"In Memory of a Great Zen Master" Seoul by Eurasian68

Seoul Travel Guide: 3,050 reviews and 7,527 photos

A Journey of Grieve and Joy

Zen Master Seung Sahn passed away on November 30, 2004. He was 77 years old. He spent 57 years as a monk. For thirty years he traveled throughout the world, teaching and practicing with anyone who had a big question about themselves. He once said, "My job is to poke a hole. Others go through." While living and teaching in the West for most of those 30 years, he returned without fail to Korea one month each year to lead the memorial ceremony for his teacher, Ko Bong Sunim.

In the year 2000, he had a pacemaker implanted to keep his heart beating. In 2002, his kidneys failed and, requiring kidney dialysis, he was not able to leave Korea. Eventually he no longer went out of Seoul. Even as his physical health declined, you could see his sole purpose in living was to help his students and anyone he encountered.

Zen Master Seung Sahn always turned each situation into practice. Even on teaching trips, he told his students, "Travel is like Yong Maeng Jong Jin (Zen retreat). If you hold your opinion, then much suffering. If you put down "my" opinion, "my" condition, and "my" situation, then everything is interesting." The most outstanding feature of his daily schedule was the water dialysis. This was done in his room four times a day, taking about thirty minutes each time. It had to be done very carefully in a sterile manner. He also had to eat meals at regular times. This became his Yong Maeng Jong Jin.

Just as when we are on retreat and have a schedule of bowing, chanting, sitting, work, meals and sleep, Zen Master Seung Sahn turned his life into a retreat of dialysis, meals, rest, seeing guests, hospital visits, and dealing with the basics of life when old and ill. Getting up some days was difficult. Bathing was very difficult; it took at least two people to give him a bath. He didn't want to take them, but always felt better afterwards. Much of the day, he slept in a chair in his greeting room, a grimace on his face. Obviously, he did not feel well. But one never heard him complain, get angry or express any self-pity.

Mu Sang Sa in Chungnam Province

The 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 Zen Masters, such as Kyong Ho Sunim and Man Gong Sunim have also practiced on Kye Ryong Sahn. Zen 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 Zen Hall and the Residence building. The Zen building has two floors, the first containing eight residential rooms, and the second a large Zen 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.

Established in March 2000, Mu Sang Sa is an international Zen temple where anyone from around the world who is interested in meditation can easily learn about and practice Zen in Korea, a country that has maintained a deep-rooted legacy of Zen 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 Zen following the teachings of Korean Zen Master Seung Sahn. Many students come to practice or train here and later return to help the Zen Centers in their own countries.

3rd Year Memorial Ceremony Zen Master Seung Sahn

In Asia, the third year memorial of a great teacher is a markedly poignant event. It is the official end of the mourning period, as well as the beginning of new things to come. It is both bittersweet and celebratory, in gratitude of the great teaching that is left behind. The Third Year Memorial Ceremony for Zen Master Seung Sahn was held at Hwa Gye Sah Temple in Seoul, Korea on November 27, 2007, and in honor of this event, over 160 international students from all over the world attended the ceremony, the sangha tour and the special exhibition in honor of Zen Master Seung Sahn held at the Hall of Korean Buddhist Culture and History at the Jogye Order Headquarters in Seoul, Korea. This exhibition chronicles his life and teachings as he worked tirelessly and with ceaseless love and compassion, traveling worldwide for thirty years to spread the Dharma. The exhibition is a token of gratitude for the Great Love, Great Compassion and the Great Bodhisattva Way which Zen Master Seung Sahn not only taught, but lived by example to inspire in all of us, to “Only go straight, don’t know.” This exhibition is currently on view at Manhae Maeul Hall at Baekdamsa Temple until August 2008.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:wonderful scenery, amazing hospitality towards foreigners
  • Cons:cold weather & cold food
  • In a nutshell:If you don't like KIMCHI, you got a problem!
  • Last visit to Seoul: Nov 2007
  • Intro Updated Aug 29, 2008
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  • jckim's Profile Photo
    Feb 10, 2008 at 5:09 AM

    Amazing experience Zen, Gerlinde! it's another world? :) Have fun! Kim.

Eurasian68

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