I travel a lot, as regular readers on this blog know. At the end of this week I'm traveling to Prague, which is sort of an ancestral homeland of mine (I'm of Polish, Slovak, & German descent, and have relatives in Prague).
As I often do when I travel, before I go I usually do an internet search to find the "state of Buddhsim" where I'm going. It's how I found Chan/Son/Zen Temples in Xi'an, Tianjin, Jeju, Seoul...
So I look to see if there's any kind of Zen in Prague. And there is. There's the Kwan Um folks' Prague office. I kind of have a grudging admiration for the Kwan Um folks. And then there's this guy.
Master Sando Kaisen – Alain Krystaszek was born in 1952 in Noyon in the Oise region of France. He spent his first years in his hometown, and left it at the age of eight, when his father decided to take him to Poland, his father´s home country, to be brought up there. Here in Wroclaw, he received strict education, and the repressive atmosphere of communism of that time left sorrowful feelings inside him. As he was growing up, he kept on thinking more and more intensively about the issues of injustice, anger and human ignorance. The Christian education, he received in Poland while he was ministering for an old bishop, provided first answers. When he returned to France in 1967, he became a guardian of a Noyon cathedral and a guide in the John Calvin Museum. He was even thinking of becoming a priest. But at that time he started to ponder about other things too. He could not accept the idea, that peace and happiness of the spirit could only exist inside the church walls, and that the outside world would be filled with suffering and ignorance.He ceaselessly continued searching for answers, and he wandered from one group to another. He started to make his living as a musician playing drums. At that time, at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s, France was a place where eastern philosophy was flourishing. Fascinated by martial arts, which he had started to learn in Poland with teachers coming from beyond the Caucasus, he decided to go to China in 1972 where he could practice martial arts in their place of origin. His journey led him through the Himalayas, all across the communist China to a small temple, lost in the mountains of Wei-fang-shan. He practiced kung-fu here and meditated under the tutoring of an old Chinese master, who taught him both the mastery of controlling his body and mind and the traditional Chinese medicine.When he got back to Paris, he met a Japanese Master Taisen Deshimaru, who had arrived to spread the zen teachings in Europe. He finally found in him a living example of what he had always been looking for, and he decided to become his disciple...In 1979, he received an ordination for a monk from the hands of his master. His monk´s name became Sando Kaisen, meaning “a lonely hermit”. He devoted himself completely to the practice and transmitting of the zazen position. He studied ikebana (the Japanese art of arranging live flowers), calligraphy (the Japanese art of writing-painting) and growing bonsai. For over twenty years, he pursued his interest in Chinese medicine and kept on improving his kung-fu, up to the point when he realized, that the quiet sitting position surpasses all other practices and leads directly to the realization. That is when he definitively stopped practicing martial arts.Full of energy, Master Sando Kaisen kept on drawing more and more disciples to himself, he founded one association after another and established many dojos, centres for practicing zazen... ...© Master Sando Kaisen’s Zen
Of course the name Taisen Deshimaru was kind of a dead giveaway as to why this oddly flattering praise appears here. It is really hard to get past that - does this kind of schtick help beings in Central Europe? Maybe it does. I find it kind of hard to believe however, yet, I'm sure this guy's got "followers."
I guess the point of this whole thing is Alain Sando Kaisen really has his poop together, and you don't. I guess. I mean, the guy can walk on water and swim on land, it seems.
But what possible kind of Zen could you learn from a guy like this?
You might learn, I suppose, how to meditate in the Soto kind of way (I'd hope at least that.) But this kind of wording can't but encourage some kind of attachment to Sando Kasisen that is unhealthy. Someone in the position of authority should maintain some difference from their "students" (clients? partners?), but ultimately there are no kings; nobody is by virtue of whatever karma or effort untouchable, fundamentally and irretrievably separate; there is no divine right.
Anyway, "Master" Sando Kaisen's Zen is rather unfamiliar to me; it doesn't look very much like Zen from its web presence.