Thursday, August 22, 2013

Falun Gong- A banned ancient Chinese spiritual tradition


By Neeraj Mahajan


Falun Gong pronounced "Fah-loon Gong” also called Falun Dafa was an ancient Chinese and Buddhist spiritual tradition comprising mainly of moral teachings, meditation, and exercises to improve health and
energy level. 

The fundamentals of Falun Gong are based on the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance (Zhen Shan Ren in Chinese). According to Falun Gong these are the essence of the universe and guide our daily life and practice.

Though officially introduced to public only in 1992, Falun Gong was an ancient practice passed down in private from one generation to another for thousands of years. Falun Gong is similar to Asian spiritual tradition of “cultivation,” or “self-cultivation,” also found in Daoist, Buddhist, and Confucian practices.

Unlike some of the other faiths, Falun Gong practitioners remain a part of society; marry, raise children and pursue a variety of careers. Though their ultimate goal is transformation of the inner self, this translates outwards into positive changes in the world, insofar as the practitioner becomes a better parent, family member, reliable employee and contentious citizen.
From a humble beginning in 1992 Falun Gong had become one of largest and fastest growing religious practice in China if not the whole world till about a few years ago. An estimated 100 million people were practicing Falun Gong. Falun Gong was fast spreading its wings in clubs, associations, cities, companies, universities and other settings in more than 70 countries around the world.

Falun Gong’s founder, Li Hongzhi, was a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee including one nomination by the European Parliament. He received the Freedom House’s International Religious Freedom Award.

There was hardly any evil or nefarious about Falun Gong’s activities but it growing popularity made the all powerful Chinese President Jiang Zemin so uncomfortable that he decided to eliminate Falun Gong. For want of any other evidence Jiang Zemin the then head of China’s communist party, branded Falun Gong as an ‘evil cult’ and ordered a ban on its activities in Nov 1999.

All this seems ironic as till as late as 1993, Li was nominated as “Most Welcomed Qigong Master” Award in Beijing by an official body for Advancing the Frontier Science. People’s Public Security News—official newspaper of Chinese Ministry of Public Security, had praised Li’s contributions “in promoting the traditional crime-fighting virtues” as well as “safeguarding social order and security”. Speaking to the U.S. News & World Report, a Chinese National Sports Commission had propounded the benefits of Falun Gong, which could, “save each person 1,000 yuan in annual medical fees. If 100 million people are practicing it, that’s 100 billion yuan saved per year in medical fees.” The official went on to add that “Premier Zhu Rongji is very happy about that”.

It is a different story though that Falun Gong more similar to a religious movement does not possess any cult characteristics – like no leader worship, its practitioners are not required to isolate themselves from the society, there is no interference in their personal lives, or any individual or collective participation in an unlawful or dangerous activity. Falun Gong practitioners are normal, friendly, well educated, talented and hard-working people—who till recently were occupying high-ranking positions in the government or military—but have suddenly been incarcerated or forced to resign and suffer unemployment, destitution or exile because of their religious beliefs.

The official reason at the time of banning Falun Gong was that they were “disturbing social order.”  The Chinese Communist party’s initial justification for the ban was that Falun Gong was anti-government and its teachings were incompatible with Communism. However  later the label “evil cult” was added in October 1999.

This was nothing but a political move by Jiang Zemin, to shift the spotlight away from the unlawful acts of the Party-state and pave the way for more drastic violations of rights.

Curiously even the term “sect” which is usually a splinter group of an existing religion does not apply to Falun Gong. According to  a Chinese government survey more than 70 million people practiced Falun Gong in early 1999, much large number than Communist Party members  

(To Be Concluded)