September 14, 2023

A Day of Sunim, Seattle(Sep 7, 2023)

I’ve met many people on dating apps, but finding a genuine connection is challenging.”

2023.9.7. Casual Conversation with Ven. Pomnyun Sunim (7) Seattle, USA

On the seventh day of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s 2023 Overseas Dharma Talk Tour, he delivered a talk in Seattle, USA, marking the beginning of the Dharma Talk Tour in North America.

The Dharma talk tour across Europe has come to a close in London. For the past week, the tour visited a different city every day. Despite the brief duration, Sunim sensed many changes since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plane left London at 9:50 AM. and arrived in Seattle Airport 10 hours later.

A group of people in a terminal

Description automatically generated
A highway sign on a highway

Description automatically generated

Sunim paid his respects at the Dharma Hall upon arriving at the Seattle Jungto Training Center. The center serves as a place of practice for individuals in the northwestern United States who devote their sincere efforts to cultivate their spiritual path. The garden is filled with blooming flowers, and the vegetable garden thrives with various vegetables.

A person walking in a garden

Description automatically generated

The lecture for today was held at Carco Theatre located in Renton. The event started at 7:00 PM, and around 210 individuals attended the Dharma talk. During the talk, 9 people asked questions and conversed with Sunim.

During the conversation, one of the participants expressed his apprehension about the dating scene. He mentioned that although he frequently goes on casual dates with different individuals through online dating platforms, he finds it difficult to establish a serious and committed relationship. The conversation was fun and lighthearted.

I’ve met many people on dating apps, but finding a genuine connection is challenging.

“As I turned 40 this year, I realized that I am still single. Despite the abundance of dating apps available today, I find it difficult to establish deeper relationships through them. While these apps make it easy to meet many potential partners, it also leads to casual encounters. Although I do not dislike these individuals, I am hesitant to pursue something more serious. The ease of meeting multiple people has made it challenging for me to commit to one person, and I find myself constantly comparing the people I meet. I am worried that I may end up without a long-lasting relationship. What could I do to meet a good person who will be my partner for life?”

“What qualities or characteristics make a person a good person for you?”

“A person whose personality is compatible with mine.”

“As long as the personality is compatible, does age matter? What about a partner 20 years older?”

“I prefer a partner younger than me as I want to have children.”

“So as long as the person is younger than you, you should be open to anyone regardless of their race, appearance, or disabilities, such as scars on their face or being visually impaired?”

“Race doesn’t matter, but I do care about appearance…”

“So you would be okay, for example, with someone about 130cm tall?”

“I don’t think I would like that, either.”

“You mentioned that you were open to anyone without any specific preferences, but if you input all of your desired criteria into the computer and filter out potential matches, there may not be a single person who meets all of your conditions.”

“I’m looking for someone who is just average.”

“The ‘average’ you think isn’t really an average if you examine it closely. You told me earlier that your potential partner shouldn’t be 20 years older.”

“I think your example is extreme.”

“Then how about a person who is 20 years younger? Do you find it acceptable?”

“I’d say it’s still extreme, but I’m likely to accept that case more than the other example.”

“The French President’s wife is twenty-five years his senior. They tied the knot because he found her attractive when he visited his friend’s house during his school days. This eventually led to her divorce and their subsequent marriage. After he became the President, his wife served successfully as the First Lady. While a twenty-five-year age difference is not an issue here, why does a twenty-year age gap become problematic to you?”

“I’m okay with that age gap as long as I’m the older one in the relationship.”

“Your stringent criteria are the reason why it is difficult to find a genuine relationship. Focusing only on the partner’s qualities without considering your own makes it hard to lead to a committed relationship. As you have already pointed out, dating may be possible this way, but marriage seems highly unlikely. Additionally, if you were to marry, there’s a good chance you’d end up with someone with a terrible temperament and unusual characteristics. The more selective you are in choosing a partner, the more likely you will make the wrong choice.”

“Why is that so?”

“Let me put it this way. When fishing for snappers, do you use bait they like or dislike?”

“Of course, I use bait that they like.”

“And when you’re setting out rat poison, do you put it in something that rats like or dislike?”

“Of course, something that rats like.”

“Just like snappers and rats are attracted to the most appealing food, even if it contains a hook or poison, if you find someone who seems perfect compared to all other options, they’re likely to be dangerous to you in the same way that rat poison is dangerous to a rat. This is a basic principle of human psychology. The more selective someone is, the more likely they are to choose the ‘rat poison.’ If you want to meet someone who is a good person, you’re more likely to do so if you’re open-minded and willing to meet anyone, regardless of age or other criteria. The more selective you are, the more likely you are to end up single forever or to end up with someone who is bad for you.”

“I am currently seeing three women. We agree that we can date other people if we want, and we are getting to know each other. However, there are both pros and cons to this arrangement. One of the biggest drawbacks is that it can be challenging to choose between the three women.”

“You’re counting the chicken before they hatch. You don’t know if any of these women think of you as a potential partner. Try proposing to one of these women, and you will face immediate rejection.”

“You’re right.”

“Sometimes approaching someone with the sole purpose of dating can be burdensome for the other person. Approach people as friends first, have conversations, make connections, and see where it goes. Dating should be a mutual feeling, not one-sided. 

In the past, people thought that the relentless pursuit of someone you love, even if it was not reciprocated, could lead to success. However, this is no longer the case as it can be considered stalking.

When it comes to dating, age, race or occupation are not barriers. However, marriage is different, as it involves merging two families, and there are many expectations to meet from other people, including both parties’ parents. Marriage is about sharing your life together, and it requires mutual adjustments to form a new family. That’s why marriage is more difficult than dating.

In addition, approaching someone with the mindset of “I want to marry you” is not ideal, as it makes the other person the object of your desires. Your age is not a problem, and no one would marry you just because you are over the marital age.

Instead of focusing on age, whether the other person is fifty or sixty, get to know them as friends first. Meet different people, and if there’s mutual emotional connection, then you can consider dating. Some among them may agree to marriage and that’s how it happens. In this day and age, if both individuals agree, half the journey towards marriage is completed. Of course, family relationships need to be considered and there’s more to the process. However, you shouldn’t approach it with too much purpose right away. Especially young people today don’t appreciate being approached with such a purpose-driven mindset.”

“Should I allow the relationship to develop naturally?”

“It’s best to take things slow and get to know people without any pressure or expectation. When we make friends, age or other factors don’t matte. And a friendly relationship may potentially lead to a romantic one. In these circumstances, age gap or other conditions, such as having kids, don’t act as a barrier as long as there’s a strong emotional connection. Setting too many conditions in advance might prevent you from meeting the right person. Therefore, don’t judge someone based on their age or anything else; just focus on building a meaningful friendship. If you feel a mutual emotional connection, you can consider dating. If you feel that the person is someone you can share your life with, you can think about taking the next step and getting married.

Another approach is to go cold turkey and start dating someone without knowing anything, not even their face. For example, meeting people through the internet, without exchanging any pictures. In the Joseon era, people used to get married without even seeing each other’s faces. They had to get married if both families agreed to the match. Back then, the chances of a successful marriage were highly uncertain, and once married, divorce was not an option, meaning couples had to live together for a lifetime. This is why Eastern horoscope compatibility was popular. Although it is debatable whether it’s effective, when horoscope compatibility came out as favorable, it gave a sense of psychological relief.

While the horoscope compatibility was the only way to find the right partner in the past, now we have the luxury of dating or living with our partners before marriage. Interestingly, despite these advancements, divorce rates are still high. In the past, although people got married without knowing anything about their future spouse, they often stayed together until death. This is because there were no expectations to be met. The concept of “love at first sight” essentially means that one has enormous expectations for the other, which are often not met, ultimately leading to a breakup.

“I believe that the women who meet me do so because they find me interesting and attractive.”

“But can you really know their true intentions? Whether they are approaching you because they genuinely like you, just want to have some fun, want your money, or have some ulterior motive, it’s impossible to know. If you think you know, it’s inaccurate. The human mind is as ficke as the wind. You shouldn’t be overly suspicious of the other person, but you also shouldn’t delude yourself; that kind of thinking paves way to a romantic scammer.

Let’s say a young woman in her 30s approaches me and says she likes me, offering to buy me a car and a house. There’s a high probability that she is a scammer or has some mental issues. If she is in her right mind, she wouldn’t be confessing love to an ordained monk. This is why when somebody says something like that, I tell them to go see a doctor. (Laughter)

Just like that, rushing into things can lead to making hasty and wrong decisions. It’s better to approach finding the right partner with patience and a relaxed mindset. Nowadays, forty is not considered old, so there’s no need for you to feel a sense of urgency. Forget about age and be open to meeting different types of people.

Have you considered taking an approach where you help women in need, perhaps someone with a disability, someone who has faced racial discrimination, or someone who is facing other difficulties in life? Who knows, the universe may reward you with a great match. As I mentioned earlier, if you remain too picky in choosing a partner, it’s more likely that you’ll end up choosing a rat poison.”

“Thank you, Sunim.”

“Shall I ask the audience? How many of you have taken the rat poison? I know there are plenty of you out there. Please raise your hand if you’re one of them (laughter).”

As the audience burst into laughter, the questioner’s face also lit up with a bright smile.

After the conversation, Sunim gave closing remarks.

“It appears to me that you all tend to take life too seriously. As for me, I have a more relaxed outlook on life. I believe that life is as simple as a squirrel being born in the mountains and eventually passing away, or a single blade of grass growing by the roadside and withering. My guiding principle is ‘I begin now,’ which means that yesterday was only practice, and today is the real deal. When you practice, various things are bound to happen, so I don’t dwell on the past.

It’s not enough to just say “I should smile!” to make your face light up. Your face naturally relaxes when you’re not stressed. But most importantly, it’s important to know how to be grateful. Imagine waking up in the morning and thinking, “I’m alive today!” That feeling of joy is priceless. Perhaps we should all try to approach life with a bit more lightness.

We set out to find attractive partners. When we actually do find them, we often realize that the relationship with them is not as easy as it seemed. This is because there are likely to be other people who are also interested in attractive partners. However, if you’re with someone who isn’t the center of attention, you don’t have to worry about other people being interested in your partner. So, if you want to ensure that your partner is devoted to you, it’s best to find someone like that. On the other hand, if you’re already with a very attractive person, it’s better to be open to the possibility that others might take an interest in them. Instead of making a big deal out of it, take the self-confidence approach that your partner is someone who is worthy of attention, and that it’s only natural for others to be attracted to them too.

The truth is, however, many of us want partners who are attractive while also wanting to control the relationship, as if we are entitled to all of them. Furthermore, if it is love at first sight, it is likely that the situation is like rat poison is to a rat, or a hook is to a fish. The truth is, no one can ever be exactly as we like them to be.

Living together with a partner in a marriage requires adaptation, rather than fixating on who is right or wrong. It’s common to have complaints about your spouse, but it’s essential to listen to their point of view as well. If your partner is angry, it could be due to their temper, but it may also be something you said or did. We often believe that our own viewpoint is the only correct one, but it’s important to consider the other side of the story.

If you are not willing to adjust to your partner, then it might be better to live alone. The choice to live together comes with the responsibility of adjusting to your partner’s habits and preferences. No one else can take responsibility for the choices you make in life. Don’t make the mistake of hoping for a miracle where someone else takes responsibility for you. Such thoughts will only lead to tiredness.”

In this conversation, there were more questions from young men than women, prompting Sunim to smile and say a few words at the end.

“Men, are you all suffering a lot these days? (laughter)”

The event went on for more than 30 minutes beyond the originally scheduled time, but the audience remained seated and listened attentively to Sunim’s talk until the end.

Tomorrow at 3:30 AM, Sunim will be broadcasting “Casual Conversation” live for Korean viewers. After that, Sunim will be travelling to Seattle, crossing the Canadian border. In the afternoon, he will have a scheduled meeting with Vancouver Jungto members, and in the evening, there will be another session of Casual Conversation.