Zen Master Ta Hui (Donald Gilbert)
2nd Patriarch of the Il Bung Zen Order (1996 - 2006)
What is Zen?
“On writing-on speaking
use a pen with no point
for paper use the sky.
Remember: speech is
but a warm breeze,
rustling dry leaves
as it passes by.”
~Ta Hui Don Gilbert
Zen Master Ta Hui was born Donald Gilbert in Oakland California on August 9th, 1909. An acrobat and equalibrist in his early life, forming The Gilbert Brothers, a vaudeville act which went on to achieve some notability (performing once for the Queen of England). In 1942 he joined the United States Marine Corps at the age of thirty-two at the outbreak of World War II. At the end of the war Gilbert became a booking agent (booking all of the acts on the "You Ask For It" television series), and later began his own advertising company which he ran until his retirement in 1972.
Throughout his life, Gilbert had developed a deep interest in meditation and Buddhism. His first exposure to far eastern philosophy came by means of publications of the Theosophical Society that his mother Margie had kept hidden in his childhood home (she served a substantial amount of time as the librarian of the San Francisco Theosophical Society). By means of these publications and much self study, he became adept at the practice of seven Tibetan yogas, a practice which had a profound impact on him. When Gilbert first met the Venerable Dr. Il Bung Seo Kyung Bo he posed to him the question "Who is doing the yoga?" and he quickly became his disciple.
Gilbert studied in earnest with the Venerable Dr. Il Bung Kyung Bo Seo, eventually being transmitted as a 77th generation patriarchal lineage holder (Zen Master) with the name Ta Hui in 1973, eventually being given the additional title of "Dae Sa" ("Great Monk"). In 1995, a year before his passing, the Venerable Dr. Il Bung Kyung Bo Seo formally recognized Zen Master as his chief successor, and charged him with carrying on his legacy.
Zen Master Gilbert spent much of his time leading meditation groups throughout the United States as Venerable Dr. Seo's chief successor. He served for a time too, as President of the Oakland Theosophical Society, and wrote two very unique books on Zen entitled Jellyfish Bones and The Upside Down Circle. He had almost completed a third book before his passing on December 6th of 2006 at the age of 97.