Etienne Mokusho Zeisler
When I arrived in Zen in 1969, the sangha of Master Deshimaru was still in its infancy and it only existed for two years. This sangha was then only a small group, whose main disciple was Mr Lambert, president of the International Yoga Institute of France.
Although this man was through his function in relation with the greatest masters of Indian yoga (such as the swami Shivanandha or the swami Satshitanandha), he will not be long, followed by some number of his pupils, to swear allegiance to Master Deshimaru as his main mentor.
Among the students of Mr Lambert, there were a couple of young and beautiful teenagers: Etienne and Malika. A tall brown man and a beautiful blond woman, calm, radiant and in love. They very soon embodied in our zen group as the ideal of happiness and balance. It is the first image I had of Etienne and Malika, whose names seem inseparable.
They both had a splendid posture of zazen and Etienne who spoke English correctly became naturally the appointed translator of Master Deshimaru. No need to say that for the beginner that I was, they both inspired a great attraction and a lot of interest.
I have learnt later to better know Etienne although I was not from the same social and cultural environment. I would even say more: there was an obvious socio-cultural antinomy in between us. In the seventies, middle-class persons and anarchists would not inevitably share the same table.Obviously life made us bow our spine without delay; life, but not only, because in Zen we learn to stand up without arrogance and to bow without shame. We then met later as monks. First timidly, then step by step, pushed by the mutual respect like two brothers loved by the same father.
Etienne was a very secret and hard to surround young man and would not reveal easily his feelings, even to those who pretended to be his pals or his disciples. This attitude gave even more value to the intense moments during which he revealed himself. Sometimes he opened himself to me revealing his heart or his pain whereas I did not expect it. I was then amazed by the confidence that he gave to me. He was inclined to the sharing and even to a great generosity. One should not forget that being my senior in Zen, I found myself even more touched. Here is the teaching of one evening where Etienne had invited us to share some food at his home. Not complicated, of the style pasta with tomatoes sauce and fried eggs. It was a long time before the death of Master Deshimaru and I was talking of Zen with stars in my eyes:
"Deshimaru was a Buddha, all the Japanese had the satori and the Zen was the most important thing in the world." Suddenly, Etienne looked at me with the hard intention to communicate something to me (at that time I never had gone to Japan), and he suddenly told me: “In Japan, the Zen is a sect without any importance that interests no one and they are really asking themselves why, us the Frenchs, we are interested in it.” I have to confess that on the spot I was stoned by such a way to talk but I never forgot these words, it was a sign that he had spoken truly. We should practice without any illusion concerning Zen or Buddhism, even concerning the satori; only zazen without waiting for anything is fundamental. All the rest is of secondary importance. It is true that from this time and thanks to the work that Deshimaru did in Europe and elsewhere, the Zen has recovered its universal value acknowledged in the entire world. It influences and will influence still for a long time, as our master wanted, all our civilization. Even if the Japanese are not anymore interested consciously in Zen, they are however soaked in it in their life and in their behaviour.
Stephane Kosen Thibaut