The teaching in Kanshoji

In Sôtô Zen, the teaching is transmitted from person to person.

At Kanshoji, it is given by Taiun Jean-Pierre Faure, who received the Dharma transmission from Dônin Minamisawa Zenji, abbot of Eiheiji zen temple.

 Taiun Jean-Pierre Faure’s teaching is based on that of Shakyamuni Bouddha rewritten at each period. It takes the different traditional forms of sôtô zen (see page Sôtô zen buddhism). All the teachings are translated into English.

Kusen

Oral teaching given during zazen

Kusen is the oral teaching given by the teacher during zazen.

It is not literature. Sentences are simple, short and straightforward. The kusen speaks to the deep part of the brain, to the heart of the disciple, who should not try to grasp it intellectually.

Master Nangaku – this story took place in China – saw his disciple Baso practice zazen with deep conviction. So he said to him: ‘But what are you actually trying to do?’ The disciple answered: ‘I’m trying to become a Buddha’. So Master Nangaku took a tile and started to rub it. The disciple Baso asked: ‘But what are you doing polishing this tile?’ Nangaku said: ‘I’m trying to make it into a mirror’. The disciple said: ‘But you won’t be able to make this tile into a mirror, even by polishing it!’ Master Nangaku then replied: ‘And you think you can reach the state of Buddha by practicing zazen?’

This story is very famous. It draws the attention on a very important aspect of the practice.

The idea of reaching a goal underlies all our actions. We always act to obtain something.

Master Nangaku tries to make his disciple understand that the practice is not a way to become Buddha, because fundamentally, we are Buddha.  One doesn’t need to make Buddha. There is no goal to reach. The practice itself is the goal. Because we are Buddha, we practice Buddha.

Because we are life, we practice life. We practice life as it is. We abstain from incessantly adding comments. We refrain from staying fixed on anything. We let life flow freely, without interfering, without resisting to it.

Master Deshimaru used to say: ‘To practice zazen is to practice the normal condition of the mind.’

In the world of zazen, the world of awakening, practice and realization are one and the same thing. In the same way as any form is accompanied by its shadow – the shadow occurs at the same time as the form. When we practice letting go, when we free our mind so that it doesn’t stay fixed on anything, we are totally liberated, this is the normal condition.

When we sit upright, when our mind is not preoccupied by anything, when our breathing comes and goes freely, when we don’t try to catch anything, or to avoid anything, when we let all the forms that come to the mind appear and disappear by themselves, this is the normal condition, this is what is called the state of Buddha. This standpoint deeply transforms our life.

Pay attention to the posture of the head that must remain above the shoulders, keep your eyelids down, but half-open, relax the tensions in the eyeballs – doing all this is polishing the posture. It is the act of polishing that in itself is the mirror. To be fully there, with an open awareness, without defilement, without limits, this is the mirror.

To attain a state of wide awareness, awareness that nothing can darken, that sees everything without stopping on anything, this is the normal condition of the mind. No form sticks on the mirror, no form remains fixed on the mirror, forms only appear and disappear.

Our fear, our greed, our anger prevent forms to glide on the mirror. When we are free from the three poisons, stupidity, greed and aversion, everything glides along and everything passes for ever. This is the normal condition, the state of Buddha, without fabrication. As it is, it is Buddha. As we are deep inside, we are Buddha.

So don’t look for anything, just be what you really are. Just sit, sit totally, at the exclusion of anything else.

In all activities of daily life, keep the same practice. When you walk, just walk totally. When you eat, just eat totally, fully there with what you are doing.

And so, you can enjoy pure existence, without comments, without decorations, without aim, without expectations.

Taiun JP Faure, November 2021

Looking inside ourselves helps other people to see themselves

There are those who want to change the world by asking others to change, and those who want to change the world by looking inside themselves. These two standpoints are mutually exclusive. If we look at other people too much, we can’t see ourselves.…

In keeping with reality

In an attempt to define Zen, one could say that it is to place the world of Being at the heart of our lives. To place the world of Being, rather than the world of Having, at the heart of our lives. Before having any thoughts, we are, we exist.…

To pursue happiness is to take the wrong direction

We hope for a brighter future. We hope that tomorrow will be better than today. We think: Tomorrow, if I have more money, I’ll be happier. If I have more comfort, I’ll be happier... We are in the pursuit of happiness. And the more you…

Chosan

Meeting with the abbot

The teacher expounds the Dharma freely in the presence of his disciples, around a cup of tea.
The teaching relates to real-life situations.

A monastery is not great because of its many disciples.
It is great because chosan is practiced daily.
Master Dôgen

Chôsan on engaged Buddhism

The premise of this chôsan is a film, The Venerable W, about a Burmese monk who encourages racism towards Islam. I have reservations about engaged Buddhism that shifts towards politics. That monk, pointing the finger at crimes committed…

Zen and psychoanalysis

" [...] Zen is different: its purpose is not to fix the ego, to make it compatible with society or the others. Zen deals with issues having to do with a whole other nature [...]"

Mondo

Questions and Answers

The mondo is the opportunity, for the disciple, to ask the teacher a question on some aspects of the teaching and how to realise them in daily life.

Teisho

Lectures

The commitment of a nun in the city (Hosetsu Laure Scemama – IZA seminar)

The commitment of a nun in the city (Hosetsu Laure Scemama) There exits several styles of life for a Zen monk or nun. I would like here to present an account of the style of life of a nun who is totally engaged in city life. In Japan,…

Personal experience: the monastic life (Yashô Valérie Guéneau – IZA seminar)

  As you can see, it is possible to live in a monastery for a number of years and remain quite normal! In our Sangha of the AZI certain members imagine that monks and nuns live in a monastery like “extra-terrestrial” beings – austere,…

Zen Monk, Bodhisattva : The Vows of the Candidate for Awakening (Taiun JP Faure – IZA seminar)

Human beings are religious animals. The Absolute is present at the heart of all phenomena of the universe. The entire universe practises the Way, naturally, unconsciously, and automatically. That gives rise to the question that Master…

Frequently Asked Questions

Ask questions

You are welcome to feed this page with questions. So, please feel free to send them to info@kanshoji.org

There is no mind without a body, no body without a mind. They are two aspects of a single reality. When body and mind are unified, we can remain present to ultimate reality, like Buddha Shakyamuni says so well: “The sound that is heard and the one who hears it are instantly forgotten”
That is what we get into the habit of doing in zazen. In other words, regardless of the situation, we are totally open to it, totally available. When we let go of everything that appears on our consciousness, without running away from or rejecting anything, nothing separates us from reality. Body and mind in unity, we become one with all existences in the universe. Being in unity with all existences, we can respond to them with wisdom and compassion.

Zazen is not at the service of anything. Zazen is simply the manifestation of ultimate reality, which has no end per se. Bringing this ultimate dimension within us has the power to change our life… We realise then that our points of view, our conceptions, our interpretations are relative, and that in no case should they be confused with ultimate reality.

A wrong vision of reality leads us to believe that all things in life are permanent, solid; that they have their own existence, independent from the rest. But the opposite is true.
In reality, all things in life are impermanent: they exist in interdependence with all other things, and have no separate existence.

Buddha teaches that we are the cause of our suffering, which comes from our ignorance, greed and aversion. However, he also asserts that we can put an end to our suffering, if we free ourselves from those three defilements, the three poisons.
Ignorance (waywardness):
Not seeing the true nature of life, the true nature of all things, that is to say, Buddha nature. Ignorance stops us from leading our life the right way, harmoniously, because we do not see reality as it is.
Greed (envy):
Neglecting our true nature and that of all things, we do not have access to the satisfying feeling of peace and plenitude. Consequently, we are in a state of frustration and lack, which leads us to look for happiness in material possessions, social status, fame, recognition, etc.
Aversion (anger, violence, hatred…):
Oblivious to the state of awakening, we accuse others; we feel aversion for everything that bothers us; we feel anger and hatred towards the outside world.
It is because we follow the three poisons – often unknowingly – that we entertain relationships with the world which are not right, which prevents our fulfillment and that of others

To practice the Buddha way is to show wisdom and compassion. This can be realised when we become free of the three poisons — ignorance, greed and aversion — and of all the resulting toxic flows. Then, we are no longer locked up in our selfish thoughts, and consequently, no longer separate from other beings. We see the others as they are, with their joys and their sorrows. We feel the desire to help them with their sufferings. Being compassionate is being in unity with the others. The river of giving then flows naturally and freely between all existences. When we are free of the three poisons, the virtue of giving arises naturally. It’s a characteristic of Buddha’s functioning.

Poems

Sagesses Bouddhistes TV broadcast

  • Which place and meaning should monastic life have? (French)
  • The Master-Disciple relation (French)
  • Understanding of Buddhism by Westerners, difficulties and traps (French)
  • The resonance in the Buddha Way (French)
  • The desire of appropriation, source of all the sufferings (French)