Continue zazen for a long time !
Testimony from Jacques Goossens
As part of the 50th anniversary of Master Deshimaru's arrival in Europe, here is the testimony of Jacques Goossens, a disciple of Master Deshimaru
I met the yoga teacher Eugène Buelens, who was the head of the Brussels Dojo. At the end of the lesson he had us sit on a zafu. Later, during a conversation with my departmental head, he recommended me to read the book « Zen » by Robert Linssen. I didn't much like this book, but however, I went directly to the dojo to practise. I was 43 years old, it was 1976. Since then I have never stopped. At the time the dojo was in a schoolroom. First of all there was one zazen a week on Wednesday evening, and afterwards, another zazen on Friday evening. I did zazen every morning at home. There were 10 or 15 people who practised at the Dojo.
Every month most of us went to Paris to practise at the Dojo in Pernety Street with Master Deshimaru. We had our habits. We always stayed in the same hotel on Alésia Street, and ate in the same restaurant. To go to the Dojo the next morning, we left the hotel in our kimonos, with our zafus under our arms and we walked like this in the street !
I was rapidly ordained as a bodhisattva, and then as monk in 1977, and from the beginning, I went to all the sesshins : in France, in Germany etc.....to practise as much as possible with Master Deshimaru. At the beginning the posture was terrible as it was difficult to get clear explanations on the posture. I had awful pains in my knees and arthrosis in one of my knees, but I tried as well as I could to hold the posture .......Then there were the summer camps in Val d'Isère, at the Gendronnière....At the Gendronnière there was a lot to do. Everything had to be built. I helped to set up the the telephone and electrical installations.
One day I even ended up being the tenzo ! I was given potatoes, eggs and apples. I made a soup with the nettles from the garden, I found morel mushrooms on a heap of sawdust for the omelette and for the dessert I made an apple pie. But there I cheated a little - I bought ready-made pastry from a local village shop !
At each sesshin, Sensei brought together the monks and nuns to collect ideas, because he wanted to create symposiums at the Gendronnière and turn it into a centre for therapy. And so the first symposium that was organised was about « non fear » This aspect of the Way was very important to him and this is also why he called the Gendronnière by the Japanese name of « Zendonien » which means « The Castle of Non-Fear ».
In Belgium every year there was a sesshin led by Sensei near Namur. At the time I brought Master Deshimaru back to France. One day, near Waterloo, a great storm struck. Master Deshimaru, who was sleeping, woke up and cried out « A storm, that brings good luck ! » He was really happy. I was at the steering wheel and I could see very little so I was rather afraid. During his last sesshin in Belgium, in Malonne, he gave me a calligraphy with my name, that he had done. He said to me in English : « Continue zazen for a long time ! » whilst looking me in the eyes. It's the testament he gave me. I thought at that moment that I would live to be very old and that I would continue zazen for the rest of my life.
Stéphane Thibaut told us, during a sesshin in Paris, that the greatest teaching Master Deshimaru gave us was not to have designated a successor, because in that way, we all became responsible for his mission.
I continued zazen with happiness and enthusiasm. Today I am 83 and I practise on a bench. Over time I became the head of the Brussels Dojo, which I didn't want to do in the beginning. I shunned this sort of thing for a long time, the most important thing for me was to be a monk. And then, while looking after the Dojo, I made sure that activities and conferences etc didn't develop. For me the Dojo is first and foremost a place dedicated to the practice of zazen !
PS The photo dates from a conference that Master Deshimaru gave with Profesor Chauchard of the Sorbonne at the University of Namur. I was a beginner, but as nobody wanted to show the posture as Sensei had asked, I rolled up my jacket to make a zafu and I sat on the stage.