Our Abbot, Hwalson Sunim

Hwalson Sunim founded the Detroit Zen Center in 1990.  Hwalson is his ordination name; Sunim is the title given a monk in the Korean tradition.   

Sunim was born in Detroit in 1941.  He worked as a public school teacher in the City, and later as a sociologist at Penn State, & McMaster University in Toronto, Canada.  There, he met his first Zen teacher, Samu Sunim, under whom he became a monk,
as well as a carpenter. 

He went on to train and live in the monasteries of South Korea, as a student of Master Wondam, at Sudeoksa Temple.  In 1989 he was directed back to the US by Wondam, to begin teaching on his home soil.  

He arrived in Detroit with $50 and a backpack. 
With his incredible heart and work ethic, he propelled this grassroots Zen Center into existence.

Sunim teaches through retreat interviews, and as a teacher to full-time students.

Our Vice-Abbot,

Myungju Sunim took up Zen study as a teenager, and was ordained in 2004 at Sudeoksa Temple, Korea.  (Myungju is her ordination name, Sunim is the title given an ordained monk in the Korean tradition).

She became the Director in 2012, and launched Living Zen Organics.

Myungju became the Vice-Abbot in 2018, and is the primary teacher at the Detroit Zen Center.


to the Zen Center, its teachers & community

Shine  One Corner of the World.

Zen practices are ancient yet very much alive to this day.  Centered around the awakening of an individual to their true mind & heart, zen practice typically involves seated meditation, periods of retreat, community, mentorship, & simple, manual, and creative work.  Zen students examine & attempt to make changes to their way of life to bring it into harmony with all beings, taking guidance from the natural world.  The roots of Zen are infused with both Taoism & Buddhism.

The Detroit Zen Center was founded in 1990 by our Abbot, Hwalson Sunim.  Our community is broad, & includes monks, students, members & friends. We are open to the public for meditation, offer a daily schedule, retreats & a Zenstay program.  Our monastics serve as mentors for those interested in formal study. 

We have restored our formerly dilapidated & abandoned buildings & grounds, & provide public green space for our neighborhood, including gardens & a green roof.  Since 2010 we offered Living Zen Organics, a plant-based cafe & food distributor -- currently pivoting due to Covid.

Our aim is to practice & offer a place to study & teach Zen, and to model sustainable community & lifestyle.  Resident students follow a daily schedule of meditation, offer a Zenstay Program & take care of the Center, while members & outside students access the schedule as they can.  We have a hermitage & retreat center in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where our monastics live half the year, joined by members for retreats.


Please check the calendar/register page and register for any public time HERE.  Essentially we offer:

  • Sunday morning zen meditation w instruction

  • Tuesday evening meditation w instruction

  • Zenstay:  Short term guest stays in the historic residence for personal retreat

  • Full Moon or New Moon Dharma Talks

  • One day & Weekend Retreats (longer retreats available to members)

  • Intro to Zen Classes; workshops

  • Occasional cultural events

  • Membership is open to the public



Founded in 1990 by Zen monk Hwalson Sunim, we are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.  Donations are tax-deductible.  We have no paid staff, and are led by our Abbot, Vice-Abbot, Dharma Teachers & a lay Directors.


Membership is open to the public.  Members sustain the Center, and have no attendance requirements, but access to the daily schedule of practice & events. We offer a free 2 week trial membership for those exploring, then ask folks to become formal members. Unless there is hardship, we request a minimum monthly donation of $30/month.  Become a member, or read more about membership benefits & details HERE.


Mentorship with Zen Center monks is available in 3 forms:  as a non-resident or resident student, or as a full time apprentice.  Mentorship includes a schedule of study & stewardship.  If you want to explore mentorship, please start by attending a public meditation, and discuss your interest with the Director.  If you are not local, please contact us to schedule a visit or phone call.

Our Community

We are a diverse group of individuals.  The aim of our Zen community is to foster spiritual insight through Zen meditation, cultivate a mindset & lifestyle that is service-based, and help people evolve into true human beings -- caretakers of ourselves, one another, and our one world.


press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom

press to zoom