Early life and background
He is recognized as a disciple of Zen Master Jeongang, the 77th patriarch and Zen Master of the Jogye Order of Korean Buddhism. Zen Master Daewon received Dharma Transmission from Zen Master Jeongang. When Master Daewon was 12, his father died in front of his eyes, and this experience left an indelible imprint on the young man's view of the world. As soon as he was able to leave his house, in 1954 he entered into the large monastery, Hae-in-sa temple under the mentorship of his preceptor Master Park In-gok.
Searching for the true master
Since he was motivated to understand about life and death he searched around the country for an enlightened master with whom he could practice with. After practicing for several years he finally was able to meet with the famous Zen Master Jeongang sunim. In 1962 while he was practicing at Dong-hwa-sa temple the following story has been left behind.
Part of the dharma transmission story
Prior to the summer monastic retreat, the abbot of the Dong-hwa-sa temple, Wolsan sunim had publicly announced that the Zen Master Jeongang would be overseeing the 3 month retreat so meditators from around the country gathered there to practice. One evening, during a session of sitting meditation, all of the seats in the meditation hall were empty except for those of a couple elder monks. The young Daewon thought this to be unusual and then saw a young monk furtively call him out, quietly waving at him from outside the hall. When he went to him, the young monk told Daewon sunim that a group of monks were waiting for him up on the mountain out back. Daewon sunim followed the young monk into the mountain and found a gathering of twenty monks, waiting for him in stony silence. Immediately upon seeing Daewon sunim, one of the monks named Beopseong (presently known as the Zen Master Jinje, a disciple of Zen Master Hyanggok), called out to him, "Say something about Bodhidharma's 'I don't know.' Kong-an (Koan)." Daewon sunim answered without a moment's hesitation, "Revealed." Songam sunim, who was standing nearby asked him about the Ansujeongdeung Kong-an(Koan), "How would you save yourself?" Daewon sunim spoke loudly, "An (岸)! Su (樹)! Jeong (井)! Deung (藤)!" All the gathered monks stood still with their lips pursed in silence as Daewon sunim turned around and walked away. The next day after breakfast, Myeongheo sunim, who was serving as monitor for the retreat, called a temple hearing to find out why the monks had been absent without notice the night before. During the hearing, all that had happened up on the mountain was laid out in the open and as a result, the monks who had been absent during the sitting meditation session assumed their formal robes and bowed in penance before Zen Master Jeongang, who was serving as the Josil of the temple at the time.
Birth of the 78th patriarch
The next day, Zen Master Jeongang called on Daewon sunim. He told Daewon that his first Song of Enlightenment was clear evidence of his enlightenment but that a Song of Enlightenment is customarily kept short. To this, Daewon sunim recited the second Song of Enlightenment he had composed when he saw the sun and the moon in the setting sky while passing the fields of Gimje. After Zen Master Jeongang heard the second Song of Enlightenment, he again asked Master Daewon to make up another song on the spot that would encapsulate the same stage of enlightenment. Immediately upon this request, Master Daewon produced the following song:
Over the rock the wind passes through the pine trees,
And below the mountain flies the golden oriole.
There is not a trace even of the entire universe,
But the monkey cries loudly under the moonlight.
Zen Master Jeongang listened to the first two lines with his eyes gently closed; then upon hearing the last two lines, he opened his eyes, revealing delight. However, he didn't stop there and asked once more, "When the others called you out on the mountain and Beopseong asked you to speak on the 'I don't know.' Kong-an (Koan), you said, 'Revealed.' If you were Emperor Wu of Liang, how wouldyou respond to Bodhidharma's 'I don't know.'?" "If I was Emperor Wu of Liang, I'd respond by saying 'Even though there is no such thing as a saint, wouldn't it be much better to enjoy the flowering of my virtue together, just like this?' and take him by the hand." Zen Master Jeongang spoke with astonishment, "How have you reached such a stage?" "How could one say that he has reached it, that he has it, or that it is of his nature? It is only just like this." In this manner, the reverend Daewon, received Dharma Transmission from the Master Jeongang and in 1962 became the 78th patriarch in the Korean tradition of Zen.