The ten-thousand-person strong peaceful appeal at the Appeal Office of the State Council in Beijing on April 25, 1999 pushed Falun Gong onto the international stage and made the entire world aware of Falun Gong. To me personally, "April 25" changed my whole life. Although it has been five years, many things are still vivid, as though they happened just a few days ago. I am recalling here my thought processes at the time of April 25 in memory of the incident, and also to help people understand Falun Gong.
1. After the initial shock, my curiosity arose
I was in the United States when the April 25th incident occurred. Although I have been in the U.S for many years studying and working, I still had a great deal of interest in Chinese affairs. When I heard the news report about April 25th, I was shocked, because I knew that Chinese society is extremely restrictive. With so many people appearing in Beijing to appeal, it would be unprecedented for the government to settle the matter in a peaceful, rational, and diplomatic manner.
Although I was quite familiar with qigong, it was the first time that I heard of Falun Gong. After the initial shock, I became extremely curious about Falun Gong, wanting to find out exactly what it is. I knew that since ancient times cultivators were never interested in politics; then why would Falun Gong practitioners who had nothing to do with politics go to Beijing to appeal?
Since I came to the United States, I was able to see or hear a lot of information that I could not see while in China. This, plus my experiences in the "Tiananmen Square Student Democracy Movement" in 1989 and other experiences in life made me very aware that if one wants to know the facts of something in China, one cannot listen only to the official statements. One needs to do a totally independent study and conduct an objective analysis while considering all aspects of the matter. So I tried to learn more through the Internet and newspapers about the proceedings of April 25 as well as the incident in Tianjin City where police arrested Falun Gong practitioners. (The causes and proceedings of April 25 are not what we intend to discuss here.) At this time, overseas Chinese media reported that Jiang Zemin called Zhu Rongji (former Chinese Premier who had a peaceful talk with Falun Gong practitioners on April 25, 1999) "Stupid" three times at a politburo meeting after "4.25." I thought to myself, why does Jiang hate Falun Gong so much? To look for the answer and truly understand Falun Gong, I decided to get a Falun Gong book, so I found a copy of Zhuan Falun. It turned out that my past experiences and my aptitude were both very helpful and at the same time, a hindrance, to my understanding of Falun Gong.
2. Studying qigong from a scientific point of view
I have been interested in natural phenomena and mysteries of the universe since I was very young, and wished to become a scientist to study them. I went to the physics department of Nankai University to study theoretical physics in 1981, around the time when qigong was a fad in China. Both the high-energy physics department of the Chinese National Science Institute and Tsinghua University conducted many experiments on qigong during my graduate student years. These experiments greatly interested me. Modern physics is not able to explain many phenomena found in qigong, and depending on an individual's own experiences, he either believes it or doesn't. I wanted to study these phenomena in a scientific manner. I knew that modern sciences were not perfect; some may even be seriously faulted. So I took an open mind toward qigong. When I encountered a phenomenon that I could not explain with modern science, I took a "need-more-study" approach.
Although my field was theoretical physics, I knew that physics has to be based on experiments. I believe that one cannot rely on his judgments or on his or other people's subjective opinions. So to know qigong one has to experiment. In the early days I studied many qigong books, and practiced qigong in person to experiment. I did indeed feel the presence of "qi" in my body. With pioneers in the field of physics such as Bernoulli and Galileo who devoted their lives to science as my inspiration, I was not afraid of trying anything. Furthermore, I was young and bold, and not attached to any preconceived notions.
Through studying and practicing qigong, I learned about the relationship between acupuncture points and energy channels as described in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which truly fascinated me. While I was in college, I pinched the nerves in my neck one night while I was sleeping. The next day I went to see a Chinese doctor in his 50s. The doctor applied acupuncture by sticking a few needles in me. Oddly enough, the places he stuck needles in were all far away from my neck, such as my legs and arms. He twisted the needles a few times and said I would be well in five minutes. Sure enough, five minutes later the pain in my neck was gone and I could turn my head freely again.
These experiences and knowledge plus studies in new fields such as biophysics strengthened even further my interest and determination to study qigong. I wanted to uncover the mystery of life, which is of course very attractive to any young graduate student. When I was about to graduate, I found a book from the school library describing the studies on energy channels by the western scientific community, which showed me that lots of studies had been done outside of China on the subject. Although one cannot see the energy channels in an autopsy, these studies lent convincing support to their existence. I still remember that in the book they described the work of a Japanese scientist who conducted electrical resistance and heat conduction measurements on energy channels, and the experiment by French scientists who tried to detect energy channels using isotopes.
When I was studying in the United States, I studied qigong books in my leisure time. When I was preparing my PhD thesis, I often went to the medical school library to look for books on energy channels. I came across studies on the human aura which showed a direct relationship exists between the human aura and the energy channels. I also came across studies on supernormal capabilities. The existence of these studies surprised me. Unlike in China, where politics and ideology interfere with everything, there are no political taboos on scientists' research topics. By reading these materials, it greatly increased my field of view and caused me to deliberate on many other scientific and philosophical issues.
I found that the philosophical implications of quantum mechanics and the Daoist theory of Taiji and yin-yang were harmonious with each other, which truly fascinated me. I often wondered how the Chinese Dao School could come up with such thoughts in an ancient environment, and I began to study Daoism in my leisure time. With increased knowledge and further understanding of the subject, I found that Daoism has a very deep inner content. With my own experience of practicing qigong and my familiarity with qigong phenomena, I realized that Daoism, quantum mechanics, energy channels, supernormal capabilities, and qigong are all somehow inherently related, and qigong is the key to uncovering the secret of this relationship. My final goal was to study life's true essence and its secrets from a physics point of view.
With this understanding, I began to pay special attentions to Dao School theories and cultivation methods. I also followed its instructions to practice, aside from studying it as a philosophical subject. But from reading books I discovered (at the time I was not that much interested in the Buddha school or Buddhism) that in the Dao School it usually is the master looking for a disciple rather than a disciple looking for a master. This caused me a long period of mild depression, worrying that in the United States it would be hopeless to find a good master.
After my graduation in 1994, I switched my field of studies to computer sciences because it was difficult to get a job in physics. In subsequent years my interests in qigong waned a bit because of my workload and my family, and also because of my inability to find a true master. The situation did not change until after "4.25," when I came across Falun Gong.
Looking back now, my years of study in theoretical physics and knowledge in qigong, energy channels, Daoism, and supernatural capabilities provided a good foundation for me to understand Falun Gong. On the other hand, my experiences and knowledge also formed a huge obstacle to my understanding of Falun Gong as well.
The first time I tried to read Zhuan Falun, I stopped midway because I felt uneasy finding that Falun Gong is a cultivation method of the Buddha school, since in my mind the Dao School was the best. In spite of the uneasiness, my desire to learn more about Falun Gong remained strong. A few weeks later, in May 1999, I finally made up my mind and decided to finish reading Zhuan Falun no matter what. Then I spent a whole night reading it and finished the book. When I read the section entitled "Whoever Practices Cultivation Will Attain Gong" in the eighth lecture, I was shocked. I knew that the Dao School says that "when the conscious soul dies, the true soul is born," but I never understood it. But this section disclosed all the inner secrets and the fatal flaws of all cultivation methods (including the Dao School). My impression after I finished Zhuan Falun the first time was that Falun Gong is an extremely advanced cultivation method.
At that time there already were negative campaigns against Falun Gong in China. I always went to look for related information and to see if I could verify the facts. Since I had read Zhuan Falun and knew that Falun Gong is a true cultivation method, it was very easy for me to find that what they said in those negative campaigns were all far from the truth. So when Jiang's regime began its suppression and all-out attack on Falun Gong on July 20, 1999, the smears that the government-supported media put out did not affect me much. As a matter of fact, the more one knows about Falun Gong, the easier it is to tell the propaganda lies and the more obvious it becomes that the persecution is groundless. That is why the government has burned up huge amounts of Falun Gong books since they began the suppression. They wanted to prevent people from learning about Falun Gong.
3. An interesting experience
I did not cultivate Falun Gong right after reading Zhuan Falun, but I did encounter some peculiar occurrences. I could not explain the reason why until sometime later.
I have loved to drink since I was very young and messed up my stomach from my binge drinking later on. The doctors inspected me with an internal scope and asked me not to drink any more, but I could not help myself. Zhuan Falun says that alcohol can make a person's main spirit lose consciousness. Although I did not practice, I believed that alcohol can confuse one's mind and cause one to do bad things, so I thought maybe I should quit drinking. I told my wife one day: "I have quit drinking." My wife just smiled. An interesting thing happened not long after.
I was doing software development for a company at the time and we had just finished a project. The whole team went to celebrate in a small restaurant. As usual, I asked for a beer. When the waitress brought me the beer, it suddenly occurred to me that I was going to quit drinking. I decided that I should keep my promise so I told the waitress to bring me a glass of water instead. From then on, I never thought of drinking again.
Later on when I began practicing Falun Gong, I realized that this was the result of my proper attitude toward Falun Gong after reading Zhuan Falun. In cultivation language, it meant that Master had begun to take of me.
(To be continued)