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May Wilkerson May Wilkerson

A Buddhist Monk’s Advice on Kicking Technology Addiction


Pomnyun Sunim, a Korean Buddhist monk, has some tips for preventing our devices from controlling our lives.

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Photo via Shutterstock

Photo via Shutterstock

Can’t go five minutes without checking your phone? Do you spend hours relentlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed and despairing over the last time you finished an actual book?

Of course you do. It’s 2014 and digital devices like iPads and smartphones have their hooks in many of us—billions of us, in fact. It can be hard to let go. But, like other potentially addictive substances, these devices have many benefits if we learn to use them responsibly.

Pomnyun Sunim, a Korean Buddhist monk and global humanitarian leader, agrees: ”iPads are great,” he says. ”[But] they’re only great if you can use them without becoming too attached or fixated. And as many of us know, this isn’t always an easy thing to do.”

Pomnyun doesn’t blame the devices themselves. ”There’s no value judgment,” he says. “The bad thing is if you’re obsessed over it every day.”

And, if we are (and let’s be honest, we are), he recommends a period of digital detox. ”It is good for us to be free from habit or addiction, because you become a slave to the object or technology,” he says. “It’s good to take a step back to examine yourself. Test yourself, and see how you react—from a third person—when you go without technology for a whole weekend. If you’re always curious and trying to hold yourself off, then you know that you’re addicted.”

He recommends detoxing from other addictions as well—like spending money. For one day, he suggests leaving the house with no cash or credit cards. In Buddhist doctrine, these collective dependencies are called “karma” and they can take control our lives. Becoming more aware of our behaviors, Pomnyun explains, can help us extricate ourselves from habits and find peace of mind.

“Addiction is something natural that happens to the brain when we do something repeatedly,” he says. “That cognitive habit—and the whole scheme of cognitive habits—is called karma. That karma becomes your master. So it’s that karma, or group of habits, that is leading you. So it’s very important to practice freeing yourself from that karma.”