Malgosia Jiho Braunek Roshi — a brilliant and clear light with an exceptional smile and presence. She was loved by millions who came to know her as a human being, as a film star, and as a true Bodhisattva.
We met in 1983 when her husband Andrzej attended the first Kanzeon Polish Sangha Sesshin at the Temple of the Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn Sunim. Andrzej and I went for a walk in the small forest near the Zen Center and he said you must meet my incredible wife, Malgosia. We all had dinner that evening, my first introduction to her radiant, contagious laughter.
In 1986 while holding group Daisan at the old mill of Joanna Lasota’s with about a dozen Sangha members sitting across from me, I knew that Malgosia would be a great Zen Teacher and Master. Looking into her eyes I saw her future in a flash. During the retreat I gave her my personal purple rakusu given to me by Maezumi Roshi in 1979 when he bestowed the title of Hoshi (Dharma Holder) on me. I told her that she could only tell Andrzej and no one else at that time because I wanted to spare her the possible jealousy from other students. I promised to transmit the robe and bowls to her some day in the distant future. That day came in 2003, more than 17 years later, and then Inka, the Final Seal of Approval as a Zen Master, in 2011 in Ameland, giving her the title of Roshi.
Malgosia has looked after the Polish Sangha much like a mother hen looks after her chicks. The love that I have witnessed between her and her wonderful students is so heartwarming and inspiring. Even during the last toughest days she was shining full of love. Her spirit is ever present and I can feel her half way across the globe here in Maui. I have found it difficult to grieve. However, I now realize that maybe she has not gone after all. We who knew her are still being soothed and bathed by her vast and beautiful essence. She will be missed by family, friends, Sangha, as well as most of Poland. I miss her!
photo by Stephanie Young Merzel