BERLIN – A 34-year-old Japanese Buddhist monk and actor who is living in Berlin is trying to teach his students there “how to apply Zen wisdom to modern life.”
Seigaku, who was born Seitaro Higuchi in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, in January 1981, became an actor when he was a student at Tokyo’s Keio University. It was there that he encountered Zen Buddhism, which he studied as part of his actor training.
“I recognized that acting and Buddhism are the same in the sense that each requires the practitioners to know themselves,” he said.
He spent three years undergoing relentless training at Eiheiji, the head temple of Soto Zen Buddhism, in Fukui Prefecture.
Life at the temple was the absolute opposite of ordinary daily life, but he did not consider it painful.
Seigaku said he listened to the “voices of my body” during Zen meditation, ate simple meals and cleaned floors until they were spotless.
“As we don’t know what will happen tomorrow, we should do what we can do today,” he said, recalling his conclusion that Zen Buddhism can be practiced anywhere, even in big cities.
In October 2011, Seigaku moved to Berlin with his wife on a scholarship from a temple in Yokohama. They now have two children.
As the scholarship lasted for only a year, Seigaku said he and his wife, who now have two children, were “barely surviving.”
But he has no worries about life as the participants in his Zen meditation sessions donate from time to time, and he also receives bread and vegetables when he goes out to seek alms.
The meditation sessions are held at a cafe early in the morning and attended by about 10 people of various nationalities, including German, Spanish, Brazilian and Japanese.
Zen Buddhism is based on living a humble life and so can be widely accepted in Germany, with its large population of Christians who respect living in honorable poverty, according to Seigaku.
Seigaku wrote an introductory book about Zen in Japan in 2012 that attracted many readers, and released another book in January this year.
“Our 3-year-old first son has recently begun sitting in Zen fashion following our example,” Seigaku said.
Although Seigaku has not engaged in acting for some time, he said he still intends to pursue that career as well.
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