Willigis Jäger (born 7 March 1925 in Hösbach) is a German Benedictine monk, mystic, and Zen master, who trained and taught in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition (being given the Japanese name Koun-ken) until 2009, and then continued his own sangha independently.
Willigis Jäger was born in 1925 in Hösbach, a village near Aschaffenburg. Soon after the end of World War II, he joined the Benedictine monastery at Münsterschwarzach, starting to study philosophy and theology in 1948. In 1952 he was ordained as a priest and began working as a prefect and teacher in the monastery’s secondary school. In 1960 he became responsible for mission and development at the Bund Deutscher katholischer Jugend, Germany’s Catholic youth association. In the same year he co-founded the ecumenical Missio movement, which took him to numerous third-world countries, and to Asiaand Japan.
His meetings with Hugo E. Lasalle and Yamada Ko-Un Roshi, whose student Willigis Jäger became in 1972, represent the starting point of his Zen journey. He started practicing Zazen intensely, spending a total of 6 years in Japanand learning Koan under Yamada Ko-Un Roshi. In 1980 he received authorisation from the latter to teach Zen.
In 1983 he founded his first Zen and Contemplation centre in the old school building of the Münsterschwarzach monastery, the St. Benedikt building, in Würzburg. On his initiative, the ecumenical study group on contemplative prayer was established in 1990, later to become the Würzburg School of Contemplation.
In 1996 Willigis Jäger was awarded the Inka Shomei by Kubota Roshi, the successor of Yamada Roshi, thus being confirmed as a Zen master and 87th successor of Shakyamuni Buddha.