Ven. Dr. Chung Ohun Lee is the Supreme Council of Won Buddhism, spiritual teacher, visionary activist and international leader in the movement of interreligious dialogue and cooperation. As a frequent speaker and representative at the United Nations since 1992, Chung has been privileged to work with the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th Secretary General of the United Nations.
As the Guiding Spiritual Teacher of Won Buddhism of Manhattan (WBM), Chung brings Won Buddhist spirituality to her Sangha (community) and international audiences as well. She promotes the Won Buddhist philosophy of spiritual stability and freedom from the mindless and unceasing pursuit of materialism.
Chung is noted for imparting Buddha dharma on a personal, community and global level. She established a thriving Buddhist temple in the middle of Manhattan through the embodiment of spiritual cultivation in the midst of our materialistic society, which is the hallmark of Won Buddhism.
Chung believes in the power of the individual affect great change in the world. Every action, word and intention has an effect. Returning to the simplicity of breathing in this moment through silent meditation naturally leads to universal awareness that each of us has an unlimited capacity that is far more powerful than external difficulties. Through silent meditation Chung discovered herself and learned to use her own wisdom, her own truth, her inner strength, and her inner beauty. Chung invites everyone to join in the movement of Changing Humanity, One Breath at a Time.
Growing up in a patriarchal village, she witnessed and endured discrimination against girls and women. These early encounters with injustice motivated her to become an agent of change to end gender inequality for the younger generation. She became a public school teacher but soon switched careers to become an ordained minister, believing that spirituality is a tool to strengthen human hearts and change human minds for a fair and just world for all. She joined the Won Buddhist Monastery for the spiritual empowerment of humanity and herself. The rigorous meditation training and studies at the monastery strengthened her Buddhist practice and her resolve to work for liberation and equality for all of humanity.
Chung was raised in a large family and spent much of her childhood wandering the woods and meadows of her farm village. Mountains and rivers were her playground, and her inspiration. Watching sunrise and sunset awakened her affinity for universal spirituality and the beautiful shinning sun at dawn awakened of her Larger Self.
A New Beginning in a New Land
After receiving full ordination in South Korea, Chung arrived in New York City in 1981, with the extraordinary mission of bringing Won Dharma to the West. She felt a great sense of freedom and relief from patriarchal limitations of her home country. Chung relished the rational thinking of Western culture and the wonderful diversity of the City of New York made her feel at home. She began a new life in New York with hope and enthusiasm even though she had to master a new language and adapt to a foreign culture.
Chung was the first minister to teach Won Dharma to English speaking children, youth and young adults in the United States. She struggled to bridge the gap between first generation immigrants and their second generation American offspring. The cultural, language and generational barriers seemed insurmountable. Chung began mediating intergenerational dialogue in the City’s Korean community. She opened the Won Korean School in 1982 to teach her native culture and language. It was the first Korean School run by Won Buddhism in the United States. While teaching, she earned a master’s degree in Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education at New York University in 1984. She earned Ph.D. in Teacher of Religious Education from New York University in 1997.
Chung firmly believes that meditation and the Dharma can be accessible to all in a practical form that will fit in with and alleviate the burdens of the hectic Western lifestyle. Chung clearly transmits ancient Buddhist teachings in a way that is relevant to contemporary life. She often meditates on how the Buddha would teach Dharma if he lived in New York City today. She models her actions after Sotaesan, the visionary founder of Won Buddhism. Sotaesan infused Buddha dharma with his uncompromising vision of equality and justice. The simple practice of imagining, “what action would Sotaesan take,” has been a guiding principal for Chung’s extraordinary work at the United Nations.
Envisioning a New Paradigm
Chung envisions a spiritual civilization through empowering the human spirit. Based on her own life experience, Chung believes the power of the individual can effect tremendous change in the world, whether for good or for evil. She envisions advancing the well-being of humanity by teaching all interested people how to integrate meditation and Dharma for a more meaningful life. She hopes to build upon the current global awakening to empower and transform the human psyche. Strengthening the human heart through spiritual cultivation goes hand-in-hand with our evolving global consciousness.
Throughout the three decades of the vigorous participation in the global work, the increasing planetary problems have troubled Chung. She realized that the world crisis is fundamentally a spiritual crisis. She hopes faith-based communities will lead the sacred journey toward ethical solutions for global problems. Chung sincerely envisions herself as a vehicle to change the minds and hearts of human beings in order to make peace and equality a reality.
Chung envisions building network of visionaries who care for entire humanity and build a movement of spiritual civilization by engaging in creating a new paradigm, new model and new partnership. It is critical for visionary and futurists work together to find healthy and sustainable solutions to world problems. Chung hopes to assist humanity to become healthier and happier by working with other visionaries, activists and spiritual pioneers for the betterment of humanity. At the present time, she is organizing Visionary Activists Gathering with leading thinkers from various domains- spiritual, scientific, psychological, medical, political, diplomatic, academia, the arts and business.
Chung lives the dharma through daily meditations to deepen her spirituality. She opens her heart as a source of spiritual strength for her Sangha members and to transform the world community. She strives to begin a new life each day through spiritual perseverance, critical thinking and sincere dialogue.
Ven. Lee is the author of Living Dharma: A Guide to Daily Practice of Won Buddhism (2012), Vision for a New Civilization: Spiritual and Ethical Values in the New Millennium (2000) and Dharma Record: New Mind and New Body (1994).