Detroit Zen Center

A nonprofit organization

Shine One Corner of the World...

Zen is an old path rooted in true self reliance & discovery. As a mingling of Taoism & Buddhism, the Zen path was born. Monks, artists & intellectuals formed sustainable communities, often in the mountains. They practiced meditation & awakened action as a way of life. Some became masters, often sharing their wisdom with students & guests.

Far from the mountains is the Detroit Zen Center, a bright refuge amidst endless miles of concrete. In the most diverse, dense & economically challenged district in Detroit, our 2.5 sq. mile city district of Hamtramck is home to 32 ethnic groups. Our aim is to model Zen community as a way of life, inside this City. Several thousand people have learned meditation here; dozens of young people have transformed their lives through full time apprenticeship programs.

The Detroit Zen Center opened in 1990 by our Abbot, Hwalson Sunim. He was a zen monk & young teacher. His master in Korea directed him back to the US to teach Zen. Friends invited him to start in California, but his heart led him to start here where he saw great need -- in his hometown. He had $50, a backpack, & found a few rough & ready students while renting a place on the west side; they meditated in the mornings & evenings & worked as day laborers, eventually putting together a deposit on an abandoned, historic icon in Hamtramck -- full of potential, fully dilapidated & abandoned. The City offered to support the mission of the Center in exchange for a promise to bring the corner back to life.

Detroit & Hamtramck have changed dramatically since then. Despite lingering economic & cultural divides, our neighborhood is safe these days, & thrives with diversity: children, artists, students, immigrants & first generation entrepreneurs mingle on the streets & in the shops. Many comment on the rustic beauty of the Center, its buildings & spaces.

But this hasn't always been the case. Our monks, students & residents have walked a hard path. Bringing historic buildings out of total dilapidation as a volunteer effort required many thousands of hours of sweat & problem-solving. Young apprentices often came without much skill or life experience -- but left with both! Our Abbot still swings a hammer, washes dishes or cleans toilets daily. Hamtramck & Detroit in the mid 90's - 2000's was often a difficult place to live. We experienced drive-by shootings, bullets through our windows, cars crashing into our buildings & gardens, graffiti, burglary, etc.

The efforts of so many have resulted in well loved buildings, gardens, & a broad community of monks, students, members & friends. For 30 years we have offered a daily schedule of meditation, apprenticeship, residency, retreats, yoga, classes & cultural events. In 2010 we began Living Zen Organics, an organic cafe & food distribution business. In 2021 we opened the Cloud Mountain Hermitage on Lake Superior, in the Porcupine Mountains of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where we host retreats, & our monks live half the year.
Our property has 3 buildings: The Meditation Hall, lower level Commercial Kitchen-Cafe-Library, an attached 3-story historic residency, & a corridor-courtyard.

Since 2010 we have been on a sustainability campaign centered around storm-floodwater & public greenspace -- issues that directly & vitally impact our neighborhood & Zen Center. We have crowdfunded & installed Green Living Roofs on the meditation hall & corridor, a front rain garden, & converted a vacant lot across the street into a Public Peace Garden, which provides the closest green space available for thousands of neighbors.


Without members & donors we could not be here!  Members have access but no attendance obligations to the Center.  We invite you to help us continue shining our corner of the world.  Please consider becoming a member or making a tax-deductible donation.



  • Sunday AM Meditation & Dharma Talk
  • Tuesday PM Meditation Instruction
  • Zenstay:  Short term guest stays in the residence, for personal retreat (via Airbnb or the website)
  • Full Moon & New Moon Dharma Talks
  • One-Day, Weekend & 5-Day Retreats
  • Intro to Zen Classes; workshops
  • Cultural events
  • Monthly Newsletter
  • Living Zen Organics


  • Daily Schedule of Meditation
  • Community Member Events (potlucks, gatherings)
  • Meetings with Zen Teachers & Monks
  • Formal Zen Study with the Abbot & Vice-Abbot
  • Apprenticeship (residential or non-residential)
  • Dharma Teacher Training & Ordination

We offer a free 2 week trial membership for those exploring, then ask folks to become formal members. Unless there is hardship, we request a minimum monthly donation of $30/month.  To become a member, please visit our membership page on the website:  BECOME A MEMBER HERE

Organization Data


Organization name

Detroit Zen Center

Tax id (EIN)



Arts & Culture Faith Community