Mirror of Zen Blog

Another Dead Monk-Brother

Just received the news two days ago that a younger monk-brother – – yet another member of the Dharma family – – passed away, too soon.

The Korean-born monk, Mu In, moved with his family to Chicago in his youth. He encountered my bestseller book, “Man Haeng: From Harvard to Hwa Gye Sah Temple”, and told me multiple times that this book caused him to awaken to the teachings of Zen Master Seung Sahn, and consequently, he dove more deeply into Buddhism and straight became a monk. He tried first to leave home at Hwa Gye Sah, where Zen Master Seung Sahn was based, but for some reason he was eventually recommended by a friend or relative to Songgwang Sah, where he found his teacher, the current Bang Jang, or “patriarch”, Hyon Bong Sunim, as his Un Sa (“father”) Sunim. They loved each other like father and son.

I just saw the both of them during my last trip to Korea, during an overnight that they so beautifully arranged for us at Songgwang Sah, early November 2022. In between the formal greetings and tea with the Bang Jang Sunim, Mu In Sunim and I even enjoyed a walk to legendary Bul Il Am, and back again to the main temple, where it is the last place that I saw ever him: Saying a full-body American-style farewell as he went off to guide another group…

Our last meeting together, 11.22: Mu In
Sunim is on the extreme, right, on my left, with his teacher, the Bang Jang, Hyon Bong Sunim, on my immediate right.

That was just a warm autumn afternoon in November 2022.

In the meantime, just last week, I saw this photo of him posted by the temple on their social media feed. Mu In Sunim (in his trademark sunglasses, due to a sensitive eye condition perhaps from his struggle with diabetes, which he was quite open about), is assisting the patriarch as they lead a Bang Saeng (방생) ceremony on a boat somewhere off the coast, releasing fish into the water, while chanting for their happiness and prosperity:

And now he is gone – – crossed over to the other side. With Bo Haeng. And Dae Won. And Myo Ji. And Dae Ahn, for Buddha’s sakes! And Hyon Soeng. And Myong Hye. And damn Su Bong. And Mu Shim!

Bang saeng!

The ceremonies this week at Songgwang Sah for Mu In Sunim. All of the people attending there had involvement with this good monk, and now he is gone. He has left far earlier than his teacher, who is the patriarch. It is quite a moment for the Songgwang Sah family, many of whom I know very deeply.

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