Today, Mark talks with South Korean monk Haemin Sunim (@haeminsunim) about awareness, awakening, and enlightenment. Haemin Sunim was educated at Princeton, Berkeley, and Harvard before he became a monk. He is the author of two books, The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down: How to Be Calm in a Busy World and Love for Imperfect Things: How to Accept Yourself in a World Striving for Perfection. Haemin discusses with Mark on how enlightenment and awareness not only affects you, but humanity and the world as a whole.
- In order to appreciate anything in life, you must pause and slow down.
- There is a simple way to break addiction and distraction.
- Awareness can help heal our emotional trauma.
- Enlightened people can bring a significant impact on the world.
Listen to this episode to gain a greater understanding of what it means to be awakened and enlightened.
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Hey folks. Welcome back to the Unbeatable Mind podcast. My name is Mark Divine, your host.
Super-excited to have you here today. I do not take it lightly. I know your time is very precious and you have a billion things vying for your attention. The fact that you’re listening to the Unbeatable Mind podcast is simply amazing.
And I’m very humbled. So thank you very much.
And we won’t waste your time. Our guest today is going to be fascinating. You’re going to want to stop your car or wait till you get home to listen to this.
We have a Haemin Sunim, a Buddhist monk from South Korea. He’s one of the most influential monks in the world. I’m going to give a little bit more detail on him in a second.
Before I introduce him, I want to talk about how you’re doing with Covid and this economic crisis. I mean, wow, it’s going on forever and who knew, right? That we’d be five to six months into this and still dealing with it. And with no end in sight.
So I know everyone’s really struggling. All I can say is stay focused on your health and maintain a positive mental attitude every day. So that means you need to practice that. If you’re not training, the world’s training you. And with all the negativity in the world, then you’re being trained negatively.
So turn off the TV, get off social media and feed the courage wolf – develop a positive mantra, develop a gratitude practice, do something nice for someone. And be a positive force in the world.
And that has such a profound impact on your own health and sense of well-being and contentment. In spite of what’s going on around you with Covid and all that chaos.
So if you want to thrive in the world then do like Gandhi said and “be the change you want to see.” That’s my best advice for you today. And if you do have someone who’s suffering or sick, then my heart goes out to you and we’ll send you some healing energy here.
Okay. So Haemin Sunim – I’m super excited… I’ve been a Zen practitioner in some form since I was 21 years old. Haemin is a South Korean. He was educated at Berkeley, Harvard and Princeton – what a pedigree there… he became a Buddhist monk after his academic work.
He’s got a book – unbelievably it sold over four million copies – translated into 35 different languages titled “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.”
He did his formal monastic training after graduate school like I mentioned at the… I think I’m saying this right… Haein monastery – you can correct me if I’m wrong – does that sound right? Yeah, thumbs up?
And he’s founded The School for Broken Hearts to help people heal who are suffering from some sort of major loss. So how cool is that?
Haemin, thanks for joining me today all the way from South Korea. I appreciate you for doing that, and I appreciate you for your work. How are you sir?
Haemin: Very good, very good. Thank you for having me.
Mark: Oh man, it’s my honor. It’s not often I get to speak to a legitimate Buddhist monk – I get a ton of academics, and mindfulness teachers. And yogi’s and navy seals… but what an honor to speak to an actual practicing monk.
Let me kind of just start – like I always do with my guests – is get a sense for what your early childhood influences were and kind of what was your path leading up to your current passion right now? Which is Buddhism and teaching and spreading the word.
Haemin: When I was young, I remember asking this question to myself. Why was I born into this world? What was the purpose? Somebody described this feeling as though you’ve been thrown into this world, without any kind of guidance.
So I was asking that question – especially during the teenage years – like, when I was a high school student. So I would go to bookstores and read a whole bunch of books about different philosophies and religions to solve this problem.
That is why was I born? What’s the purpose?
And so while I was searching through these big questions that I had, I came across this book called – it’s a Jiddu Krishnamurti book – he said that the true revolution has to come from within. And then the true freedom is freedom from the known.
And to me that was such a mystical sentence that I tried to understand what do you mean “the true revolution has to come from within.”
Mark: It’s almost like a Koan, isn’t it?
Haemin: Right, right, right. It was.
And also, I tried to understand – what does he mean by “true freedom is the freedom from the known.” So in order to solve this problem, I went ahead and studied religion and philosophy in my undergraduate and graduate program…
Mark: Were you brought up – by the way – in South Korea? And then immigrated as a student to Berkeley?
Haemin: Yes, exactly. Yes. So I came to the united states when I was 18. And then I studied different types of religious texts and spiritual practices.
And then – at that time – I was living in a Zen center. Rather than living in a student dormitory. Because I couldn’t get used to all the parties and all the things. So I just loved living in Zen center.
So the head monk there asked me “oh, would you like to be a monk?”
And I thought about it. Maybe rather than just keep studying, maybe I should jump in and have a true experience for myself. So that’s when I decided to become a monk. And then start meditating and start receiving formal education. And then really dive into the world of spirituality.
And then after receiving all this training and all that, I was able to teach American university.
But while I was being a professor for a while – I wasn’t very happy, to be honest. Because I felt like I could make much deeper and more profound impact to the world, to the people… rather than talking about what happened to Chinese Buddhists 1000 years ago in a very small community. (laughing) During the Song dynasty or something.
So I changed my mind. And so I started “maybe I should start non-profit organizations.”
And that’s what I did. So I went back to Seoul, South Korea. And started this school called “School For Broken Heart.” And we’ve been operating for the last five years.
Haemin: And then while I was doing that, I started having offline meetings. And then from the meetings I was able to write the book – “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.”
Mark: Yeah, what a great title.
Haemin: Yeah, thank you. So the book became a huge bestseller in South Korea, and then beyond.
Mark: I want to get into that. But just some more of the kind of temporal things first.
What did you study at Harvard and Princeton? And why did you go to those organizations? It sounds like at Berkeley you were already pretty clear that you wanted to go down the monk path.
Haemin: It took me a while for me to actually convince myself that I wanted to actually become a monk. So I continued academic study.
Also, to be honest, they gave me a full scholarship…
Mark: (laughing) Oh, it’s hard to say no to that, isn’t it?
Haemin: (laughing) Yes, yes. Yeah. All the living expenses and everything was paid. And then it also gave me opportunity to live in China for two years, and Japan for a year.
So I couldn’t say no. And also it gave me a very critical and analytical skill. Ability to actually discern what is true and what is not.
Mark: Yeah I think that’s something that’s missing with a lot of practitioners and monks who just spend their time in a monastery. , they’ve got a really deep connection to the source of that teaching, but then they’re not able to necessarily translate it well to the western mind.
So it sounds like you’ve got that ability through your academic education. And probably teaching as well. So that’s neat.
So, this idea of slowing down – man, it sure is something that people need to learn. Where do we start? Like what does it mean to you to slow down? And what can you see when you slow down? Let’s just start there.
Haemin: Yeah, I think if you want to appreciate anything in this life, you have to pause and slow down. The beauty of life – everything that you are looking for – it might be right in front of you, ?
The difference is whether you have courage or a habit to stop and appreciate what’s in front of you.
So I remember in a Buddhist monastery as we are eating – having a meal – we have to eat in silence. When I was first doing it, it was very awkward. Because I was so used to having conversations with other people.
But as I was eating in silence, I was able to actually taste every single ingredient. It tasted actually a lot better. And I began to truly appreciate all the hard work that people put in to create that meal.
And I think it can be with anything. Let’s say music. If you really pay attention to music – whatever that music that you listen to – it can become very interesting. And becomes magical and marvelous.
So I think the point is whether we can pay attention to whatever that’s happening in front of us. And in order to do that we need to slow down.
Mark: Right. Well moving fast and maintaining constant distraction and doing things – doing this seems to be an addiction – especially for westerners. So if we’re addicted to something, it’s not easy to simply become unaddicted to it by reading a book. Or by just having the intention of slowing down.
So what do you recommend that someone who’s listening does to break the addiction of constant busy-ness and distraction? So they can start the process of slowing down?
Haemin: Well, I think one of the easy ways to do it, is… some people say “I’m busy all the time. I cannot focus. I can’t concentrate…”
Well, then, if you have 15 seconds, see if you can smile. When you smile actually it slows down naturally all your facial muscles. All becomes relaxed, and then you find connections to the person in front of you as you smile.
And then if you have one minute take a deep breath. Having this natural healing substance the universe is giving us. If you can just appreciate and nurture yourself, then you become very happy and alive.
And then if you have 20 minutes, then go outside and walk. Especially if you can walk in nature – it’s so beautiful. We are so caught in our own thinking. We think about something and worry about something and then what happens is that whatever that you think about, it feels like that’s the entire world. Because that’s all you focus on.
So if you are stepping outside and walk around. Looking at beautiful trees, a lake or a mountain and whatever…
Then what happens is, the focus of your mind shifts – so you begin to think less about what have been bothering you. And now you start appreciating what’s in front of you.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Yeah, so you become more of an observer as opposed to bound up in whatever story or whatever thought process was going on.
Yeah, that’s beautiful. Because nature can automatically shift you from content, into what I call context. Which is more of a peripheral relaxed state of reception. And that automatically – like you said – slows you down, doesn’t it?
Interesting. This is something that intrigues me, but I’d love to hear your definition of awakening. What does it mean if someone… because that’s all kind of the spiritual community rage in the west… waking up? What does that mean to you?
Haemin: Well I actually saw one of your YouTube videos, when you talked about the awakened mind. I think it was brilliant, actually.
I think it is true. We have to shift. Not so much absorbed in the contents itself and identify with the contents.
Instead, you should step out and see if you can become a witness. You can witness everything as it is. And then what happens is you don’t have to be so attached to whatever the emotion, whatever the thoughts that’s happening in front of you. And then you also begin to see that all those thoughts, all those emotions, it is impermanent. It arises out of nowhere and it disappears without me controlling it.
Mark: Right. And I’m still there as it arises and falls and goes away. And I’m still there…
Haemin: Absolutely. Absolutely. Oftentimes people mistakenly believe that whatever they’re thinking is them. Their identity and then their thoughts – they feel like it’s so entangled.
However, if you observe, what happens is the thought disappears. If the thought was really you, then you also have to disappear along with the thoughts. But you don’t.
There is this ever-present witness always there, knowing. However when there’s no content, it feels as though it is silence. It feels as though it is absolute peace.
However, whenever contents or thought arises, then the same mind has this ability to know. So this knowing quality just immediately kicks in, without any kind of effort.
So to awaken, is to recognize the witnessing aspect of your “self” – capital “S” Self – and to differentiate that from the thinking version or little “s” self. Is that one way of articulating it?
Haemin: Yeah, I would say that that is the first step.
Mark: That’s right, okay. So we’re heading in the right direction. Because that’s still from the level of mind, right? That’s still like thinking about my thinking, but I’m thinking about my thoughts from the perspective of metacognitive witnessing.
Haemin: Right, right, right.
Mark: Which is step one.
Haemin: But then step two, I would say that that you turn around and see what is there.
Mark: Right which is the absolute universal…
Haemin: Right, rather than trying to only become quiet periodically. And then you get absorbed in different thoughts… you know now that thoughts are just passing clouds…
Mark: I love that metaphor. Yeah, I use it all the time…
Haemin: Yeah, it comes and goes and then you want to make the 180-degree U-turn. And see what is there… witnessing. In other words you want to become mindful of that which is mindful…
Mark: Like that comment that the Tibetans use of awareness revealing itself to itself through itself.
Haemin: Right, right, right. So even though when I explain it in this way it sounds complicated – but it’s not complicated at all – we already know what awareness is, right? Awareness is formless, right?
Mark: That’s such a hard concept for a western mind to quote “wrap their head around.” Because we’re so rooted in form. In thought form and emotional form – in the form of the body. And in thinking that everything is form.
Without recognizing that the form has to come from somewhere, right? It has to evolve out of somewhere, and it has to go back to somewhere. And that somewhere is what we’re looking for. And I think it’s possible to look too hard for it.
I think that’s how a lot of people get stuck – that’s how I’ve gotten stuck… I got stuck for years trying to look too hard… I efforted my way to try to find that awakened state. And you’re not gonna do it with a lot of effort… you gotta surrender, right? You gotta let go…
Haemin: Right, right. It’s like trying to get to New York city, while you are in New York city.
Mark: (laughing) Not recognizing you’re there already. Right.
Haemin: Right, exactly. It’s your essential nature. You can never lose it. You are already it.
It’s like the hand. Let’s imagine that my hands are trying to feel my hands. My left hand is wants to know the left hand. Then if the left hand starts just start making all kinds of effort. By grabbing, by trying to touch different… it actually is making it harder. If you just stay still and then feel what is already there, then you can actually feel what the left hand feels like.
Likewise the whole point of the meditation or spiritual practice, is to actually come to an absolute slow down – an absolute pause. And if you can just pause and see what is already there uh you begin to see this empty luminescence, awareness.
Let me just put it in a different way. Since you said that western cultures are is so obsessed with forms – it is true – but I think Asians are also obsessed with forms too.
Mark: Maybe it’s humanity at large.
Haemin: Yes, yes. But the thing is I am in this beautiful room and in this room I have so many nice forms, right? It can be my cup, it can be my book, or desk, right? There are many forms.
However what allows these forms to exist is empty space. So if we only focus on the form, then we actually miss the opportunity to appreciate what’s allowing all those forms to exist.
So the next step – what happens is as you become aware of your own awareness then you realize that all the things – including your thoughts and emotions and everything that you see and hear – actually it comes out of your own awareness.
So in other words there are different manifestations of awareness. And if you just actually go deeper, you begin to see that your thought is actually made of awareness.
Mark: Right, awareness is in everything because this is your perception of it – you can’t perceive it without awareness.
Haemin: Absolutely, absolutely. So you begin to see that the thoughts or emotions, they are not the problem at all. They are just manifestations.
Mark: They’re no different than a chair or a desk. They are just things that exist in temporary form. Interesting.
Haemin: Absolutely. And the thing is since it is self-manifestations of its own nature, its own awareness field therefore as long as you do not judge it. As long as you do not attach to them, you begin to see that they are just beautiful manifestations.
Mark: Right and so enjoy them. Don’t be attached to them, because they’ll be gone. And you could say that of everything, including your body and your physical life on this this plane.
Haemin: The third one maybe I can just add if you let me…
Mark: Please do. This is fascinating.
Haemin: Yeah and while you are having that vision of all these forms emerging out of awareness and then disappearing – in the meanwhile you are fully aware that nothing – literally nothing – no form can ever harm your awareness. Your awareness is unbreakable.
Because it’s like empty air. Empty space. What can you do to pollute the empty space? What can you do to damage the empty space? You cannot damage the empty space.
Mark: Right. Here’s a question that’s kind of interesting. This is really kind of speaking to like the difference between local awareness that you perceive and universal awareness and local awareness that I perceive – is the awareness of my awareness that I experience different than the awareness of awareness that you experience?
Haemin: I think there is just nothing but one awareness.
Mark: Right. So that’s how we’re the same. You and I are the same in that regard.
Haemin: Yes, yes.
Mark: Awareness is awareness.
Haemin: Yeah, like imagine that you are having a dream at night, and there’s always you in your dream, there is always you.
Mark: Yeah. I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream where I wasn’t in it. That’s interesting.
Haemin: Yeah isn’t that interesting? And there’s always you and there are always other characters. It can be your loved one, it can be your dog. It can be many different characters there, right?
And then while you are dreaming, you think that different characters in your dreams are having uh independent local awareness. However when you are having a lucid dream – when you are aware that it is just dreaming – then you realize that actually uh there is nothing but one awareness that’s manifesting into different characters. They are all borrowing the same one awareness to have different thoughts, probably.
However it is the made of the one awareness made out of one awareness.
Enlightenment and Awakening
Mark: So wow. Well, I’ve got so many questions but let me go with this one. Is enlightenment and awakening the same thing to you? Or is enlightenment something different?
Haemin: Well, you can be awakened to your true nature in Buddhism. True nature here means you are uh unbreakable…
Mark: 30:02 what we’ve been talking about, yeah. That one universal awareness, consciousness… yeah. Right. You can be awakened to that.
Haemin: And then the enlightenment can be described as somebody who is always abiding in that awareness.
Mark: Right, as a permanent stage of development. They’re not they’re not flowing back and forth… one moment they’re caught up in form and the next moment they’re back in enlightenment – they’re always enlightened – they’re always awakened. Interesting.
Haemin: And so from that perspective this person’s behavior also reflects in accordance with the enlightenment. So his behavior and what is awakened too they are in complete alliance.
Like, what I’m trying to say here is that there are so many so-called enlightened masters in this world whose behavior doesn’t actually match with what they’re saying.
Mark: Yeah, I agree with that.
Haemin: I think it takes a long time to actually cultivate and to make sure what you are preaching and how you are behaving actually match.
Mark: I agree with that. And I think that’s a misperception that awakening and enlightenment are the same in a lot of people. And also the other thing I wanted to ask you about is even if someone is permanently enlightened – are they still afflicted by emotional shadow and trauma? Or does that naturally get burned off through the enlightenment process? Speaks to how people show up in their behaviors, right? Like you just said.
Haemin: Yeah. I think the sadness or pain – all this negative emotion it can arise. Because I think it’s natural. We as a human being, it will naturally come out.
I remember in DT Suzuki, one of the great teachers, Zen master… he said that when his father or mother passed away and some somebody asked him “how are you? Are you all right?”
And then he said, “I’m sad.” And then somebody asked him “how can you be sad? You are supposed to be awakened master. How can you be sad?”
And then he said “well, my sadness does not have a root.”
Mark: Interesting, yeah.
Haemin: It is peripheral. It is impermanent. He is fully aware this emotion is arising and that it will soon disappear.
Mark: Right, and he’s not attached to it, right?
Haemin: Right, right, right.
Mark: The yogis from India – the Indian sages – talk about multiple stages of the enlightened mind. Different stages of samadhi and also great powers that can accrue. Is that something that is part of your tradition? Or is that strictly something that the Indian yogis talk about?
Haemin: Right, right. There’s a little bit of slight cultural difference between Indo-Tibetan traditions and Sino like Japanese and Korean traditions. That is Chinese and Japanese, Korean are so-called Mahayana tradition. They tend to have more direct and more intuitive sudden awakening.
Mark: Satori is the term, right? Sudden awakening.
Haemin: Right. As opposed to cultivating step-by-step path. I do however believe that a step-by-step approach is actually very helpful. Especially beginners. Without knowing the path where you’re going, it’s difficult to start.
But as you walk on the path, you will realize that the path that you walk on is a pathless path.
Mark: Yes. I get that. That’s cool.
Well I think that to your point, of course, Americans want to go from zero to hero immediately. Or just take the red pill and be enlightened. And if they have a satori experience that’s impermanent, then they could mistake that for permanent.
And also, I think you could skip a few steps, right? For instance clearing up emotional trauma from childhood. And so you’ve seen that play out in some enlightened masters who… I remember hearing about one I think it was Tibetan master who used to get drunk and run around naked with his students.
(laughing) And it’s like “okay.” And you see people sleeping with their students. And all sorts of confused roles and stuff.
And it’s because they skipped a few steps, I think.
Haemin: Well, I think you are touching upon a really important issue here. And this is the same question that I’ve been grappling with. I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time, because I saw the same contradictions.
I’ve seen so many awakened teachers – even in Korean traditions – behave badly. They have problems with money, they have a problem with power… all kinds of things. I think it is because like you said, they haven’t actually cured their trauma. They didn’t do enough. They didn’t face their own shadow completely.
So because they haven’t incorporated shadow completely, they will still act out from the place of insecurity.
Mark: Yeah, that’s fascinating. Jon Kabat Zinn, the fellow who brought mindfulness to the united states wrote a book called “After Enlightenment, You Got To Take Out The Trash.”
Haemin: Right, there’s laundry to do.
Mark: Yeah, “You Got To Do The Laundry,” or something like that.
And so yeah, he’s speaking to that. And one of my yoga instructors – guy named Gary Kraftsow – came from a deep Indian lineage – used to say to us… excuse my language here, “but if you’re if you’re a jerk and you meditate for 20 years you’re going to be you could be a more focused jerk after twenty years.” (laughing)
And we were studying Patanjali’s yoga sutras, and he said you know what? This whole text really is depth psychology, but most people don’t understand it as that. Because the point with some of the steps that you could skip past, is to identify the negative reactionary patterns and conditioning of your childhood trauma. And to work on that. Just like you would work on it with a therapist.
Haemin: Right, right.
Mark: That’s fascinating. Does any of that emotional work exist in the Chan tradition – in your tradition?
Haemin: Not so much. That was the one of the main reasons why I started “school for broken hearts.” Because I realized that a lot of monastics, they had their own trauma, right? And then I’ve seen some of my monk friends, they are in a Zen monastery for 10, 20, 30 years – meditating many, many hours.
Then as I was talking to them, they clearly have issues… like, for example one of my friends’ issue with his father. So he would challenge anybody who resembled father… like, authority figure. So he always has a problem with the abbot, he always has a problem with the senior monks…
So I said “you don’t have to meditate. You just have to go start talking to your father. Try to understand him. Try to make peace with your father. This will be your spiritual practice, right?” So I completely agree with you.
Mark: Yeah, that’s been the bulk of my spiritual work in the past five years has been emotional. Because I recognized that no matter how much I meditated, or did yoga… or how much I was committed to my path, that was holding me back, right?
And if you don’t do that work, you get what they call a “spiritual bypass.” Where everything’s “happy/glad” up in your head, but you’re dropping little hand grenades in everybody else’s life around you.
Haemin: Right. Yeah, the explosiveness can be even more destructive, because you have all this yogic power…
Mark: Yeah, all the power of concentration and focus. Like really powerful.
Haemin: Right. So I think it’s important to ask yourself, how am I feeling? How does my body feel? And coming back to our body can not only help us to focus away from our own thoughts, but also to heal our own subconscious trauma. Because all those traumas are recorded in our own body.
Mark: That’s right.
You already mentioned a couple really interesting practices, like what’s the experience of my left hand. What are some other… I think most listeners are just confused about like how do I recognize awareness? Like I don’t get it. My mind is so used to thinking and to looking outward, how do I recognize awareness? What are some of the ways that you found that help people recognize awareness, so they can create a signpost and come back there again and again and again?
Haemin: Right like some people, they are so accustomed to identifying themselves with thinking mind so that they cannot think beyond their own thoughts.
But in that case, I always give this example – have you ever had this experience where you are about to cross a street, and then somehow for some reason, you kind of sense that car is coming? So at that moment, without knowing, your body just pull back. But you didn’t have a second to think about this. It just automatically – some intelligence within you is making you to step back. You see what I mean?
Mark: Some people say that’s intuition.
Haemin: Yeah, it can be intuition. In other words that which is intelligence comes out of silence. Your translucent awareness is silent. When it comes out, it can come out in the form of thoughts, but that is just one example. This super-intelligence that we all have within us is quiet, it’s peaceful. It is actually in this present moment.
Mark: Interesting. Here’s kind of a thought, question. Okay, so if pure awareness is silent, and ever present. And thoughts come and go and rising out of that silence, who’s creating the thoughts?
Haemin: There is no who. It is the self-creation…
Mark: So a thought just comes out of the formless by itself?
Haemin: Yes, yes. I mean we say that there is a cause and effect in this world. There are multiple causes which are causing the thought to arise and disappear.
But if you actually if you examine the cause – all these different cause – you realize that that cause in and of itself doesn’t have a self-identity. You didn’t cause that cause to arise.
Mark: Mm-hmm. Well I think, yes… I totally hear what you’re saying. And I understand that cause and effect is the linear form-mind wanting to create understanding about how things work. It’s mechanistic and it’s not accurate.
But in this eternal now moment – the sum total of all thoughts… past, future caused that individual thought to arise somehow. Kind of like the butterfly effect – if a breeze happens over here – it might be a billion different factors – a trillion, quadrillion different factors that cause the breeze to blow by my face right now. Is that accurate?
Mark: Yeah, but I would say whenever I meet Christians, I always talk about this example… that is – before the creation – if you read genesis – there was God alone right? There was only god existed – nothing else.
And if that is the case – there is only nothing but god – and somehow god has to create world then what can god use to create the world? What will be the material that he can use to create the world?
He or she has to use god himself.
Mark: Right. So yeah taking from himself to create aspects of himself that are that appear as an independent form, but are not really.
Haemin: Yeah and magically, temporally we also have this ability to forget that it is the self-creation, it’s the Divine nature of self-manifesting.
Like when you are playing chess like for example – have you ever played chess all by yourself?
Mark: Uh no. I have not. But that would be interesting.
Haemin: Yeah, yeah. So if you were to play chess – I play here and then I go around and then play from the other side – and then I come back and I play from this side, right?
But if you maintain this full awareness that it is just one person playing chess then it gets really boring.
Mark: (laughing) You’ve got no one to beat.
Haemin: Right. So what happens is you decide to forget it – decided to forget that it is one person.
Mark: Pretend there’s two people yeah.
Haemin: Yeah, yeah. And it’s because this play becomes much more interesting. As we forget.
Mark: So in that forgetfulness – is that the same as saying that we’re living a dream? And we’ve forgotten our true nature?
Haemin: Yes. In a sense that if we think that we exist independently and apart from everybody else. And separate from the universe… believing that I exist along the skin line – inside the skin line is me and outside the skin line is not me.
If you have that kind of thoughts then yes, this is a dream.
Mark: That’s fascinating, isn’t it?
What happens when we die? When the physical form dies?
Haemin: Um, to be honest, I do not know.
Mark: (laughing) Good answer. I think a lot of listeners just really gained their trust, right? Yeah, that’s a that’s a good one. You can surmise, and maybe you’ve had some teachers say it. So what do your teachers say?
Haemin: The thing is, our awareness is timeless. It doesn’t know its own… have you ever had this experience – as we are getting older, even though our body is getting older, you don’t feel like you are your age…
Mark: No. I feel like I’m 16, still.
Haemin: Exactly, exactly. It is because our awareness doesn’t have any time. It’s timeless. It never gets old…
Because of that… because it’s outside time everything that’s impermanent will disappear – it can be your memory, it can be your body, your emotion or thoughts… but your timeless awareness itself will never perish.
Mark: I’ve read a lot… I’m probably nowhere near to the level of you – but I’ve been just fascinated with every spiritual text, particularly from the yogic Tibetan tradition… although I did start in Zen – like I mentioned – and I read Suzuki and all that. And practiced Zen for many years.
But then I got turned onto yoga, and I’ve just devoured everything I could find. And one of the things that they say – or certain yogic masters say – is that when the body passes away, aspects of your mind remain connected to the awareness. And so there’s some sort of thread of not personality, but just that energetic state of myself continues to exist until it merges back with the one. Which could take thousands or millions of lifetimes.
Haemin: Okay, well here is the difference between indo-tibetan tradition, and sino-japanese, Korean… what they are saying is that it doesn’t need to take thousands of years.
Actually, if you come to really understand, fully realize you are already awakened. It’s not like you try to manufacture awakening or enlightenment. You just simply have to recognize what is there. In other words – in world tradition – especially world religious tradition – there are two kinds of tradition, one is the path of purification and another tradition is path of recognition.
This purification model, what they tell you is that you have to purify your negative karma…
Mark: That’s like the yogic path, right?
Haemin: Yeah, yeah. It’s going to take years and years, eons and eons to purify all of your negative karma. So that you can actually recognize your true nature.
However this sudden recognition model, what they are saying is you just simply have to recognize that you are already in New York city. You don’t have to… all you do is try to look for New York city, while you are in the city.
Mark: Mm-hmm. That’s really interesting.
How frequently do you observe or witness individuals in your tradition having a satori experience? Legitimate satori awakenings?
Haemin: Well, there’s no way of knowing.
Mark: (laughing) Well, there’s signposts, right? The way people show up and the language they use…
Haemin: Right, right. I mean, I think what’s happening is there are a number of excellent, excellent practitioners who have had awakening experience. But many of them decided not to talk about it. Or doesn’t have enough education to translate into mundane, everyday language.
Or some people actually do start giving the teachings on this very important topic – awakening. So there are many different kinds. However, I do not know exactly how many they are.
But the thing is I can think of plenty of people that I admire, and also spend a lot of time discussing different spiritual matters. There are plenty of wonderful people out there.
Mark: Yeah, yeah. I think so.
What effect do you think that enlightened beings have on humanity of itself?
Haemin: I think they bring a lot of positive… and they are the one who raise human consciousness vibration. Absolutely.
Mark: Yeah, one of my favorite authors – I wish I had met him before he passed away – is Dr David Hawkins – and he developed this scale of consciousness through using kinesiology testing to test consciousness. It’s really quite brilliant, actually.
And he made this claim that someone like an avatar – like Jesus or the Buddha – well, Buddha was fully enlightened, and Jesus was considered to be an avatar – kind of came in like that.
55:02 either way – in his scale, the individuals like that vibrate at a thousand – most of humanity is below 200. And below 200 is the level of all the energies of the like the seven deadly sins – shame and guilt and anger – and most people are operating in that. They can spike above that here and there, but generally their consciousness is operating below that.
So 85% of the human population is below 200 in his scale. But he said one avatar vibrating at a thousand can raise the conscious level of the entire humanity in the planet above 200. Which is positive. Which means it’s not going to destroy itself.
And he says that’s essentially why Jesus came, is to keep humanity from destroying itself and these individuals like Jesus and Buddha and others – historical figures like shiva and Krishna – were here to really pull humanity out of the dark ages of the kali yuga which is the yogic term for really, really dark ages, right?
Do you think that’s accurate? It sounds accurate to me. Like, I really resonated with that. And he said enlightenment was around 540 and that’s the vibrational level of universal love. When you click into universal love.
And then everything above that is really the highest stages of saints and sages.
Haemin: Right, right. I actually agree completely with what you just said. And one of the things that we can easily do, for anyone, to raise your vibration, is practicing gratitude. I think you mentioned it multiple times.
As you go to bed, try to think about three grateful things that just happened in your life. As you feel grateful, you realize that “oh, I am connected to other human beings. I’m connected to nature. I’m connected to my dogs – I am a connected being. I’m not isolated. I’m not a disconnected being.”
Just realizations of the fact that we are all connected, you are already having a mini-awakening, right there.
Mark: Right. So that brings up a point… like most people listening have no interest or certainly not the time to go join a monastery.
I’ve done four days at a time at the Zen mountain monastery in upstate New York, and I loved that as a kid, but I’ll never go live… at least not at this point, I’ll never go live in a monastery.
So what I’m left with is little micro-practices throughout the day. Like you said – the gratitude practice – I wake up with that. And I have my little breathing practice. And I have moments where I just pause and breathe.
And we teach this in our Unbeatable Mind training. And my premise is that these practices kind of just accrue, right? They just accrue positive energy. They accrue vibrational karma credits or something like that.
To the point where someday you’re just gonna get it. Like you’re just gonna have that satori experience, or you’re just gonna suddenly be like “yeah, something’s really different right now. I’m seeing the world very differently. I’m not attached to all the drama – all the stuff that’s going on in the world with Covid and the economic crisis – like for some reason, it’s not affecting me. And I’m actually thriving in it, right?
It’s because of all these micro-practices. Do you agree? Is that accurate?
Haemin: Oh yes, yes, yes. Absolutely. It adds up… it absolutely adds up, yeah.
So there are multiple different ways to practice. Like for example I go and bless people secretly…
M, beautiful, I love that. Like an anonymous blessing.
Haemin: Right, right. May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be peaceful, may you be always protected. So I will always go out and bless different people and sometimes I would bless animals and trees and plants and all that.
Makes me feel connected instantly, and I feel much better. Especially when you just had difficult emotions… when you had a very challenging conversation with your coworker, for example… if you can just go out and bless other people, this is a wonderful way to mitigate that negative emotion.
Mark: What would you say – like, we used to say in the seal teams that everyone wants to be a navy seal on a sunny day. But wait until it’s freezing cold, and you haven’t slept for six days and there’s bullets flying. Then you wonder “why the heck did I sign up for this?”
Most people today that I know are just struggling with the economic crisis, with finances – a lot of people struggling with their health – I mean over 50% of America is obese.
And when people are struggling, they’re in survival mode. I mean, they’re down in their first chakra. And their mind is locked on to survival.
And they say, “I don’t have the energy or the time, or even the motivation, to do what you’re telling me to do,” right? What do you say about that? How do we help someone who’s suffering that much? Or how do they help themselves? That’s a better question.
Haemin: Right. If you are in that situation, allow extra 30 minutes of sleep time. Having a longer sleep – 30 minutes more, it’s going to help you tremendously. It’s gonna give you more energy.
Especially nowadays… people end up going to bed very late, because they are looking at social media, checking internet…
But if you allow yourself like one hour or 30 minutes more time – 30 minutes early to go to bed then next morning, your body will be refreshed, your mind will be much clearer.
So, in other words if you cannot take care of your mind, see if you can take care of your body first. So for example in the midst of really busy day see if you can take 20 minutes of your lunch break, to go out and walk around just for yourself.
So if you have this intention to take care of myself, then what happens is, from that intention, it will help you to grow. It will help you to pull out of that very negative and difficult mindset.
I think also we have to remember that pain and suffering is there to awaken us.
Haemin: It is there to help us to grow. It is not there to just make you suffer. Actually this lifetime – I believe this is school – very short, temporary school… the whole universe has such a long… like, I don’t know how many ages and thousands and millions and billions of years.
And then we have a very short… in a moment, here. And in this time, we are receiving this training.
I love what you said in the beginning that is “if you are not training, you are trained by the world.” Or something like that?
Mark: Right, right. That’s true.
Haemin: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So why don’t you…? If you are suffering right now, this is a wake-up call. This is something that … I’m going to become more alert; I’m going to pull together whatever the resources I have right now, and then I am going to get better. I’m going to listen to a podcast like this one and then try to learn. And try to grow. And try to be better.
So from that intention, it will turn around.
Mark: I love that. Yeah, the intention to grow. To take responsibility for your own growth as opposed to be the victim.
And too many people wait until the total breakdown, right? And then they have a major illness or some major crisis. And then they wake up after that.
And I say don’t wait for that. Start now.
And then the Buddha basically said that “hey, first order of business – just understand that life is suffering. And we’re the cause of that suffering, because we’re grasping for something outside of ourselves. Instead of just surrendering to what is.
I’m paraphrasing Buddha, but that’s fascinating.
So someone’s driving along in their car right now listening to this and we’re nearing the end. What can someone do with all the amount of time they spend sitting in a car – driving.
And instead of listening… I mean listening to podcasts is good or listening to an audio book is good too. But is there something that they can do when they turn it off that could help turn them toward that awareness? Without driving the car off the road. (laughing)
Haemin: Well, if you want to do a spiritual practice, just notice that if your mind is relaxed what happens is that whatever thing is in front of you, it appears to you. It comes to you.
But if you identify yourself with your body it feels as though you are going into the world. You are moving into the world.
But if your mind is relaxed, it feels like everything you see is a movie.
Everything you see is just an image that is coming in. Just like a dream.
So notice that although everything is going very fast, notice that this unchanging, empty space of your awareness.
Okay, let me just take this… but maybe you can edit it out this part. Let me know, okay?
Mark: It’s still fascinating, and I like seeing that an enlightened or awakened master is human still, and trying to… because it’s hard to put words to these things, isn’t it? Language is limiting – especially English.
Haemin: Like as we are driving and when our mind becomes very quiet, you begin to notice that all the scenery is just passing by. And if you are not attached to any of the scenery, it just passed passes you by… it’s just beautiful. The momentary, beautiful sceneries passing you by.
And yet you notice that there is something within you unmoved – it’s not moving. It is quiet and observing the whole thing. The moving scenery.
So in the midst of this moving scenery, there is quiet and unmoving awareness.
Mark: I love that.
Haemin: And see if you can tap into that.
Mark: Yeah, that’s cool. When I was at the Zen mountain monastery, dido the monk offered us a few Koans. And one of them was a classic – something about “what was your original face before you were born?”
And that one is really, really cool, because it just gets you to decouple from your rational mind. Because there’s no rational answer to that. And just get a sense for who is the self that existed before and will exist after this life?
And then the other one that really… I actually ask myself this every morning in my morning ritual… and it’s really powerful for me. Is “how am I aware that I exist?”
And when I ask that question there’s an aspect of me, that just immediately turns on and says, “hello, that’s me.” And it’s not this thought here at all, it’s just like there’s this existence – that is just this aware, intelligent, energetic field that says “yeah, yeah, yeah. I exist.”
Haemin: Yeah, there’s alertness, instantly available… when you ask that question.
Mark: Right. Exactly. Fascinating.
Wow, well, I could talk to you all day long. Thank you so much for being here today. I mean, I know that you’ve got a lot going on. And good luck with your school for broken hearts.
Where can people learn about that program? Is it at your personal website?
Haemin: Yeah. HaeminSunim.com. And then you can check out my book “The Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down.” Or “Love For Imperfect Things.” Whichever you like.
Mark: Okay. And we’ll put the website in the show notes and is this school online or is it something in person that they go to?
Haemin: Well it’s an offline class usually, only in South Korea. But we are thinking of doing different kinds of programs… developing.
So just stay tuned. We will have more.
Mark: Yeah, well let me know if you need help with that, because it’s something we’ve done a lot of. And I’d be very happy to promote those as well.
And are you on social media with Facebook or Instagram and Twitter?
Haemin: Yes, yes. I do have an Instagram account. And I have a large number of followers on twitter…
Mark: Are those just under your name?
Haemin: Yes, yes.
Mark: Awesome. Well, I’ll end this with one of your quotes – “when everything around me is moving so fast, I stop and ask, ‘is it the world that’s busy, or is it my mind?’” I love it.
Haemin, thanks so much for your time. I really appreciate you. I know the listeners are going to really appreciate this podcast and the work that you’re doing.
I look forward to reading your book. I’m gonna go order it now.
And let us know if we can help out in any way.
Haemin: Okay, thank you so much.
Mark: Yeah, you’re welcome. Thank you very much.
All right folks. Wow. Now you’re going to want to listen to this podcast several times. So profound, yet so simple, right? Profound and simple. And the world needs all of us to move toward that awakened awareness, so that we can bring more compassion and gratitude in the world. And joy.
And move away from all the negativity and chaos, right? Which is creating even more suffering. So let’s be part of the solution, and help humanity evolve.
On that note – Hooyah this is the Mark Divine, your host of the Unbeatable Mind podcast. See you next time.