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.
-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?