Venerable Samu Sunim
"Sunim", as he is known to many, is the Founding Teacher of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom and its five Zen Buddhist Temples in North America. He is a superior meditation teacher, a poet and storyteller who transforms run-down buildings into beautiful temples. As a teacher, he is a disciplinarian with an eye for detail coupled with a great understanding of his students' Western ways. His frank, straightforward manner, ready smile, helpful attitude and compassionate heart combined with a tireless enthusiasm and determination for seemingly impossible tasks have earned him the respect of whoever comes across his path. Sunim resigned from all his teaching duties in summer 2019, leaving Toan Sunim as Dharma Master of the Society. Sunim passed away August 6, 2022 at his Toronto temple. Read more on Sunim's Life
Toan Sunim (Jose Maria Castelao Camara) 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, 2005 and 2006 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. Toan Sunim has inherited Samu Sunim's Dharma (Dharma Heir) and serves as Dharma Master of the Society since July 2019.
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.
Haju Sunim (Linda Lundquist) has been a student of Samu Sunim since she first showed up on a motorcycle for morning meditation in Toronto in 1976. Haju Sunim is the resident priest for the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple in Michigan, where she has lived since 1982. Much loved, Haju is an example of "an ordinary Buddha, a Buddha of deep humility and compassion" according to Samu Sunim.
She was ordained as a priest by Ven. Samu Sunim in 1989 and received Dharma transmission in July 3, 1999. On this occasion, Samu Sunim gave this verse to Haju Sunim:
Dharma is the Universe.
Earthworms and flies are Sangha;
Rocks and soil, Buddha.
Play with your boundless heart
Enjoy unlimited action.
Haju Sunim was born in Vancouver, Canada in 1944. She taught in alternative schools in British Columbia and in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser College. As a single mother Haju raised two daughters.
Sanha Sunim (Jung-Soon Park) is Resident Priest for the Toronto Temple. She first showed up at the Ann Arbor temple in 1998 while working on her dissertation project in Detroit. She took up the seminary training in 1999 and upon graduation she moved into the Chicago Temple in 2000. She was ordained as Priest in 2004. She lives at the Toronto temple with her partner Jeongdo Sami Ouyed. She loves to use her hands, sewing, gardening and cooking. The professional skills she brings to the role of temple director support the engagement of the membership, within the organization and in the wider community.
Samu Sunim says:
Sanha Sunim is a little happy buddha with a big and open heart. Like natural colors of flowers it is blessing to be around her and an inspiration to practice Dharma with her.
Ilch'o Ed Keenan writes:
A Tiger Lilly growing in the gravel,
A Spring wind blowing down the alleyway
Sanha has taken the Dharma to the marketplace
And has cultivated a Temple garden of the Sangha
Maum Gloria Cox
Maum Gloria Cox grew up in the rolling hills of western Iowa. When her work led her to Michigan, she came to the Zen Buddhist Temple, where her commitment to the Dharma deepened over several years. She was ordained as a lay Dharma Teacher in 2010 and then as a resident Zen Priest in 2016. With a heart of loving kindness and peaceful dedication, Maum teaches meditation classes, leads retreats, and oversees the temple schedule.
Kohye Jeff Boland
Kohye Jeff Boland joined our Ann Arbor temple while a doctoral student at the University of Michigan. Pursuing careers in mathematics and the financial industry, he trained at our Toronto temple and helped establish the New York City temple in 2007, while overseeing Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom administrative work. He was ordained as a Dharma Teacher in Toronto in 2009, and served as a visiting teacher to the Chicago & NYC temples. Living in Los Angeles, he serves to help lead the Chicago temple. As a secular bodhisattva with multiple helping hands and an utmost sincere heart, Kohye is known for his beautiful, straightforward mind and his dedication to study of the Dharma.
Kongyi Elena Centeno Garcia
Kongyi Elena Centeno Garcia is a Dharma teacher of the Mexico City temple ordained in 2010. Kongyi attended the Mexico City temple in 2002 and took precepts in 2003. She has often lived in residence at the temple keeping the schedule, teaching classes, and offering Sunday services when Toan Sunim was away.
Kongyi continues to help with the Mexico City temple while her hands and heart are full. She cares for her aging parents and is Director of the Institute of Geology of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. She writes, "Sometimes, all together is overwhelming, but taking a pause with hands in Hapjang and breathing, reading just one verse of a sutra, or holding at night the mala and reciting the three refuges have become the way I connect with my heart, the way I connect with the world."
Kusa Ivan Mayerhofer
Kusa Ivan Mayerhofer first entered the temple gate in January of 2007 while a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Ten years later and counting, from his home in Colorado Springs, he continues to enter the temple gate to practice with the teachers and Sangha of the Buddhist Society for Compassionate Wisdom sharing clear seeing, skillful dharma teaching, and a wide perspective. He was ordained as a Dharma Teacher in 2014 at our New York City Temple.
Bopkong Juanita Ochoa
In l994 Bopkong Juanita Ochoa attended her first retreat with Ven. Samu Sunim in Mexico City and came to understand the importance of regular practice in daily life, vowing not to waste any day of her life. In 2001 she entered the Maitreya Buddhist seminary and was ordained as a Dharma Teacher in 2015 and as Priest in 2020. Now living and serving at our Mexico City temple she also teaches Sociology at Mexico City Autonomous University (UACM). Bopkong is often the head cook at our Yongmaeng Jeongjin retreats and is much appreciated for her simple, nutritious meals and caring guidance of the kitchen.
Konggan Petra Meyer
Konggan is a Dharma teacher of the Mexico City temple, ordained in 2015. She is from Germany and has been living in Mexico since 1981. She lives in Acatipa, Morelos where she bakes, cooks, gardens and guides a meditation group. Frequently she takes a bus to Mexico City and works with "a wonderful bunch of lovely members" of the Mexico City Zen Buddhist Temple.
Noara Ellen McClure
Noara Ellen McClure was ordained as a Dharma Teacher in July 2016. She is a professor and administrator at the University of Illinois-Chicago. The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha have become her true refuges as she experiences her life becoming increasingly joyful and at ease. She leads the temple Advisory Council and enthusiastically teaches the Buddhadharma for the Sangha. Noara can be found riding her bicycle back and forth between her home in Evanston and the temple. Ven. Samu Sunim wrote the following poem for Noara and her husband, Gakta Dan Cherry.
An aging pine tree
A still cloud
Empty and content with themselves.
Susim Bob Kessler
Susim Bob Kessler first started attending public services at the Chicago Zen Buddhist Temple in 2005 after first being introduced to meditation while taking a photographic workshop in New Mexico. He became more active with the temple over the years by regularly participating in retreats, helping organize events, serving on the Advisory Council, and performing door duty at public services. Susim entered the Maitreya Buddhist Seminary in the fall of 2013 and was ordained as a Dharma teacher in 2017. In his life as a lay person he is a radio news journalist, executive producer of a syndicated public affairs radio program about environmental issues and a professional harmonica player.
Hayeon Kelli Conlin
Hayeon Kelli Conlin was ordained as a Dharma teacher in 2017. She lives on a farm outside of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hayeon was first drawn to Buddhism by writing her senior college thesis on the renowned Trappist monk, Thomas Merton, who practiced Buddhist meditation in his later career. The moment she arrived at the Ann Arbor Zen Buddhist Temple for a meditation course, she knew she had found a dharma home. Hayeon is a published poet who has a new-found love of Korean monastic poetry after finding a copy of the Collected Works of Geongheo, a Korean Zen Master from the 1800s. She also loves telling stories from the Buddhist Jataka Tales, which she does frequently at the family service at the Ann Arbor Temple.
Noan Javier Alvarez
Noan Javier Alvarez was born in Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico in 1987. Noan showed up at the Mexico City Temple in September 2006 to attend the Introductory Meditation course. He took precepts in December 2009 after the winter Yongmaeng Jeongjin retreat in Tapalehui, Morelos.
Noan enrolled in Maitreya Buddhist Seminary in September 2010 under the guidance of Toan Sunim. Since August 2018 Noan lives in Eindhoven, The Netherlands, where he is pursuing a MSc. degree at Eindhoven University of Technology. Noan was ordained by Ven. Samu Sunim as Dharma Teacher in summer 2017 at Chicago Temple.