The Chairman's Edito (NL #31)
A few days ago, the ABZE Board of Directors elected me as the new President of our association. These few lines give me the opportunity to express my thanks and admiration to all those who have been actively involved in the running of the ABZE since its foundation, and especially to the outgoing Board members, who did me the favour of staying by my side to keep working for our great sangha.
Of course, I cannot express my thanks without saying, on my own behalf and on behalf of all of us, my deep gratitude to Roland Yuno Rech without whom none of this would exist.
Also, as I write these lines, the faces of all those with whom I had the pleasure of sharing the practice for many years - that is to say the members of our sangha - come to my mind. I hope to be able to give them back some of the confidence in the practice and the joy they brought me and keep bringing me.
And I cannot write to you without mentioning the peculiar year (in many ways) that we are experiencing. Our sangha did not escape the upheavals of the Covid-19 crisis and for the first time in many years, the summer camp in Belgium could not take place, many sesshins were cancelled and the dojos also have been closed for several months.
THE TEMPTATION OF ISOLATION
Almost all of us continued to practice alone at home during the lockdown. Several initiatives enabled groups of practitioners to stay connected during this period, even virtually thanks to various applications of the Net. These links, as many have testified, have been a great support. However, these virtual links - so useful during a lockdown - do not make a sangha in the sense that we understand it, and solitary practice, which is a real difficulty in some cases, can also be transformed into a practice coloured by a certain comfort. Isolation then no longer becomes a constraint, but a temptation where we risk slipping from "the" practice to "my" practice.
The second mistake would be to be content to wait for better days before finding the way back to the dojo. Of course, we must take very seriously the health rules that allow us to protect ourselves collectively, but these rules do not prevent us from continuing the practice together, as long as we can adapt the practice according to the places and constraints of the moment.
THE SANGHA IS ONE OF THE THREE TRESORS
The summer camp planned at La Gendronnière with Roland was able to take place and went off without any particular problems. The health rules were strict but, for each moment of the day (zazen, ceremonies, samu, meals, etc...), a solution was found to remind and respect these rules, all this with lightness. The number of participants was certainly limited, but all those who were able to take part benefited from the sangha's benevolence and support. Contrary to what one might have imagined, the pandemic situation did not discourage the beginners who were numerous to try the adventure: several people made their first sesshin and their first camp on this occasion! By the time they left, every one of them was delighted with his stay.
One might also have expected a limited number of ordinations, but this was not the case. I was particularly moved to see the newly ordained expressing their faith and trust in the Three Treasures and therefore in the sangha.
THE SANGHA PROTECTS US AND WE MUST PROTECT IT.
Taking refuge in the sangha is not only a symbolic act at the moment of ordination, it is an act repeated every time we go to the dojo to practice with others. Practicing together means taking refuge in the sangha and at the same time protecting it by keeping it alive. It is expressing our compassion towards all beings, by helping to keep this window wide open on the world where every one can be welcomed, whatever his history and origin, as long as he expresses a sincere willingness to study the Dharma.
Among all the Masters of our tradition, none has failed to practice with the sangha.
Therefore, in spite of these difficult times, respecting of course the constraints imposed by the health situation, it is important, if we have the possibility, to continue to meet and practice together, in the dojos and during the sesshins.
I wish you a good practice and hope to see you soon:
Marc Chigen Estéban.
Photos - Eric Tchéou - La Gendronnière - Summer camp 2020