Two thousand five hundred years ago on Vulture Peak in India, the Buddha picked up a lotus flower and demonstrated universal truth. At the end of World War II, Zen Master Man Gong took a petal from the leaf of the Korean national flower, dipped it in ink, and wrote a rough calligraphy that read: “The Whole World Is a Single Flower.”
This means equality, harmony and peace. It means that you and I, the sun and moon, earth and sky, air and water, are fundamentally not separate or different. We each have the same root.
It was the great hope of Zen Master Man Gong that all human beings return to this common root, our original substance, and from the root, a single beautiful world flower of equality, harmony, and peace might again appear.
Zen Master Seung Sahn founded the Whole World Is a Single Flower (WWSF) conference as a way to bring people from many different countries and traditions together in the spirit of unity and harmony.
The Whole World Is a Single Flower is a triennial conference, with the next conference taking place in Singapore and Malaysia from October 16-26, 2020. Find out more information here.
WWSF Conference History
The first WWSF conference was held in Korea in 1987, in conjunction with Zen Master Seung Sahn’s 60th birthday. The conference was held partially at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul, and also at Su Deok Sa temple, the head temple of our monastic family. The conference was a success, paving the way to the bright future of this event. The second conference was also held in Korea, three years later in 1990. This conference also included dharma speeches and practicing together at Hwa Gye Sa and Su Deok Sa temples.
The third conference was held in 1993, half in Korea, and half in Hong Kong and in China at the Sixth Patriarch’s temple, Nam Hwa Sa. Many people participated in this conference, which was also attended by the Chinese monks from Nam Hwa Sa temple. Zen Master Seung Sahn gave a dharma speech, and a precepts ceremony was held at the temple, during which several of our monks received monastic precepts.
The next conference was held in Hong Kong and China in 1996. The theme of the conference was “Become one, help all beings,” which was seen as more appropriate by the Chinese government than the original slogan “Just do it!” Zen Master Seung Sahn attended, as well as his best friend, the Great Master Byeok Am Sunim, the Cambodian Patriarch Maha Ghosananda, and many other people from around the world.
In 1999 the conference was held at the Providence Zen Center, in Cumberland, Rhode Island. In addition to the three day conference, participants got a chance to visit Boston, the Cambridge Zen Center, Chogye International Zen Center in New York, and people from far away took a trip to Niagara Falls. The group also visited historic Plymouth Rock, which Zen Master Seung Sahn referred to as the “Primary Point of the United States.” Many people from Korea attended the conference, including the lay members organization from Hwa Gye Sa.
The conference in 2002 was held at Mu Sang Sa, on Gye Ryong San mountain in Korea. In addition to the conference itself, participants enjoyed a tour of important Korean temples.
In 2005 the conference was held in Singapore. Many people attended from Singapore and Malaysia, as well as coming from countries farther away, such as Korea and the United States. The conference included a tour to the new retreat center in Malaysia.
The conference was held in Warsaw, Poland in 2008. The conference tour included a trip to Warsaw, Krakow, Auschwitz, Prague, and Budapest. Many people attended this conference from abroad, with many Koreans from Mu Sang Sa and Hwa Gye Sa families together.
The WWSF 2011 went on tour to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar India following the steps of the Shakyamuni Buddha, starting in the holy city of Varanasi with an early morning boat ride on the river Ganges. Participants visited Sarnath, where Buddha delivered his first sermon, Bodhgaya and the Mahabodhi Temple and sat under the Bodhi Tree. They visited Vulture Peak where the Buddha held up the flower, Kushinagar, where the Buddha attained Mahaparanirvana after his death and, finally, Lumbini, Nepal the birthplace of the Buddha, where many Zen Masters and honored guests gave wonderful dharma talks. Photos and videos from the conference can be found here: WWSF Facebook group.
In 2014, the WWSF Conference took place in South Korea, hosted by Musangsa, the head temple of the KUSZ in Asia. The 10-day trip included a 2-day conference on the topics of Zen and the current world situation, relevance of spirituality in professional life and educating youth in today’s society. The event was attended by over 200 participants from 17 countries and many more from Korea. Following the conference, the group traveled to Musangsa where the 10th Memorial Ceremony for Zen Master Seung Sahn took place. A pilgrimage to various temples followed to Unmunsa, Boemosa and Baekdamsa, where many of our international monks and nuns do their training. Then a few days of rest, constructive sangha meetings and spending time together took place at a resort in pristine Sorak Mountain. The tour ended in Seoul where everyone had a chance to have kong-an interviews with all the teachers and enjoy the city.
The most recent conference was held at Providence Zen Center in the U.S.A from October 8th – October 15th, 2017. To see videos and photos from the event, please visit the WWSF Resource page.