Korean Buddhist Cultural Center is Officially Open

Center for the education and training of Korean Buddhism and Practice

The Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism held the official opening ceremony for the Korean Buddhist Cultural Center near Gongju City on June 11 with over 300 in attendance including Jogye Order head Ven. Jikwan, Chairperson of the Jogye Order Central Council Ven. Boseon, and Yu In-chon, the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism. Ven. Jikwan said, Members of the Jogye Order have worked with one heart to dig the earth, erect the pillar, and raised the crossbeam. Now, we have this wonderful cultural center. This center will provide a place for experiencing Korean culture and individual practice. This center will be place to recharge, rest, and self reflect. This center will help promote the relationship between man and nature, and society and organization.

Ven. Boseon said, I hope that this center would provide a place to figure out the critical needs of humanity. I hope that this center will become a gateway for promulgating Korean Buddhist culture.


The land for the center was selected in August of 2004. The cultural center began construction in July 2007 with a budget of approximately 20 million dollars on 2.5 acres. Located 15 minute walking distance  from Magoksa Temple , the center is deep in the forest. The training area of the cultural center provides diverse halls for various functions. There are classrooms, a large lecture hall, meditation hall, discussion hall, office, lounge, and so forth. These halls can facilitate meditation, chanting, lectures, ceremonies, among other diverse activities. The meditation hall is especially impressive as the walls are made of red clay. It lends to a serene and gentle atmosphere.

The living area has a large dining hall, which is all glass on one side with a view of the stream. The sleeping quarters are modern rooms for one, two, four, six, and twelve persons. Over 300 can sleep at the center. The Jogye Order will use the center for employee training, templestay training, cultural programs, meditation programs, among other functions.


Established in March 2000, Mu Sang Sa is an international Seon temple where anyone from around the world who is interested in meditation can easily learn about and practice Seon in Korea, a country that has maintained a deep-rooted legacy of Seon practice and a strong Buddhist tradition since the 4th century.

At Mu Sang Sa, we support a community of foreign monks, nuns, and laypeople who want to practice Seon following the teachings of Korean Seon Master Seung Sahn. Many students come to practice or train here and later return to help the Seon Centers in their own countries.

Like all Korean Seon temples, Mu Sang Sa hosts two three-month intensive meditation retreats (Kyol Che) a year, in summer and winter. Koyl Che is a time when one can completely devote oneself to meditation practice away from worldly distractions. At other times of the year, we organize short weekend retreats and hold weekly ZEN MEDITATION CLASSES on every Sunday.

Our temple is located on Kye Ryong Sahn, a mountain famed for its strong mystical energy in Korea. Other great temples are also located on this mountain, such as Dong Hak Sa, Kap Sa and Shin Won Sa. Many great Korean Seon Masters, such as Gyeong-Heo Sunim and Mangong Sunim have also practiced on Kye Ryong Sahn. Seon Master Seung Sahn carefully viewed many sites over a period of five years before finally choosing the present location at the end of 1998.

Mu Sang Sa sits directly beneath Kuk Sa Bong (National Teacher’s Peak), where long ago an eminent master predicted that 800 Great Dharma Teachers would appear to help this world.

The temple consists of three buildings, the Main Buddha Hall, a Seon Hall and the Residence building. The Seon building has two floors, the first containing eight residential rooms, and the second a large Seon room in which everyone practices together. The Dormitory building has three stories, the first housing a kitchen and dining room, and the other floors, residents’ rooms.

The Main BUDDHA HALL, or Dae Ung Jon in Korean, sits on a small rise above the Seon building. It is has an inspiring view of the valley of rice fields below and the mountains in the far distance. The Buddha Hall is clearly visible from the valley and bids an impressive welcome to visitors as they approach Mu Sang Sa.

There is the American Zen Master Dae-Bong Sunim, who has stayed at Mu Sang Sa since the very beginning of the construction, practicing and teaching in a run-down prefab house in order to uphold his teacher’s wishes, and who was the pioneer in the history of Mu Sang Sa. Also the American abbot Mu Shim Sunim, who made the most of his more than twenty year’s experience living in Korea, constructing the Main Buddha Hall and meticulously carrying on various projects around the temple. These two monks, who received Dharma transmission from their teacher, Zen Master Seung Sahn, are absorbed in teaching the students who visit Mu Sang Sa.

Founding Date : 2000Address : Chungnam, Kyeryong-shi, Eomsa-myon, Hyangjeoksangil 115, South Korea 321-935Tel : 82-42-841-6084Fax : 82-42-841-1202URL : http://www.musangsa.orgE-Mail : info@musangsa.org

Gangwha International Lotus Lantern Meditation Center

Founded in 1995 by the late Ven. Wonmyong (Director of Lotus Lantern Int’l Buddhist Center in Seoul, founded in 1987), Lotus Lantern Meditation Center on Ganghwa Island is a training and practice site for foreign monks.

Through his activities and studies in numerous nations, Ven. Wonmyong, who passed on in 2003, developed a following of disciples from several nations and established the center for their training and practice.

Lotus Lantern is open to nonmonastics as well, and the center offers plenty of fresh air, and quiet and wooded areas as a great escape from urban life. The center has a number of facilities for all activities and grows many of its own organic food as part of its program forthe health of residents and participants. Foreign monks direct the program and make it as rewarding as possible for participants.

[ Direction ]
* By Bus

  • From Seoul to Ganghwa Bus Terminal: from Shinchon Suburban Bus Terminal, every 20 min. from 06:00-22:00; take taxi from Terminal
  •  From Seoul to Ganghwa Onsuri: from Shinchon Suburban Bus Terminal, every 1 hr. from 06:40-22:40; take taxi from Onsuri

* By Car

  • From Seoul: Take Chayuro or Olympic River Expressway towards Gimpo, then Jaebang Road across Choji Bridge and take left; head towards Ganghwa for 10 min. to Church of Eden and take left for 600 m
  •  From Seoul: Take Olympic River Expressway towards Gimpo, across Ganghwa Bridge, past Ganghwa Terminal, towards Jeondeungsa Temple, Baegabon Motel, and take left at road in front of Church of Eden
Founding Date : 1995Tel : 82-32-937-7033URL : http://www.lotuslantern.net/E-Mail : aeryhm1@yahoo.com

The Seoul International Zen Center

The Seoul International Zen Center was founded by Seon Master Seung Sahn as a place where people from all over the world can practice and find their true nature. The Center is located at beautiful Hwa Gye Sa Temple on Sam Gak Mountain in the North of Seoul.

Residents at the Zen Center practice together mornings and evenings and have various jobs at the temple during the day.

Visitors are welcome to join us for practice during the spring and fall Hae Jae seasons, which is free. It is also possible to participate in the group retreats that take place in the winter and summer Kyol Che seasons.

The Center together with Mu Sang Sa located in the Kye Ryong Mountain near by Daejon is a part of the Kwan Um School of Zen in Korea.

The head temple of the school is the Providence Zen Center, located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, USA. The School sponsors 90-day winter meditation retreats (Kyol Che) at two temples in South Korea, as well as at the Providence Zen Center in the USA and at the Warsaw Zen Center in Poland. A 90-day summer retreat is held at the Seoul International Zen Center, as well as three-week summer retreats at the Providence Zen Center and the Warsaw Zen Center. The School also publishes a quarterly journal, Primary Point.

Founding Date : 1522Address : Seoul International Zen Center, Hwa Gye Sa Temple, 487 Su Yu 1 Dong, Kang Buk Gu, 142-071 Seoul, South KoreaTel : 82-2-900-4326Fax : 82-2-903-5770URL : http://www.seoulzen.orgE-Mail : seoulzen@yahoo.com

Seoul Ahnkook Seon Center

Since 1989, the Ahnkook Seon Center Foundation has opened Seon centers in Busan and Seoul in Korea as well as in Manhattan, New York in the U.S.A. to help as many people as possible realize the true Mind and lead a bright life in daily living.

The Ahnkook Seon Center Statement of Purpose

Everyone desires stable peace and prosperity. However, peace and prosperity are not won only through national wealth, power or an individual’s pursuit of gain. True peace and growth can be possible only if both the nation and its citizens together have insight into the world of Truth and lead their daily lives in accord with a personal realization of such Truth. It is in that way a firm and unshakable world is assured even if it is confronted with disaster and adversity.

Thus, the Ahnkook Seon Center Foundation of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism strives to liberate people of all countries in the world through the practice of Zen(pronounced Seon in the Korean language) which was discovered by Shakyamuni Buddha. Seon helps those who have gone astray due to confusion caused by delusion to find their true selves.

Seon is an inner light that can shatter an ordinary person’s false delusions. Seon offers a power of supreme wisdom with which the full recovery of mankind can be completed. Because Seon was discovered by the Sage’s spiritual insight as a direct method to recover our true human nature, it allows one to sweep away the world of delusion and recover instantaneously the true appearance of great original brightness.

Thus, throughout the East and the West and from ancient times to the present, Seon has always been recognized as an eternal and correct path to the purification and enhancement of mankind’s inner world and a means to follow the Righteous and Noble path. Seon helps one transform his or her internal egoistic separation, reach the original inner reality, and open one’s eyes wide to the Great Vehicle, which enfolds the universe and each of the Karmic circumstances of everyone’s life. Thus, Seon ultimately opens an absolute non-dual world where oneself and others are not considered as two. Seon opens the gate to the world of compassion and brings everyone’s lives into harmony.
Accordingly, the Ahnkook Seon Center Foundation, in conformity with and under the direction and teachings of the Jogye Order of Korean Seon Buddhism, hopes that the sound of this Truth will be heard in the minds of all mankind. It is the wish of Ahnkook Zen Center that a world of universal equality will flourish into oneness through the spreading of Seon throughout the world that will enlighten everyone’s eyes of wisdom.

Address : Ga-hoi Dong 10-3, Jongro Gu, Seoul, KoreaTel : 82-2-3673-0772 (English)Fax : 82-2-744-0779URL : http://www.ahnkookzen.org/EnglishE-Mail : ahnkooksunwon@ahnkookzen.org

Mountain Spirit Center

Mountain Spirit Center is affiliated with the Kwan Um School of Zen, founded in America by Seon Master Seungsahn. The temple also has a strong connection with the Korean American community in Southern California as well as adjacent regions.

The Abbot of Mountain Spirit Center is Muryang Sunim, a student of Seon Master Seungsahn since 1979. After becoming a monk, Muryang spent four years living and practicing in Korea. Upon returning to the United States, he spent several years searching for a suitable site for a mountain temple. He completed the purchase of this property in 1994, and has been living and practicing here since.

The temple is located on a wonderful energy point according to oriental principles of geomancy. The land itself has long been a place where the native people of this area came to conduct their vision quests, and it is the center’s hope to honor and continue this tradition of spiritual practice.

Mountain Spirit center is being built with a deep concern for the environment. The temple is off the electrical power grid – electricity is generated on site by the power of sun and wind. Well water is reused for irrigation of native plants and trees; therefore, care is taken to not use toxic chemicals, soaps, or detergents. It is our goal to develop the temple in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner.

Founding Date : 1994Address : 8400 Juniper Way. Tehachapi California, 93561-9315Tel : 661-822-7776URL : http://www.mountainspiritcenter.net/E-Mail : mountainspirit@starband.net

Providence Zen Center

Providence Zen Center is the international head temple of the Kwan Um School of Zen, a Seon Buddhist school with more than a hundred affiliated groups worldwide. The Zen Center was founded in 1972 in Providence, Rhode Island and moved to its wooded fifty-acre home in Cumberland in 1979.

Founding Date : 1972Address : 99 Pound Road, Cumberland, RI 02864Tel : 1-401-658-1464Fax : 1-401-658-1188URL : http://www.providencezen.org/E-Mail : pzc@kwanumzen.org


Founding Date : 2 Feb, 1992Address : 231 Salem Street, Wakefield, MA 01880Tel : 781-224-0670Fax : 781-224-1087URL : http://www.munsusa.org
A. History

Mun Su Sa Temple was founded on February 2, 1992 by the current abbot, Ven. Pohae Dobum Sunim, Ven. Gi Kwang Sunim and regional lay Buddhists. The major contributors included Mr. Kang C. Yu, who designed and built the main Dharma Hall and the Manjusri (Mun Su) Pavilion, the first President of Mun Su Sa, Mr. Won Taek Oh, Mr. Un Gun Kim and his wife (Kwaneumseong Bosal), Mr. Kun Jin Kim and his wife, and Dr. Gil Soo Chang and his wife.
The purposes of founding Mun Su Sa Temple were three-fold: First, there was a need for a Korean Buddhist temple due to a significant number of lay Korean and Korean-American Buddhists in Boston area. Some Korean Buddhists were converted to other religions in early 1990s simply because there was no Korean temple to go. The second purpose was to propagate the Korean Buddhism in New England area since the local Americans showed their interests in Buddhism and other Buddhist countries had made significant contributions in propagating Buddhism in this area. The third was to propagate Korean Buddhism to Korean students in Boston area since New England area attracts many bright Korean students, who will become leaders of Korea in many professional areas after graduation. These students are expected to make a great contribution to Korean society with the Buddhist spirits and ideals, and to play important roles in propagating Korean Buddhism as international missionaries.
Ven. Dobum Sunim designated the name of temple as “Mun Su Sa” following Manjusri Bodhisattva, who is symbolic of the perfection of wisdom, and is noble and gentle. It is not surprising to observe that the current and former lay Buddhists at Mun Su Sa Temple have consisted of many students, postdoctoral students, visiting professors, scholars and their families in addition to immigrated Korean-Americans. Therefore, Mun Su Sa congregation has been composed of more young lay Buddhists compared to other Korean Buddhist temples in America.
Mun Su Sa has maintained a long history of Dharma assemblies every Sunday. The Dharma preachers include not only the abbot and other monks of Mun Su Sa, but also many visiting and local Buddhist monks and scholars. The abbot has made extra efforts to bring well known monks and scholars as the Dharma preachers. The speakers covered diverse topics such as Buddhist arts and history as well as Confucianism, Taoism, Christianity, humanity and natural sciences related to well beings, landscaping, medicine, metaphysics, nanotechnology and nutrition.
Ven. Dobum Sunim, one of disciples of Ilta Zen master (日陀 대화상), taught and participated in Seon (particularly Gunhwa Seon) practice on Saturday for more than ten years mainly for American people. He began Seon Practice at Haein Meditation Hall and continued Zen Meditations at Tongdo-sa Geukluck-am, Songgwang-sa, Bongam-sa, Mungwol-sa, and Eunhae-sa Gigi-am. He served as the General Secretary of Haein-sa and the abbot of Bongam-sa (The first Abbot of Special Seon monastery) before founding Mun Su Sa here in Wakefield, MA.

The Great Dharma Hall of Mun Su Sa is dedicated to the young Sakyamuni Buddha and its small Buddha image indicates that Mun Su Sa is a Zen temple. The Guardian Painting with 29 guardians (a master piece of Seok Jung Sunim) is located to the Buddha’s right and the Memorial Painting (a great piece of Mr. Brian Barry: a Wakefield MA native and a disciple of late Manbong Sunim, a Korean Living National Treasure) is located to his left like Haeinsa Temple’s Great Tranquility Light Hall in Korea. The Bodhisattva Ksitigarbha (Jijang Bosal), King of Harmless Ghosts, Do Myung and ten Kings of Hell are found in the Memorial Painting.
Manjusri Pavilion is located behind the Great Dharma Hall on the right. Bodhisattva Manjusri statue sitting as a young majestic, royal prince is located on the second floor of the Pavilion. It was carved with wood and has gilt bronze. The building also has a spacious library, a computer room, and six rooms for the abbot and other monks. The library has many Buddhism books, sutras and scriptures written in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese.
The members of Mun Su Sa Temple have made a steady growth from 70 families in 1992 to 220 families in 2000 and to 300 families in 2006.

B. Activities

Mun Su Sa Temple has regular offering ceremonies every Sunday at 11 AM. The ceremony usually begin by chanting “One thousand Hand Sutra”
and Ocean Seal verse by Ui-Sang Master. Then the recitation of the name of Buddha or Bodhisattva and chanting heart Sutra follow. The ceremony ends with a Dharma talk of the day.
Ven. Dobum Sunim has also maintained Seon practices (Gun Hwa Seon) on Saturday 4 PM for the Zen practitioners, who directly strive to point to their minds and try to attain sudden enlightenment.
From year 2005, Mun Su Sa Temple has been offering yoga training followed by meditation free of charge on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (begin at 7:40 PM) and Sunday (begin at 2:30 PM). The current director of the program is Michael Lee. He can be reached by phone: 978-884-9914 or by E-mail: mjlee128@msn.com.
From April 2006, Mun Su Sa Temple has been offering International Dharma Instructor (IDI) Training program in its library to train English-speaking Dharma instructors. The director of the IDI Training program is Dr. Ernest Do. He is an IDI certified by the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism and his Dharma name is True Enlightenment. He can be reached by phone: 781-729-3695 or by E-mail: unhoido@yahoo.com.
Mun Su Sa Temple has maintained web site: www.munsusa.org. The registration at the web site is free and members have significant tangible benefits.
Mun Su Sa Temple publishes Mun Su Sa newsletter, Poong Kyoung Sori, to propagate Dharma, and to publish essays and various practice news of sunims and lay Buddhists among Korean congregations.
Mun Su Sa lay Buddhists operated the Sunday school for children to teach Korean language and Buddhist arts on Sunday at 11 AM. Currently the Sunday school is not in operation due to the lack of students.
Mun Su Sa Temple has an adult choir that practices Buddhist songs every Sunday at 2 PM, and recently won the first place in singing competitions among various Korean religious choirs in Boston area. In addition, the temple also maintains a children choir, which practices regularly on Friday at 4 PM.
Mun Su Sa Temple observes the four Buddhist holidays: the Buddha’s birthday, Renunciation day, Enlightenment day and Nirvana day. Mun Su Sa Temple offers Ullanbana (the 15th day of seventh month by the lunar calendar) and Jijang memorial services for the deceased and their family members and wedding ceremonies upon request.
Mun Su Sa Temple participates in the annual Independence Day parade in the town of Wakefield MA as a community activity.
Mun Su Sa lay Buddhists also participate in local Korean and Asian society’s sport activities such as golf, soccer and softball competitions and have won many prizes in these competitions.
The abbot of the temple, Ven. Dobum Sunim, is currently the President of the Sangha Association of Korean American Sangha in East Coast and has been working hard toward the peace and harmony of Korean-American temples, sunims and lay Buddhists from Florida State to New England.

September 4, 2006
Submitted by True Enlightenment, Ernest Unhoi Do

How to Approach Hwadu Practice

by Venerable Muyeo, February 22, Buddhist Year 2548

(Congratulatory Speech at the Ceremony for the newly appointed Spiritual Leader of the Meditation Center)

Hello! How nice to see you all here. Today I would like to talk about “How to Approach Hwadu Practice.” How can we study hwadu effectively?
That is the question! The purpose of hwadu is to help practitioners break through views based on conceptual understanding of the dharma and so to ultimately return to the source of all discriminative thought.

These days we are experiencing economic hardship, political uncertainty, and social disorder in our country; such factors cause a lot of people take refuge in places like temples and meditation centers.

A few years ago, I read an article about the Pope in Rome being greatly displeased by priests in the east who were doing Asiatic religious practices. Recently I read articles in the newspaper with titles like: “Meditation is the latest trend”; “Now the age of practice has come.” Regardless of whether a person is Buddhist or not, practice is appropriate and inspiring for the future of mankind. It is my belief that for us to live decently, to live in a healthy and contented society, the age of practice, the age of the truth, and the age of wisdom have to come. Those of us who are very much concerned about the future of mankind seem to find great hope in Buddhism and to believe that Seon Buddhism, in particular, will play a major role.

Practicing Seon, following the way of the Buddha, and studying the mind, these all mean the same; they all mean practice of the mind. For this is the ultimate study. The Buddha gave 84,000 dharma talks over the course of 45 years. These teachings are very profound. If I had to sum up all 84,000 dharma talks in one sentence, it would be “Study your mind, and then you will also become a Buddha.’

Accordingly, if you devote yourself completely to practice, you will find real happiness and fulfillment. We refer to most people and other living things as “sentient beings.” They do not see the world correctly as it is and have many thoughts based on ignorance. This impure mind is compared to a gloomy sky filled with black clouds during the rainy season. It is murky like midnight. This is the world of sentient beings. On the other hand, the world of Buddha is extremely light and bright. Sentient beings’ minds are under the spell of darkness, so we can’t see the real truth. Our judgment is distorted. Therefore, whatever we do seems to be very troublesome and so we experience many difficulties. This is the reason that we refer to the realm of all living beings as an ocean of suffering.

The eye of your mind cannot open without wisdom. One day a person may say, “I’m going to work,” or “I’m going to school.” And then go out and never return alive. You cannot predict what will happen. Likewise, the realm of all living beings is also unpredictable and we cannot even see what will happen in the next moment. We, human beings, tend to think that we are superior to all other creatures. But from the realm of the bright light of the world of the Buddha, we are blind, unable to see. So pitiful! Thus the Buddha was very compassionate toward us. What can a blind person possibly want? Money? Fame? Power? Of course, money, fame, and power may be needed but the most essential requisite of a blind person is the restoration of sight. For a blind person, the life long wish is to see. Likewise, for ordinary people, the most essential thing is to open their minds. Nevertheless, ordinary people suffer from many problems that make it very difficult to cultivate practice. In spite of this, people should try to study their own minds any chance they get for this is the only way to practice.

Then how do we study our mind? Mind has no physical form. It is not an object. So you cannot cleanse it as you clean the floor with a mop. Changing impure thoughts into bright ones is the practice of the mind. Then what is the main factor that pollutes our minds? What is the original cause? It is worldly desire and delusion. Because of these two things, people agonize, struggle, and are anxious and restless, thereby tarnishing their minds.

So how do we cleanse the mind of worldly desires and delusion? By practice. Take the example of the ocean. When it is very calm and tranquil, the water is very clear; you can even see a few meters down. But when there is a typhoon the water becomes turbulent, and so turgid and very dark. Then we cannot even see one meter down. Nonetheless, once it calms down again, it becomes once more clear and bright. Originally our mind is inherently calm. In the absence of worldly desire and delusion, it naturally becomes clear and bright, and then we can wake up. It is for this reason that our ancestors said that the best way of practicing is to just rest the mind. Just empty it! Just put it down! Emptying, resting, and putting down all mean doing away with nonessential thinking. Do not let your mind-ocean be tossed about by typhoons. If it becomes disturbed, go back to letting it rest. Rest it again and again and again.

The Buddha said that when you rest your mind and let go of your thoughts, you will attain enlightenment. Completely resting and letting go is being enlightened. That is the orthodox method. In ancient times, Master Linji said, “Resting is the pure embodiment of the truth and the Law (Dharmakāya).” This resting place is the Buddha’s seat. Therefore, rest, rest, rest and rest again, and then the final resting place is the state of Buddhahood, a state often referred to as Nirvana. It is where all of our worldly desires and delusions are totally burnt, are completely melted away after which all the fire is gone. This is the state of pure tranquility or serenity. In this state, there is no life or death for it is the state beyond life and death.

Once, long ago, there was Chan Master Wuye(無業). People asked him, “Sunim! Sunim! Give us dharma!” And then he said, “You fools! Just let go of your illusory thoughts. Dharma talks are illusion as well.” When your thoughts disappear, then your Original Face will appear. So while you are practicing, even if the Buddha himself were to knock at your door, ignore him, and if an enlightened patriarch comes to your window, ignore him as well. Just empty your mind! But it isn’t easy. Why is it so difficult? The minds of sentient beings are crammed with worldly desires, cravings, and illusions. So whenever we move or speak, we only fall deeper into the world of desire and delusion, which keeps us in the state of sentient beings.

To make things worse, parents these days are putting too much focus on early education. Certainly education is important, but from dawn to dusk, children are forced to just study and with the knowledge gained from their study, they hope to make a living. What makes this modern world move is nothing but knowledge! So modern-day people are full of paper knowledge. Without paper knowledge, it is very difficult to live these days. The true nature of knowledge is delusive. As a result, mankind has been living a very abundant, convenient life, and yet more and more people are feeling desolate. Ironic, isn’t it? Hence as society develops, people must practice. For modern-day people, it is becoming a necessity; if they don’t do it, they are going to get hurt.

There are several ways to practice. One of the best methods is hwadu, sitting meditation. So what is a hwadu? It is a big question. It is a big question that the practitioner must solve. Hwadus are teachings handed down from our ancestors and patriarchs. They are not just words, but contain very important wisdom. Hwadu Seon contains the essence of all patriarchs and of the three Buddhas’ teachings from the past, the present and the future. Therefore, if you solve the big question, hwadu, you awake to Buddhahood. This is why receiving a hwadu is one of the best ways to practice.

Recently, some people have become critical of hwadu practice without really knowing what they are talking about. If criticism is based on good intention, it is favorable. But this form of criticism is useless. Hwadu is something you must experience and only after experiencing enlightenment can you say what hwadu is. Without the actual experience, a person should be cautious in making any comments.

One form of hwadu practice is Ganhwaseon. You cannot underestimate the greatness of Ganhwaseon as it is the way to the deep state of hwadu. Other methods are still elementary and it is difficult to go into them. We feel that Ganhwaseon is one of the best practice methodologies in the world. So everyone here should also study, inherit, and preserve this methodology and so devote him or herself to bettering the future of mankind. Ganhwaseon is difficult but if you have a good teacher, he will show you the proper way so that it is not so difficult.

In spite of this, some say that Ganhwaseon is not a proper way of practice for modern people. Why? Because these days, people are less spiritually powerful than people in ancient times. Nowadays people haven’t even had any kind of initiation to spiritual practice, let alone firm faith. In addition, they are not eager to study, and cannot honestly devote themselves to practice. People with inferior Qi (Ki or energy), weak minds, and no firm faith require something they can depend on in practice. That’s hwadu. As a lame person needs a wheelchair, a person who can’t swim needs a boat to cross a river, and a blind woman needs a cane, in the same way, modern people need to depend on hwadu in order to practice. In any case, the principle of hwadu study is the attainment of awakening, where a practitioner seeks an inexpressible answer, and leaves behind all discriminatory thoughts. Thus this study or practice requires the teachings of good teachers or masters. Now how do we study hwadu?

Firstly, you need to have Great Doubt. You must have this big question: what is hwadu? Who or what is the Buddha? You ask yourself these big questions and abide in Great Doubt because you do not know the answer. Hwadu is not about thinking. Hwadu is not about memorizing. Only keep these big questions in mind. Great Doubt is your guide. Without Great Doubt, there is no hwadu. Through Great Doubt, you can truly awaken. Through lesser doubt, you will awaken only to the extent of your doubt. Without doubt, you won’t be able to attain awakening. So, you might say that the essence of hwadu practice is having this Great Doubt.

Secondly, you must be eager to take a hwadu. According to one ancient Seon master, the character “Ganjeol(ch. 恳切 kěnqiè: sincere desire)” in Korean can be sufficient to explain the taking of a hwadu. Now then, what does it mean to take a hwadu with sincere desire? It means to take it as if your very life depended on it. If you are starving, you can only imagine food. You can only think about food whether you sit or stand. Likewise, the hwadu practitioner must concentrate on the hwadu as a starved person thinks of food, or as a thirsty traveler lost in the desert thinks of water. That is the kind of desperation with which you should focus on your hwadu.

Thirdly, when practicing with a hwadu, perform the practice diligently without any interruptions. From dawn to dusk, do not drop the hwadu, not even for a second. Focus on it without rest, without interruptions, continuously. Whether you are happy or sad, coming or going, sitting or standing, whenever and wherever, focus on your hwadu, so you will not lose it. If you get interrupted, then it is not the proper way of practicing hwadu. Even for a short time, if you are interrupted, this is not the genuine way of practice. So when you take a hwadu, you should always practice without any disturbance, not even for a nano-second. This is a bit difficult for people living in the mundane world, but it is essential to let the hwadu saturate you. Because of this, the sages of old used to say, “Focus on your hwadu as a hen sits on her eggs.” The hen might feel extremely hot during the summer. Maybe she does not even need to sit on her eggs continuously because it is very hot during those months. Still, she stays continuously. Why is that? Because she knows the eggs have to be kept warm for 21 days, or they won’t hatch. This is how you must practice with your hwadu. Completely devote yourself to this practice, then you may unexpectedly attain awakening. The practitioner must be persistent and relentless, diligent and sincere. Do your very best with all of your strength! When you devote yourself to the study or practice of the mind sincerely and genuinely, then it will be truly productive and bear unexpected fruit.

Once a sage said that practicing hwadu can be as easy as turning your hand over. Others have said that it is like touching your nose when you wash your face. When you wash your face, of course you will touch your nose. Practicing hwadu can be easier than this for it will provide you with the fastest passage to awakening. So that’s the study of mind. It can be that easy, but if you become lazy and just practice whenever you feel like it, then you will have a difficult time and walk a very thorny road. But if you practice with great sincerity and all of your heart, without any interruptions, suddenly one day you will attain your hwadu. Then you will be motivated by Great Doubt. At that stage, you won’t be able to let go of your hwadu even if you want to. You will concentrate on your hwadu, and you will complete it day after day.

So when you have this Great Doubt, real study is on its way. Yet when most people practice hwadu, their progress is sporadic. The hwadu becomes clear one day, and then the clarity fades away. It seems to be ripe but then it is not quite ready. This practice has many ups and downs and is called, “fabricated hwadu(做作話頭).” In this state, you are forcing yourself to practice with the hwadu and so the doubt is fabricated and is the result of beginning practice without the proper motivation, or lacking faith in the practice itself. You must be lionhearted when practicing hwadu or it will be very hard for you.

How should you go about motivating yourself for this mental initiation? Ask yourself, “Am I really ready to take a hwadu?” For your state of mind in setting out is extremely important. What state are you in? You must be truly inspired to take a hwadu with sincerity and a wish for freedom. You must be motivated with great certainty. You must have the mind of Bodhi, the mind that wants only to awaken. “Bodhi” means “awakening”: seeing your True Nature and attaining enlightenment. Having the firmest determination to attain Buddhahood is the motivation needed in hwadu practice. Maintaining this motivation is the greatest and most important task. Maintaining unshakable determination, thinking only about the hwadu, no matter what happens, until your last breath, with all your heart and mind, this is the motivation, the mental initiation essential to beginning hwadu practice. So sages of old warned, “There is nothing more important than firm determination for attaining enlightenment.” However, even the firmest determination doesn’t always open the door to enlightenment.

So what else is required? Secondly, you should be confident that your hwadu practice will lead to attaining Buddhahood. You must have complete faith in your inherent Buddha Nature. In this life time, as a human being, I am a Buddha, just like Sakyamuni. My True Nature is the same as that of the Buddha. While practicing, do not allow your discriminating mind to distinguish between the Buddha and your present form. True wisdom starts from this faith and ends with this faith and so the practitioner must keep this faith at all times. With true faith and confidence, you can cross the big ocean of rebirth. Many people take rice as their main basic food. But for the practitioner, the staple food is confidence. As people die if they don’t eat, so the practitioner without faith is not a real practitioner. So faith is like the root of a tree which, when it is thick and strong, enables the tree to withstand wind and rain and so grow. The fruits of your practice are in direct proportion to the strength of your faith.

Thirdly, a person experiencing frustration with his or her hwadu should keep a certain kind of angry mind. Like this; “Why can’t I attain enlightenment? Why not me? For generations, many patriarchs and Seon masters did it? Why not me? So many people have awakened. Why not me? Because I am not a monk?” The way of Bodhi does not know the difference between monks or lay people. The way of Bodhi does not discriminate gender. The door to the dharma is open to anyone. So, why not you? This great angry mind should be sincerely channeled directly into the hwadu; this may lead to an unpredictable awakening. Thus some sages used to tell people who had a hard time with hwadu, “You are not worthy of the food you eat.” One monk said that if you can’t practice hwadu in your dreams, then you are not a real practitioner. Hwadu study will work only if you put everything into it.

Among the Buddha’s disciples, there was a disciple named Chulapanthaka. He was not considered to be very bright. He could never remember a single stanza of the Buddha’s teachings. He tried and he tried but he was unable to retain a single word. Then one day the Buddha asked him to sew a robe from small pieces of cloth and as he sewed he was asked just to say, “It will become dirty!” With this he attained enlightenment and became an Arhat despite being simple, through his constant, steadfast effort. When you look through the sutras, there are several scenes where the Buddha spoke highly of Chulapanthaka.

He is an example of the fact that everyone can wake up. So, why not you? Just do it. If you have hard times then write the two letters, “Seong Bul” on your forehead. The letters mean, “To become a Buddha, as a bodhisattva does on reaching supreme Bodhi.” Put the words on and make every effort with intensity, practice hwadu! hwadu! hwadu! For a person who can’t focus on a hwadu must study vigorously, intensely. Without Great Doubt, you are confused, distressed, and so you must focus on the hwadu more vigorously, more intensely. Especially if you are filled with thoughts of inferiority or if worldly desires appear in your mind, then you must make an even more vigorous, intense effort. You should get enough rest, but don’t sleep too much. Do not allow yourself to become confused, but keep your mind clear and vital, your eyes full of energy, your willpower soaring. Even when faced with extreme difficulties, maintain courage and conviction, practice with all your heart. Then you are a true practitioner.

In Seosan City, on the west coast of Korea, there is a tiny temple where the famous Seon Master Gyeongheo Sunim once stayed. It is written that in that temple, Gyeongheo practiced intensely for a year. He started on the first day of the New Year and ended on the last day of that year. After each meal, he sat down, and practiced and practiced very hard. Some people wondered if he was really alive! All year around, he didn’t take time to change his clothes, or to take a bath, or to wash his face, or to cut his hair. He only ate, used the toilet and carried out only the most essential activities for staying alive, and continued his practice without any interruption. During the heat of the summer, while he was practicing, a big yellow snake came crawling into the hall where he sat. The snake crawled up his back and stayed there for some time. A young nun passed by the hall and when she saw the snake she cried out, “Teacher! Teacher! There is a snake crawling on your back.” But Gyeongheo just sat there, still as a rock. The snake stayed for a while, then crawled down and went on its way. Later, he stressed that that sort of determined concentration is essential to bearing the fruits of practice.

Fourthly, when studying, be wise, be clever! That is, practice sensibly, properly, and intelligently. All wisdom is being implied in this sentence. So if you are wise, you can attain Bodhi, you can attain Buddhahood; otherwise, it will be difficult to face life and death. You should be cautious about the following. First of all, even though you have the best intention, you also need to be mature in your practice. You should listen to the hwadu carefully and grow in maturity. You should not be satisfied with any stage of hwadu practice. You must continue studying and so deepening and ripening as you go. Secondly, embrace your hwadu in isolation. Maintain a proper mixture of being satisfied and, at the same time lonely. It is quite possible that you experience loneliness but, on the other hand, if you only strive to be perfect and satisfied, or even think that you are beyond perfection, then your mind will become confused, which will lead to vulnerability to worldly desires and to delusion. So hwadu practice requires that you maintain the equilibrium of the Middle Way.

This is the shortest path to awakening. When practicing hwadu, do not waste even one second. Continuously, as a hen sits on her eggs, as water flows, without rest, focus on your hwadu without any interruption. Then, your effort will be fruitful, your mind and body will become light and contented. Take your hwadu even into your dreams, and you will attain wisdom, a mind clear and full of intelligence. Then you will naturally understand all sutras that you previously found incomprehensible. Even the analects, which in the past you might have considered dry and complicated, you will absorb without the slightest difficulty. In this state a practitioner may say, “Wow, I have awakened, haven’t I? I have finished my study!” He or she is dying to let other people know of the experience and so drops many hints and waits for people to ask for an explanation of the teachings. However, even at this moment, the practitioner shouldn’t be satisfied and should merely renew the commitment, redouble the effort, and keep practicing. After attaining a little wisdom, thinking you are enlightened is like trying to burn Mount Sumeru to the ground with fireflies.

Once you pass the phase of taking your hwadu into your dreams, you are at a wondrous and mysterious stage. One day while you are studying, the wall of the room disappears. You can see outside. When you carefully concentrate, you can see things much more clearly. You can see distant places, maybe a few hundred meters away, or a few thousand meters away. In this phase, it is very difficult to control yourself. You can see the ocean in Incheon, even if you are in Jogyesa Temple in Seoul. Anyway, this astonishing power can hold you back from your real study. And what is this real study? The real study is the art of distinguishing, perceiving, recognizing, discerning, understanding, comprehending, the mind and it leads to intelligence, knowledge, science, learning . . . wisdom. There are no longer any differences in things far away and things nearby, high and low; you have the ability to see through everything. When you reach this phase, problem will disappear. For example, if you suffer from stomach troubles, they will disappear. If you were weak then suddenly you will be able to walk all day long without getting tired. You will even be able to read the mind of passersby and see, “Ah! He has this thought and is going this way.” Tasks that once seemed difficult will become very easy. Some practitioners even gain the mysterious ability to control their own life and death.

At that time, do not fall into the trap of thinking you have reached the end. If you fall into that trap, you will just end up enjoying your attainments while your practice wastes away. Such abilities are only part of a passing phase on the way to your final destination. Therefore, you should refocus your mind on your hwadu, study more diligently and continue more vigorously, and then you will be able to soar higher. When your practice goes well, you can feel abundant and profound enjoyment from hearing and meditating on the Buddha’s teachings. This is not just a feeling of happiness or pleasantness, it is an inexpressible feeling. Even if you feel this way, calm yourself down and steadfastly continue so that you will be able to enter the next level. Sometimes, you might feel so happy, it makes you unconsciously shout or jump around, and it is hard to control yourself. And what is the culmination of this feeling? Nirvana.

According to the Buddha, Nirvana exists ten billion realms to the west of Samsara which is the wheel of life and death, this world. Even if you don’t attain the state of Nirvana, you will experience peace of mind. You can experience this peace at an elementary level and there will be no more worldly desires or delusions. You will be happy, comfortable. The feeling, the peace, the enjoyment from hearing and meditating on the teachings will give you the experience of real happiness and the richest of fulfillments. As your practice matures, you need to be cautious and always lower yourself. Be humble, be considerate of others. While practicing this way, your study will deepen with more and more success. You will make progress day after day, month after month. However, most practitioners want to go out and proudly show their tiny achievements, so it is difficult for them to continue. You must always watch yourself.

Confucius, 551-479 BCE said, “Even if you can’t examine yourself three times a day, you should do so at least once.” What kind of person am I? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What do I need to change and improve? Everyday you need to make yourself better, as a sculptor works clay. You need to note any shortcomings or vulnerabilities, and begin to address them. Thus today’s “I” is better than yesterday’s “I” which will be better still the day after tomorrow. So try to renew yourself every day and observe yourself carefully as if you were looking at your palm. You must know yourself well. Practice is the fight against yourself. When you overcome yourself, when you know how to control yourself, you can truly focus on practice. Your progress depends on how well you can understand and control yourself.

These days it is rare but in the past there were many zigzag unpaved roads which made driving difficult and dangerous. Like a driver negotiating such a road, you must dedicate yourself to your practice while controlling yourself with wisdom. This is the proper way to practice. Often people say, “Change your fate.” People are born, grow up, get married, have children, build a career, make some money, and die. Each person has his or her own scenario. That’s what we refer to as fate or destiny. But each person’s scenario can be rewritten through practice. So depending on how you practice, your life will change. Even if you are born with a bad outlook, you can live a life full of good fortune. You might have an embarrassing and painful life at present, but you can turn everything around. To do so, you must think of your practice as an essential and necessary task. Put all of your strength into it. There is no need to say whether you should or shouldn’t study: if you don’t, it will be your loss. Why? Because it is the source of real happiness and fulfillment. Without it you can’t talk about life. And life is worth all of your effort. Everyone, please be energetic and try hard together! Thank you very much.

* A hwadu is the punch line of what most westerners know as a koan. A koan is a story of enlightenment and the final line is the hwadu. It is a riddle that cannot be solved by the discursive thinking mind – the mind of categories, concepts, language, and logic, which dominates worldly life. By concentrating on the hwadu, the practitioner slowly realizes the limits of the discursive thinking and gradually moves into higher modes of consciousness that are 1) unbound by categorical thought, and therefore inexpressible in language, and 2) conducive to directly experiencing reality, and therefore one’s True Nature. As such, the hwadu requires not an answer so much as a demonstration that it and the practitioner are doing their work. Whether verbal or physical, this demonstration might appear to the outsider to be a non sequitur. However, the teacher has the capacity of interpreting the answer so as to determine the depth of the student’s realization. If undertaken without proper guidance, hwadu practice can be psychologically dangerous. Those interested in practicing with a hwadu are strongly urged to do so only with the help of a trustworthy and qualified teacher.

Where to find temple stays across the country

These are the temple stay program introduction provided by the Korea Tourism Organization.

Reservations must be made at least two weeks prior to the start of the program and need to be confirmed three days before the program begins.

45, Gyeonji-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Reservations: international.jogyesa.or.kr

Located in the capital city of Korea, Jogyesa has long been a center stage for important Buddhist events. It is also the head temple of the Jogye Order which is the largest and the most influential Buddhist schools in Korea.

487, Suyu 1-dong, Gangbuk-gu, Seoul

Reservations: zenseoul@yahoo.com

A temple established in 1522, Hwagyesa has grown into a center for international Buddhist mission following the teachings of Reverend Sungsan.

Participants in the temple stay program will be invited to a seon or zen session, hiking and tea ceremony with foreign monks studying in the temple’s International Seon Center.

178-3, Sungin-dong, Jongno-gu, Seoul

Reservations: yeodiamond@naver.com

The temple has become a major praying site since its establishment over 500 years ago. The benign image of Avalokitesvara carved on the rocky cliff has given the temple a reputation as a major sanctuary for Avalokitesvara worship.

73, Samseong-dong, Ganganam-gu, Seoul

Reservations: www.bongeun.org

Located in Sudosan, Samseong-dong of Seoul’s busiest and most thriving commercial districts in Seoul, Bongeunsa is famous for its long history of over 1,200 years.

690, Yongdae-ri, Buk-myeon, Inje, Gangwon Province

Reservations: baekdamsa@Baekdamsa.org

Baekdamsa is a historic Buddhist temple located in the remote inner range of Mount Seorak, which is often regarded as having the most scenic mountain peaks and valleys in Korea.

The temple is seated in the depth of Baekdam Valley surrounded by stunningly beautiful scenery.
Lotus Lantern International Meditation Center

85-1, Giljik-ri, Gilsang-myeon, Ganghoeguk, Incheon

Reservations: lotuslantern.net/english

Lotus Lantern Meditation Center is located on Ganghwa Island. It is surrounded by nature offering a great comfort to temple stay participants. The temple is also famous for its architecture that takes the combination of traditional Korean temple to modern buildings.

63, Dongsan-ri, Jinbu-myeon, Pyeongchang District, Gangwon Province

Reservations: templestay@hotmail.com

Seated in a dense fir forest with attractive hiking routes, Woljeongsa harbors a number of treasures including a Jewel Palace of Shakyamuni enshrining the historical Buddha’s reliquary, a seated Manjusri statue and a Silla bell.

422-1, Beopeung-ri, Suju-myeon, Yeongwol District, Gangwon Province

Reservations: bubheungsa@hanmail.net

One of Korea’s five Jewel Palaces of Shakyamuni enshrining the reliquary of the historical Buddha, Beopheungsa has been a major prayer center and home of wisdom among Korean Buddhists.

441, Sanhwari Janggi-myeon, Gongju City, South Chungcheong Province

Reservations: nono28@nate.com

The temple is visited not just for its Buddhist cultural heritage but also for the serene environment surrounding the temple which is noted for the undisturbed flora and fauna.

10, Chiilli, Gaya-myeon, Hapcheon-gun, South Gyeongsang Province

Reservations: haeintemple@hanmail.net

One of the triple jewel temples along with Tongdosa and Songgwangsa, Haeinsa represents the gem of Dharma for the entire Korean Buddhism. The temple is consisted of many listed cultural properties including three National Treasures, the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks, the Tripitaka Koreana Repository and Miscellaneous Goryeo Woodblocks.

419, Hoam-ri, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju City, North Gyeongsang Province

Reservations: kirimsa@naver.com

Girimsa is located on the mid-slope of Mount Hamwol, one of the two most admired mountains in Gyeongju along with Mount Toham. The name comes from its unique geographical feature that old Koreans liked to compare with the moon “ejected” from the East Sea.



304, Andong-ri, Yangbuk-myeon, Gyeongju Citym North Gyeongsang Province

Reservations: d-kumkang@hanmail.net

Home of Seonmudo, a martial art developed by Hwarang (flower knights, the elite youth corps of Silla), Golgulsa is still dedicated to preserving and inheriting the great Korean cultural heritage. This unique Buddhist martial art consists of regular seon practice, yoga, gigong (life force cultivation) and various physical exercises.

23, Gucheon-ri, Dangjang-myeon, Miryang City, South Gyeongsang Province

Reservations: shc1150@hanmail.net

This historic Buddhist temple is famous for the great scenery including Korea’s largest highland marsh Sandeulneup and geographic features of Sajapyeong of Mount Jaeyak, as well as Cheungcheung Waterfalls and a huge bamboo forest.

546, Cheongnyong-dong, Geumjeong-gu, Busan

Reservations: beomeosa@hanmail.net

Beomeosa is known to have been established in 678 by a great Silla Monk named Uisang as one of the 10 Avatamsaka monasteries. It has also been a major prayer center for patriots and war heroes.

247, Seojeong-ri, Songji-myeon, Haenam-gun, South Jeolla Province

Reservations: dalmaom@hanmail.net

The temple was founded some 1,300 years ago in Mount Dalma and contains Korea’s largest stupa terrace.

635, Onsu-ri, Gilsang-myeon, Ganghwaguk, Incheon

Jeongdeungsa is an old Buddhist temple famous for the important historical relics contained in its sanctuary such as a Goryeo royal palace, which is now ruined, built as part of the resistance against the Mongol invaders in the 13th century and Jeongjok History Repository, which was used for safe storage of the world famous Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.

304, Songneungri, Jingyeon-eup, Namyangju City, Gyeonggi Province

As the name of the temple that literally means “respect for the truths discovered by Buddha, Bonginsa is dedicated to samatha and vipassana, that is, “calm abiding” and “insight meditation.”

160, Chwipyeong-ri, Buseok-myeon, Seosan City, South Chungcheong Province

Buseoksa is famous for the two great seon or zen masters who revived the glorious seon tradition in Korea, Gyeongheo and Mangong. Also renowned for the beautiful natural heritage preserving healthy ecosystem, it is visited by numerous bird watchers seeking for migratory birds who flock to the nearby Cheonsuman Bay.

Sacheon-ri, Deoksan-myeon, Yesan-gun, South Chungcheong Province

Such great seon monks as Gyeongheo and Mangong turned the temple into the home of Seon Buddhism in modern Korea.

39, Geumsan-ri, Geumsan-myeon, Gimje City, North Jeolla Province

Geumsansa is a historic Buddhist monastery established in 599 to celebrate the enthronement of the Baekje’s new ruler King Beop. The temple is still widely regarded among Korean Buddhists as a right place to prepare for a new day and a brighter future.

268, Soekpo-ri, Jinseo-myeon, Busan-gun, North Jeolla Province

This historic temple is famous for a 600-meter-long road linking its two main gates Iljumun and Cheonwangmun. Its main prayer hall Daeungjeon is widely considered a great masterpiece representing Korea’s architecture from the mid-Joseon period.

12, Hwangjeon-ri, Masan-myeon, Gurye-gun, South Jeolla Province

Records say that Hwaeomsa was founded in 544 by Yeongi Jonja (honorable Nidana) from India when Baekje was under the rule of King Sejong by Yeongi. It is located in the mid-slope of Mount Jiri.

12, Sinpyeong-ri, Songgwang-myeon, Suncheon City, South Jeolla Province

One of Korea’s triratna temples representing the jewel of Sangha in Korea, Songgwangsa has been sharing the very history of Korean Buddhism. The temple has recently launched a weekend temple stay program.

799, Gurim-ri, Samsan-myeon, Haenam-gun, South Jeolla Province

Located in the scenic natural environment of the Duryunsan Provincial Park in Haenam, the temple is popular among patriots and is a home of Korea’s tea culture. Main attractions include a forest walking trail.


Bulguksa Temple Haeinsa Temple Tongdosa Temple
Songgwangsa Temple Hwaeomsa Temple Naejangsa Temple
Seonunsa Temple Jogyesa Temple Ssanggyesa Temple
Beomeosa Temple Haedong Yonggungsa Temple Buseoksa Temple