Association Kan Jizai

"To Study the Way is to study ourselves
To study ourselves is to forget ourselves
To forget ourselves is to be at one with all existences"
Master Dgen


The history of Zen
The origins of Zen date back to Shakyamuni Buddha in India in the 6th century BC. These teachings eventually spread to China where they were known as Chan, and later to Japan, where they became Zen.

The history of Zen is closely linked with that of the masters who transmitted it through the centuries.
Shakyamuni Buddha
Born in the 9th century BC in a princely family, Siddharta Gautama grew up in lavish surroundings, protected from the harshness of the world. Legend has it that when he was born, fortune-tellers predicted that he would be a universal sovereign, a Buddha. His father who intended for him the life of a prince, who would succeed him as king, ordered that he be sheltered from everything unpleasant.

However, one day, Siddharta Gautama broke the rule and went for a walk outside the palace. There he met an old man, then a sick man, and then a funeral procession. He realized the impermanence of all things and this aroused hin him Bodaishin, the mind of awakening. (ou: this awakened him to bodaishin, the mind of enlightenment). He left the palace and its lavish lifestyle and took up a life of renunciation.

He started searching for masters who could teach him spiritual techniques, but the teachings he received left him dissatisfied. He then followed a strictly ascetic lifestyle but he realized after a while that it would not lead him to awakening.

Sitting on some cut grass under the Bodhi tree (Ficus Religiosa), in the lotus position, he decided not to move until he attained enlightenment. He was then 35 years old. His awakening and life are told in several sutras (especially the Majjhima Nikaya) and works (Buddha, by Jacques Brosse, Pygmalion Publishers-The Historical Buddha by H.W Shumann - Sully Publishers).



Bodhidharma, the first chinese patriarch. 5th century
Bodhidharma was the third son of the king of a state in southern India. Regretting the decline of the real teaching of Buddha, he decided to leave his country to go to China.

He arrived in the south of Canton around 470 AD, then settled in Luoyang at Shaolin temple where he meditated continuously for nine years.


He had two deeply motivated disciples, Tao-yu and Houei-ko (Eka in Japanese), who served him for ten years. According to the tradition Houei-ko received the transmission from him and became thus the second Chinese patriarch.

Eihei Dgen (1 200 1 253)
Dgen was born on January 2nd , 1200 in Uji, near Kyoto in a family belonging to the Minamoto clan. His father died when Dgen was only two and his mother when he was eight years old. When he saw the incense smoke rising up during his mothers funerals, he had his first experience of awakening, realizing the impermanence of all things.

When he was thirteen he joined Senkb monastery on Mount Hiei against the advice of his adoptive father who destined him for a brilliant career at court. A year later, he was ordained a monk.

When he was seventeen, Dgen joined Kennin-ji with master Myzen, Eisais legitimate successor. He followed his teachings for six years then went with him to China. There he met Master Nyjo from whom he received the transmission.

When he returned to Japan, he founded his first temple, Ksho-ji in Uji. In 1243, at the request of one of his lay disciples, Hatano Yoshishige, he founded Eihei-ji , today one of the two main temples of the St zen lineage.



Taisen Deshimaru (1914 1982)
Born in Saga in 1914, Taisen Deshimaru became a disciple of master Kodo Sawaki in the 30s. The latter is one of the most influential zen masters of the 20th century: he particularly insisted on the importance of zazen practice and was one of those who opened this practice to lay people. Unlike most zen masters, Taisen Deshimaru continued to lead a secular life while following his masters teachings. He was ordained a monk in 1965, shortly before Kodo Sawakis death. In 1967, he went to Europe and settled in Paris to transmit zen teaching.

In the 1970s, his mission developed fully. He received the Dharma transmission from Master Yamada Reirin, Abbot of Eihei-ji and became kaikyosokan (head of the Japanese St zen in a country or on a continent) in Europe. He trained many disciples and at his instigation a great number of places of practice were created. He founded the AZI in 1970 and the Gendronnire Zen Temple in 1979. He died in 1982, leaving a well-established zen practice in Europe.