Zen in Quebec

In 1980, Master Deshimaru crossed the Atlantic with a dozen disciples to inaugurate a dojo and lead a sesshin in North America. Thirty years later, this dojo continues his mission.

The Montreal Dojo was started in 1979. That year, several practitioners participated in the summer camp at Val d’Isère and received a kyosaku and the permission to open a dojo from Master Deshimaru.

During the first sesshin in Quebec, which brought together a hundred practitioners, Master Deshimaru ordained about fifteen people bodhisattva. In the Montreal dojo today, about twenty monks and nuns, and as many bodhisattvas and non-ordained practitioners of all ages, meet several times a week to do zazen together. Many of these regularly go to the Gendronnière, Seikyuji and Kanshoji. Perhaps you have already recognised them from their Quebecois accent?

The Montreal dojo was named Mokusho Zen Dojo (the Dojo of Silent Light) in honour of Etienne Mokusho Zeisler who ordained most of the senior monks and nuns, including the current head of the dojo. Given the unavoidable fact that the dojo is far from Europe, the Sangha quickly realised the importance of keeping close ties with the AZI and the Gendronnière.

This is the reason why practitioners are always encouraged to go deepen their practice at the Gendronnière and in the AZI monasteries. It is also why, every year, the Montreal Zen Association invites a godo to lead a sesshin. Raphaël Doko Triet, the referent for the dojo, leads the summer camp in Laurentides. The AZM would like to thank all the godos who have been making the long journey over here to pass on Buddha’s teaching for the last twenty five years. The distance separating us could have been an obstacle, but, in the end, we have some great memories of some great times: a magical display of the Northern Lights in an autumn sky, a day of skiing after a sesshin, a stroll in snowshoes or canoeing on a lake…

Still at the same address in the heart of the Plateau Mont-Royal, a ‘hip’ district of Montreal, the dojo is a dynamic place in which there is a lively practice. Besides the nine, weekly zazens, we organise a zazen day, sewing workshops, and introduction to zazen for beginners every month.  The AZM also has four sesshins and a summer camp every year, in the countryside, at the edge of a lovely lake, surrounded by mountains.

So, because of these links on both sides of the Atlantic that we have maintained over the decades, the Montreal dojo has a strong practice and remains one of the oldest dojos of the AZI.

Sylvie Gauthier