Workshop Zen and Nature

Activity report of « Zen and Nature »

« Despite of being illiterate, Master Eno, had the capacity to grasp the teachings of nature, the teachings of all living beings. In the end, Buddha-dharma is not in the books only, but also in nature, in the heart of each living being. By watching nature and life, one can grasp the Buddha-dharma. »

The activities included in « Zen and Nature » aims at making us more aware of the the interdependency between human beings and nature.  Nature is a living exemple of interdependency and impermanency. Understanding nature, understanding that we are never apart from nature, enables to grow respect and compassion and to practice bodhisattva-mind.


Some activities took place during the 2010 spring camp at Grube Louise, as well as in the summer camps at the Zen Temple La Gendronnière, in 2004, 2009 and 2010.  Besides, some zazen practice days including walking tours, took place in the springs, summers and autumns 2009 and 2010.  Members of the sangha of Master Roland Yuno Rech, dojos from Antwerpen, Mulhouse, Melle, Toulon and Treves (Trier), as well as Raimund Olbrich, the gardener of La Gendronnière Temple, took part to those zen and environment days.

What is the meeting point between Zen and ecology ? This has been the main topic covered up to now.  A report on that issue, written in German, has been composed right after the 2004 summer camp’s workshop. It can be sent upon request. The 2004 workshop ended after a preparation period based on the late Konrad Buchwald’s quotation : « Our soul needs a sillent land to experience that eternity is beginless and endless. »

Observation and study of the different natural habitats. Observation of natural biotopes was the theme of the 2009 summer camp’s workshop at La Gendronnière, within the temple area (meadow, forest, garden, lakes and water surfaces, as well as typical plants and animals).


Nature observation : stone lamp with a plant, at the castle of La Gendronnière

How are the natural habitats laid out by men for their exploitation ? A central point of the 2010 spring camp at Grube Louise, was the identification of wild plants in the garden, in the meadow, in the forest, with the help of an herbarium. At the end of the workshop, the participants prepared a « mini-biotope » which decorated the room for the evening party.  In the 2010 summer camp, the central workshop’s theme was the garden of La Gendronnière Temple and its culture.  Raimund Olbrich, the gardener of La Gendronnière, made it very clear : « In the garden one must destroy first in order to be able to grow anything (for instance vegetables, flowers...)


Talk group in the garden of La Gendronnière

Silent walks.

During the practice days organised at Osnabrück (upon invitation of the Melle dojo) in the area of Trier, evenings were dedicated to zazen practice and the following mornings to sillent walks.

Those walks were the opportunity to observe the season changes, to listen to the animals in the different natural habitats, to learn to recognize plants, to discuss about the influence of humans on the cultivated lands.

Observing the season changes                                       Nature experience for children



Those activities have gathered from 2 up to 14 people.  The difficulty generally met was the lack of time to cover all the different topics.  Besides, translation in the different mother tongues of the participants during the camp at La Gendronnière, was hard.


Efforts to learn relationships of environment dependency and nature watching, must be pursued, for there is a definite interest from the people practising zen. Zazen practice makes one sensitive to nature and aware of environment-dependency based relationships.

We are looking for skilled people, for instance in the field of medicinal herbs, or in the field of « green-minded » daily life behaviours, in order to cover those topics in new workshops.

The idea to motivate, in as many dojos as possible, interested people and heads of dojos, about ZEN and Nature, who could develop new independent activities within the dojos, hasn’t met interest so far, or, hasn’t been communicated.

Last but not least a poem:

In spring, the cherry blossoms,   Au printemps les cerisiers fleurissent,
In summer, the cuckoo's song,   En été le coucou chante,
In autumn, the moon, shining,   A l’automne la lune brille,
In winter, the frozen snow:   L’hiver la neige gelée :
How pure and clear are the seasons!   Quelles pures et claires sont les saisons ! (1)


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([1])           De: ZEN Poetry of DOGEN and other ZEN Masters – cité par Maître Roland Yuno Rech