BANNED IN CHINA
In April of 1999, over 10,000 people suddenly appeared in the leadership compound of the Chinese government in Beijing. For 12 hours, they stood in silent vigil, protesting mistreatment by the authorities. Hours later, they left as quickly and quietly as they had appeared. Who were those people and what caused them to participate in the largest demonstration since the Tiananmen Square in 1989?
They were, of course, practitioners of Falun Gong; a practical philosophy rooted in an ancient oral tradition. It is a philosophy that stresses the necessity of integrating high ethical standards and physical well-being reflecting the Buddhist, Taoist, and qigong traditions of ancient Chinese culture.
At present, there are an estimated 100 million practitioners of Falung Gong in China (making it nearly twice the size of the Chinese Communist Party) and an ever-growing number of practitioners in the West. In short, it is a significant movement that has had a profound influence on people throughout the world.
May 13th 2012 marked the 20th anniversary of Falun Gong’s introduction to the public. For this occasion inTaipei ,Taiwan 7000 people have formed a picture of the founding father of the Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi. This was a very noble act which expressed Taiwanian people’s honour towards the master, but not only this. It should be also seen as a message to mainlandChina where followers of this practice are still being persecuted for what they believe in. They show that what does not flourish inChina since 1999, is celebrated inTaiwan. Huge numbers of practitioners used to be present inChina as well, but even today, they are being tortured and punished for their faith. They are banned to gather in large numbers which is possible in other countries and for this it is a real shame forChina since it is the homeland of the whole practice.
The image of the master created in the center ofTaipeiserves as thanks from the part of the students to teacher and they are thanking their teacher. They really have the reason to be grateful to master Li. The personal accounts show that real improvements in life are possible through this practice.
One woman who has been practicing Falun Gong for nine years now, admitted that the most significant change in her life is that she recovered from a state of illness, moreover that her thinking also improved since she does not think of herself anymore but of others and thanks to this she became interested in life. This is a really impressive improvement in a person’s life since it is very hard to become generous and not to be interested in one’s own well-being and benefit.
People inTaipeicreated this picture also because they wanted to call attention to Falun Gong itself, to make it more well-known to the rest of the world. This is an extremely good way of putting the practice in the spot-light. The effect is evident since the tourists there were also attracted by what they saw since it was colourful and beautiful, so if nothing more than good pictures were taken of the follower’s creation.
However, the most evident and the strongest message of this picture was intended for mainlandChinain order for them to understand the principles and the main idea of Falun Gong. It also suggests that no matter what, no matter how much they persecute people, Falun Gong will keep itself alive in people’s minds and perseverance.
Falun Gong was regarded as a very useful practice since its appearance but soon the table turned at it found itself at the edge of society. Suddenly it became a social outcast but not form the part of people but from the government. In 1999 the Chinese Communist Party has suddenly decided that Falun Gong is harmful and that it has to be banned. No one really understood why because the arguments brought up by the government were very weak and unconvincing. Many scientists have tried to rationalize their decision and the most likely reason seems to be the fact that this movement was not under the control of the government; it was too free to be locked in a cage controlled by people who do not even know what it is. Basically, Falun Gong was too dangerous for the Chinese Communist party.
At first followers of the Falun Gong wetn out into the streets and were protesting but these all resulted in fights with the police, many arrests and injuries. After two years these protests seized and the whole movement went underground. The most wonderful thing in this whole fray is that the adherents still believed in the truthfulness of acts, so they considered the police’s and the government’s acts as justified. However, they tried to attack the whole system by sending out leaflets and tapping on national TV programs. This also disappeared after a while. They fought with their own tools as hard as they could.
One result of their fight was that the western media noticed the problems and the unjust treatment of the followers and this caused dissatisfaction with them. We would even attempt to say that the propaganda served good for the whole Falun Gong movement in the sense that more and more followers started to appear world-wide. Today they are present in more than 70 countries outsideChina. People realized that there is no harm in this practice and that is does great changes to people’s thinking and well-being. This also shows that the media campaign that the Chinese government started against Falun Gong was not really successful and convincing. Although, it is banned inChina, it keeps flourishing in other countries, but inChinaas well. The difference is that followers have to remain underground there while at other places in the world they can gather in public and can exercise and hold discussions.
Chinese people believe that energy can be found all over the body and it circulates in small channels called meridians. They also believe that anyone can develop this energy though certain types of exercises which target these energy channels. You may think that it is not a problem if you do not open these energy channels but Chinese people think that you can become ill if these are blocked.
Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese meditation practice that is concentrated on these energy channels, opens them up and restores the body to its health. The exercises consist of four standing and one sitting exercise. The standing exercises focus on stretching the body and opening up these channels to universal energy that will help to refill the body with beneficial forces. It basically unblocks the areas where energy is congested. As soon as you start the exercises you will feel relaxed and a nice warmness will spread in your body. The sitting exercise helps you to strengthen the divine energy in you and to restore tranquility. Many personal testimonials show that this practice helps people to cut down on bad habits such as smoking or helps them fight the pain or to get relieved of them completely.
At the heart of the practice there are only three principles: Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. These will help you to become honest and patient with others, helps you to learn and love. The teaching will help you to focus on yourself and others and on how to improve yourself. The books in which the teachings can be found appeared on many languages and can freely be downloaded from www.falundafa.org. What seems to be the most important factor in Falun Gong is that it is completely free of charge and this way it is accessible for everyone.
This is the true method through which one can reach true piece which is the natural outcome of the true self. Everyone has the chance to reach this state where there is happiness and piece. The master of Falun Gong has an image in his head about the future of the world if even more people would start practicing this exercise. His vision is world piece which seems achievable through Falun Gong and seizes to be just a dream. Li Hongzhi has given a chance to people the help themselves and to improve their qualities but also to be patient, honest and tolerant with others because without them, order cannot be restored in the world.
This is one of the most challenging points concerning the whole Falun Gong movement. It must be said that no ultimate answer can be reached because it totally depends on the person whether he or she would like to believe in the beneficial effects of Falun Gong or not. There are certain attempts to prove the benefits of the practice from a scientific point of view but there are still many skeptic people who do not believe in its effects.
It is just natural that those who practice and believe in Falun Gong’s health improving effects are on a totally different opinion than scientists are. It needs to be emphasized that Falun Gong has more than 100 million followers throughout the world and this really means something, at least that is has a beneficial impact on people’s lives.
Adherents to this movement state that they have experienced serious changes in their health status which can very from tiny improvements to bigger ones such as curing cancer. This may seem exaggerated but some people really give account of such phenomenon. Scientists are skeptical since no scientific proof exists for these and as long as these are missing, they will remain unbelievers. It is true that some improvements in the health status of a person are connected to those that can be achieved through regular exercise. But not just the Falun Gong type of exercise, but any that involves body movements. Every sport improves the mood, fitness, relieves the person of stress and helps to relax after the tiring exercise.
At this point is also has to be added that these aspects, no matter how skeptical we are, are only one side of the effects of Falun Gong. The main purpose of the whole practice is to bring back people into their initial state when they were good and moral and were not affected by the poisonous environment. It also attempts to connect the energy that resides in the body with cosmic energy to fuel the body with new powers and to strengthen it. All the features that are needed for self-cultivation are in the universe and since it is eternal and unchangeable it gives us the hope that we will always have the chance to improve ourselves. For many people, this gives hope and hope is very important for survival.
All in all, one should not dismiss Falun Gong as unnecessary and as being a stupid thing; one just has to look at what it teaches and one may change his or her mind after thinking about it.
In the 90s in Chine there was a great revival; a revival of the ancient and traditional culture. Unfortunately, this did not seem to be to the liking of the Communist regime since it had been banned for several years.
The practice in question is Falun Gong or Falun dafa which was introduced to the public in 1992 and immediately became a huge success. It is an ancient meditation technique that also includes improvements of the mind, body and soul. It has its rots in Buddhism and Taoism as well, so it deserves to be called ancient even though it was introduced in 1992.
The adherents to Falun Gong follow two aspects: one involves five exercises: four standing and one sitting exercise. The other one consists of improving the character, reaching back to the initial state where there still existed morality and truth. The followers are true to three principles: truthfulness, compassion and forbearance. This is the main guiding force for them.
Falun Gong was introduced through a public lecture by Li Hongzhi in which he said that it is a type of qigong, but its unique principles could not be compared to any other practice at that time. At first, it was to the liking of the government since they used it to improve public health. They even sponsored the Qigong Science Research Association of China that officially recognized Falun Gong as a qigong practice. This also meant that master Li was allowed to teach Falun Gong nationwide. Later on he was even allowed to introduce this practice to the rest of the world. This took place in 1995. He received
different award and his books were published one after the other and were translated to many languages. They were even distributed to countries outsideChina.
Soon, thanks to its growing popularity, Falun Gong started to be viewed as a threat by the Chinese government. The time has come in July 1999 for Jiang Zemin, the leader of the Chinese Communist party, to start a persecution of the practice which continues even today.
What he did not think of is the fact that you cannot stop a river from flowing, therefore he does not have authority to stop people all over the world from practicing Falun Gong. What’s more, people inChina, who are being persecuted for what they believe in won’t stop either. They still practice Falun Gong in places where they cannot be seen. People all over the world are familiar with this exercise and they stand up for what they believe in no matter how hard the Communist Party tries to stop them.
The truth is that Falun Gong was not intended to have any kind of form; having no material or formal organization. As far as we are concerned this is the secret of its success. It is available for people all over the world and they do not even have to pay for any kind of membership because here there is no such thing as membership at all. Moreover, there are no churches and no physical places of worship. Practitioners are not allowed to collect fees or to ask money for their teachings. Everything listed here is strictly forbidden and should be followed.
As opposed to many qigong exercises, like tai chi, one need not pay for the DVDs on which exercises are shown or to become a member of a club. All the materials are available in e-form and one can access it for free. Clubs do exist that one can join, but money does not have to be paid and appointment are also not needed. All the interested have to do is to find a local or nearby club and go there to listen to the teachings or practice the exercises together with the others. A very nice community can be formed in this way and long and meaningful friendships can be established. People are there for the same purpose, they have similar interests, so no one should be confused even for a minute whether to go there or not. You are free to go there whenever you want and also you can leave when you wish to. The teachers are not there to tell you what to do or how to behave and not even to tell you what to believe in. You do as much exercise as you wish to or as much as you can. You can believe in whatever aspect of this discipline. There are no musts here; there are just possibilities, options offered that you can follow. The chance is given, it highly depends in you whether you take it or just taste a piece of it.
However, Falun Gong is centralized in one way. The spiritual authority is vested in the corpus and teachings of the founder, Li Hongzhi but organizationally it is decentralized. Li’s spiritual authority is absolute, yet this organization works against totalistic control and Li does not interfere with the personal lives of his followers. Practitioners have no direct contact with Li just through the study of his teachings. The only organization is achieved through a global, networked and largely virtual online community. Practitioners can share their materials there and can have discussions about Li’s teachings and the exercises.
Li Hongzhi certainly did not imagine that his introduction of Falun Gong to Chinese people in 1992 will cause them as much suffering as it did. The practice quickly grew in popularity since people benefited from it. It soon gathered more than 100 million followers inChinaalone. By 1999 it was greatly respected. In July 1999 everything changed for Falun Gong and its followers. The president feared that the popularity of Falun Gong will overshadow his legacy and apart from the fact that he banned the whole practice he began persecuting its followers. He decided that the movement must be eradicated. The secret police, army and full force police were ordered to torture, capture the followers. Some of them were sentenced to jail for as long as 18 years. What’s more the government started a campaign to demonize Falun Gong and to present its followers as crazy. This was the way they wanted to help practitioners which they called brainwashing. International media were barred from filming or broadcasting stories about the persecution of the followers. Everyone was persecuted: women, children and the elderly together with everyone else. Against all odds, the persecution did not work and did not break the adherents. This resulted in the intensification of the persecution. No matter if the victims were children, women, men or old persons the Chinese authorities showed no regret, no mercy and no respect. People all around the world were shocked and did not understand why these things were happening to people who did not do any kind of crime. Many people were beat to death, electro shocked and as a result burned to death, women were forced to have abortion, etc. The crimes the authorities committed against these innocent people are unimaginable. Many people stood up to advertise human right and to show that what was happening inChinawas unacceptable.China’s president decided to demolish Falun Gong in its entirety and for this he was willing to do anything. It is a shame that he did not care about human life, the only thing hat mattered to him was power and authority that he felt was in danger by Falun Gong. He does not stop torturing people but this won’t stop them from practicing in what they believe. What’s more, the number of adherents is more than it ever was and it will just carry on with its growth.
Falun Gong stands in close relationship to the Buddhist tradition but as opposed to it, followers of this practice have to maintain a healthy relationship with society. The have to have jobs and family life, but also have to be familiar with the laws of their government. The only exceptions from this are Buddhist monks and nuns, but this goes without saying. This is a really interesting and plausible feature of the practice since people do not have to get alienated from their society and can be involved in different affairs. However, there are a few restrictions that adherents should conform to. Although, knowledge of the law is advised, one should not get too involved in politics because it can cause excessive attachment to wealth and power and Falun Gong does not want this. It advertises transcendence, so no attachment or addiction is allowed. Moreover, one who would like to exercise it in the accurate way, one should not smoke, use drugs, drink alcohol, have premarital or extramarital sex and one should definitely not be a homosexual. This is an interesting point since in our modern era when everyone fights for human rights it is pretty rare to read such a thing as forbidding homosexuality for followers of a practice. It is said to cause bad karma which is really not advised if we would like to avoid bad things in their entirety.
Followers are also banned to kill, not just people, but animals as well, not even for food. That is particularly forbidden. This point is intriguing because this ban does not necessitate becoming a vegetarian. In this sense, basically, this rule of Falun Gong is rather permissive.
These are the main points which concern social relations. If one would like to become a master of Falun Gong, one should keep these in mind and should keep himself or herself to these points. Even the smallest mistake can interfere with the cultivation and this will result in remaining disconnected from the universe that is needed in order to get access to the true values that can transform the character of people and bring them back into the initial state of truth and morality. Without these people are condemned to live in a world of selfishness, immorality and lies. Falun Gong advertises that people can become good again and can regain real energy from the universe to fill their bodies with it in order to become strong and healthy.
This is the first exercise of Falun Gong which is basically a stretching exercise. This should de the first in the row since it unlocks all the areas into which energy is blocked therefore it stimulates energy within the body which starts circulating and with this absorbs a great amount of energy from the universe. One of the most important features of this exercise is that it opens up all the meridians in the practitioner’s body and this can also be felt in the form of warmness and through the existence of a strong energy field. This exercise consists of eight movements which are all quite simple and lead the practitioner into a state where he or she can be surrounded by an energy field. The movements should preferably be preformed three times.
The preparation for this exercise is also very important. You should stand naturally with legs spread and bound slightly. You whole body should be relaxed, yet is should not be let loose. Your lips are advised to be shut and your eyes as well. In this position you should raise your hands and push your thumbs together. Join the other four fingers that should overlap each other. Males should have their left hand on top but females should have their right hands on top. You should form an oval shape and hold your hands at the abdominal area. During the exercise your hands should be at least three inches far from your body. You lift your hands slowly and when you reach your face you should separate them and lift your hands upwards. When your hands are above your head you should strengthen your whole body. After two or three seconds you should relax your body.
During the next movement you will fill your body with energy. You have to push your hands together in front of your chest and with one hand you reach sideways while your other hand remains on your chest. After the arms extended you have to stretch your whole body again. The next movement will involve stretching both hands to the sides and then stretch your body again. The next movement will require reaching out before you and stretch your body again. Then you reach to the side and to the back during the next move and you stretch after every movement.
Every move is very slow and easy. You just have to follow them and do it like the master does.