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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


Our Vice-Abbot,

Myungju Sunim took up Zen study in 1994, became a novitiate in 1997, 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, namely Mt. Baldy Zen Center, Sudeok-sa & Budo-am.

She became the Director in 2012, the Vice-Abbot in 2018, and serves as the guiding teacher at the Detroit Zen Center.


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.

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,  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 founded the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple under his teacher's giudance.  In 1984 he began training in zen monasteries of South Korea, as a disciple of Master Wondam, and became part of the spiritual family of Sudeoksa Temple.  In 1990 he was directed back to the US by Wondam to teach in America.  He arrived in Detroit with $50 and a backpack.  His incredibly hard work, sincere vision, and compassionate heart propelled this grassroots Zen Center into being.

Hwalson Sunim offers teachings through informal tea meetings, occasional retreats & talks, and works closely with his formal students.

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