From Eternity to Eternity

Memoirs of a Korean Buddhist Nun

By Bulpil Sunim
Translated by Eunsu Cho
Introduction by Eunsu Cho
With Soojin Oh

Subjects: Buddhism, Women In Religion, Korean Studies, Asian Religion And Philosophy, Zen Buddhism
Paperback : 9798855800418, 192 pages, December 2024
Hardcover : 9798855800425, 192 pages, December 2024
Expected to ship: 2024-12-01
Expected to ship: 2024-12-01

A vivid, firsthand account of life as a Buddhist nun, by the most respected female Zen master in Korea.


From Eternity to Eternity is the story of Bulpil Sunim, arguably the most respected female Seon (Zen) master in Korea. Written with candor and an unpretentious sense of humor, her memoir provides both a fascinating record of her life and a deeply accessible window into Buddhist thought and spirituality. Describing and reflecting on her own experience of meditation and her journey as a woman in a male-dominated religious practice, she reveals the largely unknown realities of female monastic life in Korea. She also provides an unprecedented glimpse into her relationship with her father, the legendary Seon Master Seongcheol Sunim, who was widely considered a living Buddha in Korea. This lyrical autobiography, the first of its kind in Korean Buddhist literature, offers readers a chance to learn about Korean Seon meditation and practice from a woman’s perspective and will be of interest not only to scholars of Buddhism but to general readers curious about Buddhism, the experiences of religious women, or simply the remarkable life of a great spiritual leader.

Eunsu Cho is Professor Emeritus of Buddhist Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy at Seoul National University and Visiting Professor in the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University. She is the editor of Korean Buddhist Nuns and Laywomen—Hidden Histories, Enduring Vitality, also published by SUNY Press. Soojin Oh is a freelancer translator. She studied at Reed College.


"From Eternity to Eternity unveils the life and teachings of a female [Seon] master in this expertly translated work, shedding light on the dynamic Korean female monastic community. It illuminates profound insights into the importance of family relationships for spiritual growth and awakening, resonating with the journey of the historical Buddha. An enriching read for all seekers of spiritual wisdom and for academics interested in monasticism, meditation, and Korean Buddhism." — Hwansoo Ilmee Kim, author of The Korean Buddhist Empire: A Transnational History, 1910–1945

"From Eternity to Eternity, the extraordinary memoir of Bulpil Sunim, explores the world of Korean Buddhism through the eyes of some of the most exceptional figures of the modern day. What is extraordinary about her memoir is its candid, intimate approach to a tradition often imagined to be inscrutable, beyond the comprehension of outsiders. By bringing the tradition to life through the eyes of the main actors of the Korean Seon revival, Bulpil Sunim reveals her personal history and her experience of a transformative practice lineage in an iconoclastic, often amusing way. Recounted here, in a refreshingly modern tone, are events that both illuminate and devastate—many evoking tears. Both the author and the translator deserve high marks for sharing this amazing, deeply inspiring story." — Karma Lekshe Tsomo, author of Into the Jaws of Yama, Lord of Death