The Detroit Zen Center

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 12 December 2013.

Phone: 313-366-7738
Research conducted by The University of Michigan-Dearborn Pluralism Project.


Located in Hamtramck Michigan, the Detroit Zen Center brings Korean Buddhism to a city long associated with Polish Roman Catholics. The city now, however, is home to various immigrant groups from India and the Middle East. Therefore, the introduction of Korean Buddhism to Hamtramck reflects the changing religious and ethnic landscape of metropolitan Detroit. The Detroit Zen Center traces its origins to 1989 and the leadership and efforts of the Venerable Sahn Bul Sunim, and was the first of its kind in the Detroit metropolitan area. The original location of the Zen Center was on Casper Street in southwest Detroit, an area popularly known as Mexican Town. The center opened in Hamtramck in 1993 in a former duplex residential dwelling attached to a Polish wedding hall, both built in the 1930s. Purchased in a dilapidated state, the structures were rehabilitated with the help of a volunteer workforce, and now includes a Korean-style garden, a meditation hall, and a residence which serves the center's members.


Approximately 100-150 individuals are associated with the center. They consist of 30 dharma students and 70-120 lay people. Three students live on the premises of the Zen Center, along with the resident monk, while several other students live in a nearby house owned by the Zen Center. Most members of the Zen center tend to be young, under age 30. The majority are white Americans, with blacks and Asians making up the remainder. During meditation, students at the Zen Center wear the traditional gray robe associated with the Korean Chogeye order, to which the Zen Center belongs. It is also a part of the Roshi (Japanese) order, and members take part in an annual Roshi retreat at Mount Blade in California.

Activities and Schedule

The center conducts services open to the public on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday at 6:00 p.m. For members there are daily Zen meditation sitting services each weekday from 5:30-7:30 a.m., Saturday from 6:30-9:30 a.m., and Sunday from 6:30-7:30 a.m. There are Yoga classes on Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. and Yun-do classes on Thursday at 6:00 p.m. and Saturday at 10:00 a.m. On Saturdays at noon, the center offers s an organic lunch. At various times throughout the year the center organizes introductory programs to Zen Buddhism, and the community comes together as a whole to celebrate special occasions, including the Chinese Lunar New Year, the Buddha's birthday, and the day of the Buddha's Enlightenment. Finally, weekend and week-long retreats are offered intermittently throughout the year, giving students a chance to strengthen their Zen practices while living simply and communally.

In the Community

Members of the Zen Center work in programs started by the center, such as the "Our Homes" Program, a non-profit organization that assists home owners with limited incomes to renovate, reconstruct, and make small repairs on their homes. The Program has ties to Matrix Services (formerly the League of Catholic Women) which houses runaways and operates a daycare center to assist single working mothers. The center has an organic food program and distributes organically grown produce to those interested. The Zen Center's leader is a member of the board of the Hamtramck Human Relations Commission