhist Cult Association now wishes to complete the fitting out of the temple dormitories and the Bonsho (temple bell), but also to have new members who combine practice and doctrine, daily life and spirit. A program rooted in the times.

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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