Taisen Deshimaru

Taisen Deshimaru

Taisen Deshimaru was born in Japan in 1914. In his youth he studied Christianity but the Christian practice left him unsatisfied. He then tried Rinzai Buddhism but this too left him unsatisfied. In 1935 he was studying economics in Tokyo when he met Master Kodo Sawaki and became interested in Soto Zen. He repeatedly asked to be ordained as a monk but Kodo Sawaki encouraged him instead to remain as a lay practitioner and continue his practice in society saying that ‘Zen is not separate from life’. Deshimaru finally received ordination in November 1965 from Kodo Sawaki who shortly after fell ill. In December 1965 on his death bed he gave Taisen Deshimaru the Shiho (Dharma transmission). In 1967, honouring Kodo Sawaki wishes, Deshimaru traveled to Europe to spread the teachings of Soto Zen.

He arrived in Paris unable to speak French and made a living by giving shiatsu massages and teaching Zen Buddhism. In 1970 he created the Association Zen International (AZI) and in 1971 he opened the first dojo in Paris and founded the Zen temple ‘La Gendronniere’ the largest Soto Zen temple outside Japan. In early 1982 he was diagnosed with cancer and returned to Japan leaving his disciples with his last words, ‘please, continue zazen’. He died on the 30th April 1982.