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 Roshi, vice-zenji 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.

If you look at zazen from the outside, you don’t understand. People sometimes tell me: “But you are loosing your time, sitting there doing nothing…” To practice zazen is to practice the normal condition of the mind. The opposite of the normal condition is madness.

Nowhere are we being taught what to do with negative emotions, such as anger, hate, fear, jealousy, dissatisfaction, the desire to always want more. Neither at school, university or in society are we being taught to free ourselves of afflictive passions. Some people get up with a thought, a desire that follows them all day long. And the next day, they wake up with the same thoughts. Impossible to free oneself from obsessive thoughts, such as the thirst for revenge, regrets, anger – impossible to free oneself from them.

The state of the world depends upon the mind of human beings. Wars depend upon the state of mind of human beings. The state of the planet, the loss of animal species, ocean pollution, all this comes from the human beings’ greed. To practice zazen is to come back the normal condition of the mind.

In the Universe, everything is in the normal condition, except human beings. Everything is interdependent, everything experiences impermanence – except human beings who cannot let go of their greed, sometimes their anger, sometimes their stupidity. In the end, zazen is more important for mankind than breathing itself.

Why is it so difficult for human beings to come back to the normal condition of the mind? Because human beings are thinking beings. This is the greatness of mankind, but also its weakness. By thinking, we can dream up the idea of becoming the master of the world. We can invent all kinds of means to exploit all living beings. We can invent all kinds of ways to destroy what bothers us.

The important point is to think in accordance with the reality of the universe. As Rabelais used to say: “Science – all the human activities – without conscience is but the ruin of the soul.”

But before being a thinking being, we are a living being. We must never forget our living side. Zazen summons us back to pure life, pure existence, zazen reminds us that before being a thinking being, we are a living being.

Zazen requires us to come back to life as it was before thoughts arise. To go from one thought to another to another to another… this is to enter the cycle of madness. It is to move further and further away from reality. Right thinking comes from being alive. It is important to always come back to the living condition, to pure existence. This is to say, to the normal condition of the mind: thinking that comes from non-thinking and returns to non-thinking.

To think from non-thinking, this is the normal condition of the mind. Living, thinking, living, thinking: this is what we do in zazen, where we let thoughts appear by themselves and we let them disappear by themselves. Thinking from the depths of non-thinking. Right thinking is a continuous alternation between thinking, non-thinking, thinking, non-thinking.

To continue from thought to thought leads us to madness. Not to know how to let go of our thoughts is not the normal condition. To be attached to a thought without being able to get rid of it, this is what a young child throwing a tantrum does. We can forgive a young child, but it is tragic when an adult cannot let go of his anger, his desires, his stupidity.

You must understand that right thinking must be at the service of living beings. This is what we learn to do in zazen. Thinking from the depths of non-thinking. A thought comes from non-thinking and returns to non-thinking. This is the normal condition of the mind. To be unable to let go of a thought is madness.

To return to the normal condition of the mind is the most important thing in our life. The guy who goes out into the street with a gun and sprays every person he meets, this is a man who has lost his reason. He went from a thought of hate to another thought of hate, until he acted out.

Please, understand how the mind works. Zazen is more important for mankind than breathing itself. Zazen allows the mind to breathe. In breathing, there are two aspects: inspiration and expiration. It is the same for the breathing of the mind. A thought appears, and a thought disappears. This is the normal condition of living beings, of the living human being. With inspiration, a thought appears; with expiration, the thought disappears.

The normal condition of the mind settles in when you are unconcerned with what appears to the mind and what disappears from the mind.

Taiun JP Faure, June 2021

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The spirit of the summits

There is a mountain of which the summit stands higher than the other mountains, a mountain of which the summit is hidden from the human eye, a summit wrapped in pure air, free from any pollution, always covered with sparkling snow. This…
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In the morass of opinions

For the great elephant* who got bogged down, who went too far in the morass of opinions, there is no other way out than to step back, to find the strength by himself; no-one can do it for him, he will have to put all his faculties into…
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Doing what we have to do

At the smallest thought, you begin to ramble. You ramble, that is to say, you leave the Way. Journalists always comment the news. Truth is sufficient unto itself, life is truth, truth is the Way. Any comment we add only makes us loose the Way,…

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 shosan is practiced daily.
Master Dôgen

Shôsan on engaged Buddhism

The premise of this shôsan 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)