Master Sando Kaisen

Master Sando Kaisen introduced himself to the Czech Republic in 1990. Since then, his books have been published here and people could have come to see him on several lectures and introductions to zazen he has given here, and learn about him from various press articles and programmes on the radio and TV.

Since 2004, Tomasz Dabrowski, a zen monk from Poland and Master Sando Kaisen’s disciple, has been responsible for leading the Prague dojo and transmitting Master Sando Kaisen’s teachings in the Czech Republic.

Master Sando Kaisen is one of the major representatives of the European Zen. He continues the tradition of a school founded by Master Eihei Dogen in the 13th century Japan. It spread through Europe in the 1960s thanks to Master Deshimaru. Its main function is transmitting the sitting meditation – zazen or Buddha’s sitting, which focuses on the position of the body, the breathing and the attention.

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. Through his master´s presence and through zazen, he received a confirmation of what he had always believed in: the inner searching is available to everyone. The answer to it cannot be philosophical, mystical, esoteric, or even divine. If the light exists, it radiates without difference inside all sentient beings, it cannot be exclusively available to high priests, gurus or masters, home to only traditional monasteries or holy scriptures. Practicing through the body has always been essential to him, and thus he very quickly came to understand, that the secret of being lies in the reality of a body, not inside an invented spirituality.

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. In 1990, he visited Eastern Europe again, so that he could, in accordance with his master´s efforts, transmit the zen teachings and the practice of zazen. His authenticity, openness and determination made him soon popular in Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. For over thirty years, he has been teaching the zazen position and the Enlightenment which exceeds all human creations, touches the essence of life and death, and frees from fear, moralizing and everything that can limit a human being in his search for answers. He often says in his lectures: “In fact, there is no answer to be given, since the answer is in meditation and in life. There is only a question. And if the question is honest, it is also its answer.”

In 1992, with the assistance of his closest disciples, Master Sando Kaisen established a monastery, a place fully devoted to practicing zazen. The Monastery of the River Teachings was situated on the bank of the Auvezere River, in the heart of the Périgord Region in France. In 2005, he founded a new monastery in Larzac, in the south of Dordogne. The monastery was built on a picturesque hill and it was named The Temple of the Peak of Light. In 2003, thanks to the efforts of a group of his devoted disciples, a temple in Poland was established. The monastery was close to the Warta River, on the side of the Zaleczky Natural Park. It was called The Temple of the Eternal Light. It housed a community of men and women monks, who lived here and practiced the Awakening. Every month, retreats take place in the French monastery and twice a year, there are a week long camps  – these days of intensive practice are lead by Master Sando Kaisen. Here, as anywhere else, Master gives to all who come to him the essence of his teachings, which is to look spontaneously, fresh and new at the reality as it is. Look only through your heart.

Lately he has been spreading his mission further east, to Ukraine and Russia. He gives lectures, takes part in symposiums, meets various influential people. In the Czech Republic, for example, he met and made friends with thee former Czech president Vaclav Havel, Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, or Mr. Vacek. He influences politics, science, cultural and religious life. The media (TV, the press and the radio) spread his message. His popularity often surprises himself as well, he only answers the calling of the beings that come to him. A teacher and a missionary, that created the European Zen, the inevitable resurrection from the militarism of the Japanese tradition.

Master Sando Kaisen has published over fifteen books, out of which many appeared also in Czech bookshops: Budodharma neboli poučení samuraje / Budodharma or the Teachings of the Samurai (CAD press), Mnich bojovník / A Monk Warrior (CAD press), Buddhismus a křesťanství / Buddhism and Christianity (CAD press), Odysea člověka světla / The Odyssey of a Human of Light  (Pragma), Umění pokojného umírání / How to Die Peacefully (Fontána), Zenová masáž /The Zen Massage (Fontána), Cesta v prázdnotě / Pure Vission (published also in English). Many of these books speak of the essence, since he boldly addressees the pressing problems of our times and gives specific direct answers. He does not hesitate to answer the question of the equality of men and women, which has been discussed since the times of Buddha Shakyamuni, he lets his female followers, as well as his male students, perform ceremonies and become Masters of Zen.

An artist, a musician, a chef, a gardener or a calligrapher… his teachings take all shapes and adapt to all circumstances. Besides traditional kusens (direct teaching during zazen) and mondos (questions and answers between a master and his disciple) his message resonates also in the songs he composes and performs. In 2000, he published his chansons in Slovakia on a CD called “Dusa” / The Spirit. Publishing a CD inspired him to create a recording studio in France. He has recorded and published seventeen CDs in which he explains the basis of Zen in an original way (some of these CDs have been translated and published in Czech as well). The Master has also made a feature film “Prach sveta” / The Dust of the World, based on the life-story of one of his disciples, where he transmits the essence of his teachings. Master Sando Kaisen often says that “his teachings have no subject, since what is seen by heart does not need to be taught. It is wrong to look for freedom, since there is no way leading to it. Freedom, as well as love, is nothing but an expression of the pure treasure shining inside every thing. What matters is to be alive, be creative and let the spontaneity of the natural and sincere enthusiasm living inside each of us run free.

Master Sando Kaisen transmits only one thing “from my soul to yours”: to break through the shell of habits and securities that imprisoned the self, to touch the Way and make it real in pure consciousness of the body, so that we can understand the Spirit of Unity.

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