15 Facts About Seungsahn


Seungsahn Haengwon, born Duk-In Lee, was a Korean Seon master of the Jogye Order and founder of the international Kwan Um School of Zen.


Seungsahn was known for his charismatic style and direct presentation of Zen, which was well tailored for the Western audience.


Seungsahn was captured by Japanese police shortly after, avoided a death sentence, and spent time in prison.


Seungsahn then went to see Kobong, who confirmed Seungsahn's enlightenment on January 25,1949, and gave him dharma transmission as well.


The Kwan Um School of Zen was founded in 1983 and, unlike more traditional practice in Korea, Seungsahn allowed laypersons in the lineage to wear the robes of full monastics, upsetting some in the Jogye Order by allowing lay Dharma teachers to wear long robes.


Over his tenure as Guiding Teacher, Seungsahn appointed many Dharma heirs.


Seungsahn created the title Ji Do Poep Sa Nim for those not ready for full dharma transmission but capable of teaching at a higher capacity.


In 1977, Seungsahn was hospitalized for cardiac arrhythmia and it was then discovered that he had advanced diabetes.


Seungsahn had been in and out of hospitals for heart complications for years preceding his death, and in 1987 began spending much less time at his residence in the Providence Zen Center.


Seungsahn implemented the use of simple phraseology to convey his messages, delivered with charisma, which helped make the teachings easier to consume for Western followers.


Seungsahn even went so far as to call his teachings "Don't Know Zen", which was reminiscent of the style of Bodhidharma.


Seungsahn used correspondences between him and his students as teaching opportunities.


Seungsahn developed his own koan study program for students of the Kwan Um School, known today as the "Twelve Gates".


When Seungsahn first began teaching in the United States, there was an underemphasis in his message on the significance of zazen.


Seungsahn had a pacemaker put in his chest in 2000, followed by renal failure in 2002.