Chronicle of Kwan Um School of Zen in Lithuania
The light of Zen Master Seung Sahn‘s Dharma reached Lithuania first in 1990, when the Iron Curtain of the Communist Regime began to crumble. The first Public Dharma talk on Zen Buddhism was given by Pawel Karppowich, the Polish student of Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim in Kaunas, the second largest city of Lithuania. After the Dharma talk the 30 minutes of meditation took place.
On the 8 th of January, 1991 another Polish student of Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim, Bikhu Do Am Sunim JDPS visits Lithuania. A public Dharma Talk and the first three days Zen retreat Yong Maeng Jong Jin are held in Kaunas.
On January 10, 1991, by the end of the retreat the first Buddhist precepts ceremony takes place in Lithuania. On that memorable day 40 people took 5 precepts from Do Am Sunim. One of them was Kestutis Marciulynas, the future monk of Jogye Order Bo Haeng Sunim. As the initiative of Zen activities in those days belongs to a group of Kaunas people, naturally, the major events such as public Dharma talks and group Zen practice were organized in Kaunas.
On January 13, 1991 the Lithuanian people stand up for their final fatal fight for their independence after 50 years of Soviet occupation. As they stood there unarmed hand in hand against the coming Soviet tanks, guarding the parliament and other strategic places, amidst the crowd one could notice a strange figure of a Bikhu holding a Polish national flag as a sign of solidarity with the Lithuanians. It was him, the brave Do Am Sunim JDPS who came to teach the Dharma to Vilnius and stood side by side with his Lithuanian students facing the danger.
In April,1991 Zen Kwan Um group of Kaunas is officially registered.
In March 1991, a public Dharma talk by Do Am Sunim JDPS takes place in the hall of the publishing house in Donelaitis st., Kaunas. After the talk up to 70 people take part in the Zen reteat. By the end of the Yong Maeng Jong Jin a precepts ceremony is held. The first Zen students Kestutis Marciulynas and Edmundas Malisauskas take 10 precepts, while many other students take 5 precepts. Jonas Vitkunas and Liucija Tamulynaite are among them.
In May, 1991 just after Lithuania has regained its independence, Zen Master Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim with a group of his senior students was travelling in Europe. Invited by Do Am Sunim JDPS and his Lithuanian students, Zen Master Seung Sahn comes to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, accompanied by Su Bong Soen Sa Nim (Mu Deung Sunim JDPS then), Do Am Sunim JDPS, Mu Sang Sunim and the lay teachers Zen Master Wu Bong (Jacob Pearl JDPS, at that time) and Dorota Krzyzanovska JDPS, future nun Myong Oh Sunim JDPS, etc.
The Dharma talk of Zen Master Seung Sahn took place in a large hall hosting over 500 people in the Palace of Trade Unions on Tauras hill. After the talk, the first two day Yong Maeng Jong Jin was held in Vilnius at the sports club ‘‘Ritmas“, in Labdariu st., Since then, a group of Vilnius students decided to meet regularly for together Zen practice in Vilnius. This is how Vilnius Zen Kwan Um group was born.
As it was still very difficult to get some decent vegetarian food those days in Vilnius, after the retreat the mother of one Dae Soen Sa Nim‘s Vilnius student invited Zen Master Seung Sahn and his venerable team to her tiny flat on the fifth floor of the Soviet style block house for her home cooked vegetarian lunch. Dae Soen Nim and his senior students gladly accepted the invitation. After enjoying Mom‘s delicious French onion soup, hot vegetable stew with rice and tea with dessert, Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim asked for a brush, paper and some ink. It was then that he drew 7 wonderful calligraphies for Agne Talmantaite‘s family teach the great wisdom up till now.
In 1991, during the visit of Dae Soen Sa Nim in Lithuania, the first Abbots of Zen groups were appointed: Vytautas Patrubavicius for Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group and Tomas Stonis for Vilnius Zen Kwan Um group.
For the first year, Zen group of Vilnius keeps regularly meeting for together Zen practice in the places available, but not really suitable: in the balley hall, the gym of the high school and later in the rented room above the swimming pool.
The growth and practice of Vilnius Zen group and Lithuanian Sangha in general was greately supported by Zen Master Wu Bong’s frequent visits to Vilnius.
On October 17, 1991 Vilnius International Kwan Um School of Zen Buddhism is officially registered as a legal religious community in Lithuania.
In October, 1991 Do Am Sunim leads the Zen retreat in Kaunas Medical School. Zen Kwan Um group of Kaunas gathers for regular Zen Practice and Zen retreats without a teacher in the students‘ hostel of the Medical School as well as in the Public Library of Kaunas during the years 1992-1993.
In the beginning of 1992, Agne Talmantaite is appointed the abbess of Vilnius Zen Kwan Um group and the major public Zen activities have been held in Vilnius since then, as the unifying center of all the Sangha efforts, while Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group with the newly appointed abbot Raimondas Lencevicius keeps meeting regularly for together Zen practice, in spite of absence of the permanent place.
In 1991-1992 a member of Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group Mindaugas Dapkus translates and publishes on his private resources two important books on Zen for the practitioners in Lithuanian:‘‘Zen Practice according to Sekid“ and “Zen-Do. The Path of Zen, part I.“ By the end of 1992 Mindaugas Dapkus hosts Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group‘s regular Sunday Zen practice in his private house.
On a cold and windy February day of 1992 Agne Talmantaite goes for a walk in a snow covered pine tree forest in Valakampiai area. Far from the main roads, in a beautiful pine tree forest she spots an empty dilapidated wooden summerhouse. Imediately a vision of the Sangha practicing there arises in her mind. As she comes back home, Agne tells about the empty house she has found to her husband Hubertas Petruzis, who enthusiastically supports the idea of finding out about the owners of the house and the possibility to acquire it for the Sangha‘s needs. Naturally, all the Sangha members find it difficult to believe it would ever be possible to buy or rent out the house, as everyone was too well aware of the notorious Jungle of Bureaucracy in the post-Soviet Lithuania. Nevertheless, the students of Dae Soen Sa Nim apply his teaching: “Try, try, try ...for the ten thousand years non stop..“ and begin to relentlessly open the doors of Municipality officials. Eventually, as a result of their hard work and sincere practice of the young Sangha, group of zen students succeed to achieve in having the auction for renting the Valakampiai house anounced for July 21, 1992. The International Vilnius Kwan Um School of Zen wins the auction.
Since then, the renovation and reconstruction work of the future Zen Center becomes another form of together Zen practice. The generous support from the Providence Zen Center of 1000$ is used for the construction works. Ten years of together Zen practice and joint activities in Vilnius Zen Center has united people of different professions from all over Lithuania into a real Zen family - the Sangha. Furthermore, Zen practice in Vilnius Zen Center becomes a spiritual spring-board for the first three famous Lithuanian monastics: the first Lithuanian nun Myong Hae Sunim, currently residing in Su Bong Zen Monastery in Hong Kong,( under the guidance of Venerable Bikhuni Dae Kwan Zen Master), the first Lithuanian monk of the Jogye Order Bo Haeng Sunim, residing at Mu Sang Sa, South Korea (under the guidance of Zen Master Dae Jin Sunim) and Bikhuni of Jogye Order Won Bo Sunim, currently residing in Peop Ryon Sa, South Korea, (under the guidance of Bikhuni of Jogye Order Dae An Sunim).
In 1992, Zen poetry book by Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim “ The bone of Space“ is published in Lithuanian. (Translated by A.Bausys, edited by A. Talmantaite, the cover designed by A.Lankelis)
In summer of 1992 The International Vilnius Kwan Um School of Zen organizes Jacob Pearl‘s JDPS (later, Wu Bong Dae Soen Sa Nim) public Dharma Talk in the Central Lecture hall of Vilnius and a Zen retreat in the premises of the high School. The precepts Ceremony is held at the end of the retreat.
In autumn of 1992 Jane McLaughlin-Dobisz (now, Zen Master Bon Yeon ) comes on a teaching visit to Vilnius. A public Dharma Talk is held in the central Lecture Hall of Vilnius and the Yong Maeng Jong Jin takes place in “Silas“ resort, near Lake Baldis on the outskirts of Vilnius.
In 1993 Dorota Krzyzanowska JDPS, (later Myong Oh Sunim) is appointed the guiding teacher of Lithuanian Sangha.
In June, 1993 Zen Master Su Bong Sunim, the guiding teacher of the Hong Kong Kwan Um Sangha, comes to Vilnius for the Oppening Ceremony of the first Zen Temple in Lithuania - Ko Bong Sa. He is accompanied by a monk of Jogye Order Do Mun Sunim (future Zen Master Dae Bong Sunim) and a nun Ji San Sunim. The Public Talk held in the central Lecture hall of Vilnius is packed with engaged audience. The venerable guests bring a present of a golden Buddha statue for a newly built altar of Ko Bong Sa. What is more, Zen Master Su Bong performs the Buddha‘s Eyes Openning Ceremony at the beginning of the retreat. More than 50 people take part in the Zen retreat. Many students come to Zen practice for the first time. One of them is Loreta Kairyte, the first Lithuanian future nun Myong Hae Sunim.
In 1993, the abbot of Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group Raimondas Lencevičius, leaving for studies and residence in the USA, entrusts the abbot‘s position to Jonas Vitkunas.
In winter of 1994 a joint Lithuanian-Polish Dharma Teacher Retreat, organized by Dorota Krzyzanowska JDPS, takes place in Gdansk, Poland
In spring of 1998, Heila Downey JDPS from the South African Republic comes on a teaching trip to Lithuania.The public Dharma Talks are held both in Kaunas and Vilnius. Zen retreat takes place in Vilnius Zen Center Ko Bong Sa.
In April of 1998 a large Lithuanian Sangha delegation takes part in the celebration of the 20 th Aniversary of the European Sangha in Falenica,Warsaw. Kaunas Kwan Um Zen group member Marius Misiunas generously covers the travel expenses for many Sanha members. Lithuanian students are happy to meet Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim again.
In 1998 Kaunas Zen Kwan Um group settles in the permanent premises of the sports club “Titanas“, invited by the club director Marius Misiūnas and keeps daily Zen practice.
In June,1998 Bikhuni of Jogye Order Hyang Um Sunim (today, Zen Master Dae Kwan Sunim) comes to Vilnius with her student of Lithuanian descent Myong Hae Sunim. Vilnius audience finds the Dharma Talk of the Zen Master and Lithuanian nun extremely inspiring.
Valakampiai pine tree forest reverberates with Buddhist chanting and bird songs, helping to host all the willing participants of the Precepts Ceremony, held at the end of the fully packed three day Zen retreat in Vilnius Zen Temple, Ko Bong Sa.
In 1998, during Wu Bong Soen Sa Nim‘s visit in Lithuania, which includes two public Dharma Talks, both in Kaunas and Vilnius and a three day Zen retreat with the Precepts Ceremony in Vilnius, Zen Master certifies Jonas Vitkunas as the abbot of Kaunas Kwan Um Zen group.
In May of 1999 Myong Oh Sunim JDPS visit in Lithuania includes a Public Dharma Talk and a three day Zen retreat in Vilnius, Ko Bong Sa.
1999 Bikhu of Jogye Order Dae Kwang Zen Master visits Lithuania. Public Dharma talks take place in Vilnius, Kaunas and a three day Zen retreat held in Ko Bong Sa, Vilnius. Zen Master Dae Kwang travels with Lithuanian Zen students to the Baltic Sea, Nida.
In September,1999 . Kaunas Kwan Um School Zen Buddhist community is registered in the Ministery of Justice as a legal entity in Lithuania, which acts upon the teachings of Korean Buddhism.
In November, 1999 Hwa Um Soeng Jung Kido is held in Ko Bong Sa for 7days and 7 nights, nonstop.
In December, 1999 Kestutis Marciulynas leaves for South Korea to become a monk.
In June, 2000 Zen Master Dae Kwang Sunim and Chong An Sunim JDPS visit Lithuania. Public Dharma talks take place in the center of Vilnius, a three day Zen Retreat and a Precepts Ceremony in Ko Bong Sa, Vilnius.( Agne Talmantaite becomes a Senior Dharma Teacher)
In June 2000, right before the visit of the Zen Master Dae Kwang and Chong An Sunim JDPS by together efforts of Lithuanian Sangha “Dropping Ashes on the Buddha“ by Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim is published in Lithuanian, (translated by M. Railiene, edited by A.Talmantaite, the cover design by A.Lankelis ) on the 20th of June the book is presented in Vilnius and on the 21st. of June in Klaipeda.
The Internet website of the International Vilnius Zen Kwan Um School, Ko Bong Sa is created. (graphic design by A. Lankelis)
In October, 2000 Myong Oh Sunim, JDPS visits Vilnius.
The Sangha member Vaida Urbonaitė leaves for the winter Kyol Che in Korea and remains there for a Haeng Ja training to become the Bikhuni of the Jogye Order Won Bo Sunim later.
In 2001 Kęstutis Marčiulynas becomes a monk Bo Haeng Sunim and joins the Jogye Order in Spring of 2003.
On June 6, 2001 Chong An Sunim JDPS leads the oppen - air night Zen practice on the historical mounds of Kernavė with 16 Lithuanian Sangha members under the full moon illuminating their open chanting books with bright light.
In June 11 –21, 2001 Chong An Sunim JDPS gives a series of 12 public Dharma Talks in the “Open Linthuania Fund“ lecture hall in Vilnius, expounding the teaching of Zen Buddhism according to Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim‘s “Compass of Zen“. Besides, a Zen retreat is held in Ko Bong Sa, Vilnius.
And last but not least, Chong An Sunim gives a public Dharma Talk in Siauliai followed by a one day Zen retreat at Siauliai University.
In June 24-27, 2001 His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits Lithuania. The members of the International Vilnius Kwan Um School of Zen take active part in organizing the visit of his Holiness. Agne Talmantaite, Algis Lankelis and Rytis Juozapavicius work in the Board of the National Lithuanian Committee organizing the events and details of the visit in Lithuania.
In September 2001, Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS visits Lithuania for the first time and leads a Zen retreat in Vilnius Zen Center, Ko Bong Sa.
In December 2001 Myong Oh Sunim JDPS visits Lithuania. A public Dharma Talk is followed by a Zen retreat in Vilnius Zen Center, Ko Bong Sa.
In 2002 Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS is appointed the guiding teacher of Lithuanian Sangha. Agne Talmantaite is appointed the abbess of the Lithuanian Sangha, while Rytis Juozapavicius becomes the abbot of Vilnius Zen Center Ko Bong Sa.
In the spring of 2002 Vaida Urbonaitė after an extensive traditional Haeg Ja training becomes the Bikhuni of the Jogye Order Won Bo Sunim, practicing under the guidance of Jogye Order Bikhuni Dae An Sunim.
In May 5-20, 2002, Lithuania enjoyes two intensive weeks of Korean Culture and Spiritual tradition extensively presented in Vilnius and Panevezys by Chong An Sunim JDPS, organized by the International Vilnius Kwan Um School of Zen. During the intensive week called “Pearls of Koren Culture“ a large Photo Exhibition by Chong An Sunim JDPS is opened in the heart of Vilnius, presenting the traditional Korean Buddhist Temples, landscapes and artifacts of the Korean Buddhist Art to the wide Lithuanian audience. Lectures and seminars are held on Korean spiritual traditions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Shamanism (Chong An Sunim , calligraphy painting seminars (led by the well known Lithuanian Artist Dalia Doksaite), Korean traditional Tea Ceremonies (performed by Chong An Sunim JDPS) ect. The events received a thorough coverage and most positive acclaims of the Media.
In 2002, the first visit of Aleksandra Porter JDPS to Lithuania includes a public Dharma talk and a two day Zen retreat in Vilnius Zen Center, Ko Bong Sa.
In July 6-7, 2002 the first Zen retreat in Ustrone, Panevezys region is organized by the International Vilnius Kwan Um School of Zen. 10 Members of Vilnius Zen Center, 5 Zen students from Panevezys and one Zen student from Siauliai take part in the retreat.
A summer Zen reteat in Ustrone becomes a tradition well kept during the years 2003- 2006.
In August, 2002 Lithuanian Zen Kwan Um Sangha receives a blessing of a present from Dae Kwan Zen Master and Hong Kong Sangha: the Altar painting of Buddhas and Bodhisatvas, which previously used to decorate the Altar of Su Bong Zen Monastery.
In 2003, Lithuanian the translation of the 365 Kong-an “The World is a Single Flower“ is completed. ( By E.Kisieliute and some other Sangha members) It is not yet published, but used for the needs of the Sangha.
In 2003 Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS comes for a teaching visit to Lithuania, which includes a public Dharma talk and a two day Zen retreat in Vilnius.
In 2003 Chong An Sunim JDPS comes for a teaching visit to Lithuania, which includes a public Dharma talk and a two day Zen retreat in Vilnius.
In June 2003 Vilnius Municipality and the new mayor decide to sell the Ko Bong Sa building and the land denying the Sangha‘s request to extend the renting period. Lithuanian Sangha is not financially able to take part in the commercial auction and buy the Ko Bong Sa building and the land. This is how Vilnius Zen Center building in Valakampiai forest was lost. On June the 8th Zen practice is held there for the last time and the Sangha moves out to the private premises.
June, 2003. A Zen retreat in Ustrone, Panevezys region.
July, 2003 The second two week summer retreat is held in Vepriai, Lithuania
December13-14, 2003 a Zen retreat in Kaunas with Chong An Sunim after a twelve year break, held in public premises.
On 7th of December, 2003 Vilnius Zen Kwan Um group moves into a new place in Baltupis district, Jeruzale. The Dharma Teacher Algis Lankelis kindly rents out a part of his private property to Vilnius Zen Center.
In 2003 Algis Lankelis is appointed the abbot of the Lithuanian Kwan Um School Sangha.
January, 2004 Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS visits Lithuania. The first retreat takes place in the new Vilnius Zen Center.
April, 2004, Zen retreat in Ustronė with Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS. Public Dharma Talk takes place in Panavezys
May, 2004 Aleksandra Porter, JDPS teaches in Lithuania; A public Dharma Talk and two day Zen retreat are held in Vilnius.
In 2004 the third three week summer Zen retreat takes place in Vepriai with A.Piotrowski JDPS.
In autumn of 2004, during the Saving all Beings Ceremony live fish are being released into the lake with Myong Hae Sunim leading the Ceremony.
In January, 2005 Aleksandra Porter JDPS is on her teaching trip in Lithuania. A public Dharma talk and a Zen Retreat are held in Vilnius.
In February 2005 Wu Bong Soen Sa Nim visits Lithuania. A public Dharma talk and a Zen Retreat are held in Vilnius.
In April 2005 Darek Gorževski JDPS visits Lithuania. A Zen Retreat takes place in Vilnius.
June 2005. A Zen retreat in Ustronė, Panevezys region.
In 2005 the fourth yearly summer two week Zen retreat takes place in Vepriai, Kedainiai region. Retreat is led by Chong An Sunim JDPS and Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS .
In November 2005 Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS visits Lithuania. A public Dharma talk and a Zen Retreat are held in Vilnius.
In February 2006 Andrzej Piotrowski JDPSN visits Lithuania. A Zen Retreat takes place held in Vilnius Zen Center.
In 2006 Bo Haeng Sunim visits Lithuania
In May 2006 Bon Yo Dae Soen Sa Nim comes to Lithuania. A public Dharma talk and a Zen Retreat are held in Vilnius.
In 2006 the fifth yearly summer two week Zen retreat takes place in Vepriai, Kedainiai region. Retreat is led by Andrzej Piotrowski JDPS and A Porter JDPS, 16 students sitting Zen.
In October 2006 Chong An Sunim JDPS visits Lithuania. A public Dharma talk and a Zen Retreat are held in Vilnius. The retreat participants take a trip to Kernave after the retreat.
In October 2006 “ Zen Compass“ by Seung Sahn Dae Soen Sa Nim is Published in Lithuanian. The book presentation is organised in Vilnius and Kaunas. Venerable Bikhu of Jogye Order Seol Jong Kun Su Nim from Su Dok Sa temple, Korea, visiting Lithuania with two other Korean Bikhus, Hyon Gak Sunim JDPS and Won Bo Sunim kindly help us with the book presentation in Vilnius and Kaunas.
On October 29, 2006. Seol Jong Kun Su Nim performs the Bell Opening Ceremony in Vilnius Zen Center. The bell was cast in Korea specially for Ko Bong Sa and shipped to Lithuania by the kind efforts and initiative of Bo Haeng Sunim, monk of Jogye Order Wu Bong Sunim and some other great Bodhisatvas.
On October 31, 2006 Seol Jeong Kun Sunim and his venerable retinue visit the Catholic monastery of Pazaislis near Kaunas. On the same day Kun Su Nim performs a sanctification ceremony for Kaunas Zen Center, which becomes a temple and receives an honorable title of Kam No Sa.
In December of 2006 Alvydas Turskis is appointed the abbot of International Lithuanian Kwan Um Zen School.
In 2007 A new version of the Lithuanian Kwan Zen Website zen.lt is created. In 2007 the sixth yearly summer Zen retreat takes place in Vepriai.
In spring of 2007, Tomas Stonis is appointed the abbot of the Kaunas Kwan Um Zen Center, Kam No Sa.
Since June 2007 daily Zen practice is kept in Kaunas Zen Center, Kam No Sa.
In September of 2007 Lithuanian Sangha is again honored by the arrival of a venerable delegation from Korea which consists of monastics: Dae An Sunim with her student of Lithuanian descent Won Bo Sunim, Ja Eun Sunim and Hyon Gak Sunim JDPS. The guests bring a blessing of a precious present to Kaunas Zen Center, Kam No Sa. The grateful Sangha is inspired to practice even stronger now with the three marvelous new Buddha and Bodhisatva statues brought from Korea and seated onto their altar. Dae An Sunim together with her retinue perform the Buddha Eyes Opening Ceremony for Kaunas Sangha and the precious statues of the Sakyamuni Buddha in the center, the Medicine Buddha (Yaksa Bosal) on the right, and Action Bodhisatva (Dae Se Ji Bosal) on the left are finally uncovered. Later, the Lithuanian Sangha members take the guests on a sightseeing tour to Kernave, Trakai, Kuršiu Nerija before Zen retreat in Vilnius.
In July, 2008 the seventh yearly summer Zen retreat takes place in Vepriai with Chong An Sunim JDPS.
In September of 2008. Lithuanian Sangha is happy to rceive more precious guests arriving from Hong Kong. Zen Master Dae Kwan Sunim with her Lithuanian student Myong Hae Sunim together whith a joyful group from Hong Kong Sangha visit Lithuania. The Public Dharma Talk takes place in Kaunas as well as the festive Bell Opening Ceremony of the new unique Temple Bell of Kam No Sa.
On September 19 – 20, 2008 delegation of Lithuanian Sangha takes part in “ One World is a single Flower“ Peace Conference in Warsaw..
In autumn 2008 Dae Jin Soen Sa Nim from Mu Sang Sa, of Korea visits Lithuania for the first time. The public Dharma Talk is held in Kaunas as well as a two day Zen retreat. Later, Zen Master Dae Jin Sunim visits Vilnius Sangha, which arranges a concert for the honorable guest.
Previous page: Retreat with Chong An Sunim JDPS, April 15-17, Kaunas