“IF YOU ARE NOT HAPPY HERE AND NOW, YOU NEVER WILL BE.” -TAISEN DESHIMARU
Taisen Deshimaru (1914-1982) grew up on the island of Kyushu in Japan. He was a disciple of Kodo Sawaki, which he followed for 30 years and with whom he practiced until his death in 1965 while continuing his life in society. Kodo Sawaki was one of the most influential Zen masters of the 20th century in Japan: He insisted on the importance of the practice of zazen and was one of those who made this practice accessible to lay people by organizing sesshins in numerous temples.
Kodo Sawaki had long rejected Deshimaru's wish to be ordained a monk. He recognized him as a true man of the path and did not want him to become a professional monk in the traditional temple system, as is customary in the institutionalized Zen of Japan. Shortly before his death, Kodo Sawaki ordained him as a monk and asked him to pass on the living Zen to the West. The penetration of the spiritual and material world experienced in the decades of his practice with Kodo Sawaki became the core of Master Deshimaru's teaching when he arrived in Paris in 1967.
Taisen Deshimaru brought the essence of Zen to Europe in its original freshness. In Europe he found the ideal environment to spread a Zen which is rooted in everydays life and present in the society. It was his great concern to contribute to the crisis of our civilization by spreading the practice of Zen. He had a deep desire to help today's people and to lead them through zazen to a deeper understanding of themselves and their lives, whose imbalance he felt deeply. Taisen Deshimaru possessed an extraordinary energy. What drove him forward was an unshakable belief in practice of zazen, in the pure teachings of the Zen patriarchs, and in the importance of this practice for future civilizations.
During the 15 years of his teaching activities, Deshimaru established many Zen communities (Dojos), founded the AZI (Association Zen International)) and created the first great Zen temple in France (La Gendronnière). In Japan, he was appointed as “kaikyosokan”, the person in charge of the Soto Zen for Europe. He has neither appointed a direct successor nor conferred an official transfer (shiho). But he passed on the practice of Zen directly and indirectly: Directly by teaching numerous students and indirectly with the publication of a number of great books which can serve as a kind of manual. As the founder of Zen in Europe, Taisen Deshimaru has thus permanently implanted the living tradition of Zen into a new earth.
Taisen Deshimaru died in 1982 in Japan. His last words before he left were:"Continue Zazen eternally!"