Pierre Arènes (1943-2012)

PostPosted by Admin » 05 Jun 2012, 18:36

It is with great sorrow and sadness that I open the second obituary of this website. On the 17th of May 2012, our dearest friend and colleague Pierre Arènes passed away in Paris. He was born in 1943 and after a career as a teacher of French language in high school, he joined the team of French Tibetologists associated with the CNRS and EPHE.

I first met Pierre when I was working as a librarian assistant at the Centre d’Etudes Tibétaines in the offices of the Collège de France. Pierre came in one morning looking for bibliographical references in the large files of the Centre. He did not look like one of those academics, agitated and slightly pedantic. On the contrary, he was humble and warm, with a peculiar sense of humor. And he was Buddhist. At the time, making this “coming out” was seen as a really daring adventure in French academic circles. Times are changing though and Pierre unfortunately barely witnessed the beginning of these changes...

A few years later, we were both working on a joint seminary centered on doctrinal interpretations within the higher Tantras of the Geluk school (on his side) and those of the teachings of Dzogchen (on mine). When I had the idea of creating a free online tibetological magazine — the Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines — Pierre enthusiastically joined in and produced some of the finest works we ever published there.

After his retirement from academic duties, he was deeply involved in the teachings of Buddhism, the art of translation, and a gazillion of other projects associated with the various teaching activities of his master, the venerable Dagpo Rinpoche. He unfortunately fell ill during a recent stay in India and was diagnosed with cancer on his return.

Pierre was highly aware of the dangers Buddhism is facing in the West, a subject we often discussed for hours. He was conscious that the “new-age” interpretations and intentional wrong views of many westerners were, and unfortunately still are, corruptions that are affecting the actual teachings of the Buddha. In this respect he clearly realized that ethics (tshul khrims) were the only base on which a correct absorption (ting nge 'dzin) can be cultivated in order to lead to actual, liberating knowledge (shes rab). As we both concluded one day : « only a Buddha can change the teachings of a Buddha »; these reflections were very inspiring for all those who wanted to discuss the subject with him.

He has orphaned us prematurely and will be deeply missed.
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Re: Pierre Arènes (1943-2012)

PostPosted by malbin » 19 Feb 2014, 06:26

I stumbled upon Pierre's obituary while attempting to locate him online. I was very saddened to learn of his passing but am glad that he is remembered fondly by colleagues and fellow scholars.

I knew Pierre as a student in the 1960's. I came to Paris as an expatriate student and Pierre began tutoring me in French. We became friends. He was probably one of the best friends I had. He was generous and opened his circle of colleagues and friends to me, at a time when I was alone and in a foreign land, and enriched my life in Paris enormously as a result.

Long before he became a Buddhist Pierre naturally practiced non-attachment to material things, though he was politically and philosophically a materialist at the time. I recall him giving his coat to a total stranger one chilly evening simply because the man needed it. Pierre downplayed the act of generosity. The man simply needed it. As for Pierre not having a coat, he did not care.

He refused to be trapped by fear of want, or greed. It was a personal thing with him. He rejected the mean and petty, even when he went through his own dark times, as do we all.

We experienced the days of May of 1968 together, but that is another story. I recall the last time I saw him which was about 1973 that he mentioned Buddhism, and that he was becoming intrigued with it.

Pierre had a fine intellect, a capacity to absorb enormous amounts of information, a burning desire to master the essence of knowledge, and once he felt he had, a sense of responsibility for its purity, a protective obligation to keep it free from adulteration or intentional distortion. I see he brought that to Buddhism as well.

The meaning of a life is difficult to judge. Pierre was not rich or powerful, celebrated or famous, but he was a positive influence in my life in ways that still ripple outward, even after he is gone. I am grateful to have known him and privileged to have been his friend.

John Messing
Tucson, Arizona
USA
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Re: Pierre Arènes (1943-2012)

PostPosted by Admin » 21 Feb 2014, 20:11

Dear John,

Thanks a lot for sharing these nice words with us. Even after a little less than two years, we still feel his loss very deeply...
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Re: Pierre Arènes (1943-2012)

PostPosted by malbin » 20 May 2017, 04:55

I wanted to let everyone who knew Pierre or had a connection to him that I have written a book about the time we were friends together during the events of May 1968. It is on Amazon. It will be free to download through May 23, 2017. If it is downloaded in that time period, there is no additional charge afterwards.

The URL is https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B071P2HXKV

I dedicated the book to Pierre's memory.

Unfortunately the book is only available in English for now.

Best regards to all.

John Messing
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