Like a meteor
His zen name was Mokushô, Silent Illumination. He shined with discretion, as he was a secret, subtle and deep being. When he translated Sensei, master Deshimaru, of whom he was the first disciple, he totally made way for him: we only heard the rhythm of the voice of the master, his intonations, nothing of Etienne would appear.
When alive master Deshimaru sent him to lead sesshin. When I started zazen in Paris, in 1970, he worked in the secretariat of master Deshimaru, which grouped together the zen Dojo of Paris and what would become the AZI, and his humour showed through each of his words.
Soon enough, after the death of master Deshimaru, while at that time we did not yet talk of sangha gathered around different masters, disciples followed him from zazen to zazen, from sesshin to sesshin. He was however blamed for it, what touched him pretty painfully.
I lived near his place and we would see each other privately often enough, we kept him company with Yvon, because he was alone, but in fact he really felt well only during zazen and especially during the sesshin, and, near the end of his life, the number of zazen during a day of retreat would only increase.
He commented marvellously the texts of the zen masters, the Tenzokyokun of master Dôgen, The song of the straw hut of master Sekito… His deep and soft voice harmonized well itself with the atmosphere of zazen.
He received the Dharma transmission (denpo) from Niwa Zenji, superior of the Eiheiji temple, along with two other disciples of master Deshimaru. These three were responsible of the sangha linked to the AZI and to the temple of La Gendronnière, as well as to the zen Dojo of Paris, of which Etienne became the president. He had taken back his old work, not anymore as secretary, but as president, and he spent all his days in the dojo of the Five-Diamonds street.
His death at the age of forty-four shocked us all. From the beginning of his illness to his death, very little time passed. He went like a meteor, in silence, leaving us his light that continues to shine eternally.
Katia Kôren Robel
Dojo zen du Châtelet