Skip to main content

Meiho Missen Michel Bovay

Zen has no taste, so don't give it a taste.
It is without smell, so don't give it smell.
It is without colour, so don't give it colour.
Zen is music without notes, played on a flute without holes.
It has no form, so give it no form.
Then its taste, smell and colour is of the beauty of autumn and the arid tree.
Its music spreads throughout the universe and enters even the ear of a pigeon.
Its form encompasses the whole cosmos and its wisdom shines into eternity.

Meiho Missen Michel Bovay

Michel Bovay was born in 1944 in Monthey, Switzerland. In his youth he was a successful musician, composer and producer and played in various bands, of which especially the rock band The Sevens caused a sensation in the sixties. In 1972 he met the Japanese Zen master Mokudo Taisen Deshimaru and followed him to Paris a short time later. As a close disciple, trusted collaborator and organiser, he helped Master Deshimaru significantly to spread Zen in Europe. In his daily dealings with this extraordinary personality, he experienced Zen in the truest sense of the word in everyday life.

After the death of Mokudo Taisen Deshimaru in 1982, Michel Bovay became one of the main people responsible for passing on his teaching. He was appointed, along with three other close disciples, to receive confirmation of the Dharma transmission from the abbot of Eihei-ji Temple, but did not accept it until 1998 from Gu’en Yuko Okamoto Roshi of Teishoji Temple, who himself had practised as a disciple of Kodo Sawaki and had always supported Deshimaru.

In accordance with his master’s wish, Meiho Missen Michel Bovay returned to Switzerland in 1985. Here he concentrated his teaching in the Zen Dojo Zurich, leading zazen days, sesshin and summer camps. From 1995 to 2003 he was president of the Association Zen Internationale founded by Taisen Deshimaru. Michel Bovay was the author and co-editor of the book Zen (Practice and Teaching, History and Perspective) and created a theatre performance entitled Zen Stories, which he staged with great success in German and French-speaking countries. Following a serious illness, in 2007 he handed over responsibility to his eldest student, the Zen nun Eishuku Monika Leibundgut. Meiho Missen Michel Bovay supported her and the Zen Dojo Zurich until his death in 2009. One of his last sentences, which he repeated several times, was:

Don't worry your head, do what gives you deep pleasure, but always use your wisdom.

During a visit by Master Gu’en Yuko Okamoto, who often quoted the poems of the simple life of Master Ryokan, Michel said in a speech:

Although I am the president of AZI and this is a big organisation, I want to keep the mind of Ryokan in all of this.