A Message from Guy Mokuhô Mercier – Regarding Confinement

A Message from Guy Mokuhô Mercier – Regarding Confinement

Hello dear friends of Tenborin.

I hope you are all well

At this time when everyone is obliged to stay at home, we feel even more the need to come together just to sit and practise the Way of Buddha.

Advice is generally not followed to a great extent, but if we want to stay calm and centred on what is important, this is what I suggest : each one of us should sit to practise zazen at the same times we would have at the dojo, before this period of confinement. This is a way of sharing the space of Presence, to unite with all beings and to pay homage to those who have transmitted the teachings of Buddha to us.

This confinement will last …. 

So we will send some reflections to you on a regular basis, along with teachings and announcements, so that our sangha, along with all the others, remains awake, alive and preserves in our hearts the calm that zen teaches and the profound desire to act as a Bodhisattva for the good of others.

So, here’s the first message:

Confinement and Solitude.    

A calm night, beneath the empty window,
Sitting in meditation, wrapped up in my monk’s robe,
The navel and nostrils well aligned,
Ears and shoulders on the same axis.
The window is white, the moon is about to come out,
The rain has stopped, some drops still fall.
At this time, my feelings are extraordinary,
Huge, immense, and only known to me.


Sometimes we dream of being alone, like Ryokan in his hermitage in the mountains, when the pressure of others, the media, and other phenomena overwhelm us, oblige us to be always adopting an appropriate composure, to play with all the facets of our personality and continue to appear.

We would like to feel better, but sometimes we no longer know how to get out of this condition, where to go, who we can trust or confide in, and what we can think of to avoid getting bogged down or even falling. We’d like to stop running, to stop time, or even just stop.

And then circumstance brings along a truce, a moment of respite, and time seems to stand still. It’s not what we were expecting or even hoping for, far from it. It’s even an additional pain which purpose it is hard to see, when everything is turned upside down by a single little invisible germ!

The feeling of isolation, of restricting confinement, hard to live through, seems impossible to overcome for some. We start to doubt ourselves, truly alone, even amongst thousands of others! We’d like to retreat high up the mountain with Ryokan, and see ourselves looking at the beauty of the countryside, whilst at the same time bitterly understanding that that only exists in our imagination.

The landmarks and habits which allow us to mark out our personal space, our relationships with others, the routines of everyday life, our professional activities are suddenly with one stroke tipped over, wiped out, swept away.

Our immediate temptation is strong and almost atavistic, to invent new games for ourselves, to make our usual distractions and virtual games last longer and longer, in our often very confined homes. And to try to escape once more from this isolation, which we pejoratively call solitude.

And yet this reversal of the principles and habits of everyday life is a good moment to discover and explore true solitude and find an authentic path of sharing and communication with others, true compassion.

Confinement is necessary, but it isn’t a question of solitude.

Solitude has quite a different scent. We smell it when we are able to free ourselves from the past and from the worry of what may come in the future, when we welcome the present moment like a newborn, opening his eyes for the first time.

True solitude is the real place of purity and innocence, from which arise all possible futures, all constructive energies. It is creative light, rising up from darkness, free of all contamination, beyond ignorance and suffering. It is emptiness.

Can we look at this deep solitude, quite simply, just as it is, without trying to run away from it, without dressing it up with words, masking it with a thousand commentaries, without feeling afraid of being nobody?

The scent of solitude frees our mind from its karmic chains, and its attraction to the ten thousand things. It’s like the smoke of incense that spreads in the space of consciousness.

When the mind joins with this solitude, it finds its source again. Fears dissolve, doubts are only doubts, and things go back to their anonymous form in the heart of this Presence which melts and unites all existences.

The scent of this solitude, pure and simple, spreads out in the heart of our meditation. The scent of One, Shikantaza.

Have a good practice everyone! Let us continue zazen with courage.

With all my fond wishes for the beginning of Spring.

~Guy Mokuho