In Memory of Myo Ji Sunim JDPS

Inka speech by Myo Ji Sunim JDPS

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Empty is full. Full is empty.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

No empty, no full.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Is that empty or full?

Korean sky is blue, American sky is also blue.

Even as a young child, I always felt an emptiness in whatever I did. When other kids joined a dancing class, I thought, “Maybe that is what I want”. So, I took the dancing class. But it was not what I wanted. Some others tried piano, so I thought, “Maybe that is the way I have to go”. But that was not for me either. Whatever others were interested in, those activities were not my way.

Both my father and grandfather were Christian ministers. The house I grew up in was like a church. But I was never 100 percent into that because everything felt empty. I was always searching for something, nothing seemed to complete me. My question was this: If what people say is true, why do I feel so much doubt? Why do I always feel this emptiness? When I moved to North America, however, I did have a belief system. I joined the Catholic Church. I fell in love. But I still asked myself, “If these things are true for me, why is there still this emptiness?”

Later I met a Buddhist nun and asked her, “What is Buddhism?” She said, “Mind creates everything.” When I heard that, I hit myself and cried, “That’s it!” That nun was the one who taught me how to practice, to bow. Then one day she called my house and said, “There is a great Zen Master visiting our temple. You must come and meet him.” I dropped everything I was doing and rushed right over; that was when I first met Zen Master Seung Sahn.

At that time I was very busy, working long hours every day, so he told me to do midnight kidos. If I just sat, I would fall asleep, so I bowed from 12:00 to 2:00 every night. I was getting by on very little sleep but still I had a lot of energy, I don’t know where it all came from. Today I am not empty any more because of this practice. The emptiness was filled in and things have become clear. This practice is our teacher.

These days I don’t have money, a car, a house or even hair! But I am no longer empty, it’s fulfilled.

[Raises Zen stick over head, then hits table with stick.]

Myo Ji Sunim passed away Friday afternoon on November 4th. She had been a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn since 1976. A longtime resident of Canada, Myo Ji Sunim was ordained a nun in 1990, then trained at Seoul International Zen Center. Since 1995, she was the abbot of New York Chogye Sa temple.

1 Reply to "In Memory of Myo Ji Sunim JDPS"

  • Why drag your corpse? | Sweeping Zen
    04/07/2013 (12:40 am)

    […] Myo Ji Sunim was known for her devotion to prostration practice.  When I lived at Cambridge Zen Center, she would visit a couple of times a year and lead 1,000 prostrations for anyone who wanted to participate.  It would take about two hours, and most of us were pretty young.  Sunim was considerably older, but she did all of the prostrations while chanting, and that kept us going when we began to think we were tired.  One day, at the end of a thousand bows, she looked around the room and said, “You are all young!  Practice hard and train yourselves while you’re young!  I’m starting to get tired.” […]