Guiding Teacher,Seoul International Zen Center, Hwa Gye Sah Temple  Hyon Gak Sunim was born in 1964 in a large Catholic family, in Rahway, New Jersey, USA. Educated at Catholic schools, he graduated from Yale University (1987) and studied briefly in Germany and Paris. He graduated with a Master of Theological Studies degree from Harvard University (Divinity School) in 1992, majoring in comparative religion.While studying at Harvard, he met Zen Master Seung Sahn, and moved into the Cambridge Zen Center. The meeting with this great Master caused a revolution in his life. He took a one-year sabbatical from Harvard to participate in the 90-day intensive meditation retreat (Winter Kyol Che) at Shin Won Sah Temple, in South Korea. It was during this retreat that he decided to become a monk. Though he graduated from Harvard, much to the disappointment of friends and family, he skipped the pomp and circumstance of a Harvard graduation ceremony, and all of its many parties and celebrations, in order to do a one-month intensive solo meditation retreat.

Hyon Gak Sunim cut his hair and was given Novice Monk precepts by Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1992, at Nam Hwa Sah Temple, the Temple of the Sixth Patriarch, located on Chogye Mountain in Guangzhou, People’s Republic of China. He is the first Westerner to receive Buddhist monk’s precepts in China since the Cultural Revolution.He received Bikshu precepts in 1996 on the Diamond Precepts Altar at Tong Do Sah Temple, and has participated in more than twenty 90-day intensive meditation retreats. He has also completed three arduous 100-day solo meditation retreats, on Mt. Nam Sahn (Kyongju, 1995-96), Mt. Jiri Sahn (Kurye, 1998-99), and Mt. So Baek Sahn (Yongju, 2000-01).Hyon Gak Sunim received inka from Zen Master Seung Sahn in 2001.Appointed Guiding Teacher of the Seoul International Zen Center / Hwa Gye Sah by Zen Master Seung Sahn in 2003, he has an active, non-stop teaching schedule throughout Korea and the world. His talks in Korean at temples and universities are attended by several hundreds, and sometimes even several thousands. His energetic, spontaneous, deeply incisive “crazy wisdom” style (at times reverent, at times irreverent) is widely reported on throughout Korean media. Since the Spring of 2004, however, he has tried to cut down on teaching responsibilities so as to devote more time and energy to intensive meditation practice.He was appointed by Zen Master Seung Sahn to compile and edit several of the Zen Master’s books in English: The Whole World is a Single Flower (Boston, 1992: Charles E. Tuttle; with Jane McLaughlin/Zen Master Bon Yeon); The Compass of Zen (Boston, 1997: Shambhala); Only Don’t Know (Boston, 1999: Shambhala). He has also translated the last two titles into Korean, and one of them — The Compass of Zen — sold in the neighborhood of 100,000 copies, a rarity for Buddhist books.Hyon Gak Sunim’s translation of the Chosun dynasty Korean classic manual of meditation, The Mirror of Zen, by the great Zen Master Seo Sahn, will appear through Shambhala Publications in Spring, 2006. (This text is perhaps the most popular inspiration for Zen monks in Korea, and is required study for anyone entering the meditation halls. Its influence has also stretched to Japanese Zen monks.)His book, Man Haeng: From Harvard to Hwa Gye Sah Temple (1999), has sold in the neighborhood of one million copies in South Korea. Hyon Gak Sunim donated the royalties to his Teacher for the development of an international Zen center on Mt. Kye Ryeong Sahn.Recently, he has been invited to teach in northern Europe, and there are requests for him to begin a Zen center there sometime in the future.

Ven. Hyon Gak Sunim

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