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My Dharma sister, Malgosia Jiho Braunek, died in Poland the 23rd of June after a long illness. One week earlier, when I learned she was in palliative care, I flew to Warsaw to spend time with her and her family. ‎

When I arrived in her hospital room,  I met an emaciated but radiant face with a huge smile and beautiful green piercing eyes. Here she was with her light and strong presence, with her warmth and indefatigable love for life and for people.
In the meantime, her sangha was holding a vigil sesshin full of tears, full of love and devotion for their beloved teacher who, in her struggle with sickness for the entirety of the previous year, had given them the most direct teaching imaginable on the great matter of life and death.
Two days before her passing, in the bed of her hospital room, surrounded by a few senior students, she gave Hoshi (the position of Dharma Holder) to one of them. Without many words,  she took the time to look closely into the eyes of each of them–one by one–and finally said: I love you all so much.
That was where her teaching came from, directly from her heart. So connected with her own heart, she inspired others to go deep into themselves and find the way to the source of their own lives, the source of their being, their heart.
And for her, what had been her way?
As a very young and beautiful actress, it took only a few films to make her into a star, a colorful and provocative figure, a symbol of freedom in the gray communist Poland of the end of the Sixties.
But soon she started to question the star system and,  being so immersed in acting, she became scared of losing herself, of losing her true identity in it.
At a peak of her career, her decision to walk away from acting  altogether came as a shock to her devoted public.
Together with her husband, Andrezj, she started on a spiritual quest which brought them, through many différent encounters and practices, to Zen. She became Genpo Roshi’s successor in 2003 and founded Kanzeon Sangha Poland.
Many years after she stopped acting and after already being a Zen teacher, she came back to it, confident that in being fully herself she could now be whatever role she was offered and chose to be. She was not playing any more, she was just being.
“The great actress with no mask” as Lupa, a famous Polish theater director, who directed her in the recent years, spoke of her a few days ago.
Her return to acting was not easy for some of her Zen students, wondering which of the two, the famous actress or the Zen  teacher, was standing in front of them.
But that was the gift she shared so generously and so lovingly with so many people: her capacity to embrace unconditionally as One Body the mother, the wife, the student, the teacher, the public actress, the intimate friend and so many more, including the fantastic clown she was, with a laughter that lasted until the end of her life with us and that will resonate in us forever.


15 Responses

  1. Dag Malgoshia,

    als zen-leerling had ik nooit de moed om bij jou woorden te wisselen, je kent dat wel, een koan is zo’n

    initiatie. Maar jouw liefde voor het leven, zo tijdelijk en onbegrensd, raakt mij nu nog.

    Moge de bloem van dit leven vruchtbaar zijn,

    En moge alle levende wezens voorbij hebzucht, haat, jaloezie,

    ook vrede, vreugde en (ver)delen in hun hart dragen.

    Veel liefde, voorbij de golven van de tijd.


  2. Thank you, Genno Roshi.
    My sweet dharma sister, Malgosia: what a heart, what a spirit!
    My heart goes out to Andrzej, Orinka, Stef(?), the Polish Sangha and (of course) to you!
    Gassho, Irène B

  3. Lovely. She had a beautiful transparency, a wonderful lack of artifice, a great heart, and depth. It is soothing to hear that it all continued to manifest through the end. Thank you, Roshi.

  4. Deep Bow of Gratitude for sharing this beautiful tribute to your friend, teacher, beloved heart woman who shared her gift of HEART Centeredness with the world! May her passage through the Bardo be swift. Her gracious soul be reincarnated into lightness & limitless of being.
    Om Mani Pedi Ma Hum.

  5. I’m so sorry to read that Malgosia died. She was a delight: intelligent, generous, fun, very special.

  6. Dear Genno,
    Thank you for your beautiful and loving words, that make her shine as she was. Thank you.

    Hojo-sama (Junyu Kuroda) remembers when being in Auschwitz, Malgosia gave him her jacket, saying “You are looking so cold.‚Äù During that same retreat Hojo-san gave her Denkai. I am so happy this made us sisters, and I always felt this was a lovely and sweet bond between us. Malgosia was pure light and warmth indeed, and I feel her beautiful heart and smile will continue to be a source of joy and inspiration.

  7. Thank you Roshi for your beautiful words, they speak out what I experienced with Malgosia.
    To be in Malgosia`s presence felt real and good. It was intimate friendship as women, as mothers as human beings.We could laugh together and cry together. Yes, it will resonate in me forever.

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