May 10, 2024

A Day in the Life of Sunim, Virginia (May 5, 2024)

May 5, 2024: North America East Coast Dharma Q&A Tour (7) Virginia

Hello. Today, the seventh Dharma Q&A of Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s 2024 North America East Coast tour took place in Virginia, close to Washington D.C.

Venerable Pomnyun Sunim started his day at 5 AM with practice and meditation at the Washington Jungto Center. Today also marks the start of a series of meetings in Washington D.C. focused on peace on the Korean peninsula.

After completing his morning practice and having breakfast, he worked on some tasks before heading to the home of Mr. Jason Lim at 10:30 AM for lunch.

Jason Lim began volunteering as an English interpreter for Sunim during his college days at Harvard Kennedy School in January 2006. Since graduating and working in Washington D.C, Jason has consistently aligned his vacation time with Sunim’s schedule for the past 19 years to volunteer as an interpreter whenever Sunim visited North America. He is also interpreting for Sunim during the current visit. 

After enjoying a carefully prepared lunch by Mrs. Lim, Sunim expressed his gratitude to the Lim family.

In the afternoon, he headed to a Korean center in Annandale for a meeting scheduled at 2 PM with Mr. Olin Wethington, a U.S. security expert.

Upon arriving at the meeting venue, Mr. Wethington and Ms. Katrina Delgado greeted Sunim.

Mr. Wethington, who formerly worked at the Treasury Department, is a director of the Atlantic Council, a think tank specializing in international affairs in the United States. He has served as a special envoy to China, an advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury, Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury for International Affairs, and a special advisor to the President at the White House Economic Policy Council.

“I really love Korea. I have visited Korea about 40 times and always stopped by the DMZ. I am very interested in solving the problem of the division of the Korean peninsula.”

After a warm exchange of greetings, Mr. Wethington sought Venerable Pomnyun Sunim’s words of wisdom.

What Is the Solution to the Heightened Risk of War on the Korean peninsula?

“I think the most dangerous place in the world is the Korean peninsula. We need a peaceful solution. That’s why I want to hear your opinion on this issue. Right now, the war between Ukraine and Russia may be a bit more of a priority. However, when looking at the Global Risk Index, I think the risk of war on the Korean peninsula is a very serious problem.”

Before answering Mr. Wethington’s question, Sunim first shared why he became involved in advocating for peace on the Korean peninsula.

“I’m sorry we don’t speak Korean. Don’t worry.”

“He is a good man. I know him.”

Mr. Wethington asked Sunim for advice regarding solutions to North Korea’s accelerated nuclear development, especially appreciating Sunim’s efforts in holding dialogues with Japanese politicians and persuading them as part of the solution to the North Korean nuclear issue.

Sunim pointed out that both hardline and conciliatory policies toward North Korea have not been effective and offered advice on what policy the United States should adopt in the current changing circumstances.

“I completely agree with you. I think many Americans should listen to you.”

Ms. Katrina Delgado, who was also in attendance, asked Sunim a question. She showed a lot of interest in spiritual aspects.

What Is Happiness?

“It seems to me that you have talked and studied a lot about happiness. I’m curious about how the concept of happiness has changed.”

“Thank you. I didn’t go to church this morning although I usually do. I feel like I just heard a very good sermon.”

“To me, you have an inner calm about you.”

“I think our country needs spiritual help. There’s a crisis of values. I think your work on behalf of human lives and democracy is very important, and I hope it continues for years.”

The scheduled two hours passed quickly. Everyone said their goodbyes, promising to meet again.

At 4:30 PM, Sunim held a Dharma Q&A for the Korean community at Thomas Jefferson High School. Upon arrival, we could see volunteers welcoming the attendees.

Sunim warmly greeted the volunteers and headed to the Dharma Q&A hall.

From around 300 attendees, Sunim received a warm round of applause as he went up on stage and began his opening remarks.

Following these remarks, people who had registered questions at the entrance of the auditorium took turns asking their questions. Eleven people had the opportunity to converse with Sunim for over two hours. One questioner said they took home the negative feelings they felt at work and asked for advice on how to manage that issue.

“I’ve been working for about seven years, but I still end up bringing home negative feelings from the office. How can I learn to be indifferent to these feelings?”

“When I receive feedback from my boss to correct something I’ve done, it’s hard for me to think, “I’ll just make the correction.” Instead, I end up blaming myself, asking ‘Why couldn’t I do it right in the first place?’ This feeling continues even at home. I wish I could just let it go.”

“Yes, I wanted to ask you why I feel hurt by my boss’s feedback. It makes me feel inadequate.”

“Yes, that’s correct.”

“Do you not blame yourself when that happens?”

“That’s not the case.”

“I am someone who can make many mistakes.”

“Logically, I understand, but emotionally, it’s not that easy.”

“I’m not sure.”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“It’s better to do things mindfully.”

“Someone who can make mistakes.”

“It’s normal.”

“Yes, thank you.”

The questions continued:

– I’ve moved to a new job, but how can I work passionately again?

– Is it morally reprehensible to marry against my parents’ wishes? How can I overcome feeling abandoned by them?

– I graduated from a college in the U.S. and got a job, but I don’t feel truly integrated into American society. What attitude should I have to assimilate into the mainstream?

– Venerable Pomnyun Sunim, I am curious about how you established the Jungto Society.

– I am studying gerontology; which area of gerontology should I focus on in the future?

– Is there such a thing as fate? How can I always be happy like you, Sunim?

– My four-year-old son only speaks English and prefers to be close to my American in-laws, which makes me feel left out. How can I improve our relationship?

– Now that my life in the U.S. is stable, I want to return to Korea and start a new life. Is it okay to go back to Korea alone, leaving my family in the U.S.?

– The strife between neighbors, like the war between Palestine and Israel, affects my happiness. How can we create conditions for everyone to be happy?

Two hours had passed. The Dharma Q&A ended with a round of applause, and Venerable Pomnyun Sunim immediately began signing books on stage, making eye contact and exchanging greetings with each person. 

One person said to Sunim, “I was at a point where I wanted to die, but your teachings saved my life. Thank you.”

After the Dharma Q&A, Sunim took a commemorative photo with the volunteers and left the venue.

As the sun set, at 7 PM, Sunim had a private meeting. Tomorrow, Sunim will be meeting with some members of the U.S. Congress to discuss reducing tensions on the Korean peninsula, and over dinner tonight, he sought advice from someone knowledgeable about the U.S. Congress.

After nearly two hours of discussion, Sunim returned to the Washington Jungto Center at 10 PM.

Tomorrow morning, Sunim will have a discussion with Professor Park Jin-young at American University on the topic of “Violence, Nonviolence, and Social Justice.” In the afternoon, he will meet with the chairperson of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, and later meet with Dr. Jenkins from the Washington Times. Then, in the evening, in Washington D.C., he will hold a Dharma Q&A with English interpretation for an English-speaking audience.