May 9, 2024

A Day in the Life of Sunim, Atlanta (May 4, 2024)

May 4, 2024: North America East Coast Dharma Q&A Tour (6) Atlanta

Hello. Today, the sixth Dharma Q&A of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s 2024 North America East Coast tour took place in Atlanta, Georgia, the largest city in the southeastern United States.

Venerable Pomnyun Sunim woke up early to review a manuscript and left for Dallas Fort Worth International Airport at 5:20 AM. Han Yong-woo and Lee Hyang-hee were also up early and kindly packed a breakfast for him to eat at the airport.

Originally the plan was to depart at 5:30 AM, but we hurried and left 10 minutes early. It turned out to be a good decision since the police were blocking parts of the highway, and there was a lot of traffic. 

We arrived at the airport at 6:10 AM. After thanking Han Yong-woo for his support in providing accommodations, meals, and transportation during his stay in Dallas, Sunim went into  the airport to check in.

After completing the check-in process a little past 7:00 AM, Sunim sat down and ate the breakfast that had been packed for him. After a hearty meal, Sunim boarded the plane to Atlanta. The plane took off at 8:15 AM.

Sunim continued to review various documents during the flight. We arrived at Atlanta Airport at 11:00 AM. After we collected our luggage, we met Park Ha-young, a member of Jungto Society, who welcomed us warmly.

We loaded the luggage and immediately headed to the Dharma Q&A venue. Initially, we had planned to eat something for lunch in the car due to the tight schedule. However, thanks to the plane arriving early and construction work at the airport being paused, we reached the Dharma Q&A venue ahead of time.

Today’s Dharma Q&A is being held at the Korean Cultural Center of Atlanta. Sunim held a Dharma Q&A here in 2019, and this is his first visit in five years since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon arriving at the venue, volunteers were energetically making preparations for the Dharma Q&A. We had lunch provided by the members of Jungto Society, and at 1:15 PM, Sunim engaged in a conversation with the volunteers.

Everyone introduced themselves. Most of them were members of Jungto Society, but there were about ten non-members present as well. After the introductions, Sunim briefly described some of the work Jungto Society engages in.

Following these words, people were given an opportunity to freely ask any questions they wanted. One person, seeing Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s busy schedule, asked:

After the conversation, they took a commemorative photo.

At 2:00 PM, Sunim had a meeting with a representative from the Chestnut Family Foundation.

Teresa, a former pediatric nurse who has always been deeply concerned with improving the lives of children, and her husband Ben, the CEO of a global software company based in Atlanta, are regular contributors to helping impoverished children worldwide. Recently, they have donated generously to JTS’s school construction projects in Syria and the Philippines through JTS America. Sunim expressed his gratitude to them.

Teresa mentioned that she knew  Venerable Pomnyun Sunim had visited Bhutan several times and asked why he hadn’t requested funding for those projects.

“I’ve been reading ‘A Day in the Life of Sunim’ and saw that you have visited Bhutan multiple times. I thought you would request support from our foundation, but you haven’t mentioned anything yet, so we are still waiting.”

“There are also doubts about whether sustainable development can indeed be successful.”

“Thank you. I really learn a lot from seeing your work. But I find it difficult to preach thriftiness to the organizations I support when I can’t practice it myself. I am reflecting on that these days.”

After an hour of conversation, they ended the meeting, promising to meet again.

After taking a short break, Sunim immediately went backstage. Following an introductory video, the host invited Sunim to the stage, and the auditorium erupted in applause.

Upon reaching the stage, Sunim greeted everyone with a big smile and began his talk:

For over two hours, twelve people asked Venerable Pomnyun Sunim questions and engaged in conversations. Among them, one person expressed concern that his wife was so captivated by Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s Dharma Q&As that she was spending less time with him. He asked how he might be able to recover their former joyful relationship.

“One of my greatest pleasures used to be coming home from work and enjoying a beer while discussing work events, society, and politics with my wife. However, after decades of having such a close relationship, lately, she hardly listens to me, doesn’t prepare snacks for me to have with my beer, and even argues with what I say. Sometimes, she leaves me drinking and talking by myself and goes off on her own. When  go see what she’s doing, I find her listening to Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s Dharma Q&As. So, these days, I have no joy in my life. How can I bring back the good old times with my wife?”

“I earn much more now.”

“That’s right. I’ve even set up her own financial account.”

“Really? That’s not good…”

“Yes, she needs to be smart.”

“I’m good at cooking. I do the dishes too.”

“Yes, I will do that.”

“My husband.”

“Thank you. I fully understand what you are saying.”

The questions continued:

– What is the difference between positive thinking and self-rationalization? I’m curious about the criteria for distinguishing the two.

– My mother passed away four years ago, and I find that I’m gradually forgetting her. Is it okay to live without feeling guilty?

– How should one handle the ups and downs of life? In my job, I’m constantly conscious of my supervisor’s evaluations and other people’s opinions, and I often worry in advance.

– How can I prevent my negative and anxious mental state from affecting my children and raise them in a healthy way?

– I want to spread Buddhism widely, but I often realize my own foolishness. What perspective should I have?

– I am experiencing burnout due to work. As my happiness decreases, what should I do?

– Is there a way to help my husband feel happy when he is suffering from a heavy workload?

– Empathizing with my wife is the most challenging. What could be the reason?

– What are some ways to resolve cultural differences and racial discrimination in the workplace?

– I regret raising my child with too much ambition. How can I find peace of mind after retirement?

Although Sunim wanted to take more questions, he received a message that due to construction at the Atlanta airport, it was advisable to arrive at the airport three hours prior to departure. Promising to return next year, Sunim concluded with these words:

The Dharma Q&A concluded with a big round of applause and was followed by a book signing session.

After the book signing, Sunim immediately packed his bags and headed for the airport. There was some construction at the airport, so he hurried to avoid traffic delays.

Upon arriving at the airport, he checked in his luggage and had dinner, which had been packed for him.

After a brief wait at the airport, he boarded his flight to Washington D.C. at 9 PM. Sunim quickly fell into a deep sleep on the plane.

He arrived at the Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport late at night, and by the time he reached the Washington Jungto Center, it was almost midnight.

Tomorrow, he is scheduled to meet with a security expert in Virginia, near Washington D.C., and hold a Dharma Q&A for the Korean community.