GLZC Teachers

About Us

Founding Teacher

Zen Master Seung Sahn
1927 - 2004

Zen Master Seung Sahn, the founding teacher of the Kwan Um School of Zen, is the 78th Patriarch in his line of Transmission within the Chogye order of Korean Buddhism. He founded temples in Japan and Hong Kong, and is the first Korean Zen Master to live and teach in the West.

In 1972, he started the Providence Zen Center. Since then, dozens of centers have been founded in the Americas, Europe, Asia, and Africa. He is author of a number of books, including The Compass of Zen.

Zen Master Seung Sahn gave transmission to a number of Zen Masters, and inka -- the authority to teach -- to other senior students.

Zen Master Seung Sahn, or "Dae Soen Sa Nim" as he is known to his students, passed away on November 30, 2004. The following poem is his:

The Human Route

Coming empty-handed, going empty-handed -- that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud which appears.
Death is like a floating cloud which disappears.
The floating cloud itself originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going, are also like this.
But there is one thing which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear, not depending on life and death.
What is that one pure and clear thing?

To read more about Zen Master Seung Sahn as well as other teachers in the Kwan Um School of Zen, click on the following link:

Kwan Um School of Zen Teachers

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Guiding Teacher

Zen Master Dae Kwang

Zen Master Dae Kwang is an ordained monk and Abbot of the Kwan Um School of Zen in Providence, Rhode Island. In addition, he is the Guiding Teacher of the Great Lake Zen Center, as well as other centers throughout the world.

Our center is fortunate to have this wonderful teacher visit us in Milwaukee several times throughout the year to guide, instruct and spend some time with us. Free talks with Zen Master Dae Kwang are held for the public whenever he visits. Retreats with Zen Master Dae Kwang are held regularly by our center.

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Dharma Teachers

Michael Zinke, BT

Michael Zinke, Bodhisattva Teacher, has been practicing Zen with the Kwan Um School of Zen since 1992. Michael is a Project Manager with IBM. In addition, he has an acute interest in alternative medicine with advanced degrees in Holistic Nutrition and is a Certified Nutritional Consultant and a Reiki Master.

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Susi Childress, BT, Do Gam

Bodhisattva Dharma Teacher Susi Childress serves as the Do Gam and Head Dharma Teacher of the Great Lake Zen Center. Susi has been a Dharma Teacher since 2001 and has been practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen since 1995. Susi is a high school learning disabilities teacher.

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Sonia Alexander, SDT

Senior Dharma Teacher Sonia Alexander started practicing in the KUSZ in 1976 when the Cambridge Zen Center was located at Grey Gardens East. She was married to Ken Alexander in 1979 by Zen Master Seung Sahn. They then moved into the Cambridge Zen Center where they lived for many years. They left the school to pursue other forms of practice such as Rinzai Zen, yoga, and Tibetan Buddhism. She and Ken returned to Milwaukee to care for Ken's mother and returned to the KUSZ in 2010 and were reinstated as Senior Dharma Teachers in 2011 by Zen Master Dae Kwang. She is a retired medical photographer.

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Ken Alexander, SDT

Ken started practicing in the KUSZ in 1978. He was married to Sonia Alexander in 1979 by Zen Master Seung Sahn. They then moved into the Cambridge Zen Center where they lived for nearly 10 years. They moved to Jamaica Plain, MA, Phillips, ME, Lewistown,MT to pursue other forms of practice. He moved back to Milwaukee to care for his mother and returned to the KUSZ in 2010. He was reinstated as a Senior Dharma Teacher in 2011 by Zen Master Dae Kwang.

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Pete Neuwald, SDT, Abbot

Senior Dharma Teacher Pete Neuwald is the Abbot of the Great Lake Zen Center, and has been practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen since 1994. In addition to his duties at GLZC, Pete has done prison ministry work and serves as the GLZC liaison to the Greater Milwaukee Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Pete is a self-professed software geek.

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Laura Otto-Salaj, SDT

Senior Dharma Teacher Laura Otto-Salaj has been practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen since 1992. She is also a research psychologist with the Universite of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for the Addiction and Behavioral Health Research; her research focuses on the intersection between addiction and sexual risk rehavior.

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Andy Yencha, DT

Andy Yencha has been practicing in the Kwan Um School of Zen since 1997 and became a Dharma Teacher in 2003. Andy serves as Secretary for the Great Lake Zen Center's Board of Directors and also helps the Center with publicity. Andy works on natural resource protection as an educator and organizational development specialist with the University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension.

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Gretchen Neuwald, DT

Gretchen Neuwald, DT, has been practicing since 2004 and became a Dharma Teacher in 2011. She serves as the editor of Moon on the Water, our center's newsletter. Gretchen has a B.A. in English from the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee and works as a library technician. She is married to Pete Neuwald and has two grown daughters, who are living and working in New York. In 2011, she and her husband happily became first-time grandparents to their granddaughter.

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Chris Rundblad, DT

Chris came to the door of Great Lake Zen center more than five but less that ten years ago. She immediately Found the center to be comfortable, practical, and solid. In addition to shared practice at Zen Center, her personal practice includes sitting and walking meditation with her dog and living life as a good potato.

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