American Monk Creates Zen Buddhist Retreat

February 17, 2001

Source: Los Angeles Times

On February 17, 2001, the Los Angeles Times reported that, for the past six years, a "monk known as Mu Ryang Sunim...has devoted his life to building a Korean Zen Buddhist meditation and retreat center 120 miles north of downtown Los Angeles...Last year, more than 1,500 people, mostly members of the Southern California Korean community, attended an opening ceremony for the majestic temple at the Mountain Spirit Center." Mu Ryang explained that "the purpose is to create a place where people can come to leave behind their problems...It is a space where people can see more clearly what's going on in their life. with: What are you? Why am I alive? What is the truth? I see this project as a straight course to finding myself while helping others too." Mu Ryang "was born Erik Berall,...baptized in the Episcopal Church and raised in Connecticut. It was after he entered Yale that he was plagued by questions of his existence. He began meditating and met Korean Zen master Seung Sahn." He found comfort in Seung's teachings. "Mu Ryang hopes the Mountain Spirit Center can function as a bridge between Korean Buddhists and the growing number of American converts...He hopes to erase the ethnic and racial barriers that divide Buddhists. The focus should be on keeping Zen Buddhist teachings intact, he said."