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Seung Sahn

Seung Sahn

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Seung Sahn Haeng Won Dae Soen-sa (Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

: 숭산행원대선사, Hanja
Hanja
Hanja is the Korean name for the Chinese characters hanzi. More specifically, it refers to those Chinese characters borrowed from Chinese and incorporated into the Korean language with Korean pronunciation...

: 崇山行願大禪師) (August 1, 1927—November 30, 2004), born Dok-In Lee, was a Korean
Korean people
The Korean people are an ethnic group originating in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria. Koreans are one of the most ethnically and linguistically homogeneous groups in the world.-Names:...

 Jogye Seon
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 master and founder of the international Kwan Um School of Zen
Kwan Um School of Zen
The Kwan Um School of Zen is an international school of Zen centers and groups, founded in 1983 by Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim. The school's international head temple is located at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland, Rhode Island, which was founded in 1972 shortly after Seung Sahn first came to...

—the largest Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 institution present in the Western world
Western world
The Western world, also known as the West and the Occident , is a term referring to the countries of Western Europe , the countries of the Americas, as well all countries of Northern and Central Europe, Australia and New Zealand...

. He was the seventy-eighth teacher in his lineage. As one of the early Korean Zen masters to settle in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, he opened many temples and practice groups across the globe. He was known for his charismatic style and direct presentation of Zen, which was well tailored for the Western audience. Known by students for his many correspondences with them through letters, his utilization of Dharma combat
Dharma combat
Dharma combat, called or in Japanese, is a term in some schools of Buddhism referring to an intense exchange between student and teacher, and sometimes between teachers, as an occasion for one or both to demonstrate his or her understanding of the Dharma and Buddhist tenets. It is used by both...

, and expressions such as "only don't know" or "only go straight" in teachings, he was conferred the honorific title of Dae Soen Sa Nim in June 2004 by the Jogye order for a lifetime of achievements. Considered the highest honor to have bestowed upon one in the order, the title translates to mean Great honored Zen master. He died in November that year at Hwa Gae Sah in Seoul
Seoul
Seoul , officially the Seoul Special City, is the capital and largest metropolis of South Korea. A megacity with a population of over 10 million, it is the largest city proper in the OECD developed world...

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, at age 77.

Biography


Seung Sahn was born Dok-In Lee in Seun Choen, Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 (now North Korea
North Korea
The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea , , is a country in East Asia, occupying the northern half of the Korean Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Pyongyang. The Korean Demilitarized Zone serves as the buffer zone between North Korea and South Korea...

) in 1927 to Presbyterian parents. In 1944 he joined an underground resistance movement in response to the ongoing Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese occupation of Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

. He was captured by Japanese police shortly after, avoided a death sentence, and spent time in prison
Prison
A prison is a place in which people are physically confined and, usually, deprived of a range of personal freedoms. Imprisonment or incarceration is a legal penalty that may be imposed by the state for the commission of a crime...

. Upon release, he studied Western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

 at Dongguk University
Dongguk University
Dongguk University is a private, coeducational university in South Korea. It operates campuses in Seoul, in Gyeongju City, North Gyeongsang province and in Los Angeles, United States...

 in South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

. One day, a monk friend of his lent him a copy of the Diamond Sutra
Diamond Sutra
The Diamond Sūtra , is a short and well-known Mahāyāna sūtra from the Prajñāpāramitā, or "Perfection of Wisdom" genre, and emphasizes the practice of non-abiding and non-attachment...

. While reading the text, he became inspired to ordain as a monk and left school—receiving the Vinaya
Vinaya
The Vinaya is the regulatory framework for the Buddhist monastic community, or sangha, based in the canonical texts called Vinaya Pitaka. The teachings of the Buddha, or Buddhadharma can be divided into two broad categories: 'Dharma' or doctrine, and 'Vinaya', or discipline...

 precepts in 1948. Seung Sahn then performed a one-hundred day solitary retreat in the mountains of Korea, living on a diet of pine needles and rain water. It is said he attained enlightenment
Enlightenment (spiritual)
Enlightenment in a secular context often means the "full comprehension of a situation", but in spiritual terms the word alludes to a spiritual revelation or deep insight into the meaning and purpose of all things, communication with or understanding of the mind of God, profound spiritual...

 on this retreat. While seeking out a teacher who could confirm his enlightenment he found Ko Bong
Ko Bong
Ko Bong Soen Sa Nim , the 77th Korean Buddhist Partiarch in his teaching lineage, was a Korean Zen master known for spontaneous and eccentric teaching. He sometimes said that he preferred to teach laypeople because monks were too lazy to practice hard. He served as Zen priest at Hwa Gye Sa in...

 Soen Sa Nim, who told him to keep a not-knowing mind. In the fall of 1948 Seung Sahn learned Dharma combat
Dharma combat
Dharma combat, called or in Japanese, is a term in some schools of Buddhism referring to an intense exchange between student and teacher, and sometimes between teachers, as an occasion for one or both to demonstrate his or her understanding of the Dharma and Buddhist tenets. It is used by both...

 while sitting a one-hundred day sesshin
Sesshin
A sesshin , literally "touching the heart-mind" , is a period of intensive meditation in a Zen monastery....

 at Su Dok Sa—where he was known to stir up mischief, nearly being expelled from the monastery
Monastery
Monastery denotes the building, or complex of buildings, that houses a room reserved for prayer as well as the domestic quarters and workplace of monastics, whether monks or nuns, and whether living in community or alone .Monasteries may vary greatly in size – a small dwelling accommodating only...

. After the sesshin was concluded he received inka
Inka
, is a term used in Zen Buddhism to denote a high-level of certification, and literally means "the legitimate seal of clearly furnished proof." In ancient times inka usually came in the form of an actual document, but this practice is no longer commonplace...

 from two masters, Keum Bong and Keum Oh. He then went to see Ko Bong, who confirmed Seung Sahn's enlightenment on January 25, 1949 (giving Seung Sahn Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission refers to "the manner in which the teaching, or Dharma, is passed from a Zen master to their disciple and heir...

). Seung Sahn is the only person Ko Bong gave Dharma transmission to. He spent the next three years in observed silence.


Drafted into the South Korean army in 1953—he served as an army chaplain and then as captain for almost five years, taking over for Ko Bong as abbot of Hwa Gae Sah in Seoul, South Korea in 1957. In the next decade he would go on to found temples in Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

 and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

. While in Japan he was acquainted with the kong-an tradition of the Rinzai sect, likely undergoing kong-an study with a Rinzai master. Coming to the United States in 1972, he settled in Providence, Rhode Island
Providence, Rhode Island
Providence is the capital and most populous city of Rhode Island and was one of the first cities established in the United States. Located in Providence County, it is the third largest city in the New England region...

 and worked at a laundromat as a repairman—spending much of his off time improving upon his English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

. Shortly after arriving, he found his first students at nearby Brown University
Brown University
Brown University is a private, Ivy League university located in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. Founded in 1764 prior to American independence from the British Empire as the College in the English Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations early in the reign of King George III ,...

—most of whom came by way of a recommendation from a professor there. Among these first students was Jacob Perl
Wu Bong
Wu Bong, born Jacob Perl, is a Soen Sa Nim in the Kwan Um School of Zen. Perl currently acts as the head teacher of the . As the first student of Dae Soen Sa Nim in the United States, he had previously practiced Zen Buddhism in the Sōtō tradition at the San Francisco Zen Center under Shunryu Suzuki...

, who helped to found the Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center is the international headquarters for the Kwan Um School of Zen and the first Zen center established by Seung Sahn in the United States in October 1972. The PZC offers residential training where students and teachers live together under one roof, which was one of the...

 with the others.


In 1974 Seung Sahn began founding more Zen centers in the United States—his school still yet to be established—beginning with Dharma Zen Center in Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles , with a population at the 2010 United States Census of 3,792,621, is the most populous city in California, USA and the second most populous in the United States, after New York City. It has an area of , and is located in Southern California...

—a place where laypeople
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 and the ordained could practice and live together. That following year he went on to found the Chogye International Zen Center
Chogye International Zen Center
Chogye International Zen Center is a Kwan Um School of Zen practice center founded by Seung Sahn in 1975, located in New York City. The center offers a daily practice regimen, as well as retreats and workshops...

 of New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, and then in 1977 Empty Gate Zen Center. Meanwhile, in 1979, the Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center is the international headquarters for the Kwan Um School of Zen and the first Zen center established by Seung Sahn in the United States in October 1972. The PZC offers residential training where students and teachers live together under one roof, which was one of the...

 moved from its location in Providence to its current space in Cumberland, RI. http://www.cizny.org/http://www.emptygatezen.com/indexhttp://www.providencezen.org/

The Kwan Um School of Zen
Kwan Um School of Zen
The Kwan Um School of Zen is an international school of Zen centers and groups, founded in 1983 by Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim. The school's international head temple is located at the Providence Zen Center in Cumberland, Rhode Island, which was founded in 1972 shortly after Seung Sahn first came to...

 was founded in 1983 and—unlike more traditional practice in Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

—Seung Sahn allowed the laity
Laity
In religious organizations, the laity comprises all people who are not in the clergy. A person who is a member of a religious order who is not ordained legitimate clergy is considered as a member of the laity, even though they are members of a religious order .In the past in Christian cultures, the...

 in the lineage to wear the robe of a Buddhist monk. Celibacy
Celibacy
Celibacy is a personal commitment to avoiding sexual relations, in particular a vow from marriage. Typically celibacy involves avoiding all romantic relationships of any kind. An individual may choose celibacy for religious reasons, such as is the case for priests in some religions, for reasons of...

 was not required, and the rituals of the school are unique. For instance: although the Kwan Um School does utilize traditional Seon and Japanese Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 ritual, elements of their practice also closely resemble rituals found often in Pure Land
Pure land
A pure land, in Mahayana Buddhism, is the celestial realm or pure abode of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. The various traditions that focus on Pure Lands have been given the nomenclature Pure Land Buddhism. Pure lands are also evident in the literature and traditions of Taoism and Bön.The notion of 'pure...

, Ch'an and Huayen traditions. In 1986, along with a former student and Dharma heir Dae Gak
Dae Gak
Dae Gak , born Robert Genthner, is a Zen master and the guiding teacher of Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Kentucky, a Korean Buddhist temple and retreat center co-founded in 1986 with Seung Sahn . He received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1994. He also holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is...

, Seung Sahn founded a retreat center and temple in Clay City, Kentucky
Clay City, Kentucky
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,303 people, 543 households, and 367 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,199.5 people per square mile . There were 588 housing units at an average density of 541.3 per square mile . The racial makeup of the city was 99.08% White, 0.23%...

 called Furnace Mountain
Furnace Mountain
Furnace Mountain is an American Zen Buddhist retreat center in Clay City, Kentucky, co-founded in 1986 by Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim and Dae Gak Soen Sa Nim as part of the international Kwan Um School of Zen; it is now unaffiliated with the school in an official capacity...

—the temple name being Kwan Se Um San Ji Sah (or, Perceive World Sound High Ground Temple). The center functions independently of the Kwan Um organization today.
Over his tenure as Guiding Teacher, Seung Sahn appointed many Dharma heirs. He created the title Ji Do Poep Sa Nim (JDPSN) for those not ready for full Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission refers to "the manner in which the teaching, or Dharma, is passed from a Zen master to their disciple and heir...

 but capable of teaching at a higher capacity. In 1977 Seung Sahn was hospitalized for having irregular heartbeats, and it was then discovered that he had advanced diabetes. He had been in and out of hospitals for heart complications for years preceding his death, and in 1987 began spending much less time at his residence in the Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center
Providence Zen Center is the international headquarters for the Kwan Um School of Zen and the first Zen center established by Seung Sahn in the United States in October 1972. The PZC offers residential training where students and teachers live together under one roof, which was one of the...

. Starting in 1990, and under invitation from Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Gorbachev
Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev is a former Soviet statesman, having served as General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1985 until 1991, and as the last head of state of the USSR, having served from 1988 until its dissolution in 1991...

, Seung Sahn began making trips to the USSR to teach. His student, Myong Gong Sunim, later opened a practice center in the country (Novgorod Center of Zen Meditation). Throughout the 90s he also made trips to Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, which led to the 1999 opening of the Tel Aviv Zen Center
Tel Aviv Zen Center
Tel Aviv Zen Center is a Kwan Um School of Zen practice center located in Israel, and is the sole Zen center in the Middle East affiliated with the school. The center was established in 1999, and the guiding teacher is Revital Dan.-See also:...

. His remaining years were spent in particularly poor health—first having a pacemaker
Pacemaker
An artificial pacemaker is a medical device that uses electrical impulses to regulate the beating of the heart.Pacemaker may also refer to:-Medicine:...

 put in his chest in 2000, followed by kidney failure in 2002. In June 2004 he was given the honorific title Dae Soen sa Nim by the Jogye order in commemoration of his accomplishments, the utmost of titles the order can grant. Dae Soen sa Nim translates as "Great honored Zen master." Seung Sahn died shortly after on November 30, 2004 at age 77 in his homeland of Korea at Hwa Gae Sah, the first temple he served as abbot for starting in 1957.

Teaching style


Seung Sahn implemented the use of simple phraseology
Phraseology
In linguistics, phraseology is the study of set or fixed expressions, such as idioms, phrasal verbs, and other types of multi-word lexical units , in which the component parts of the expression take on a meaning more specific than or otherwise not predictable from the sum of their meanings when...

 to convey his messages, delivered with charisma
Charisma
The term charisma has two senses: 1) compelling attractiveness or charm that can inspire devotion in others, 2) a divinely conferred power or talent. For some theological usages the term is rendered charism, with a meaning the same as sense 2...

, which helped make the teachings easier to consume for Western followers. Some of his more frequently employed phrases included "only go straight" or "only don't know". He even went so far as to call his teachings "Don't Know Zen", which was reminiscent of the style of Ch'an master Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma
Bodhidharma was a Buddhist monk who lived during the 5th/6th century AD. He is traditionally credited as the transmitter of Ch'an to China, and regarded as the first Chinese patriarch...

. Seung Sahn used correspondences between himself and his students as teaching opportunities. Back-and-forth letters allowed for a kind of Dharma combat
Dharma combat
Dharma combat, called or in Japanese, is a term in some schools of Buddhism referring to an intense exchange between student and teacher, and sometimes between teachers, as an occasion for one or both to demonstrate his or her understanding of the Dharma and Buddhist tenets. It is used by both...

 via the mail, and made him more available to the school's students in his absence. This was another example of his skillful implementation of unorthodox teaching methods, adapting to the norms of Western culture and thus making himself more accessible to those he taught. He was a supporter of what he often termed "together action"—encouraging students to make the lineage's Zen centers their home and practice Zen
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 together.


He also developed his own kong-an study program for students of the Kwan Um School, known today as the Twelve Gates. These twelve kong-ans are a mixture of ancient cases and cases which he developed. Before receiving inka
Inka
, is a term used in Zen Buddhism to denote a high-level of certification, and literally means "the legitimate seal of clearly furnished proof." In ancient times inka usually came in the form of an actual document, but this practice is no longer commonplace...

 to teach (in Kwan Um inka is not synonymous with Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission
Dharma transmission refers to "the manner in which the teaching, or Dharma, is passed from a Zen master to their disciple and heir...

), students must complete the Twelve Gates—though often they will complete hundreds more. One of the more well known cases of the Twelve Gates is Seung Sahn's Dropping Ashes on the Buddha (the Sixth Gate)—which is also the title of one of his books. In the book The Compass of Zen
The Compass of Zen
The Compass of Zen is a book of teachings by the late Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim, a compilation of talks given by him since 1977 that were then edited by his student Hyon Gak...

, this kong-an is transcribed as follows: "Somebody comes to the Zen center smoking a cigarette. He blows smoke and drops ashes on the Buddha." Seung Sahn then poses the question, "If you are standing there at that time, what can you do?" Not included in this version of the kong-an is the Kwan Um School of Zen's following side note on the case, "...here is an important factor in this case that has apparently never been explicitly included in its print versions. Zen Master Seung Sahn has always told his students that the man with the cigarette is also very strong and that he will hit you if he doesn't approve of your response to his actions."

When Seung Sahn first began teaching in the United States, there was an underemphasis in his message on the significance of zazen
Zazen
In Zen Buddhism, zazen is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment .- Significance :Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice...

 (or, Zen meditation). Under advice from some students, however, he soon came to incorporate zazen into the curriculum more frequently. More than a few of his earliest students had practiced Zen previously under the Sōtō
Soto
Sōtō Zen , or is, with Rinzai and Ōbaku, one of the three most populous sects of Zen in Japanese Buddhism.The Sōtō sect was first established as the Caodong sect during the Tang Dynasty in China by Dongshan Liangjie in the 9th century, which Dōgen Zenji then brought to Japan in the 13th century...

 priest Shunryu Suzuki
Shunryu Suzuki
Shunryu Suzuki was a Sōtō Zen roshi who popularized Zen Buddhism in the United States, particularly around San Francisco. Born in the Kanagawa Prefecture of Japan, Suzuki was occasionally mistaken for the Zen scholar D.T...

, laying out a convincing argument about how zazen and Zen were seen as inseparable in the Western psyche.

Criticisms


According to one former student, Seung Sahn was "most interested in gaining a large number of students, even if they turn out to be short-term catches. This striving for numbers for numbers' sake has left a parallel impression that Seung Sahn has been remarkably unconcerned with the spiritual training of those who might come into contact with the groups within his organization. There is a belief that he also made too many students Dharma teachers. He also upset some in the Jogye Order
Jogye Order
The Jogye Order, officially the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism is the representative order of traditional Korean Buddhism with roots that date back 1,200 years to Unified Silla National Master Doui, who brought Seon and the practice taught by the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, from China about 820...

 by allowing lay Dharma teachers to wear long robes; while the Korean Jogye Order
Jogye Order
The Jogye Order, officially the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism is the representative order of traditional Korean Buddhism with roots that date back 1,200 years to Unified Silla National Master Doui, who brought Seon and the practice taught by the Sixth Patriarch, Huineng, from China about 820...

 also gives the title poep sa (Dharma teachers) to laypeople, in Korea long robes are reserved for monks.
It was true in the beginning of the Kwan Um School of Zen for people to become Dharma Teachers rather quickly mostly out of need in order to run practice. The current requirement is that a person must take the five precepts after at least four days of retreat or an agreed upon time by the guiding teacher of a Zen Center. To become a Dharma Teacher in Training will take the individual the minimum of two years after taking the five precepts. This also can only be approved of by the guiding teacher. The student will then take the ten precepts. To become a Dharma Teacher one must complete a minimum of two years of training as a Dharma Teacher in Training that includes a course of study and certain amount of time attending retreats and serving certain practice roles. To become a Senior Dharma Teacher will take a minimum of five years after becoming a Dharma Teacher and must be approved by the guiding teacher. At this time the person will take the sixteen precepts. Receiving inga (inka) only comes when a student has proven satisfactorily in further training sactioned by a Zen Master and members of the school. Becoming a Zen Master will require the sanction of several Zen Masters in and outside the school.

Seung Sahn was accused of carrying out sexual relationships with students secretly while supposedly celibate. The first accusations of sexual relationships between Seung Sahn and students came about in 1988. Sonia Alexander, former director of Cambridge Zen Center
Cambridge Zen Center
Cambridge Zen Center is an urban meditation center in Cambridge, Massachusetts close to Harvard University, part of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Free meditation training and dharma talks are offered to the public and the Zen Center also provides a large residential training program.-See also:*...

, has claimed that Seung Sahn had carried out long-term sexual relationships with a number of his female followers. Journalist Rick Fields confirms this, writing “the supposedly celibate Korean Zen master Seung Sahn (Seon-sa-nim) revealed long-term relationships with two students.” One former student claims that when confronted with the issue, Seung Sahn stated that he engaged in such behavior to find people he could trust and that he was beyond lust. These alleged relationships caused Alexander to end her involvement with the Kwan Um School, believing in retrospect that she had been used over the years only to help build more Zen Centers for the lineage. Notwithstanding, Alexander still has reverence for Seung Sahn and feels her time spent in the school was to her benefit.

According to author Timothy Miller, “the Kwan Um organization has had to struggle with disclosures of controversial sexual conduct on the part of its leader; Seung Sahn was generally understood by his followers to be a celibate monk, and the revelation that he had had affairs with female students caused some members to leave the movement.”

Zen Master Seung Sahn did admit publicly the nature of the relationships and did two repentance ceremonies. The Kwan Um School of Zen has since then developed and enforced an ethics committee that has very strict guidelines for teacher/student relationships and consequences for unethical behavior of any member of the school.

Dharma heirs

  • Bo Mun
    George Bowman
    George Bowman, or Bo Mun Soen sa Nim, is a Zen master and licensed psychotherapist living at Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Kentucky . He received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim in 1992, and is a former teacher in the Kwan Um School of Zen...

  • Bon Haeng
  • Bon Shim
  • Bon Soeng
  • Bon Yeon
    Bon Yeon
    Bon Yeon Soen Sa Nim is the dharma name and title of Jane McLaughlin-Dobisz. She is one of two guiding teachers of the Cambridge Zen Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, of the Kwan Um School of Zen...

  • Bon Yo
  • Dae Bong
  • Dae Gak
    Dae Gak
    Dae Gak , born Robert Genthner, is a Zen master and the guiding teacher of Furnace Mountain in Clay City, Kentucky, a Korean Buddhist temple and retreat center co-founded in 1986 with Seung Sahn . He received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1994. He also holds a Ph.D. in psychology and is...

  • Dae Kwan
  • Dae Kwang
    Dae Kwang
    Dae Kwang is a Soen Sa Nim and is the current guiding teacher of the Providence Zen Center. He was ordained as a monk in 1987 and received Dharma transmission from Seung Sahn in 1996. He also serves as head abbot of the entire lineage, ranking just below Soeng Hyang .-References:...

  • Hae Kwang
    Stanley Lombardo
    Stanley F. Lombardo is an American professor of Classics at the University of Kansas. He is best known for his translations of the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid...

  • Ji Bong
  • Soeng Hyang
    Soeng Hyang
    Soeng Hyang Soen Sa Nim is a Zen Master and the Guiding Teacher of the international Kwan Um School of Zen, and successor to the late Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim.-Biography:...

  • So Bong
  • Su Bong
    Su Bong
    Su Bong was a Soen Sa Nim in the Kwan Um School of Zen, the designated heir of Seung Sahn's lineage. Of both Korean and Chinese heritage, he was born in Kona, Hawaii. Su Bong began his practice with Seung Sahn in 1974, helping to establish many Zen groups and temples for the lineage in the years...

  • Won Gwang
    Chang Sik Kim
    Chang Sik Kim was born in South Korea in 1944. When he was thirteen he met his teacher, Seung Sahn Lee, and entered the Hwa Gye temple in Seoul. When Kim was 21, his teacher sent him on a 100 day meditation retreat...

  • Wu Bong
    Wu Bong
    Wu Bong, born Jacob Perl, is a Soen Sa Nim in the Kwan Um School of Zen. Perl currently acts as the head teacher of the . As the first student of Dae Soen Sa Nim in the United States, he had previously practiced Zen Buddhism in the Sōtō tradition at the San Francisco Zen Center under Shunryu Suzuki...

  • Wu Kwang
    Wu Kwang
    Wu Kwang Soen Sa Nim , born Richard Shrobe, is head Zen teacher at Chogye International Zen Center of New York, a practice center of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Before coming to Zen practice Richard studied Hinduism under Swami Satchidananda. He is a social worker who incorporates Gestalt therapy in...


Audio

  • 2000 Chanting Instructional CD
  • Perceive World Sound Zen Chanting CD (from 1978)

Video

  • 1992 Wake Up! On the Road with a Zen Master (DVD and VHS) - Watch at Google Video
  • 1993 Sun Rising East (VHS)

See also

  • Buddhism in the United States
    Buddhism in the United States
    Buddhism is one of the largest religions in the United States behind Christianity, Judaism and Nonreligious, and approximate with Islam and Hinduism. American Buddhists include many Asian Americans, as well as a large number of converts of other ethnicities, and now their children and even...

  • Buddhist Patriarch
  • Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim's lineage chart
    Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim's lineage chart
    The following list documents Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim's lineage, starting with the First Patriarch.*The BuddhaIndia1. Mahakasyapa2. Ananda3. Sanakavasa4. Upagupta5. Dhrtaka6. Miccika7. Vasumitra8. Buddhanandi9. Buddhamitri10. Parsva11. Punyayasas...

  • The Compass of Zen
    The Compass of Zen
    The Compass of Zen is a book of teachings by the late Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim, a compilation of talks given by him since 1977 that were then edited by his student Hyon Gak...

  • Timeline of Zen Buddhism in the United States
    Timeline of Zen Buddhism in the United States
    Below is a timeline of important events regarding Zen Buddhism in the United States. Dates with "?" are approximate.-Early history:* 1893: Soyen Shaku comes to the United States to lecture at the World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago...


External links

  • www.kwanumzen.org
  • When two masters meet Kalu Rinpoche
    Kalu Rinpoche
    Kyabje Kalu Rinpoche was a Buddhist meditation master, scholar and teacher. He was one of the first Tibetan masters to teach in the West.-Early life and teachers:...

     of Tibet and the Korean Zen master Seung Sahn