Zen Master Son Hae
3rd Patriarch of the Il Bung Zen Order (2006-2015)
Zen Master Son Hae Credentials:
1.) Lay Precepts and Holy Name - 1976
2.) Dharma Teacher Ordination - 1976
3.) Missionary Bishop (Dharma Master) - 1981
4.) Transmission Gatha and Patriarchal Succession - 1981
5.) Master of the Korean Buddhist Martial Arts Association (Est. 1968 - Seoul Korea) - 1981
Zen Master Son Hae was born in Los Angeles California on March 30th 1940 to a Methodist family. He recalls a few experiences that would prove to be of profound significance in setting his foot to what would become for him, the Buddhist path.
At a very early age, Ven. Son Hae recalls seeing a newsreel attached to a film in a theater which showed images of the bombing of Poland during World War II, which disturbed him enough that he got up and left the theater. Around the age of four of five, he recounts being introduced to the game of monopoly, and noted the disparity between participants chalked up to chance, and an acute desire to "change that" when he grew up dawned within him, as he began a life of seeking for the core of the innate equality common to all sentience.
In his early teenage years, Zen Master Son Hae first encountered an image of the Buddha, and recalls being profoundly affected by the serene meditative posture of Shakyamuni. Whilst he remained active singing in the choir of the Methodist church throughout his high school career, as Son Hae graduated and made his was out and into the world, his longing for a life of peace and altruism set him firmly on the path of Dharma. Quickly developing a life long habit of reading and studying everything he could get his hands on related to Buddhism and East Asian philosophy, he was well primed for a chance meeting with Sifu Clifford Ma in 1961 whom would become his first formal teacher.
Sifu Ma was a Chinese immigrant who fled to the United States to escape the Chinese Communist Revolution in the late 1940's. A master of Northern Shaolin Temple Boxing, Sifu Ma's influence on Ven. Son Hae's life would become immense over the next ten years during which time he would receive weekly private instruction (alongside some of his aerospace engineering colleagues) not only on the finer points of Chinese temple boxing, but too those of Buddhist and East Asian philosophy.
When the aerospace industry crashed in 1969 (leaving masses of engineers unemployed, at a rate that Ven. Son Hae describes as "two-hundred to one", engineers seeking burger flipping jobs), it became apparent to Ven. Son Hae the he would be forced to leave Southern California with the "hungry hoards" heading north in search of livelihood. At this time, Sifu Ma gave Ven. Son Hae the instruction to find a small city with a population of around thirty-five thousand and to start a Temple Boxing school there, with the predication that he would be successful.
Heeding Sifu Ma's instructions, Ven. Son Hae settled Humble County, in the city of Arcata where in early 1970 he established what would initially be called "The Internal School", a facility centered around a 7,500 square feet training floor, in a rehabbed creamery (previously finished with hardwood floors as a roller rink), which included nineteen rooms for residential students, a commercial kitchen and a substantial library.
The Internal School quickly flourished with a consistent range of 80-120 students continually enrolled. The school served not only as Ven. Son Hae's outlet for teaching his temple boxing practices, but too as a community meditation center which hosted traveling teachers of various spiritual traditions, to include the likes of Yogi Bhajan, Chitresh Das and Zakir Hussain, and eventually Zen Master Ta Hui (Don Gilbert).
In 1971 Ven. Ta Hui had been invited to speak at Humble State University, and one of Ven. Son Hae's student's, John Joseph, whom was too a student at the university, arranged for Ven. Ta Hui to give a dharma talk at Internal School. During this initial meeting, Ven. Ta Hui was quick to offer to the assembled audience that they should "stop chasing fireflies" for if they "saw a light it was their own". Noting Zen Master Ta Hui's unique reluctance to set himself up on a pedestal as an infallible guru, Ven. Son Hae quickly began a student-teacher relationship with Master Ta Hui that would stretch a span of thirty-five years, until his passing in late 2006.
Ven. Ta Hui and Ven. Son Hae almost immediately began hosting intensive retreats at the Internal School, at which time Zen Master Ta Hui held a consecration ceremony, making the school a bona fide Buddhist temple with the name "Blue Dragon Zen Temple". The Blue Dragon Temple would thus host numerous retreats over the next several years, including a forty-day residential retreat from January 19th to February 29th of 1972 (one of the first, if not the first of its kind in the United States).
In 1977, in spite of being tremendously successful the Blue Dragon Temple (aka the Internal School) was forcibly closed, in spite of holding a new ten year lease agreement, when the building was unexpectedly sold to a state funded theatre group. Thus in 1977 Venerable Son Hae found himself heading back to Southern California, taking up residence in Whittier.
Due to his relocation, Venerable Son Hae would fortunately find himself in the vicinity of Zen Master Ta Hui's teacher, the Venerable Dr. Il Bung Kyung Bo Seo of South Korea, who would frequently make world teaching tours. When in the United States, Ven. Dr. Seo would situate himself in Los Angeles at Kwanum Temple, where Ven. Son Hae would have his first meeting with him through the arrangement of his teacher, Zen Master Ta Hui.
Subsequently, Venerable Son Hae was able to spend extended time with Venerable Dr. Seo over the next several years during his world teaching tours, a relationship that would culminate with his receipt of Patriarchal Transmission from Dr. Seo as a 77th generation Zen Master in the Chogye Korean Buddhist tradition in 1981.
In 1979, Zen Master Son Hae met with his former teacher Sifu Ma outside of Sacremento where he was able to relate his experiences training in the Korean Zen tradition, and reviewed his current temple boxing training and practice, receiving a final approval from Sifu Ma, an event that would appropriately prime Venerable Son Hae for his appointment as head of the Korean Buddhist Martial Arts Association (which was founded at Chogye Temple in South Korea by Ven. Dr. Seo in 1968) in 1981.
From 1981 onward Venerable Son Hae traveled and taught the dharma extensively with Zen Master Ta Hui, throughout California and as far as Boulder Colorado. Zen Master Son Hae continues his dharma propagation efforts today in semi retirement from him home in Perris California, as the chief successor of the Il Bung Zen Order and lineage.