The Origin of Zen

The origins of authentic Zen lie in the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha, who lived in India in the 6th century BC. He taught that sitting in the lotus position is both practice and realisation at the same time.

Through the centuries, this practice has been passed down from master to disciple. Zen Buddhism was brought to China by the Indian monk Bodhidharma (6th century AD). Zen was introduced to Japan from China by the monk Eisai, and a few years later, by the founder of the Soto school, Master Dogen (13th century AD).

The Japanese word “Zen” derives from the chinese word “Ch’an” which itself derives from the sanskrit word “Dhyana” meaning meditation or concentration. This image shows part of a document called a Ketsumyaku, a certificate of affiliation to the lineage of the great masters and Buddhas of the past up to the present day of our teacher Master Kosen, who received transmission from Deshimaru who in turn received his transmission from Kodo Sawaki in Japan.

The monk Kosen, (born 1950), is from the lineage of the great iconoclastic masters, free from any yoke, liberated from every dogma and always disconcerting. Kosen, Stephane Thibaut started his eventful life in 1950, in Paris. After many experiences in the agitation of the world, he comes across the practice of the transmitted zen, with the man who was introducing it to the Western World, the “Boddhidharma of modern times”: Master Taisen Deshimaru.

 

Master Deshimaru, (1914 – 1982).
Following the instructions of his teacher Kodo Sawaki, arrived in Paris in 1967, invited by a group of French macrobiotics. There, he committed himself totally to the teaching of zazen and of the Zen tradition.Since then, until his death from cancer in 1984, he taught Zen to numerous disciples, the oldest of which is Kosen Thibaut. He founded a zentempel, the Gendronnière and many other dojos throughout France and Europe. Blessed with extraordinary energy, Taisen Deshimaru Roshi was animated by an unwavering faith in zazen practice, in the pure teachings of the buddhas and patriarchs, and in the importance of this practice and teaching for the present day.

Master Kodo Sawaki, (1880- 1965), did not teach in monasteries but in the heart of society and made zen accessible for everyone.
They called him “Homeless Kodo” because he refused to remain in a temple and always travelled alone. He brought with him, a breath of fresh air to the moribund zen reintroducing the universal practice of zazen. After the war he became a celebrity in Japan, organising sesshins and summer camps in several temples. He taught both lay people and monks, giving conferences in universities and in prisons and participating in the constitution of numerous dojos. During all this time, Master Deshimaru followed him everywhere and Kodo Sawaki taught him the essence of Buddhism. In 1963, at 86 years of age, he fell gravely ill and he retired to Antai-ji (the temple which he had transformed into a place of pure practice). From his bed, he spent long periods looking at the mountain of Takagamine.

In Amsterdam we continue this uninterrupted daily practice in Zen Dojo Amsterdam – ‘Gyo Kai’. Each year (usually in August), there is a sesshin with Master Kosen in the Yuyo Nyusanji Temple, near Montpellier in France.
There are also sesshins and zazendays in Amsterdam led by disciples.