Start a KUSZ Group
Advice from a senior dharma teacher
Three or more people, not all of whom are members of the same family, and who decide to hold regular practice sessions together, may form a Kwan Um Zen group with the help of a teacher of the Kwan Um School of Zen. Three people is the minimum; five or six are better and will make your start-up KUSZ group stronger and more long-lasting.
Most important is that the people involved have a clear and correct direction. As Zen Master Seung Sahn says at the beginning of the Temple Rules he gave to the Kwan Um School:
“…first make a firm decision to attain enlightenment and help others.”
If you and the other members of your start-up KUSZ group have this clear direction, your group will be strong.
Initially, you need to decide where and how often to meet for practice. Usually this is once or twice a week. Consult with your guiding teacher and if necessary, decide what the monthly subscription should be. This may be needed for hiring your practice place, for instance.
You can hold your first practice session or two even before you are officially registered as a Kwan Um Zen group. The practice should include sitting meditation, walking meditation, and any chants you know or can manage to learn. “Kwan Seum Bosal” is easy and is often a good starting point for those who have not done chanting before. Then include the Heart Sutra in your own language, if available and try to learn the Great Dharani. The rest of the chants will follow naturally once you are chanting these three regularly.
You will quickly discover you need to solve some practical problems: mats, cushions, a Buddha statue, incense and candles, and a moktak for chanting. Contact us if you need help getting any of these.
If you have a building or home that is going to become a KUSZ residential Zen center, you have a great advantage. You immediately have your practice place, with a dharma room or a suitable practice space.
The residents of the center need to be firmly committed to practicing Zen daily. Your guiding teacher will appoint an abbot for your Zen center, and they will agree between them on the other jobs and responsibilities of the residents. Kwan Um Zen centers run in a particular way that is highly beneficial for the Zen practice and progress of those fortunate enough to be able to live in a Zen center long term.
Consult your guiding teacher and share out the necessary jobs and functions between you. The usual jobs are group leader, secretary and treasurer, or some variation on these roles. Keep a clear direction, then who does which job and for how long will be no problem.
Contact the school using any of the forms or means on this site, informing them of your intentions.
All of our masters are authorised and fully qualified to guide Kwan Um groups. We have masters who are native/fluent speakers of Polish, German, Czech, Slovak, Russian, Spanish, French, Nederlands, Hebrew and Korean. Nearly all of them speak excellent English too, and make use of interpreters if needed for kong-an interviews or giving dharma talks.
As soon as you have your guiding teacher appointed, make contact and get to know them well. They will give you invaluable advice and guidance on running your group or center and your personal Zen practice individually and together as a group.
The Kwan Um School of Zen is an international organization, which consists of over a hundred local Sanghas worldwide. They all share the same practice forms as described in the dharma mirror and function under the administrative governance of the International Council and Regional Teachers Groups. These bodies are in charge of confirming all initial and essential decisions regarding any local Zen Center or Group. The School’s purpose is to make the practice of Zen taught by Zen Master Seung Sahn as accessible as possible. This requires all our groups to join our Sangha’s style, find an authorized Guiding Teacher and train the members in our forms of practice. Our Sanghas are nonprofit organizations and depend on membership fees and donations only.