Chan Seminar at Lanau

Chan Seminar at Lanau

From the 26 th  Feb to the 1st Mar, we had the honour and the happiness to welcome Catherine Despeux to Lanau, a French sinologist    And Professor Emeritus of the National Institute of Oriental  Languages and Civilisations (Inalco) and administrator of the Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Here are a few words about what I experienced and my summary.

Catherine Despeux offered us a teaching workshop of three and a half days on Chan Buddhism in China ( dhyana in Sanskrit , Zen in Japanese) from its origins to the present day.

Catherine situated Chan in history. Then, in a concise and efficient manner, in order for us to define  its principle characteristics, ( based on mind, theories, methods and exercises based on meditation) pointed out the influences of and correlations with the Tao ( based on the body) and Confucianism ( based on politics.)

In order to present the different Chan schools to us, Catherine pointed out the different threads that have grown around the lineages. Then we were able to get a brief summary of Chan today.

These workshops have been very lively and interactive, thanks to the great generosity of our speaker, who didn’t hesitate to make long digressions in order to reply  to our questions, of which there were many, whilst being able to resume the thread of her talk straight afterwards. She also did not hesitate to throw out sentences which opened up new pathways for us, such as “ the goal is to forget all goals” and also “ the goal is the way.”

Her teaching style, with  a great deal of humour and joy, denuded of ideology or religiousness, just dealing with historical fact, threw additional light on our studies, another point of view, which helped our understanding and made it very worthwhile. We also were able to appreciate Catherine’s commitment to China when we saw her film, made with great sensitivity, about a monastery held by a woman of 95 years, a woman of courage, whom one can’t help but admire, and her training in Chan is quite something!

How can we fail to thank Guy and Catherine for offering to our group of 40 people such a treasure, in total harmony with the benefits of Chan: with warmth, relaxation, joy and lightness.


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Sangha Tenborin