Dahnhak and "brainwashing"

November 2002
Written by a former member

I wanted to write my story because it was stories and comments from this web site that actually saved me. I doubted my instincts that made me feel uncomfortable, and I started to wonder if I was imagining it all. The other dahnhak members seemed to be fine about everything that was going on and I wondered if I was too quick to jump the gun in making judgments and opinions.

I was feeling very sad that I was questioning Dahnhak in this way. I really wished that I were wrong. I decided to write my story so maybe it could help someone the way other people's stories have helped me. I also wanted to put this story in writing so I wouldn't forget why I stopped going. I was afraid that I might return. This would be a reminder.

The week after Shim Sung training, I wavered back and forth on my opinions about Dahnhak, even after I read these stories. Although I was glad that other people felt the same way and made me realize that I might not have been imagining things, I also tried to be open-minded about it all. I wanted to know the other side of the story.

I seriously considered the cultural differences and the language barriers. I corresponded with a Dahnhak instructor who explained to me everything I did not understand that week immediately following Shim Sung training. But then again, they will always have an explanation for everything.

I wavered though, and later almost wanted to write to this web site and say that Dahnhak wasn't really like the way it was described. I wanted to say that it was all a misunderstanding. That it was a cultural difference. I also thought about how many incredibly intelligent and well-educated people are members of Dahnhak and I questioned my opposing position.

I have a doctorate and am in the health profession. I am not saying this to tout my credentials in any way. I just wanted to say that it's not the uneducated that question Dahnhak. Intelligence in the sense of being educated has nothing to do with anything in this case.

People have explained to me that Dahnhak is good for the mind and body. I agree that it can be beneficial for the mind and body (as yoga, tai-chi, etc is known to be) and the exercises that we did in regular classes were helpful. That's where they drew us in. They provide great classes that prove to be beneficial and consequently, are enjoyed by almost all. You will begin to believe in the program and be grateful to it for making you feel so good.

There was a time when I was very glad that it was spreading around the world as it was. I wanted to be able to have access to a Dahn Center at all times. However, after a while, there is no avoiding going to the workshops and sessions on the weekends due to the underhanded pressure. Their mission is to get 100 million "new humans" in ten years to reach a world of peace, love and harmony.

I like the mission of love, peace, etc. Did you notice all religions also have the same mission? Everyone wants world peace, even non-religious persons. It's a general goal that would appeal to most everyone.

However, the part I don't agree with is how they want to get us there, through what I see as brainwashing or mind control. I am being absolutely serious. Perhaps everyone can't be brainwashed, although most people are susceptible to transference, like some psychiatrists and their patients.

I read about Dahnhak in "Conversations with God" books earlier this year. I got wrapped up in these books and regarded them with bible-status. It mentioned that Dahnhak is a very good way to get in touch with oneself, so to speak. I was really excited to find out that there were classes to apply this stuff.

I wanted to understand life and the purpose of it. I had been doing a lot of reading about spirituality and had an enormous interest in mind/body/spirit, especially in relation to medicine. I ended up going to Dahnhak's web page, which is www.healingsociety.org. I printed out the free online classes that I found on that Website. I did the exercises at home for several months before I decided to join a dahnhak center near my home.

Joining the center 3 months ago. Many may think that 3 months really isn't a long enough period of time to make judgments about a place.

I was really happy that there was a place like Dahnhak to do exactly what I was looking for. I really loved the regular classes, which were a combination of yoga, meditation, Tai chi, and Qi gong. I got involved very quickly because I had such an interest in it. I tried to make it to class as often as possible, even when I had a busy schedule. Although there were times I couldn't go in, I would try to do the exercises at home. My mind was always on it. Even though I often wasn't physically at the center, my mind started to revolve around it.

When I signed up, I got talked into enrolling for a year. I'm sort of a pushover, so I thought, hey, I think it'll be good for me anyway. I asked about the cancellation policy and the manager at the time sort of skirted the questioning, saying something like, "Yes, if you move, don't worry about it". I let it go.

I was talked into going to see a speaker, who was one of Grand Master Lee's former students. There was one thing that the speaker said that really disturbed me. He said, "You should spend all your time and money to attain this goal (to become enlightened), all your energy". I was annoyed. I mentioned this to my instructor at my center, and he said that he would have to hear the entire concept. That the sentence was only a part of a whole. OK, I said, although I was listening to the "whole" thing, and that is what the guy said. There was a translator so I thought that maybe it got lost in the translation somehow. I was looking for excuses.

Then came the camping trip. I took my best friend, who is currently a medical student, on this trip with me. She isn't a part of Dahnhak. We both got weird vibes. She felt a lot more uncomfortable than me, because I was willing to try it out and I really wanted to do my best in becoming "One with the energy." It turned out that she and I decided to skip out on all activities of the entire second day. I promised myself that I would never go on another retreat, little did I know that I couldn't avoid the pressure to go to other "outside-of-the-class" sessions.

Next Grand Master Lee was in town. It was a whopping $235 to hear this guy speak. Again, I was talked into going. I did read one of his books and half of his other book, they were OK, but I thought hearing him speak might be interesting. I was told that I was "very lucky" that I would have the chance to be able to hear him speak.

I felt a little uncomfortable at the lecture, but didn't really think anything of it. But when I went to get my book signed, I got weird vibes from Grand Master Lee. I thought maybe I was imagining it because all the masters seemed to worship him. But why? Why worship him? I thought I wasn't being open-minded enough to accept him the way everyone else seemed to.

I continued on with classes, which I liked very much. The final straw was the Shim Sung training that was held on a Saturday and Sunday ($345). That is what made me decide to stop going to Dahnhak completely.

First, it's how I was coerced into going. I told my instructor that I was not at all interested in going. It seemed to be too much for me (all that self-discovery stuff). Second, I had a very important appointment that Sunday with someone. I was very excited about that particular appointment, which took me months to get.

Well, my instructor called me up at work 2 days before the weekend. He said that he needed to tell me something. He wanted me to go to the center that evening (it was a Thursday). I asked him if it could wait until the next day. He said he really needed to tell me something. So I said, OK, I'll be there.

I went there that evening and he told me that he had a vision of me advancing towards enlightenment if I went that weekend [to Shim Sung]. He guaranteed it, if I did my absolute best. (Yeah, brainwashing does require you to give your full self and trust). He saw (in his vision) that I "jumped up a lot" in terms of energy levels and spirituality that coming weekend at Shim Sung, if I did my 100%. I told him that I had plans, but he convinced me that Shim Sung was more important.

So I went, canceling my important plans that had to do with a possible future career. I must have been possessed to cancel that appointment and go that weekend, but I wanted to believe him. After the training, I started to wonder if my instructor was pushed to have a certain number of people from his center to attend this training, since there were only 2 from our center who were going. Is t hat why he called me about his vision of me advancing spiritually that weekend? It seems like the masters would manipulate things through the use of visions.

Shim Sung was one of the weirdest experiences of my life. But I promised to do my 100%. My instructor had become a good friend and I confided in him my life problems. Don't ask me why I did that, or how he got me to do it. He's a pro. He has such an understanding and soothing voice and mannerism. It makes a person feel so comfortable. He gained my trust, although I only knew him for a brief period of time.

Shim Sung training was a process of hours and hours of emotionally draining exercises. This included hours of "sharing" exercises. It was a very emotional weekend for me and I came out of it in a trance. By the time I got home, I had no feelings. I tried hard to shake off the strange feeling of being in a dream state and tried to carry on a normal conversation with my fiancé. I told him everything was fine. The weekend was fun and it was okay.

My fiancée and my mother had suspicions about Dahnhak, especially because of the money spent and how I told them about my discomfort at the other weekend sessions/retreat. But I told him not to worry about me and went to bed.

The next day, I felt really strange. Something just felt very wrong. I kept saying to myself "something is wrong, something is very wrong," but had no idea why I felt that way. I just had this awful gut feeling. Something felt really off.

As the day progressed, I started to feel really upset and scared. I got a really bad feeling. After some thought, I considered the possibility that Dahnhak was some sort of "cult," although it didn't make sense to me.

How could an organization that promoted peace and love as their ultimate mission have any malicious intentions? And why? Then I thought about the money. Where in the world did it all go? In the past 3 months, I'd spent approximately $1,800 (including a one-year membership, which is NOT refundable).

Did they really think they could enlighten people in the 2 days of Shim Sung training? Maybe not enlighten, but perhaps "brainwash." It was hours and hours of brainwashing. Yes, I think they may have succeeded in a few of us, myself included.

Here's part of an email that I wrote to my best friend the week after the shim sung weekend:

I actually started to scare myself... I went through so many emotions and weird feelings this past week. I went from 'everything is fine' to doubt to anger to denial to understanding which lead back to denial and then to anger and then to confusion and then to 'I'm fine' then to acceptance and then to 'am I going insane?' finally to uncertainty (where I am right now). If you think the mumbo jumbo that I just wrote was confusing, imagine bouncing through all those emotions in a week. There was a point that I thought I was going insane (that scared the living daylights out of me!!!).

I'll just briefly (or I'll try to be brief) tell you why I felt that way... (Oh and I've been having dreams about it too!!). Before I forget, the coworker I asked (he came from Korea very recently) about Dahnhak said that he practiced it for 2 years in college. But he said that there are many branches of Dahn. He told me that he was able to feel a strong energy in his body... and he was able to feel strength, but he also warned me to be careful about which programs to choose. He warned me about a few things and I think that sort of snapped me out doubting my instincts).

I'll start with last Sunday night when I came back from the shim sung training. Yes, [my fiancé] has been worried for a while about me, and so has my mom. But I paid them no attention. I thought they were paranoid. Really, I didn't think they would understand. I remember when I walked into my apartment that Sunday night and [my fiancée] came to greet me, I felt like it was all a dream. I think I was actually sort of in a trance. I learned that many cults use meditation and the like to put people in altered states of consciousness (known as dissociation in psychiatry) to brainwash. I think I was very (!!!) dangerously close to being completely brainwashed. It was like a type of hypnosis. And I was trapped this weekend geographically. Participation was mandatory (yes, one would wonder, how could anyone make you do anything? But it was done!)

Going back to the evening that I got home from shim sung, I felt really strange and I tried really hard to shake it off. Things seemed trivial to me. It's like being drunk or on drugs, but you know you didn't take any of it... you know it's not from lack of sleep and it's not from food deprivation (although many of us were hungry during most of the program). It was induced some other way. And everything felt fine. Like when you're drunk or buzzed, you just feel mellow and dandy. But my mind was sort of questioning this weird feeling and I tried so hard to come back to reality. I told [my fiancée] that everything was fine, "don't worry about me", I said. But Monday, it just hit me. Something just felt wrong. I was not in the dream state anymore, but I felt fear... I was really scared. Well, I emailed Joe* (one of the cool masters) and maybe I shouldn't have, but I needed to make sense of what I was feeling and fast... before I thought I was gonna lose it. I couldn't talk to my mom or [my fiancé] about it at that point because they already had very strong opinions against it. It turned out that Joe* became like a confidante last week and we exchanged very verbose emails back and forth, back and forth. And my opinions started to shift again. But while I was getting positive explanations of what I experienced, I continued to look up mind control, etc on the Internet.... I needed that balance. I started to agree with Joe* that this was all a misunderstanding due to cultural differences. I then decided that I was being unfair, jumping the gun and making judgments like I did. Joe* had every explanation... and it actually made sense. I was trying to be open-minded. But then I found out that cults often hook you in by gaining your trust. They become your friends and provide security.

I read about American POWs who were brainwashed during the Korean war who, when released, decided that they did not want to leave... and the scary part is that I now can understand that well. I never realized how powerful it could be and very dangerous. But is it really dangerous to promote "we are all One and all part of the cosmic energy"? It isn't promoting anger. Why is it that they would want to brainwash people to be in bliss? They are not violent people so why be concerned? However, it does all go back to the money issue. I won't tell you how much I spent since I joined... and it wasn't just this weekend. If it is actually being funneled back to grand master lee, I will have to commend him for his genius.

I was thinking that they could have told me anything that weekend... and I think I might have believed it.... they (dahnhakers) frowned upon competition... so many weird things happened... I can't even explain it all. Let's just say that if the retreat were one day longer, I would have been a different person. And it scares me so much. I think they did succeed in brainwashing me in some sense because I am still wavering back and forth, wondering if I am actually wrong.

Anyway, going back to how brainwashing (mind control is done), I think I checked off everything on the list of the brainwashing protocol... it all happened that weekend. They break you down (often stirring up great emotions) and build you back up. Supposedly they often say that there will be a birth of a new person in you (a rebirth, so to speak) and exactly that was done. They said to us on Saturday night, "this will be the last day of your old self... say good-bye to your old self". Don't tell me why that didn't strike me as weird at the time. In fact they actually convinced me to some point that it was exciting... I will tell you more about it when I see you. But I'm okay. Sometimes I feel absolutely fine and other times, I think I'm losing my marbles. I feel like a recovering alcoholic. Or maybe it's likened to a feeling of breaking up with someone. It's really weird.

P.S.: (a few days later): I'm forgetting everything now, I pretty much blocked it from my mind to keep from going crazy. Things are getting better. I might not even want to talk about it when I see you, It was too weird and thinking about it might make me go insane.

They are playing mind games and they are experts. Some masters may be just as brainwashed as I almost was. But the master at my center was manipulative and, damn, he was good. "You'll come back, you'll miss us," he said to me in his calm gentle voice. "I want to provide a home, a nest for the members," he said softly.

But what if we already have a home?

I will miss Dahnhak; he was right about that.

Looking back it seems like he demonstrated some psychological manipulation when he said, "You have too much doubt. Look at Lin, she is doing well& she has no doubt. You should be like that. Be like a baby. She is like a baby." Lin is 45 years old.

I started to question things. Okay, he knows I'm competitive (I confessed that very emotionally during Shim Sung) and he later threw it in my face (albeit in his sly manner), playing on things that I told him. He told me I was confused, but never abandoning that gentle soothing voice of his. He never lost his patience, but pushed me subliminally with his soothing gentle voice.

I had confided in him things that bothered me. For the Chakra training, we wrote down what would prevent us from completely being happy. He played on everything that was within my list.

At Shim Sung we also had to write why we were there. Again, everything you're looking for, they will be sure to provide. To make you want to believe. They take your hope and make it real.

It's like they brainwash you into thinking everything is perfect. I mean, why wouldn't it be if you are me and I am you? Being One with the Cosmic Energy in this way can cost you your identity and individuality.

According to Grand Master Lee, one of the greatest preconceptions is the desire to be recognized. Yes, I think that was sufficiently stressed and drilled into my psyche. But then how come Grand Master Lee seems to want to be recognized? Oh, I'm sorry, I am having too much doubt and having too much negative energy right now.

That week immediately following Shim Sung, I was scared. Scared at one point because I couldn't feel. I wanted to feel something, anger, jealousy, anything. I had no feelings and that scared me. I could have been told that I would die the next day and I still would have no feelings. I would accept everything. It was a weird and scary feeling.

I expressed my concern about Shim Sung to my instructor and he tried to convince me that it was just training and the masters didn't mean what they said. But I'm sorry it was just like brainwashing. And there is no explaining that.

Is that why they made us promise not to tell anyone anything that went on that weekend?

Is it because someone who wasn't brainwashed might actually figure out what the hell was going on? If I hadn't held back, if I didn't have some doubt, if I had given myself completely and absolutely, and if I didn't live with my fiancée to knock some sense into me, I assure you that I would not be here writing this. I would have been sucked in.

I didn't write this to hurt anyone or to defame anyone. I genuinely like the members and some of the masters. I believe that spirituality can help the world, but brainwashing is not the way to get there. I just wanted to share my side of the story and I hope this might help people who share similar gut feelings about Dahnhak. Follow your instincts. If you think something is not right.

Some questions for the members out there: Why do the instructors rotate?

They may say it's to help them grow and experience new things by broadening themselves and expanding their abilities, but could it be that Grand Master Lee doesn't want them to become too attached to places and people? Could it be that he wants them to be constantly on the move to keep them from being too comfortable and to keep their minds busy?

I think a lot of the masters are so brainwashed that they would do anything for Grand Master Lee. Dr. Seung Heun Lee is the creator and Grand Master of Dahn Hak and Brain Respiration. Did he really create this Dahn Hak principle? Or is it that he created THE WAY to achieve enlightenment through his own simple exercises, which seem like "brainwashing," in relation to Dahn? Ilchi Lee is his spiritual name, say good-bye to his old self!

To those who took Shim Sung, does that sound familiar?

My instructor kept telling me that I had to be like a baby. Babies have pure hearts, unconditional love, no doubt, and do not hesitate to say exactly what is on their minds - they do not hide any thoughts (did anyone else experience this?) At the time, it didn't even strike me as weird. I actually tried hard to regress in order to become like that. He also told me not to think, and that all answers should come from the soul. "You have too much doubt! Do not use your mind so much," he would always tell me. I believed him. I still do agree that I should listen to my heart, but I think it shouldn't always overrule the mind like he suggested it should.

Did the masters ever tell you that any weird feelings that we were experiencing were good? I suppose my trance state was a sign of enlightenment?

A friend in Dahnhak, whom I no longer keep in contact with, said that she was overwhelmed by all the readings and follow-up sessions required after these weekend sessions/workshops. Was it going to take over her life?

What about all those sharing exercises (Shim Sung) where you told all your deepest secrets to people you just met? There was such a pressure to share your stories with everyone. Why did we expose ourselves like that?

Why does everyone always clap after person shares something?

Indeed, not every member will become affected by the workshops like me. Many do carry on with their lives and pursue their dreams, but if they do attain that success, they will probably owe it to Dahnhak and pledge their allegiance to it.

I think my instructor spotted me as one who would drop everything to become one of them right away and he was right. I was not satisfied and not fulfilled with my life, and I was in the perfect vulnerable position where I could have been completely influenced by them.


Copyright © 2002 Rick Ross.

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