Friday, October 12, 2012

Shrine for Zen Master Seung Sahn at Musangsa

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug

At this current point in history, Korean Zen Buddhism is sort of book-ended between Wonhyo Seunim and Zen Master Seung Sahn.

Unfortunately, he passed away just a couple of months before I came to Korea, but Wanting Enlightenment is a Big Mistake, a compilation of Dharma talks and anecdotes assembled by one of his American students was my first introduction to Zen.

Zen Master Seung Sahn seems to have had a courageous, unpredictable personality, always open to the potential teachings at hand. He was the first Korean monk to travel to America to spread Korean Seon (Zen). When he arrived in the States with a very limited English vocabulary, he found ways to express himself that were direct and simplistic. Well before Nike adopted it as their slogan (who knows, maybe they got it from him...), "Just do it!" was one of his most popular sayings. "Only don't know," is another, urging us to cut off our thinking.

When I entered Musangsa's Main Buddha Hall, I was pleased to find the temple founder's shrine set up in the corner. After a long search, Seung Sahn selected the spot on Gyeryongsan, Rooster Dragon Mountain, for the perfect flow of energy that exists there to build the temple at. After a few years of being indirectly influenced by his teachings, I was grateful for the opportunity to bow in deep respect to this great teacher.

His final words to his students were, "Don't worry, don't worry. The great light is immeasurable, mountains are blue, and waters still flow."

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug


  1. The small photo on the lower right of the shrine is of Su Bong Sunim, Zen Master Seung Sahn's first monastic dharma heir. He died about 12 years ago of a heart attack while giving a student an interview in Hong Kong.

    Thanks, Joseph!

    1. Thanks, I was actually a little curious who they were.

      Is it true that it was a very young girl he was giving the interview to? I hope who ever it was wasn't traumatized by the experience. They'll probably never have another interview like it...

  2. Yes, it was a 12 year old girl. I haven't hear anything about her experience, then or later.