Ton Lathouwers

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The Dutch Zen-master Ton Lathouwers was born in 1932 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He studied astronomy, mathematics and physics at the University of Amsterdam (1951-1955) and Russian language and literature (1954-1958), at the same university. From 1958 to 1962, he accomplished his post graduate study of comparative cultural psychology and psychology of religion and obtained Doctorate of Russian symbolism from the University of Nijmegen.

Education and work experience

The Dutch Zen-master Ton Lathouwers was born in 1932 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He studied astronomy, mathematics and physics (1951-1955) Russian language and literature (1954-1958) at the University of Amsterdam. From 1958 to 1962, he accomplished his post-graduate study of comparative cultural psychology and psychology of religion with the Doctorate of Russian symbolism from the University of Nijmegen.

From 1968 to 1992 he had been working as a professor of Russian literature at the faculty of literature and philosophy in Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium. Meanwhile, he had been teaching religious themes in contemporary literature at the faculty of religious science.

Main academic thoughts 

Ton Lathouwers began to study Buddhism since 1968. In 1971 he travelled to Japan for the first time, and he studied there for four months with the famous Zen-philosopher and Zen-scholar Masao Abe, who is the successor of Hisamatsu (1889-1980) and the founder of the FAS-Society. The Zen-movement in Japan was dedicated to breaking through the social and class divisions and the organizations of Japanese Zen.The word FAS is an initialism of the wordsFormless-self, All-human kindandSupra-historical. At the same time, Ton Lathouwers practiced and studied Zen-Buddhism in Kyoto at the Daitoku-ji Rinzai Zen monastery with Zen-master NanreiKobori.The following four years he kept to study there. In 1975 Ton became a student of Chan-master Teh Cheng in Indonesia. In the Chinese Zen-Buddhism of Teh Cheng, with the particular emphasis on the Avatamsaka sutra, our task to save all beings without exeption, and the boundless compassion of Quan Yin, he discovered what should remain for him the most important part of his life.

From 1971 to 1987,Ton had conducted three-month studies for each year in Buddhist monasteries in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Korea, Indonesia and the United States. In 1987 he received the official authorization/transmission as Chan-master in Chinese Linji Chan Buddhism from Teh Cheng, who was the coordinator and head of the Sangha Agung Indonesia until his death in 2002. This organisation brought together all Buddhist schools in Indonesia.Teh Cheng was better known under his Pali name in Indonesia: Ashin Jinarakkhita. He received his own transmission from Pen Cheng of the Guang Hua Chan-monastery in Fujian, China.

Starting from 1987, Ton founded 27 Chan meditation centres in Belgium, the Netherlands and England. All these groups were brought together in the Maha Karuna Chan sangha.The focus of his teaching was primarily on the inner conversion of once heart-mind, in Buddhist language is Ashraya-Paravritti, which is beautifully translated in English as revolution of the fundaments. Beside this, his teaching had emphasized the interconnectedness of all things, Pratityasamutpada was expressed in Buddhist language, and it was translated into creative interdependent coorigination in English literally. Deepening our awareness of this interconnectedness: the very fact is we live together with all living beings form the pulsing, boundless Web of Indra,  allows us to live a life of ongoing dialogue, mutual understanding and compassion.

Selected publications 

Ton Lathouwers. Meer daneenmenskan doen, edition Asoka Rotterdam, seven reprints, 1999-2014.(English translation of this book, More than anyone can do, Zentalks, V. U. University Press, Amsterdam 2013. Russian translation was edited in 2014, Moskou, Theological Institute St. Andrews. A French edition is in preparation.)

Ton Lathouwers. Kloppenwaargeenpoort is (Knock where there is no door), Asoka Rotterdam, 2010.

Ton Lathouwers. De moed tot het onmogelijke. (The courage to the impossible. Kierkegaard, HisamatsuenZen), Asoka 2011.

Ton Lathouwers. Zij is altijdsoms. De velegestalten van Quan Yin (She is always sometimes. The many manifestations of Quan Yin) Summer 2015.

Ton Lathouwers. “What makes Buddhism so attractive in the present crises?” In A la rencontre du Buddhisme. Academy Internationale des Sciences Religieuses, Belgium, 2000.

Ton Lathouwers. “The fundamental koan and the first vow of the Boddhisatva.” In The FAS-Society and the Zen-Reform of Hisamatsu. Japanese edition, Kyoto 1998.

Ton Lathouwers. “Souffrancepsychique et la litterature. (psychic suffering and literature)” InRaisonner le deraison, Parijs 2000.

Ton Lathouwers. “The language of fullness and the language of emptiness.” In Paradoxes in Russian Orthodoxy, Leiden, The Netherlands, 2014.

Ton Lathouwers. “Why cameBodhidarma to the west?”In Why without an answer. Filosophy between East and West, 2001.

Ton Lathouwers. “Great doubt and koan in Western and Russian literature” In Towards an European Zen? Report from an international conference in Stockholm in Sweden, 1993.

Editor:Yao Pei
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