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… »

Therigata

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.

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