Bodhidharma (470-532)
Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch after Shakyamuni, is credited with bringing the true teaching from India to China. After a sea trip full of hardships he reached Canton where the Emperor Wu invited him to a discussion about dharma. But the Emperor failed to grasp the meaning of Bodhidharma’s words; in fact, nobody in China could understand Bodhidharma. Disappointed, he took refuge in the Northern Mountains at the Shaolin temple. There he practiced zazen for nine years facing the wall. In this state he waited for the country to reach maturity and be able to understand him. Bodhidharma died at the age of 62 and bequeathed the transmission to his remarkable disciple Eka, who became thus the 29th Patriarch.
Dogen (1200-1253)
Dogen Kigen was born in a noble Japanese family. Both his parents died and at the age of 13 Dogen retreated to the monastery of Hiei Mountain, urged by the desire to seek the true Buddha teachings. At first he studied tendai Buddhism. But this form of practice failed to bring him satisfaction and he sought the company of the monk Eisai, the founder of the Rinzai school in Japan. After Eisai passed away, Dogen continued practicing under the guidance of Myozen, Eisai’s disciple, whom he accompanied to China in 1223 in his intention to receive training in authentic Buddhism. After Myozen’s death, in a period when Zen was in decline due to eclecticism and the dissipation tendency as a result of the large number of schools, Dogen met on the Tendo Mountain Master Nyojo, the head of Soto school, who preached assiduous meditation practice in the sitting position (zazen). After a three-year practice with Nyojo, Dogen received "transmission" and the task to spread the teaching. In 1227 he returned to Japan and preached the basic principles of Soto Zen in modest temples of Kyoto:
  • practice has no definite purpose and object (mushotoku)
  • drop off both body and mind (shin jin datsu raku)
  • practice itself is satori (shujo ichinyo)
In 1224 Dogen founded the Eihei-ji Temple ("Temple of eternal peace"), near Fukui, in the mountain chain situated in the Northwestern part of Japan, and this temple remained until today the world "headquarters" of Soto Zen.
Kodo Sawaki (1880-1966)
Kodo Sawaki was the one to restore Zen in the 20th century Japan. Just as Bodhidharma and Dogen before him, he focused exclusively on zazen practice and teaching. He gained notoriety in Japan especially in the after war period by organizing sesshins and summer camps in different locations. He taught both laymen and monks, held conferences both in universities and prisons and contributed to the development of a large number of dojos. He was also called "Kodo who knew no home" as he refused to settle down in a temple and always traveled unaccompanied. His entire activity brought back to life the dying Zen, reintroducing the universal practice of zazen. Master Deshimaru accompanied him everywhere during this period and Kodo Sawaki transmitted him the essence of Buddhism. At the age of eighty-six he fell severely ill and spent his last three months at the Antai-ji Temple, which he had turned into a place of pure practice. From his bed he would contemplate for hours on end the Takagamine Mountain and three days before passing away he told a nun: "Look! Nature is sublime. I understand the problems people have, yet I have never met somebody worthy of my admiration or submission. But the Takagamine Mountain is always looking down on me saying: Kodo, Kodo". These were his last words. He died on December 21st, 1966.
Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982)
Following the wish of his Master, Kodo Sawaki, Taisen Deshimaru left Japan in 1967 and went to France to honor the invitation of a group of macrobiotics followers. He lived in a warehouse in Lamartine Street and used to lead daily the zazen for a limited number of people. He suffered greatly as he only received macrobiotic food and if he sneaked out to have fried eggs, the macrobiotics followers would get mad. Later on, the disciples found him another apartment. By then, he was already holding conferences and traveling a lot. His conferences resembled those from his last years of his life. His following disciples would always say: "His teaching is more and more profound and the issues he talks about are increasingly profound." But if we were to examine closer his teachings, we would realize that in fact he always talked about the same thing. Only the exterior frame changed. At the beginning nobody had kimono or rakusu, the dojo wasn’t by far as beautiful as the present one: there was no mokugyo, no drum, but the zazen and the teaching remained the same. Many of his followers also criticized him: "Sensei has changed. He is performing ceremonies now ... his teaching is different than the one he preached before". In fact it was his spirit who had changed. Everything he encountered, the situations, the people, the phenomena were used for the Way, for promoting Zen and its practices. There are keywords such as dharma, karma that are well known in Buddhism, but Deshimaru was not a professional Buddhist or clergyman and did not practice a conventional form of religion. He has lived all his life in society and when he received his ordination and came to Europe to help those who were also living in the midst of the society. His teachings did not address solitary monks.
Mokusho Zeisler (1946-1990)
Zeisler was born in 1946 in Budapest. Shortly after his birth, his parents moved to France. Here he would become one of the first disciples of Master Deshimaru. After Taisen Deshimaru’s death, Master Zeisler, led charismatically and energetically the sangha (the community of Zen followers). His monk name, given to him by Master Deshimaru, was Mokusho (Silent Light, Silent Awakening). It is the symbol of zazen itself – purposelessly, beyond any interest, without a special technique, pure and clear from the center the earth to the sky above. “Light” is the all-embracing wisdom and understanding emerging when the mind returns to its original, natural condition. Mokusho Zeisler wanted to return to his homeland and Eastern Europe in order to bring kesa (the sacred cloth) and the zazen practice. Cruel death was the only one preventing him from putting this project into practice and this task was passed onto his closest disciple Yvon Myoken Bec.
Yvon Myoken Bec
Monk Myoken has been following the teaching of master Taisen Deshimaru and master Mokusho Zeisler for over 30 years, he's been teaching in Hungary and Eastern Europe for 15 years. He founded the temple Taisenji in Budapest, named after master Deshimaru's bodhisattva-name, and the Hoboji - the Temple of the Tereasaure of the Dharma - the first zen temple in Eastern-Europe, in Pilisszentlaszlo. He is also the founder of the Mokusho Zen Dojos in Bucurest and Zagreb.
Monk Myoken received the formal Dharma-transmission (Shiho) from master Kosen Thibaut, Renpo Niwa zenji's Dharma-heir in the autumn of 2002.
Master Myoken is in close touch with several spiritual leaders of Europe, like Zentatsu Baker roshi, Suzuki roshi's dharma-heir, Fausto Taiten Guareschi, the abbot of Fudenji zen temple in Italy, master Stephane Kosen Thibaut and master Barbara Kosen, master Deshimaru's greatest living disciples, Lama Denys, Kalu rinpoche's successor in Europe and Genpo roshi, leader of the international Kanzeon Sangha. He is a member of the worldwide organisation, COVR (Colloquium on violence and religion), registered by Rene Girard.