Beophui slept no more than two hours a night and worked with a hoe by moonlight. While she left many successful nun students, she never gave a Dharma talk (a public Zen talk), choosing instead to make her life’s work an expression of the Buddha’s way.
Grace Schireson, Zen Women
Master Beophui Sunim was a Korean Zen nun. She lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea, 1910-1945, only to then see her country destroyed by civil war, 1950-1953. Ending in a stalemate, peace for the north and south was never reached. This effectively left her country divided and conflicted for the rest of her life.
Her father died when she was three years old. Destitute, her grandmother carried her to a convent. It was there that she dedicated her remaining 85 years to monastic Zen practice. She ordained at the age of fourteen and ultimately trained with the great Korean Zen master Man’gong. She became his first female Dharma heir (authorization to teach). Her life and teaching style are worth exploration and reverence. Rather than talking and writing, she was able to inspire students by living into Zen practice. For me, her commitment to the Buddha Way in her time and place, is a source of amazement.
We are all born into a world of causes and conditions that are beyond our control. Instead of viewing our circumstances as an obstacle, Beophui Sunim’s teaching encourages us to let these ingredients be the source of our awakening.
Schireson’s brief biography reads like a poem. The Moon is used as a metaphor for enlightenment. It effortlessly reflects light and in doing so, it touches all of us. In grateful thanks, I bow and offer this praise.
Beophui Sunim is the Moon and she is never stingy.
Every drop of dew garners her radiance.
Expressing buddha nature, she receives and gives.
Instead of living her life, she allows life to live her.
Day and night in her garden, the Master works for the benefit of others. Teaching without saying a word, instead, using her hoe like a wand.