Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

A Visit to AHYMSIN Korea

by Dr. Stephen Parker (Stoma)

During early May 2015, Swami Ritavan, Ashutosh and Stoma again visited the Korean AHYMSIN family for a variety of events.

After arrival we went, as usual, to the Toji Cultural Center outside of Wonju in northern South Korea. The Toji Center was founded by the author of the epic novel of modern Korea entitled Toji, whom we met, not long before her passing, in 2006.  We used to watch her working in her garden next door, full of large brown clay jars of fermenting soy bean paste, soy sauce and kimchee. The Toji Center is a retreat and event center for holding conferences and where artists and writers can stay and work. This is always the setting for our Teacher Training events.

Over the weekend of 1-3 May we held a seminar which was also open to the public with a day of silence on Sunday the 3rd modeled on the morning practice at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama.

In addition to lectures, asana classes and practice teaching opportunities, Swami Ritavan and Stoma also initiated 10 students with mantras.

We were joined on the faculty of the seminar by Dr. Mikyung Kim, a professor of yoga studies and 600 hour TTP graduate, lecturing on Atma-tattva-avalokanam and Dr. Jeon Won Lee, an early member of The Meditation Center community in Minneapolis, MN, USA, who moved back to Korea after earning his doctorate in mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. Dr. Lee lectured on Pratyahara in the Yoga sutras.

These are always wonderful occasions because we are often joined by students from previous TTP classes and Korean students who have been associated with us over the years. So it is always a very warm homecoming. In the closing session there was an especially heartfelt singing of the Korean national song “Arirang,” remembering those who gave their lives in the Korean War and those in our Korean family who have passed away, especially our beloved teacher Maya, Margo Balog.

From Wonju we moved on to a very interesting five star healing spa in the mountains about 1 hour from Wonju by car. Healience, as it is called, specializes in providing a relaxing atmosphere for the healing of serious illness or just for de-stressing from modern life. Mobile phones are not allowed and access to wi-fi is limited to a space in the office that has restricted hours. It is very well designed with an array of saunas, hot tubs, exercise facilities, walking trails and a wonderful yurt that is set up as a yoga studio and meditation space. In addition, it provides a Korean spa cuisine menu on a par with Rancho La Puerta in Tecata, Mexico, and like the Ranch, grows most of its own fruits and vegetables in ample organic gardens.

We had been invited to Healience by an employee there who is a student of Dr. Kim. Ashutosh provided a sampling of hatha yoga in the Himalayan tradition and Stoma gave a lecture demonstration on meditation. The next day one of our Korean teachers and TTP faculty member, Mi Ryang Ki, did an asana class, and Swami Ritavan led a meditation session. These were very well received by the residents and may result in something of an on-going relationship in the future. In between these classes we were able to enjoy the facilities and walk the mountain trails where all the spring flowers were in bloom. (We had to be a little careful to avoid the poisonous snakes that also come out in the spring, one of which Stoma and Ashutosh encountered on a walking path.)

Unfortunately, our spa visit meant that we were unable to visit the Woljeonsa Temple east of Wonju, where we have been on two previous trips. We have struck up a particularly deep and loving friendship with the spiritual director, a monk named Hyeong-gi Sunim, who was a disciple of Korea’s great Zen master, Hanam, who left the body just after the War in 1951.  We hope to renew this friendship on our next visit.

We then rounded out our visit with several small seminars in Seoul.

We visited one of the studios of the Yoga Cultural Association of South Korea, founded by Mr. Jheong who has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Himalayan Tradition for many years. Stoma and Ashutosh provided a workshop there.

We also visited the Hamsa Yoga studio of Young Gi Kim where all three of us led an afternoon seminar. After the Hamsa Yoga workshop many of the Korean team and the Hamsa students attended a celebratory dinner at a nearby Italian bistro where we were greeted with a Fathers’ Day cake, partially in celebration of Korean Teachers’ Day which was celebrated the following Friday. It was a rice flour cake, filled with butternut squash and the beautiful pastry roses on the outside were done in sweetened bean paste rather than ordinary frosting. (Koreans are not really into intense sweet tastes.)

For anyone who is looking for a beautiful country to visit, we heartily recommend South Korea. The rebuilding of this country after the devastation of the war is a real tribute to the tenacity and resilience of the Korean people. While walking in the forested mountains of Woljeonsa on our last visit, Borim reminded us that every tree around us was planted by hand after the war. There was not so much as a single tree left in Korea after the war and so these forests that you see over the whole country were all planted by human hands and only now are reaching their full maturity.

Then Korean freeway system is arguably better than that in the U.S. The Korean Government has a wonderful temple stay program where you can visit a temple for 2 ½ days, learn the basic practices of Buddhist worship and the tea ceremony and live with the monks. There are many interesting folk traditions that are alive and well. Korean cuisine is light, very tasty, full of vegetables and doesn’t have an interest in sweet and rich the way that many Western cuisines do. Best of all, you have many friends who would love to see you there.

Editor’s Note:

Dr. and Mrs. Choe are instrumental in providing leadership for AHYMSIN Korea. Helen Choe (Hansa), is also a mantra initiator and a member of the AHYMSIN Spiritual Committee.



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