What is ZEN in France?

Hello everyone. How are you doing? While Japan was celebrating emperor enthronement ceremony from Heisei to Reiwa, my husband and I travelled to Europe and we spent the ceremonial day at Lille, France. People in Lille were so kind and friendly, when I greeted them with Bon jour! and Merci!, they smiled at us warmly and greeted us back. I managed to use some simple French, “Excusez moi. Je suis japonais, Je ne parle pa français.” (Excuse me. I’m Japanese, I can’t speak French.) and the moments we shared heart to heart communication were something so beautiful. It was very worthy that I was able to experience and learn that French people are Japanophile. And today, I want to write about ZEN in France.

みなさん、こんにちは。日本では平成から令和へと時代が変わる初夏の頃、私は夫とヨーロッパを旅し、フランスのリールで過ごしていました。リールの方達は皆さんとても優しくて、Bon jour! Merci! と声をかけると暖かい眼差しで微笑んで親切に対応してくださいました。”Excusez moi. Je suis japonais, Je ne parle pas français.” (すみませんが私は日本人で、フランス語が話せません。)と精一杯のフランス語を駆使して、心と心が通い合うひとときは美しき時間でした。フランス人は親日的ということを身を以て体験し得たことは、非常に貴重でした。今日はフランスに因んだゼンの話を書いてみたいと思います。

This is one of the UNESCO world heritages in France, a belfry in Lille.


ZEN is a Japanese originated word, it is widely used in France on a daily basis. The word ZEN is used like this. When you are having pressures from exams, your mother would tell you “Relax, and just be ZEN.” Or there are ZEN coloring books that generate creativity and relaxation, or for people who hope to build a better relationships with others would read a ZEN good relationship book. In France, ZEN is nothing to do with Zen Buddhism.


In Japan, ZEN is a Buddhism belief and ZEN meditation. It is also deeply rooted in our daily lives. Abdominal breathing method is one of them. When you practice the abdominal breathing, you breath in oxygen from your nose and breath out carbon dioxide from your mouth as much as you can by taking time. The ZEN origin breathing method is medically promoted in Japan and it is believed that it is effective for mental satiability. When you are tense or restless, often the case your breathing is so shallow. And only practicing this abdominal breathing will make a big difference. You can expect some sedative effect.


The world of ZEN is also the ultimate simplicity that Steve Jobs longed for. It is widely famous that the designs and the functional beauty of iPhone that changed the landscapes of the earth are designed from the image of ZEN utopia. On the other hand, traditional Japanese ZEN Buddhism is aiming to lead an ultimately continent life. The monks and the seekers go through plentiful ascetic practices to kill all the desires and greed that we possess. Never compete with others and never deny others and accept everything with some resignation. I recognize the ZEN belief as so. And the image went beyond the oceans and in a far-away country of France, it is admired as a sublime Oriental thought, I suppose.

禅はまた、究極的に無駄なものを省いたSteve Jobs が憧れた世界観であり、地球上の風景を塗り替えたiPhone のデザインや機能美も禅を理想郷とするものであるのは、有名な話です。一方、古くからある日本の禅宗は究極の禁欲生活を送り、悟りの境地を目指すものです。一切の我欲を殺すことが修行の目的であり、人と争わず競わず、他人を否定せず、あらゆるものをある種の諦念とともに受け入れるというものだと私は捉えています。そしてこのイメージが海を渡り、遠いフランスでは「禅する」という東洋の高邁なる思想として尊敬を集めているのではないでしょうか。

A certain thing left the original mother country, then develop uniquely and bloom and flourish beautifully in a far-away place. That kind of occurrence takes place from time to time. I believe it is such a cool thing to see that made-in-Japan culture and history are translated differently and thriving richly in various countries abroad.


That’s all for today. Blessings to each one of you, love and peace to the world!


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