The Passing of Juji Sunim

Hye Won Juji Sunim

Some sad, but not unexpected news here. Juji Sunim passed away yesterday afternoon at 4:58pm. 
The memorial service will be here in Anyang at 10am at the Cultural Center(문화회관), with cremation to follow at 2pm (서울 추모공원.) 

Remembering Juji Sunim

I first met Juji Sunim* when she was on a tour of the North American branches of Hanmaum Seon Center. She would visit each branch, spending a few days up to a week or so, giving talks, meeting lay people, and basically inspiring them. I suspect she also encouraged the local sunims, and offered ideas for potential improvements.

I’d been offered a seat at her table for dinner, and as I passed her a dish of food, instead of the polite, Korean version of “Please try this,” I accidentally used Korean that was a bit more “Yo! Eat this.” But while all the Korean sunims went rigid with shock, she just gave a friendly laugh. She knew what I’d meant, and thought it was cute that I’d botched the Korean.

It was only after I got to Korea that I saw her with her “guardian” face on. One of her jobs as abbess was screening the people who wanted to see Kun Sunim, letting through only the most urgent. (The people wanting to see Kun Sunim outnumbered the hours in the day.) When her job required fierceness or stubbornness, she was utterly fierce and unyielding. But when it didn’t, she could be very kind and gentle. I began to suspect that a lot of the toughness she displayed as abbess was more about having to deal with stubborn people, sunims included!

Here’s something she said to me, one evening at the Anyang Center, as I was standing outside waiting for something:

         Start your practice with application. Don’t try to wait until after enlightenment to apply the energy of this fundamental mind to the world around us. If you want to see clearly, application is the fastest way to go. And you need energy from the experiences that will result; without this, it would be hard to keep to go forward as a practitioner.

     So work hard, and keep making an effort to entrust whatever confronts you to your foundation, your Buddha-essence.

    The more effort you make, the more results and experiences you will get. And the more effort you make, the harder your true nature will push you. Don’t be satisfied resting in one place, on one or two experiences. You have to let go of even those and keep growing and experiencing.

* Juji Sunim ( Hye Won, 慧圓) was born in 1938, and was ordained by Daehaeng Kun Sunim in 1981. In 1992 she was appointed as abbess of the Hanmaum Seon Center in Anyang, and passed away on August 21, 2017.

“Juji” actually just means abbess or abbot, but she was the Juji Sunim at Hanmaum Seon Centers.



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