Willigis Jäger, a former Benedictine monk and highly successful Catholic meditation teacher in Germany, has recently created his own Zen Buddhist lineage, after leaving the Sanbô-Kyôdan Zen school in January.
In recent years, Jäger had trained thousands of people at his center (since 2003) called Benediktushof, in Holzkirchen (Germany), a former Benedictine monastery bought by one of his followers for that purpose. The Benediktushof is described as a “center of spiritual ways” and, according to a Protestant researcher, Michael Utsch, has become one of the most significant spiritual centers in Europe.
The main reason for Jäger creating his own Zen lineage seems to be that, while he had himself been made a Zen teacher, he could not obtain from the leaders of Sanbô-Kyôdan confirmation of their teacher status for people he had trained (the Sanbô-Kyôdan school has only some 50 accredited teachers around the world). Creating his own lineage will now allow Jäger to name teachers without having to request approval from elsewhere.
In 2001, Rome had forbidden Jäger to continue to teach, charging that his teachings had gone astray from the Christian faith. After a time of reflection, he did not accept the decision, took leave from the Benedictine Order and left his monastery, while continuing to teach. Jäger says that he has more than 2,000 followers and claims to represent a “modern and transconfessional spirituality” for contemporary spiritual seekers and to promote an “integral spirituality” assimilating contributions from Western and Eastern wisdom, as well as modern science. But the new step taken with the creation of Jäger’s own lineage is also explained as a way to communicate timeless Zen to a Western audience.
For the time being, however, reports Martin Frischknecht, all the traditional Zen artistic activities demonstrated at the summer festival for the launching of the new Zen lineage had a clear Asian background, while being practiced by Westerners, thus suggesting that there is still a long way to go until Zen becomes truly inculturated in the West.
(Sources: Benediktushof, http://www. benediktushof-holzkirchen.de; Sophia – Zen Lineage Willig Jäger, http://www. zenliniewilligis-jaeger.de; Materialdienst der EZW, Auguststrasse 80, D-10117 Berlin, http://www.ezw-berlin.de; Spuren – Magazin für Neues Bewusstsein, Rudolfstrasse 13, CH-8400 Winterthur, http://www.spuren.ch)