Detroit Zen Center
a living tradition
Founded in 1990 by Zen Monk Hwalson Sunim, the Detroit Zen Center is a spiritual branch of Sudeok-sa Temple in Korea, founded around 500AD. The mission of the Center is to foster spiritual insight in human beings, and to thereby model & empower personal, collective and environmental stewardship.
The Center provides a public schedule of meditation, talks, classes, retreats, residency, apprenticeship, cultural events, and stewards public greenspace & gardens. Beginning with an historic property in total dilapidation, a 30+ year intense grass-roots effort has built a Zen Center and the entire corner into a model of reclamation & rustic beauty -- buildings, gardens & green roofs -- for the benefit of guests, residents, the neighborhood & the region. The Center is staffed by volunteers. Its campus consists of 3 buildings & 3 City lots. Its historic 3-story Residency houses a ZenStay program (short-term guests), as well as long-term residents.
Over the years, monks & students have offered a vegan, local food distribution business, bulk food store & cafe (Living Zen Organics), a program to assist single, low-income mothers (as well as refugees) with housing & home ownership (Our Homes), and offered a neighborhood home repair & outreach service (Handy People).
We are supported through residents, member & guest contributions, & general donations. All donations are tax deductible, needed & appreciated. Our monastics as part of their ordination take a vow of poverty, and receive a modest allowance for their needs.
Membership is open to the public. Members support the Center by contributing time and/or money. While there are no attendance requirements, members may enter into a schedule of practice or service by discussing their interest with the Director. Members receive discounts on retreats & are offered other benefits. Membership benefits & details HERE.
Our Abbot, Hwalson Sunim
Myungju Sunim took up Zen study in 1994, and was ordained in 2004 at Sudeoksa Temple, Korea. (Myungju is her ordination name, Sunim is the title given all ordained monk in the Korean tradition).
She has trained extensively in monasteries both in the US and Korea.
She became the Director in 2012, and the Vice-Abbot in 2018. She serves as the guiding teacher at the Detroit Zen Center.
We are a diverse group of individuals. The aim of our Zen community is to foster spiritual insight that leads to a spiritual ecology, individually & collectively, through Zen meditation. Zen insight helps people evolve into true human beings -- caretakers of ourselves, one another, and our one world.
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.
Born in 1941 in Detroit, he lived & worked as a public schoolteacher in the City, but left in the aftermath of serving as a peacekeeper during the 1967 uprising. He worked as a sociology professor at Penn State, McMaster University, then for the Ontario government in Toronto. There, he met his first Zen teacher, Samu Sunim, under whom he became a monk in 1975. His teacher suggested he became a carpenter, as a means of traditional zen practice (manual work as spiritual art), and to support the Temple(s). After becoming a journeyman, he began People's Carpentry as a monk -- the primary means of support for the Zen Buddhist Temple of Toronto, and later to begin the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple. He eventually went on to train 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 Americans. He arrived in Detroit with $50 and a backpack. With only sincere vision, heart and work ethic, he propelled this grassroots Zen Center into being.
Sunim teaches through retreat interviews, occasional talks, and serves a small group of longer term students, & full-time students.