In the context of the Roads Less Travelled project, DiversEarth is undertaking the biggest inventory of Sacred Sites in the Mediterranean to date, and looking closer at certain places to find out just what makes these sites so important for biodiversity, for nature and for people of the region. This is one of the case studies from La Demeure Sans Limites, Zen Soto Buddhist site in Saint Agrève, Ardèche, France.
« And I am the woman
who goes to the foot of a tree
and says to herself:
‘Ah, what joy!’
and meditates with joy… »
January 2019. The place is resting. The body is resting. Nature is resting. This is the time for Jôkei Sensei and her assistant, Toen-Ni, to inhale during the three months of the Buddhist centre’s closure before the doors open again in Spring.
La Demeure Sans Limites is a small, 1 hectare site. It was established 25 years ago by Buddhist nun, Joshin Luce Bachoux, and is made up of field and forest, water source and garden. It even houses a small protestant cemetery (cared for by the nuns) and a way to St Jacques de Compostelle runs through it. The house is a typical farmhouse and like Ardèche has been historically, it is a place of refuge for those in need. But La Demeure Sans Limites is far from being typical
« For us buddhists, humans are part of nature. We are part of a whole and therefore we have such a great responsibility for nature. ‘Man’ is at the top of the pyramid – we have the power to destroy, or to take care. »
Here we have decided to take care. Take care first of our body and mind, which then dictates how we act on the outside, towards others and towards nature.
« The Buddha is clear when he says that we must take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. That means we must be conscious, present, and straight – attentive to everything. »
Jizô, dressed in white
Jôkei Sensi (Jô: purity, transparent, clean; Kei: grace, blessings) and Toen-Ni (Tô: lamp, light; En: Dharma)
The lessons appear simple, but…
« The wheel of life is us. At the centre of the wheel there is ignorance with its two corollaries, greed and anger – that’s what makes us turn. We always want more. We would like infinity in a finite world. It’s impossible. »
How can we change these human tendencies?
« We need to live with the seasons. Now it’s winter, and winter is related to our kidneys. Nature is resting and we are too. We are inhaling now, because we exhale a lot the rest of the year. »
« We have our garden and the people who come work there with love. When we harvest, we do it with joy and take the produce to the kitchen. Toen-Ni, in the same way, receives the food – she cooks with love, compassion and care. We eat in silence, present and attentive. We eat Toen-Ni (her work and her state of mind), those who have planted, harvested, we eat the sun, the earth…»
« The Buddha walked, with attention. We can learn a lot from that. He was present. Here we practice walking meditation. We are like water, like the air. Then we are really in nature. »
Even after a short retreat with Jôkei Sensi and Toen-Ni at the Demeure Sans Limites, we are deeply touched and we take the simple life lessons home to our every day existence – it is, after all, our responsibility. Yes there are limits to many things here, but it is precisely in these limitations that we find freedom, connection and the sense of No Limits.
By Liza Zogib, DiversEarth
A longer version of this article is available on the DiversEarth website.
For years nutritionists have extolled the virtues of a Mediterranean diet, now environmental NGOs like WWF are calling for us to improve our health and the environment by following the Med. The #MedFoodHeroes campaign from 15-27 June coordinated by @RootedEveryday celebrates the rich cuisine the Mediterranean has to offer and the benefits to people and planet when we buy from small sustainable producers.
Marinos studied Greek Culture at the Hellenic Open University, attended Folklore courses at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and has completed a series of seminars in History, Philosophy, Journalism and New Media.
Nikos Mastropavlos is a journalist, cultural scientist, and the publisher of www.eudemonia.gr which focusses on the culture of everyday life in Greece - especially food, travel and the arts.
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Fábio Bernardino is a Chef, the CEO of Travel & Flavours, a teacher, gastronomic consultant, trainer and event organizer; a young Chef whose excellence opened the doors to major Portuguese hotels and restaurants, like the Pestana Hotéis & Resorts group or the Heritage Lisboa Hotels, where he left his mark of professionalism and rigour. With a great passion for cooking, and especially for pastry, he started his career at the age of 14, when he attended the Professional Cooking and Pastry Course of the Lisbon Hotel and Tourism School.
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