The Detroit Zen Center was founded in 1990 by our Abbot Hwalson Sunim, as a meditation training center for monks and lay students, in the spirit of traditional Zen Buddhism. Residents follow a daily schedule of meditation and manual work while non-resident students join semesters of study with an individualized program. The Public is also welcome to visit our public gardens any time, or visit our organic grocery & cafe, Mon - Sat, 10-6, where complimentary tea, lunch & a nice atmosphere is available.
We are an American branch of Sudeok-sa Temple, Korea, where our monastics train. However, we aim to provide teachings that are relevant within this culture. We are located near the geographic center of Detroit, in the enclave City-district Hamtramck, a working-class neighborhood home to more than 30 ethnic groups, rich with culture & urban entrepreneurs.
Resident monks and students maintain the buildings and gardens, and operate Living Zen Organics, an organic food distribution business, which is the primary means of financial support for the Center. We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and are supplemented by donations from the general public who attend our meditation programs and classes.
Founder & Abbot
A native Detroiter born in 1941, Sunim was a public school teacher in Detroit during the 1960's riots. He worked as a Professor of Sociology at Penn State, then in Toronto, Canada as a sport sociologist for the Ontario government. There, he met Samu Sunim, a monk from Korea, and began a 10 year full-time apprenticeship, giving up his career to become a monk. He went on to train extensively in Korea with several prominent masters, including his Dharma Teacher -- Wondam Sunim of Sudeok-sa -- who directed him back to America in 1990 to teach. Arriving in Detroit with $50 and a backpack, he turned away an invitation to open a center in California, and instead founded the Detroit Zen Center. While getting the Center off the ground, he concurrently trained for the next 10 years with Sasaki-Roshi of Mt. Baldy Zen Center. Sunim is loved by his students for his grass-roots, direct style, and his relentless effort in building a zen community in Detroit, despite the difficulties.
Vice-Abbot & Director
Myungju is a monk who began meditation study as a teenager. She has trained extensively in monasteries in North America and Korea. In 2012 Myungju fostered the idea of having a community-based business, rather than operating solely as a donation-based model. With the lack of fresh food & related quality of life issues in metro-Detroit, she founded Living Zen Organics, a community-run business that supports local farms, distributes affordable, plant-based organic foods, and operates an organic grocery store & cafe on-site.