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Dharma Heritage

Posted on Apr 09 , 2011 in Blog & Newsletter

If you’ve ever been to or practiced in a Kwan Um Zen Center, chances are you’ve seen these portraits hanging on a wall or over a doorway. They are our Korean Zen Masters and represent our Dharma Heritage. Just like we have parents, grand parents, and great grand parents, the same concept can be applied to the teaching we receive from the Dharma Masters and Zen Masters of our school. Each one successively passed down or gave transmission to the next so that an authentic clear Zen teaching could be preserved through the passage of time.

Korean Zen Masters & Dharma Heritage – Left to right: Kyeong Ho Sunim, Man Gong Sunim, Ko Bong Sunim, and Seung Sahn Sunim.

Kwan Um School Lineage

The Kwan Um School of Zen’s teaching lineage is part of the Korean Soen tradition. The founding teacher of our School, Zen Master Seung Sahn, is the 78th teacher in his line of Dharma Transmission. All students of Zen Master Seung Sahn to whom he has given Dharma Transmission are thus the 79th teachers in their personal lineages.

The Korean Soen lineage comes from the Chinese Rinzai lines and became separate around the year 1200. Famous Zen Masters in our lineage include the six Zen Patriarchs, Ma-tsu, Pai-chang, Lin-chi and Nan-chuan. Zen Master Seung Sahn received Dharma Transmission from Zen Master Ko Bong at the age of 22. His lineage also includes the noted Korean Zen Masters Man Gong and Kyong Ho.

2 Comments → “ Dharma Heritage ”


  1. Ken Alexander

    3 years ago

    Is there a typo here? Don’t you mean to say “The Sixth Zen Patriarch” rather than “the six Zen Patriarchs?”


    • jeff

      3 years ago

      Hi Ken,

      In this case either could be correct. It was after the first five Zen Patriarchs things started getting messy. The Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng was hiding out with a band of hunters for a good portion of his life from Shen Hsiu who was another Zen Master from that time. To some people Shen Hsiu was the sixth patriarch of Zen.

      Shen Hsiu, in our tradition was a senior monk at the same temple as Hui Neng. He was jealous of Hui Neng’s attainment and it is said he was going to have him killed. Since I wasn’t there it’s hard to say what really happened but history says Shen Hsiu started a Northern School of Zen while our patriarch Hui Neng started the southern school. The Southern school is what survives to this day and is one of the reasons why Hui Neng was considered the sixth patriarch.

      So the first six Zen Patriarchs in our lineage are:

      Bodhidharma
      Hui K’o
      Seng Ts’an
      Tao Hsin
      Hung Jen
      Hui Neng

      Your right though it is a bit confusing, thanks for your comment!