Yesterday I drove out to Taegosa (Mountain Spirit Temple) in the southern most tip of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. I had received a phone call from an old monk friend of mine, Hyonmun Sunim. I hadn't been out to the property in many years and although I was involved in the project during its beginnings, I had not visited or seen any of the permanent buildings for myself. It is a beautiful place to visit and to meditate at. There are two main buildings on the property, and currently there are four people there taking care of the temple. Hyonmun Sunim introduced me to the current abbot Wonyul Sunim who is a Korean Son Monk and has been running the center since the founder Muryang Sunim left.
Mountain Spirit Center is affiliated with the Kwan Um School of Zen, founded in America by Zen Master Seung Sahn who was my original Zen Teacher. The temple now has a strong connection with the Korean American community in Southern California as well as the adjacent regions. The founder of Mountain Spirit Center was Muryang Sunim (Erik Berall), a student of Zen Master Seung Sahn from 1979 until 2006. After becoming a monk, Muryang spent four years living and practicing in Korea. Upon returning to the United States, he spent several years searching for a suitable site for a mountain temple. He completed the purchase of this property in 1994, and had been living and practicing there until he decided to move to Maui.
I remember visiting the property before Muryang Sunim had made the purchase, and he was always teaching me about Korea, Korean Zen and the ancient study of Geomancy. It was important to him to find a place with the correct arrangement of mountains that were facing in the correct direction to build a proper Korean Zen Temple. He financed the project initially with his own money and eventually did receive donations from the local Korean community.
The temple is located on a geomancy energy point according to Korean principles. The land itself has long been a place where the native people of this area came to conduct their vision quests, and it is the center's hope to honor and continue this tradition of spiritual practice. Mountain Spirit center was built with a deep concern for the environment. The temple is off the electrical power grid – electricity is generated on site by the power of sun and wind. Well water is reused for irrigation of native plants and trees; therefore, care is taken to not use toxic chemicals, soaps, or detergents. It is the ongoing goal of the temple caretakers to develop the temple in a sustainable and environmentally beneficial manner honoring the tradition of Buddhism in both Korea and America.