Seung Sahn Soen-sa was born in Seun Choen, North Korea, and ordained as a Buddhist monk in 1948. After an arduous 100 day solitary retreat on Won Gak Mountain (The Mountain of Perfect Enlightenment), living on only crushed pine needles, he attained enlightenment. He returned to the temple of Korean Zen Master Ko Bon where he received dharma transmission in 1949. He then spent 3 years in silent retreat. While in Korea, he endeavored to revolutionize the Chogye order of Korean Buddhism, founded the United Buddhism Association (a lay organization), and built temples in both Tokyo and Hong Kong. He founded the Seoul International Zen Center for Korean and foreign monks and laypersons at Hwagye-Sa, the former temple of the royal families.
In 1972 Seung Sahn came to Providence, Rhode Island, and started what became the Kwan Um School of Zen, one of the largest Zen schools in the United States and the West with over 120 temples and centers in Paris, Warsaw, Hong Kong, Seoul, Singapore, Barcelona, and throughout the US. The Providence Zen Center with its Diamond Hill Monastery in Cumberland, Rhode Island, serves as the U.S. head temple for the Kwan Um School and the Korean Chogye Order. Zen Master Dae Kwang is the abbot of the Kwan Um School of Zen, while Zen Master Soeng Hyang (Barbara Rhodes) is the Guiding Dharma Teacher.