Maine Well-Being: Falun Gong
Vol. 5 NO. 1
IN JULY 1999, the Chinese government denounced Falun Gong as XX [slanderous word omitted] promoting superstition. Four months previous to the government's announcement, ten thousand Falun Gong practitioners had gathered peacefully in Beijing to protest the printing of an article, which they felt, misrepresented the practice. Following a meeting between government representatives and practitioners, the crowd dispersed and went home, and the large gathering made international news. In July came the announcement that Falun Gong was outlawed, and that Li Hongzhi, its founder, was wanted by the Chinese government for disturbing public order.
A Cultivation Practice
Falun Gong is the physical part of Falun Dafa, a cultivation practice that promotes the refinement of both mind and body to become a better person. It was first classified with Qigong by the Chinese government. Qigong, along with Tai Chi, is practiced all over China for health. Both are based on the principle of ch'i. Every human is filled with ch'i which translates as "intrinsic or internal energy." A strong flow of ch'i means a stronger flow of life energy through the body. While Tai Chi seeks to unify mind and body, Qigong practitioners seek to unify mind, body and spirit. Qigong practitioners also seek to develop supernormal powers and the ability to heal others.
While dramatic improvements in health are familiar in the Falun Dafa community, such healings are not the point of the practice. Practitioners strive to become better people, and any healing is the result of such improvements. Falun Dafa is based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. Each of these things must be implemented in one's daily life or one cannot be said to be doing Falun Dafa. This is the difference between Qigong and Falun Gong; Qigong has no principles to implement in daily life.
Falun Dafa is not a religion but it has a similar goal, that of enlightenment. It is not a cult and there is no organization one can join. There are no rituals or worship services. No one profits financially from Falun Gong; it is spread entirely by the efforts of volunteers. Its textbooks are available for free on the Internet, and it is non-violent and apolitical.
Founder Li Hongzhi says that Falun Dafa is one of eighty-four thousand cultivation ways in the Buddha school. Once widely used, it went underground and then became secret. Li has now made it public because of his concern about a loss of moral standards in our modern culture. Falun Dafa incorporates both Buddhist ideas, like the law wheel, and Taoist ideas such as yin- yang. It is intended to influence all parts of life.
The practice of Falun Dafa includes: daily physical exercises; incorporating the principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance -- also called Zhen-Shan-Ren -- into one's life; reading from the writings of Li Hongzhi; and viewing or listening to his lectures. The exercises are simple enough for people of any age to do, though they may take as much as two hours to complete.
June and Bill Kirk of Portland have been practicing Falun Dafa for a year and a half. They started practicing Tai Chi when Bill was told he needed to do something about his clogged arteries and angina. He was told his health was so bad that he should retire and do nothing else. While they both enjoyed the Tai Chi, the hoped for benefits in health and peace of mind did not materialize. At a Tai Chi health seminar, they spotted a table with information on Falun Gong and were immediately drawn to it.
Since then Bill has seen an improvement in his health. He is active in his community and his angina is far less troubling. His stress level has been greatly reduced. One of the things Bill has learned from practicing Falun Dafa is the importance of looking within to remove sources of stress and create change in one's life. He found that once his internal perception changed, that his external environment changed as well.
June spoke of releasing attachments, of letting go of hurt, and anger, and desires. She said she has a greater awareness of her surroundings and an enhanced sense of calm. After a recent near accident, she found herself unmoved by the drama, and ready to accept whatever circumstances came her way.
Physical exercises alone cannot be considered Falun Dafa; one must also be practicing the principle of Zhen- Shan-Ren. Zhen-Shan-Ren is the criterion for measuring good and bad; it is a moral standard. Zhen is truthfulness, Shan is compassion, and Ren is forbearance. The best way to do this is to give up attachments to anger, jealousy, anxiety, and desire for personal gain. This will increase one's spirituality and moral consciousness.
Practitioners are expected to practice to be a part of their community. The point is to care less about issues of personal gain or interpersonal conflict. Business people should trade fairly and maintain a high standard of honest behavior. As long as one trades fairly, one deserves more money if one makes more effort. But the pursuit of anything is itself an attachment and attachments are what need to be eliminated.
Eating meat and killing insects is all right as long as one does not become attached to either the killing, or the enjoyment of eating meat. In "Zhuan Falun" Li writes, "Let me tell you that we should not casually take life without reason. But neither should we become overly-cautious gentlemen, always focusing on trifles, even jumping around when walking, worrying about stepping on ants."
Falun Dafa is free. If money changes hands, it is not Falun Dafa. The books may be downloaded from the web. It has not had extensive media coverage, and practitioners promote it in their neighborhoods and start classes when there is enough interest.
Those who teach may not add anything personal to their instruction. The instruction is to remain unchanged. Only direct quotes from the book or recorded lectures are acceptable, and these must be accompanied by the statement, "teacher says." Disciples may discuss experiences with each other, but none may be called "master." Nor does the Li Hongzhi accept any worship or any deference other than ordinary good manners. Practitioners may not do healings. Healing comes by the person's own practice, if that is going to happen.
Severely ill people are not recommended to try this practice because they would be unable to let go of the idea of being healed. The idea itself would be an attachment. A master cannot "treat" a perspective practitioner for illness. Heart and character must be developed from within. To be truly healthy, one must be healthy biologically, psychologically and socially.
The details of Falun Dafa are described in two books by Li Hongzhi. "China Falun Gong" is an introduction to the principles and demonstration of the exercises. In "Zhuan Falun," the principles and foundations of Falun Dafa are laid out.
Practicing the principle of Zhen- Shan-Ren develops xinxing which is considered to be more refined than ch'i. Xinxing includes tolerance, enlightenment quality, sacrifice, giving up ordinary desires and attachments, and being able to suffer hardships. Practitioners cultivate xinxing so that their gong develops automatically. Gong is the energy that allows one to have supernormal powers and health.
The exercises themselves are beautiful and simple to learn. A full set takes two hours, but shortened versions may be performed. The exercises reinforce an automatic mechanism of moral development, which starts when the student practices Zhen-Shan-Ren. There are five sets of exercises. The first, a standing exercise, involves gentle stretching called "Buddha Showing a Thousand Hands." Second is a standing exercise where the arms are held in the air for ten minutes at a time, in order to facilitate the opening of energy channels. This is called "Falun Standing Stance" exercise.
The third exercise uses swirling movements designed to mix energy from the universe with the energy of the human body called "Penetrating the Two Cosmic Extremes." The fourth exercise is designed to circulate that energy through the body; it is called "Falun Heavenly Circulation." The fifth exercise is a seated meditation exercise called "strengthening Divine Power." The meditation creates a stillness, which replaces the many voices that fill the mind. It is done in full lotus, but a half lotus or simply sitting cross-legged is acceptable for beginners. The four standing exercises take from thirty minutes to and hour all together, and the same amount of time is spent on the seated meditation.
Positions held during the exercises are said to aid the movement of energy or ch'i through the body, promoting contemplative thought, and strength. They can be done by all ages from very young to very old. These physical exercises reinforce the message of the textbooks by training the body. The order in which the exercises are performed is not important, but they work best when done in the order taught. When the physical practice is done as a group, it adds energy and builds a sense of community, but solitary physical practice is valid and acceptable.
Li Hongzhi publicly introduced Falun Dafa in 1992 at the International Qigong Exhibition. At the Fair, Falun Gong so impressed the presenters that it won the highest honors and Li was voted most popular Qigong master. Within three years the number of practitioners was in the tens of millions. From 1994 to 1996, Li Hongzhi traveled outside of China, teaching in Asia, Australia and Europe. By 1999 there were more Falun Dafa practitioners than Communist party members.
In July 1999, the Chinese government cracked down on Falun Gong. Books were burned and practitioners were rounded up. Officials claimed that the practitioners of Falun Gong were disrupting social order. Some were forced to confess and recant. Li Hongzhi is currently wanted in China for disturbing the peace. Interpol, an international police agency, has refused to act on a warrant for Li's arrest because it is blatantly political.
The Chinese government has outlawed the Falun Dafa Research Society and all Falun Gong organizations. No books, video tapes, or audio tapes promoting Falun Gong or Falun Dafa may be distributed. It has decreed that there are to be no gatherings or demonstrations, since they claim that the practice goes against the government. Those arrested have no lawyers. They are accused of being leaders of Falun Gong- a group that has no leaders. The governments of the United States and Canada have called on China to stop the persecution. Amnesty international and Human Rights Watch have both condemned the actions of the Chinese government.
Despite efforts by the Chinese government to stop the growth of Falun Dafa it is estimated that there are currently 100 million practitioners worldwide.
Category: Falun Dafa in the Media