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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.   

Born in 1941, he grew up in Detroit & worked as a public school teacher in the City.  He left the City shortly after serving as a peacekeeper during the riots.  He was a sociology professor at Penn State, McMaster University, then worked for the Ontario government in Toronto.  There, he met Zen teacher, Samu Sunim, under whom he became a monk in 1975, as well as a carpenter. 

He 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.

Our Vice-Abbot,

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.


Detroit Zen Center
a living tradition,
shining a corner of the world

Founded in 1990 by Zen Monk Hwalson Sunim, the Detroit Zen Center is a spiritual branch of Sudeok-sa Temple in Korea, founded 5-800AD.

Since 1990 we have offered near daily public meditation extended apprenticeship under the tutelage of zen monks to dozens of young people, offered retreats, classes, events & operated an organic food distribution business & cafe.  Our buildings were in total dilapidation & set for demolition in 1990.  With our Abbot at the helm, a grass-roots transformation of our corner led to buildings & gardens that now stand as a tribute to the power of zen mind: community-based vision & hard work.

We are a 501c3 non-profit organization. 

We have 2 main buildings, gardens, green roofs & a public Peace Garden across the street.


Our 2-story Meditation Hall & lower level Cafe houses all Zen Center activities, & also serves as the home for zen monks, who run the Center as unpaid volunteers.  The Center supports their living expenses and provides a $100 weekly stipend.


Our adjacent 3-story Residency is a beautiful, historic home, that houses a ZenStay program (short-term guests), as well as long-term residents, who are welcome but not obligated to join the meditation schedule. 

We are supported through resident monthly room contributions, memberships, public meditation contributions, popup dinners & special events.  All donations are tax deductible, needed & appreciated.


Zen is a philosophical practice with ancient roots, but timeless application.  Centered around the awakening of an individual to their true nature, zen practice revolves around meditation practice, periods of retreat, community, mentorship, & simple, manual & creative work.  Zen students can come from any walk of life or creed.  Zen roots are a blend of Taoism & Buddhism, though in modern times found usually within the great institution of Buddhism, and called 'Zen Buddhism'.  However, Zen is not a religion, but a way.


Membership is open to the public.  Members collectively sustain the Center.  They have no attendance requirements, but access to the daily schedule of practice & events.  Become a member, or read more about membership benefits & details HERE.


Mentorship is available for non-resident or resident students, or as  full time apprenticeship. To explore, please attend a public meditation and discuss your interest with the Director.  If you are not local, contact us to schedule a visit.

Our Community

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.

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