The path and the idea
«the roads are as many as the people, the view from the top is common»
- In 1986 I started doing Tae Kwon Do with the man who founded it in Greece in 1968, Stamatis Kassis. I had a two-year pause due to the military service, where I served in the special section of paratroopers and we continued together until 2001 when I was already teaching in his school.
- Tae Kwon Do started at some point of my life when I felt that I was losing a little bit myself. I had the need to find myself again, to find the person I was as a child, strong and in a state of well-being. At that time I was lucky, mainly because I fell into a good teacher – a good teacher is the most precious and rare thing that can happen to you. Since 1990 I am practicing Tae Kwon Do regularly four times a week whatever it happens, wherever I happen to be at the time. Discipline is essential and fundamental to life –and if it is combined with an internal motivation and not imposed on you, it is a great power. It is often associated with faith – in the sense of having a faith in something and not necessarily in the sense of a restricting religious.
- Meanwhile, and over time, my desire to be cultivated as a whole was increased. I started reading philosophy, seeking the path that would cover my spiritual concerns and I participated in different, non-governmental organizations, covering part of the soul giving while Tae Kwon Do continued to offer at all levels, although in the beginning, that was a procedure that was happening unconsciously. I only added what I believed that could contribute to my course.
- All this lasted until 2001 which was the year in which I and Stamatis Kassis parted our ways. I was already at Level 3 dan when I decided to leave for China, the place where ZEN became a system in 400 AD approximately by the first Patriarch of ZEN who had come from India, Bodhidharma. In Shaolin I finally found the substance, where I learned to abstract in order to arrive to it, while for so many years I was adding things in may struggle to find it. I had three months of meditation in Shaolin monastery. I had already passed the interview in 1999 because I was the second foreigner to be accepted finally there for meditation – most foreigners were only doing kung fu. Meditation was not common in the West and was completely absent from Greece.
- Having got my background, they agreed to accept my by exception : The only condition that was set was for me to spend 100 days with the company of a monk who would be ‘dedicated’ to me so after I would be able to continue by myself. In 2001, as soon as I finished a big job I was doing in China relative to the shipping, which is my profession-a fact that helped me to come in better contact with them-I decided to have this three months period as a gift to myself.
- It was there of course that I learned that ZEN was the root and the martial art –in which I was practicing for so many years – was the tree. So, without an ’empty’ mind, which could be concentrated and manage bioenergy one cannot develop the art because it is from there that stems the relaxation and from relaxation comes the power. In any martial art, the result not only comes with muscles but primarily with the technique and relaxation of the mind that is inextricably tied up with speed. And all this of course with many repetitions in order for the body to withstand these forces that are developing.
- I had not been incorporated into the life of the convent as I do now, when I go-I had only private tuition by a monk in his cell. Since I was not following their activities, I had a lot of time spent in silence, which was extremely useful and beneficial. Four times a day I did meditation, twice a day kung fu and other two, Tae Kwon Do alone. In the meantime …. many walks on the mountains. Silence itself can transform you.
- During the first twenty days in which I had a translator with me, I was listening with complete dedication the monk, combining several things with my readings and gradually removing a number of others. The biotheory that I had at the time experienced a shock as a result of the following event : one day I was asked a question and I, having read many things, replied in the words of the First Patriarch of Zen in 400 AD and he, wiggling his finger at me, he said : “No, I don’t want you to tell me what Bodhidharma said then. He may have been wrong. What I want is your answer, I want you to tell me what you feel about my question.” At precisely that moment all the stereotypes I had collapse in my mind.
- The practice of meditation was several times painful – I even had to sit from the beginning in a lotus position, like the Buddha, which for me was very difficult. But there was no room not to do what you should – you were rejected and sent away. I was sweating, feeling pain, I was measuring the breaths – at 45’ the breaths are 600 and I counting them one by one. I had achieved counting and thinking at the same time. We must harness the mind, without pressing it – one must stop analyzing they way they have got used to doing for so many years with other values, standards and lifestyle.
- Upon my return, I practised Zazen for one hour every day-and I continue to do that since without interruption -and had to spend five entire years to manage to sit comfortably in the lotus position for forty minutes! I moreover started deducting (at every level) and choosing what made sense to me – meaning ZEN and Tae Kwon Do and of course my family and my job. My aim was to bring to Greece a tradition that is still alive, I wanted to see that happening in my country.
- There is the possibility of synthesis of work, lifestyle as we know it in the West and the philosophical road of ZEN. The eastern approach to things is more naturalistic and therefore it is easier to synthesize the seemingly conflicting yin and yang – actually in the East the source of knowledge arises from the combination of the opposites.
- In 2010 I visited a ΖΕΝ monastery in Italy (Fudenji) a short distance away from Milan. I already had in my mind the dream to create the center and for this reason, I even got a plot in consideration, situated in the area of Ceramicos intended to accommodate sometime in the future … the final form of the center in a building of 2000 m. In Italy, I met with the Teacher and founder of the monastery, who, as I was reciting to him my story, he gave me the idea to become a ZEN monk myself instead of looking always someone else for our center. And I made the decision. The requirement is to be willing to spend three years (not necessarily consecutive) in a monastery to experience the practice as a whole. So, I afterwards went to Japan and my teacher there, made me a monk. I am now in this procedure, which I will continue by staying and practicing in Hosshin-ji and my Teacher in Japan will gradually be giving me grades.
- I believe that ZEN Center is the natural development of all the things that I did. The more you learn, the more you change – alas if one stayed the same. But a have a target, which is constantly enriched. The thoroughness that I felt through ZEN and how much it benefited me in general, had to go out and be spread. If you keep within you something so important, it will be lost with you and this is in stark contrast to what I am experiencing so many years next to my teachers. Together with our teachers and the great guests who will come occasionally from abroad, we will help those who choose meditation and philosophy of martial arts to open new, more substantial, horizons where spirit, soul and body will exist in harmony and will not add or remove anything, just to experience the wholeness.