Our roots

Rootstock

“When one sits, the coarse blood sinks, and the luminous powers of the mind penetrate up to the brain; thus the consciousness is enlightened.”

Meister Eckhart

The Via Integralis was initiated and founded in 2003 by Pia Gyger ktw (1940 – 2014) and Niklaus Brantschen SJ.
Both came into contact with the spiritual path of Zen as Christian religious through Father Lassalle SJ. They completed their Zen training in Japan with Yamada Koun Roshi and in Hawaii with Aitken Roshi, and were licensed to teach by them. They were ordained as Zen masters by Bernie Glasmann Roshi, New York.


Shaped by and at home in their respective Christian communities, the Katharina-Werk in Basel (ktw) and the Jesuit order (SJ), they were inspired and encouraged on their spiritual path by various personalities.


Father Hugo Makibi Enomiya-Lassalle SJ (1898 – 1990)
was their first teacher and a credible witness that an interreligious path of experience is viable without loss of identity. His name and example characterizes via integralis until now and is an obligation and programme.

Yamada Koun Roshi (1907-1989)
Zen master and head of the Sanbo Kyodan Zen School, was their long-time teacher and Dharma father. He embodied the conviction that Zen could be put at the service of all religions.

Bernie Glassman Roshi (1939-2018)
As a charismatic personality himself often on the border between tradition and social stratification, encouraged and authorized them to pass on the Zen way of experience in a new line into the Christian churches.


With the agreement of their teachers, Pia Gyger and Niklaus Brantschen have made the practice of zazen accessible to the contemplative path.

“I am a Christian and want to become more and more so by letting myself be taken more and more by Jesus Christ. At the same time, in the many years of intensive Zen practice, I have been given an experience and view of the world that is … similar in character to that of the Buddha. Seen in this light, I am a Buddhist.” Niklaus Brantschen: Auf dem Weg des Zen – Als Christ Buddhist, 2002 (On the path of Zen – As a Christian Being a Buddhist)

And Aitken Roshi (Hawaii) confirms Pia Gyger as a Zen teacher with the words: “Rooted in her tradition, she opened herself to the light transmitted through the Koan-study and enlightenment of the ancient Buddhist teachers, a light that gives depth to her Christian understanding and teaching … by revealing the mystery that underlies all religions.” Wie Zen mein Christsein veränderte, 2004 (How Zen Changed My Christianity)

For years, the two founders walked this exciting path in the field of tension between East and West, between authentic Zen experience and following Christ. Their personal vocation in the encounter with two ancient religious traditions has found a form in the new Via Integralis path of contemplation. It is characterized in particular by the profound experience of the unity, diversity and uniqueness of human reality.