Toan Sunim (Jose Maria Castelao) was born 1957 in Mexico City. In August of 1984, while still an art student at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, he began practicing Zen meditation at an acupuncture center run by a Japanese monk, Ejo Takata Sensei. In December of that year, he met Ven. Samu Sunim during Sunim’s second Yongmaeng Jeongjin retreat in Mexico. Accepting Sunim’s invitation to come to the Toronto temple for three months of training, Toan left his last semester of art school and arrived in Canada in March of 1985, staying on for the next seven years as resident monk and later as priest. In December of 1992, Toan left for the newly-purchased Chicago temple, which was badly in need of renovations, and worked there until December of 1993. While renovating the Toronto and Chicago temples, Toan was a “true monk,” living at the subsistence level and working very hard in difficult circumstances, often with no heat, no shower, and alone―but with joy, clarity and focus.
Toan was ordained a priest in July of 1989 at the Toronto temple at 86 Vaughan Road. He has made spiritual pilgrimages with Sunim to Korea in 1995, 2002 and 2004, visiting dozens of mountain temples during each trip. In the spring of 1994, nine years from the time he left home for Toronto, Toan returned to Mexico to lead the Mexican sangha and to again take up his art-making. For seven years, Toan pursued solitary Zen training and painting in the Sonoran Desert. Since November of 2003 he has lived as resident priest at the Zen Buddhist Temple in Mexico City.
Samu Sunim praises Toan with his following remarks:
Toan is an embodiment of true and sincere heart. His presence in everyday life reveals the Way of Buddha.
Humility and being constant are his second nature, genuine and authentic.