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October 2023

Gu’en Yuko Okamoto

By The Masters of our Tradition

First of all, I would like to thank you all for the warm welcome. What I feel when I come to the dojo here is a special family atmosphere. It must have been the same in Shakyamuni Buddha's sangha. It reminds me of "namu ki e so - I entrust myself to the Sangha".

Gu'en Yuko Okamoto

Master Gu’en Yûkô Okamoto was the abbot of Teishoji Temple, near the town of Saku in Japan. This is the temple where Master Kodo Sawaki used to conduct his summer sessions and other sesshins. Okamoto practised with Master Kodo Sawaki when he was a young monk. During this time he also met Master Deshimaru, who was then a disciple of Kodo Sawaki. A deep friendship developed between the two. After Kodo Sawaki’s death, when Master Deshimaru was in Europe, Master Okamoto helped him a lot and supported him from Japan. When Master Deshimaru travelled to Japan, he never missed the opportunity to visit Teishoji and spend a few days there. He always stayed in Kodo Sawaki’s room, which has been kept intact.
Teishoji is also home to Master Deshimaru’s main tomb, where memorial ceremonies are held every year in the presence of family and friends of Deshimaru, which we also attend when we are in Japan, the last time in April 2023.

I bring the essence of Zen, zazen, to Europe and if it develops strongly here, it will also be practised again in Japan, where it has been somewhat forgotten.

Mokudo Taisen Deshimaru

In 1998 he conducted the Hossenshiki ceremony with Meihô Missen Michel Bovay at his temple Teishoji, as well as the Shiho (Dharma) offering ceremony and in 1999 the Zuise ceremony in Eiheiji and Sojiji, where some of the Sangha from Zurich accompanied him.

After Michel’s long illness and death, he visited Muijoji Temple in 2011 and conducted a ceremony for Michel with everyone in the dojo and afterwards at the grave. During this visit he asked Eishuku Monika Leibundgut to come to his temple Teishoji for the Hossenshiki ceremony in 2012 and the following year for the Shiho (Dharma) offering ceremony, followed by the Zuise ceremony in Eiheiji and Sojiji accompanied by him and the Sangha of Zurich and Vienna.
In 2014, Master Okamoto enabled us to conduct two three-month angos in Chôkokuji through his abbot initiation (Shinzanshiki ceremony) in this temple.

During all the years that Master Deshimaru was spreading and strengthening Zen in Europe, Master Okamoto supported this wholeheartedly from Japan and unchanged, even after Master Deshimaru’s death. He continued to visit the Gendronnière, the A.Z.I. and the Zen Dojo of Zurich Muijoji as long as his health permitted, always accompanied by Michiyo Uoya, Master Deshimaru’s eldest daughter, who is very close to our Sangha.
Likewise, at his invitation, we spent several touching and unforgettable days in his temple Teishoji, including sesshins and many zazen.

I truly regret not being with you today. As it is the time of O-Bon in Japan, it is impossible for me to come.
I am deeply sorrowful when I think about Michel's passing, and I am sure you feel all the more so since you spent so much time with Michel.
Now when I close my eyes, many images of times I talked with Michel arise in my mind.
Everybody agrees that he transmitted the true essence of Zen brought by Master Deshimaru.
Even if we are in deep sorrow, I believe that today is the moment to firmly decide to follow Michel's mind.
I would very much like to see you some day soon and to visit Michel's grave to say "Hello".
I wish you all good health and good luck.


Gu'en Yuko Okamoto's letter upon the death of, and the ceremony for, Meihô Missen Michel Bovay, 2009