Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim

330px-Dae_Soen_Sa_Nim_(Seung_Sahn)While in the last chapter we talked about the teachers and predecessors of Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim in the Korean Lineage of Seon, Kyonho, Mangong and Kong Bo here we point our focus on Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim himself,  Jacob Perl’s teacher. The two met 1972 in Providence, USA. Soon after the Kwan Um School of Zen was founded. If for the masters of the past, obviously, finding (media) material is rather difficult, in this case everything changes. Zen Master Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim died in 2004, so a lot of videos and other resources are available, especially online. We refer here to some of them; just to give a glimpse.  A longer biography of Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim and a large number of interventions, Dharma talks and others are available on webspace of the Kwan Um School of Zen. In the following we quote from the article of Wikipedia, which briefly describes life and teachings of Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim.

Seung Sahn Haeng Won Dae Soen-sa (Korean: 숭산행원대선사, Hanja: 崇山行願大禪師) (August 1, 1927 – November 30, 2004), born Duk-In Lee, was a South Korean Jogye Seon master and founder of the international Kwan Um School of Zen—the largest (Western Based) Zen institution present in the western hemisphere . He was the seventy-eighth Patriarch in his lineage. As one of the early Korean Zen masters to settle in the United States, 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, and expressions such as „only don’t know“ or „only go straight“ in teachings, he was conferred the honorific title of Dae Jong Sa 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 Lineage Master and was bestowed for his establishment of the World Wide Kwan Um School of Zen. He died in November that year at Hwa Gae Sah in Seoul, South Korea, at age 77. Weiterlesen

Kyong Ho, Mangong and Ko Bong

Taego Bou (태고보우, Hanja: 太古普愚, 1301–1382), the first Korean Seon Patriarch

After some experiences with Japanese Soto Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, in 1972 Jacob Perl meets Zen Master Seung Sahn in Providence. The latter just migrated to the US, and is working in a laundromat for his living. This encounter is the initial seed for the establishment of the Kwan Um School of Zen, which will grow constantly in the following years as an international institution rooted into the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism.

A Dharma-transmission from teacher to student is based on a long term and intense relationship, with many years of common practice and common living.  Jacob Perl became a  Ji Do Poep Sa Nim (JDPSN, Dharma teacher) in 1984, and a Zen Master in 1993. From that point in time he is the 79th patriarch in the lineage of Zen Master Seung Sahn, a lineage started with the historical Buddha, developed through India and China, eventually being introduced in Korea in the first centuries a.C. where it continues to exist until our days. Flowering schools and great teachers , a story through the centuries and through various realities. When young Seung Sahn experienced enlightenment in the Korean mountains, he searched for somebody who could confirm his attainment. Here we arrive to Ko Bong Soen Sa Nim, who made Seung Sahn as his only successor. Who stands behind him? Let’s make further steps back: before Kobong we find Mangong (1871-1946), and before Mangong  there is Kyongho (1849-1912). So before reaching Seung Sahn and finally Jacob Perl, let’s have a look at the earlier generations and their style of Zen in the 19th Century. A glimpse of the development of forms and teachings – a legacy still vivid today, also representative of other schools in nearby cultures. Weiterlesen


Korean Buddha
Korean Buddha

Again evoking historical developments, following so Buddha’s heir and lineages, we move from China to Korea, Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim’s homeland. The Dharma Wheel goes on and finds further adepts, further realities in constant expansion. In a society marked by earlier Shamanic beliefs, a sprouting number of Chan influenced teachers appear on the scene. Here begins the 2000 years old history of Korean Buddhism, an ongoing process of building and renewing, often of destruction, told through its highlights and its depressions, through the life of its eminent Masters and Patriarchs, its society, arriving to our days with Korean schools spreading all over the world.  So what is the history of Korean Seon, its philosophy, structure and form? In which context did Jacob Perl find himself in 1972, as he met Seung Sahn Soen Sa Nim in Providence, USA, becoming his first American student?

Following are some brief introductions, which come together with a couple of links to videos related to Korean Buddhism. Moreover, a super classical: Why has Bodhi Dharma left for the East?, a gem of South Korean Cinema from 1989 by Bae Yong-kyun fished from Youtube; and other links to deepen our own research, starting from portals containing Buddhist Korean Writings from many centuries – listed at the end. The images feature mostly Seon Masters from different eras, at the very end some politicians of the last century from what eventually became the two Koreas. Just to give an impression.

Korean Buddhism is distinguished from other forms of Buddhism by its attempt to resolve what it sees as inconsistencies in Mahayana Buddhism. Early Korean monks believed that the traditions they received from foreign countries were internally inconsistent. To address this, they developed a new holistic approach to Buddhism. This approach is characteristic of virtually all major Korean thinkers, and has resulted in a distinct variation of Buddhism, which is called Tongbulgyo („interpenetrated Buddhism“), a form that sought to harmonize all disputes (a principle called hwajaeng 和諍) by Korean scholars. Korean Buddhist thinkers refined their predecessors‘ ideas into a distinct form. Weiterlesen


Huine destroys Sutras

Zen Master Wu Bong was not giving much on knowledge or Dharma books. Zen was for him just: what are you?, simple, precise, without any excuse. We are film makers and have to prepare a documentary, which retells his path and his teachings. The decision to add a historical line to this project follows a passion in recapitulating an earlier research, putting at the same time the current Kwan Um School of Zen and it’s teachers in a brighter context.

So, after we have talked about Buddha and Buddhism, we leave India. The legend says that Bodhidharma, the 28th patriarch in a line of descent from Mahākāśyapa, a disciple of Śākyamuni Buddha, brought Buddhism to China and founded Chan. What happened nearly two thousand years ago seems to be a constant of human history: knowledge, philosophies, believes are moving into other cultures in a process of mutual absorption and rejection. The history is done by people, not rarely by single persons. From the sixth Century upon, the first Patriarchs of Chan appear and establish their authority in a growing lineage. Weiterlesen


330px-Buddha-paintingWhat is Buddhism, how you can define it, which are it’s history, principles, philosophies? Continuing to follow Wikipedia, which has excellent articles on this subject, sharing some links to eventually deepen a personal research, we are trying, in this beginning, to picture out the big context in order to understand a personal destiny, which development could be interesting for everybody. Zen Buddhism comes obviously from Buddhism, and probably a Zen enlightenment is not very different from a Buddhist enlightenment. So, here, for the beginning, the brief description of the religion itself:

Buddhism is a nontheistic religion that encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha, meaning „the awakened one“. Two major extant branches of Buddhism are generally recognized: Theravada („The School of the Elders“) and Mahayana („The Great Vehicle“). Weiterlesen

What is Buddha?

zmwb icona massimeQuestion: How can one be Buddha and not be Buddha?
Zen Master Wu Bong: What is Buddha?
Q: I have no idea.
ZMWB: That’s correct. That’s Buddha.

Here’s a short description of the meaning of the word „Buddha“ and of the life of Siddharta taken in excerpts from Wikipedia, following which you can find links to the original sources of the first ancient biographies, as well as to a selection of movies, books and videos about the life of Siddharta Gautama, finally some links to Buddhistic forums. A small overview, starting from where, more than 2.500 years ago, all began.

From Simple Wikipedia:


A Lord Buddha is a very holy person in Buddhism. The word Buddha means „enlightened one“ in Sanskrit. Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama. He was the man who started Buddhism. Sometimes people call him „the Buddha“. Other times, people call any person a Buddha if they have found enlightenment. If a person has not found enlightenment yet, but is very close to reaching it, then he is called Bodhisattva.

In early Buddhism Buddha meant only Siddhartha Gautama. Later an idea began that there could be many Buddhas: some in the past, some maybe in the present and some in the future.

Since Buddhism tradition thinks Buddha is an ideal person, tradition reached a notion of 36 ideal features of Buddhas. Some of those features are represented on statues of Buddhas. Some other features, like the feature of their foot, are difficult to be represented on a statue. Weiterlesen

What are the features of a worthy life?

The concept of good life, and the principles that should guide a person, has always been a major question philosophers, spiritual leaders as well as individuals have tried to answer. For our and your inspiration, after posting some quotes by Zen Master Wu Bong on this subject, we decided to make a little, playful exercise and dive into the see of quotes you find online to fish some citations that highlight possible different directions.

Following is an excerpt:





The unexamined life is not worth living.


Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.

Pope Paul VI 

There are four questions of value in life, Don Octavio. What is sacred? Of what is the spirit made? What is worth living for and what is worth dying for? The answer to each is the same. Only love.

Lord Byron