Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Dahn Yoga Cult



Yesterday, I read an article in Rolling Stone on the Dahn Yoga Cult. I had never heard of them before, but I was somehow sucked into the article. Whenever the word "cult" follows a phrase, I am always fascinated to see what it is that mass people follow. What is it that sucks people into these cults? What do they have to do? What do they sacrifice? What principles do they follow with all of their hearts, even if they might have a twinge of doubt? How do they recruit followers? How far do they go for these leaders? And what is the leader seeking out of this?

The article, "The Yoga Cult" by Sabrina Rubin Erdely, focuses on a young couple who were former cult members. They were recruited in college (like many of this cult are) and were persuaded to continue attending seminars and sessions, dumping thousands and thousands of dollars into this organization to keep themselves connected. The couple, Amy and Ricardo, were sucked in for years and have recently come out of it. They have exposed many of the practices of the cult.

To give a little background on Dahn Yoga, only some refer to it as a cult. It is seen as a cult because of the extensive following and the intense practices of the members. Lawsuits have come out against Dahn Yoga and its leader, Ilchi Lee, for various reasons including sexual charges and deaths associated with intense workouts (similar to hazing). It was founded by Lee in 1985 when he climbed to the top of a mountain and realized that his calling was to lead this Yoga movement. He left his family and started this group. Now, he accumulates millions of dollars, has private jets, multiple properties, and darts lawsuits.

Basic information on Dahn Yoga: "In Korean, dahn means 'primal, vital energy,' and hak means 'study of a particular theory or philosophy.' Dahn teachings are said to place equal emphasis on physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. News sources have described its exercises as 'a blend of yoga, tai chi, and martial arts exercises.'"

Essentially, members go through extreme workouts to aim for spritual perfection. Members are told that, together, they will come together to achieve world peace. Sounds like a lofty goal, eh?

Members keep striving to reach higher levels of their spiritual health. Amy, the focus of the article, was even promoted to become a Dahn instructor where she had to go through rigorous training. These trainings had to be lightened because one victim was killed while carrying too heavy a bag of rocks up a mountain. Members like Amy recruit young twenty-somethings to join. They are on college campuses, they are physcially fit, and they are ready to take out loans to give to Dahn. Some members drop out of college in order to meet the demands (physically, spritually, and financially) to accomodate the needs of Dahn.

Ricardo, one of the former members, said it was difficult to stop being a part of Dahn because they are brainwashed into thinking that if they leave Dahn, their spritual path will be destroyed. Essentially, they will be spiritually lost. And once members leave, they are harassed with phone calls over and over again by leaders trying to get them to come back. Intense. Both Ricardo and Amy went deep into debt paying for all of these sessions and seminars. I can't believe that they suck THIS much money out of these people to stay hooked.



Here are some of the practices retold by Amy that the members were asked to perform:

-Lack of sleep during retreats
-They would have to plunge their heads into the water until they couldn't breathe. When they gasp to the surface, they chant a devotional song to their leader, weeping to prove their sincerity to the cause. Repeat many times.
-In pitch-black darkness, members scream and dance hard for hours. Then they collapse into a "sobbing heap."
-At a retreat, members punch themselves in the stomach while yelling things like "I hate myself!"
-They engage in head-shaking meditation that they call "wave vibration." Members have to purchase "palm-size vibrating brains" which cost $80, and after class they discuss feelings in a sharing circle.
-Hours of loud, fast exercise, trust-building games, and personal confessions.
-To enter, they had to write their most personal account in writing and share it with many, many people. If it wasn't personal enough, that did not show their devotion so they could not participate.
-At retreats, they were taught that their brains were clogged with meaningless information and they would reprogram them together.
-One exercise: Pretend you're looking at your dead body. What do you want to say to your dead body? How did you live your life?
-Candidates for membership must show their devotion to Dahn. This entails a seven-mile hike with up to 40 pounds of rocks on your back.
-Members are required to pull in a certain amount of money into the mission per month, sometimes climbing as high as $20,000.
-They have to wake early in the morning (4AM) to meditate.
-Some have to drink toilet water, lick each other's feet, and fall backwards into a pool screaming their love for Lee to prove themselves to the Dahn.
-At one session, a wet washcloth was said to be their soul, and people fought and scratched to get ahold of their washcloth.

Now, the above practices were communicated by Amy, the subject in the article. Perhaps these are not ALL standard practices, but these are some witnessed by a former member.

Facts

-127 fitness centers
-The holiest seminar costs $100,000
-Americans make up 10,000 of the 500,000 members
-Last year, Dahn Yoga pulled in $30 million in the US
-$30 million is only a fraction of what they collected in the nine other countries they are set up in
-They consider themselves a cutting-edge science called "brain education" with "the power to sharpen memory, prevent cancer, and give practitioners extrasensory powers."
-15 American cities have declared Ilchi Lee days.
-PowerBrain Operation is a Dahn-run organization that teaches "brain wave vibration" workshops in 44 different public schools, most in New York City.
-Many members believe he is god, while Lee compares himself to Buddha.

I am merely presenting information. I expect that some people will not like the infomration I present here. I am merely publishing information that I have learned from a magazine. Perhaps there are some small things that are not correct, and that lies in my misinterpretation of the facts. This is what I have read. This is what I think.

What do you think of Dahn Yoga?

41 comments:

Anonymous said...

Too dangerous!!!

Anonymous said...

Dahn Yoga headquarters, as well as current instructors and members, put their side of this story on
dahnyogavoice dot com
if you are interested in reading it.

Thanks.

Phil Lawston said...

Hello Jami,

As a member who has been practicing Dahn Yoga for years, I do not agree with the Rolling Stone article. Thanks to the practice, I am able to sleep and eat well. If you want, come visit www.brainpeace.com, where a lot of members are sharing their testimonials.

Anonymous said...

definitely a cult and dahnyogavoice site is just propaganda. They moderate all negative comments from that site. Talk about bias. So while we are at it, I will throw a couple sites as well, nodahncult.com and selectsmart/ilchilee.html

Anonymous said...

Please go to brainworld.com and view the videos under the "feed your brain" section. Then make your own decision.

Anonymous said...

Have you read Eckhart Tolle's New Earth? That is exactly what Dahn yoga is but unlike his book you actually have a guide. I've never been coerced to provide money, or done anything physical that I could not or that was dangerous. As for being brainwashed -- well, maybe it's because I'm 57 and don't believe anyone controls my brain but me. I must say that I am calmer, happier, more in control of my life and growing into the person I want to become.

Anonymous said...

All my life I searched for answers.. is McWorld all there is? is this it what we learn in schools? are we born on Earth to function like robots ...there must be more to life then this...Dahn Yoga Practice is the most holistic system of excercises which I have been doing for past ten years and which have helped me connect with my own soul, grow and meet all it's needs.. My soul is soooo happy to have found a way to light up it's divinity in the cold, often cruel and shallow world which corporatism, gmo's, baby formulas, 80 hours works weeks have created... If you have the right mind, if you are searching to experience the divine in all life, the "Holy Spirit" in your own self.. then Dahn Yoga is among other Yogas one of the most whole systems creted, it is one of best way's, practices, even though there are many..

Anonymous said...

I love Dahn Yoga, I detest the cruelty of corporatism and the state of educational systems which it has created.. Dahn Yoga is a simple easy system of excercises, breathing, concentration and movements through which people return back to their "senses!" Become loving, caring, feeling, sharing, smiling, healthy individuals part of healthy community willing to build, change, assist, create... Dahn Yoga is a tool which a human being can use in anyway they please to improve their lives..

Anonymous said...

What is the definition of a cult? Is "coffee" "nicotine" "alchoholism" "workaholism" "tv violence" "media brainwashing, polluting, dumbing down," "shoppaholism," infant abandnment - no pregnancy leave..a cult? Through a lifetime of addictions fortunes are spent and lives are ruined... Is religion, Catholicism, Muslimism, Judaism....etc., aren't they cults? Where is the human brain, the body, the temple of the soul, health in all of these....? Is something that brings your attention to your own body, mind and soul, that which empowers you be worse... than that which takes you power away..

Anonymous said...

I was involved with Dahn Yoga two years ago and intially was very helpful. They seduced me with the promise of healing and spiritual development. I became " Joe Healer Nim". I spent much too much money on healings and trainings at the local center and in Sedona Arizona until I noticed that they were more interested in me bring in members and doing more training (felt like brainwashing)than my continued personal development. When leaving for a break I wanted the friendships to continue, but since I was going away I specificly told my friendship was not welcomed in the communtity unless I continued training. I am still love those center leaders whom I was involved,but feel betrayed and used.

I believe that the people who work for Dahn have good intentions and really do believe that they are helping the world. But despite that fact, the people who operate the Dahn centers have been completely brainwashed.

While I have much more to say about my experience with Dahn Yoga, my message remains the same: Dahn Yoga is a front for a destructive cult.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jami-- What an interesting article and comments. Well, I've been practicing Dahn Yoga for several years now and I would say I'm becoming much happier with what I choose in life (every sec of it), Not only I'm getting more toned-stronger physiclly/mentally/spiritually as I combine everything I learn at Dahn Yoga with my Indonesian culture but also the fact that I create this love on the way I see the world now and how should I expand my capability to share my knowledge with others.

I believe I've become more kind in heart than how I was :) to my self, to people I love and even to any strangers :)) My children are happy having a more patient & yes..a more beautiful mother, my spouse is so proud of a healthier me, my father is in so much joy practicing together with me, and hmm...I've got more friends indeed.

About those commitment Dahn asked- Yes! It takes plenty of commitment to get the result. Once you are in, you want to maintain in a good consistency. You give yourself no space to be lazy to keep doing the practice.
About the flush of money - Honey nothing's free especially if you feel it's worth it. I've spent about 10.000 my self so far and I made all those decision my self; not those masters.

Did they force me to do this workshop here and there? Yes! but hey! you are the one who make those final decision :) again...not those masters. You are the master, right? Not anybody else.

I often believe that those who are weak are those who feels that Dahn had manipulated to spend those money :) You make your own decision. You spent it and I just wish you have not regreted it then :) It happened anyway...it's passed. Don't blame anyone, ya?

Smile & Be happy.
Healthy body, happy heart, power brain :)))

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Anonymous said...

Yes it is a cult. I participated in one of the "workshops" along with some classes and eventually called the police. Its brainwashing and they take money. Just like all the articles say.

Anonymous said...

I picked up a Dahn Yoga pamphlet at my hematologist's office recently and was intrigued by the information inside. I wanted to do a little research before I decided to call the local center. I love yoga and the relaxing/renewing effect it has on the body.... but.... if anyone thinks that they should pay money to find happiness and peace of mind, they are a fool and a perfect target for scammers. You can find Dahn Yoga technique information online and incorporate it into your own personal routine. I will be avoiding the center and saving my money, thank you very much!

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Anonymous said...

This type of yoga is beneficial for lots of illness' helpful at times just watch your pocketbooks don't gave to much information about your personal life or your finances they will pray on your emotions be alert just take the class and go home

Anonymous said...

I have a good friend who has been going to Dahn Yoga for years. She is always paying large sums of money to take their training classes, and yet always being told she's inadequate in some way. I think she's spent well over $100,000 and they're always pressuring her for more. She thinks she's gotten some positive things from it, but the negatives are starting to outweigh the good things. She's also a very devout Christian and the masters are always trying to get her to chose the yoga and Ilchi Lee over her religion. I wish she'd quit, but she's still spellbound by them and the Yoga.

Anonymous said...

My best friend started going to one of the dahn yoga centers last year. She's been paying lots of money to the center ever since. They have workshops and retreats they pressure the members to go to which range from hundreds to thousands of dollars. She's been trying to recruit me too. I paid for several months worth of sessions, each time I went, they tried to sell me expensive workshops. I hated it. They also tell members to do weird internet clean up practices every night. Now my friend is going to quit her job and travel overseas to serve the dahn yoga center. I feel like she'd been brain washed and that I have lost her forever. I am so sad and I don't know what I can do to get her back from the cult.

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Tia said...

I am currently in the process of shopping my recently completed "cult memoir" about my seven year involvement with Dahn Yoga which included three years of complete immersion as a master's assistant ( a "Myungsa"). this book is the first in a serioes about my own spiritual quest. My time with the Dahn energy masters included some very dark stuff that at some points was quite dangerous to my health. On the other hand, I believe the practices and principles in essence are magnificent for improving health and well being and I still use and teach the methods today. I've been "out" of the cult for seven years now, and recovery was ... interesting... and difficult.I'm searching the web for other folks' stories and experiences that I might include in my book proposal to publishers.

What do I think? I met and lived and worked with some magnificent energy masters and and some (for lack of a better word) evil and twisted ones. I'd say - as I have read in other people's stories on the web - if you want to practice Dahn Yoga do it and remember never to say yes to anything. Don't fall into the trap of buying more and more expensive workshops and memberships. All the stuff about coercion is true. But paradoxically, the practice itself in its pure form is transformational. I'd love to talk with others who have left the organization after being deeply involved.

Tia said...

And you can read some of my story on my site at
enlightenwithtiarobinson.com

RestingPond said...

I am glad in 2015 Ilchi's organization finally removed "dahn" and "yoga" from it's branding, because it is neither dahn nor yoga.

It is not dahn, because it has no root in traditional Korean dahn. The only exposure to dahn Ilchi ever had was brief couple of weeks studying Guk Sun Do, which IS based on traditional Korean dahn study. Ilchi's training does not have any root or lineage to speak of to call it based on 5K year old Korean tradition. It's a concoction of new age junk continuously changing because last one didn't work.

It is not a yoga for the same reason.

The core of Ilchi's brain wave vibration is shaking head vigorously which is potentially dangerous practice that can lead to axonal shearing. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffuse_axonal_injury ). Just by this fact alone, Ilchi is one of the worst cult leader and enemy to humanity. I can add his lies on his credentials, etc, but I guess it's an old new by now. Everyone with a half brain left the organization and shrinking rapidly.

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http://www.selectsmart.com/ilchilee.html
http://www.nhne-pulse.org/files/2010/DAHN_YOGA_LAWSUIT.pdf
I know someone well who was a Master for several years but quit a few years ago. He validated almost all of what was said in the lawsuit (^ that is original link), just based on his own experience, but he admits he doesn't quit know for sure about the sexual allegations from the founder. He says his experience of joining dahn yoga was like being the lobster in warm water, where the temperature keeps increasing but you don't realize it until its so hot, your boiling/changing/losing yourself, and you can't get out. He said the vision and its ideas is on beautiful grounds but what actually was happening, what masters would do and guilt they would feel to do things was so unethical and extreme "for the vision" But truly when you're in it he says it seems so normal, need to"save humanity" and the founder is the way. They really do idolize the founder as the messiah, father of the soul. At first, its all through the yeha programs for young people, 'love bombing' is what Ive seen it called. But my friend said they dont even realize thats what they are doing, they genuinely think they are saving the world. But its so narrow-minded; saving the world within the structure of dahnhak. In Korea its literally "Dahn-World". They genuinely feel you will have despair if you leave. They feared for his soul when he quit. It took him a long time to recover. It was so strongly engrained in him "use all your time for humanity" that he struggled with finding meaningful work because he lived in a state "this is not enough, you are not enough" for so long he had to seek cult exiting counseling. Steve Hassan a cult expert who helped many of those in the lawsuit has been really helpful to him. He wishes there was a community for those who leave it, especially for the masters or and perhaps for very involved members. Sorry to hear about your experience. For me, I did a little when my friend joined but I don't know I didn't get that much from it. Its interesting how thats the case for some. I wish more people could see all sides.

Anonymous said...

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I have lost my partner to them, and he is pushing away his family too. The changes in personality all point to
Cult practices.