In 1997, accompanied by four disciples, Swiss and French, Raphaël Doko Triet came and settled in Lisbon, the last big European capital where Zen had still to be established. He opened his dojo on Rue Morais Soares, in a popular and brightly-coloured district overhanging the Tage. When he returned to live in Paris in 2005, he made Yves Shoshin Crettaz the head of the Lisbon dojo as well as zazen groups that were opened in Porto and Peniche.
The Lisbon Zen Centre is composed of two small, attached apartments that give out onto a patio bleached with lime and lined with jasmin. A wooden footbridge leads to the dojo, converted from an old, traditional workshop.
In this place, sheltered from the noise of the city, the Lisbon sangha meets eight times a week to practice zazen. In the morning, there is genmai, cooked by monks and bodhisattvas who take turns to prepare and serve it.
Other regular activities include an introduction to zazen for beginners every Saturday morning; nearly every month, a zazen day and a kesa-sewing morning; and two sesshins a year: one in spring and the other during the weekend of All Saints Day.
But the practice is not limited to zazen, genmai and sewing. Samu is intense here. Ah! Those dead leaves of the medlar tree that strew the patio in autumn. Ah! The neighbours’ cat droppings that are picked up in the dustpan…
Of course this comes with the usual run of the mill things: cleaning, bookkeeping, running the office, the website, the shop, the library, organising conferences, dojo committees, the Portuguese Buddhist Union, etc. The Portuguese gyoji is the gyoji you find everywhere. Occasionally, the head of the dojo runs a course in Zen Buddhism and seminars on reading texts.
Lisbon, situated far in the depths of Europe, is not isolated for all that. Seikyuji, the temple at Morejona, south of Seville, is 500 kilometres away. The Gendronnière temple itself is nearly 2,000 kilometres away. It is far, and expensive on the Portuguese wallet. But as much as it is possible, the Portugese enjoy meeting up with companions of the Way, so far and so near at the same time, to walk along the trail together. And to watch the sky with Fernando Pessoa, who said:
Fly, bird, fly and teach me how to fly!
Yves Shôshin Crettaz