Voice of Buddhism: Uncovering the true face of Falun Gong

13 Apr

Falun Gong -Falun Da

Falun Gong is based upon the belief that the universe consists of magical energies that can be tapped into by certain practices and which can eliminate the need for medicine, bringing one to a state of enlightenment and physical immortality.

Its popularity seems directly related to its claim to bring health and relieve stress while providing enlightenment. It is anti-science, anti-medical establishment, and anti-materialism; thus, Falun Gong is attractive to many people who are fed up with the world as it is and their position in it.

Li Hongzhi, a former trumpet-player from north-east China, is known as “Living Buddha” to his devotees. The authorities in Beijing also have a few other names for Mr Li. They have branded him the leader of an “evil cult” and a dangerous charlatan and have ordered his arrest.

He believes aliens walk the Earth and he has reportedly said he can walk through walls and make himself invisible. Mr Li, a tallish, thickset man, was born in Jilin province, north-east China, but his date of birth is somewhat controversial. The authorities have accused him of backdating it from 7 July 1952 to 13 May 1951 so he could share the birthday of Buddhism’s founder, Sakyamuni. He said that it was mis-recorded in the first place and points out that millions of other people must share the same birthday as the Buddha. He claimed that he is a very ordinary man but in another interview with TIME magazine he implied that he was anything but ordinary.

Mr Li says that he is a being from a higher level who has come to help humankind from the destruction it could face as the result of rampant evil.

Asked if he was a human being from earth, he replied, “I don’t wish to talk about myself at a higher level. People wouldn’t understand it.” He claims to possess a Dharmakaya body and says in his book that the followers are not to practice recitation for the name of the Buddha. While he keeps on claiming that he does not teach a religion, actually does incorporate Buddhist elements in his teaching. For example, he tells people to visualize his Fa Shen (Dharmakaya-body) if they experience trouble. He talks about white and black karmic drops. He said that a serious student of Falun Gong should be committed and therefore cannot do other practices like reciting the Buddha’s or Avalokiteshvara’s name. Falun Gong practitioners, before commencing exercises, all sit down and recite his book called “Zhuan Falun” (Turning the Dharma wheel) like a scripture. This is borrowing concepts from Buddhism and confusing people about it.

But while his ideas may be bizarre, his followers claim to uphold high moral standards. Falun Gong’s three guiding principles are Truthfulness, Benevolence and Forbearance. Western cult investigators appear uncertain as to whether Mr Li is the benign leader of a quasi-religious martial art or the figurehead of a far more sinister organisation.

Uncovering the true face of Falun Gong and disclosing why the Buddhist communities are opposed to Falun Gong

By: J.F Hong, Malaysia (Originally published in the ‘Voice of Buddhism’, Buddhist Missionary Society)

Li Hongzhi – Founder of Falun Gong

Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong was born into an ordinary family in Gongzhuling City, Jilin province, China. According to the Chinese official records, he was born on July 7,1952, but Li Hongzhi claims that his birth date was on May 13th which is April 8″ according to the lunar calendar, coinciding with the anniversary of the Buddha’s birthday. These different disclosures arouse questions as to Li’s trustworthiness.

Li Hongzhi seldom mentions his own personal background. According to the Chinese official record, he was a junior high school graduate and had worked as a staff member at a grocery supply company in the city of Zhangchun, Jilin province.

Li claimed that, at age four, he inherited the lineage and become the tenth successor of “Fo Jia Du Chuan Dafa” from a prominent Buddhist venerable Chuen-jue, who specialized in the practice of truth, humanity and endurance. He claimed, at the age of eight, he attained the great Mahayana and had achieved the power of the supermundane. At the age of twelve, he inherited the lineage from an eighth-grade master of Taoism, which specialized in inner and outer practices engaging in the practice of martial arts and the use of weapons. At the age of twenty-two, Li joined the work force. At the same time he said that he acquired a new skill from “Zen Tao Zi” of Zhangbai-shan specializing in both the inner and outer practices of martial arts. At the age of twenty-three, he received the teachings of ‘gong li and gong~fa’ from a Buddhist nun. According to the Chinese Buddhist and Taoist associations, they know none of the instructors Li has mentioned. The Chinese official stressed that the claims by Li were all illusory and resembled another cult of Lu Sheng Yen of the “True Buddha Sect” (See “True Buddha Order – Sheng-yen Lu” below), who stated that he had received his ordination and power from dreams.

In the early 80s, Chinese society indulged in the practice of Qigong. Fa Lun Gong has also been established since then. After an official tour southward by Chairman Deng Xiao Ping, of the communist government, in May 1992, Lee made his first appearance and began to spread his teaching around the country. At that time, Li stressed that Falun Gong was not a religion nor was it involved in politics. These were also notions being used at the time by many local Chinese organizations in order to pursue their missions, but there was no assurance that the true intention of their undertakings was not to engaged in religious belief or politics.

The booming of Qigong brought along the development of super natural powers and exploration into the studies of the human body and life sciences, which at time also engendered many social problems within the community. Some with negative motives exaggerated the power of Qigong trying to convince people to refrain from the use of conventional medicines, thus costing many lives. Some even used faked scientific evidence to indulge but actually had very little knowledge in science, thus creating fanaticism within the Chinese community. Still others intermingle Buddhist Dharma with Qigong exercises to promote their visions, thus negating their principle of non-relation to religious beliefs. Some tried to fulfill their personal egocentric, power to control, to fulfill their fancy of being a famous leader, while others anticipated becoming wealthy.

In 1995, social problems emerged from the popularity of Qigong and the Chinese government intervened and suspended the operation of some leading Qigong organizations and arrested numerous Quigong masters. With the existence of many thousands of practitioners and organizations, the actual numbers of those suspended was considered small. Many of the Qigong groups broke up after their detention, but Falun Gong has retained its exposure in the news. This is said to be Li’s long-term goal.

In 1996, Falun Gong was expelled from the Qigong Science Research by the Chinese officials. Li began to apply for a visa to visit the United States. In 1998, he arrived in the United States with his wife and daughter and obtained resident green cards, bought a house in Atlanta, and has resided in Long Island, New York ever since.

In April 25, 1999, members of Falun Gong surrounded Zhongnanhai, a governmental compound in Beijing (remarks by the Chinese officials) asking for a peaceful settlement (remarks by Falun Gong). Consequently, Falun Gong achieved instant worldwide recognition. Li achieved his publicity; at the same time gaining support from many who are in opposition to the Chinese government.

Falun Dafa

The founding of Falun Dafa by Li Hongzhii has reference to a collection of cassettes and a few books written by him. Nothing noteworthy is to be found in his writings and he has admitted that some of his writings exclude the use of modern language. In reference to the interpretation from “Falun Dafa”, Li’s comments that the language glossary being used today cannot express the level and teachings of Falun.

Li noted, “Falun Dafa is considered the most supreme practice among Buddhists with its fundamental base corresponding to the ultimate cosmos of truth, benevolence and endurance. Falun’s practice in accordance with the principle of the cosmos is considered one of the ultimate Dharmas”. In corresponding to Li’s explanation, a more profound explanation should be given for his principals of truth, benevolence and endurance, however, he could plainly provide deficient explanations on the three key words. Mr. P.C.Zhao, former president of the Chinese Buddhist Association once made a judgment on Li, “Li’s Falun Gong did not make any distinction in its benevolent spirit but rather in its plain, forceful, fearless speech. Fearless on execution and fearless in commitments, thus attracting some highly educated scholars to believe his statements”.

According to Li, the practice of Falun Fofa (the Buddhist Dharma) is centralised on the Dharma wheel, which is a revolving spiritual object. As he stated, “the Dharma wheel set in the practitioner’s stomach will continue to revolve twenty four hours a day. (Real practitioners who learned and practiced through reading my books, listening to my teachings through audiovisuals or practice together with other members of Dafa may obtain the Dharma wheel)”.

That is to say that once a practitioner has obtained the Dharma wheel when he is not exercising, the Dharma wheel will still operate on a continual basis. This is the only practice in the world where Dharma is practice without putting in human effort. According to his book “Turning the Dharma Wheel”, Li mentioned, that “The main exercise in our practice is to work and practice on the Dharma wheel within the stomach. During the class when giving lectures, I will personally put into work and monitor the Dharma wheel for the practitioner. Some will perceive or feel it and some will not.”

“Our Dharma wheel will protect you.. My root is cored around the cosmos. Whoever agitates you will agitate me and will agitate the cosmos”. Li also said that even a “thousand-year practitioner” will desire to obtain such a Dharma wheel and so many have been enticed by the Dharma wheel.”

Li claims that he has numerous Dharma bodies (spiritual bodies) and “with the protection of my spiritual body, there will be no invasion from any outward evil “. Li illustrated his points in numerous stories, (refer to page 150 in “Turning the Dharma wheel”). He declared, “as my spirit sits for one round, its vestige will appear on the practice field on top the big Dharma wheel and will emerge to observe the field, illuminated in red “. Li also said, my spiritual body will know everything, whatever you are thinking thus anything can be done”.

There are five main exercises in the practice of Falun Gong and these are the fundamental steps being practiced in Qigong, prolonging life and maintaining good health. This is one of the reasons why it lured many practitioners into the practice of Falun Gong. But with Li’s emphasis on the Dharma wheel that will work for itself for the practitioner and protection of his spiritual bodies, etc., hid his true intentions. If Falun Gong only taught five exercises, it would be considered a member of Qigong and would have no relation whatsoever to Buddhism, and the. Buddhist community would not be opposed to its practice. Unfortunately, Li’s interpretation of Buddhist terms in his practice is misleading and an offence to Buddhist communities and caused repercussions.

As Li stated, it not required to pay a fee to learn Falun Gong, but in another instant he said, ” Our fee is one of the lowest in the country,” this is, in fact, very contradictory.

Misinterpretation of Buddhism:

Li emphasized that Falun Gong is not a religion, but his constant misleading and misinterpretation of Buddhist terms is in fact a mis-usage of Buddhism to attract members. Li said, “We are practicing the Dafa (great dharam) of the Buddhist sect, therefore this is Buddha-Dharma”. This has led to a total misunderstanding of many who think that Falun Gong is Buddhism. In his speech, Li often uses two terms intentionally to confuse people, “Fo Jiao” (Buddhism) and “Fo Jia” (Buddhist sect). He normally emphasizes that Falun Gong is “Fo Jia” but has never clearly provided an explanation referring to the terms he uses,’ creating a paradox.

Another significance in the practice of Falun Gong is the term, used by Li wheel “sia-sang” (downward-upward). The wheel was designed containing five characters of the svasti symbol “wan”. In Buddhism the svasti symbol stands for the number 10,000, the element of limitlessness, that is revealed in the teachings of the Buddha. The wheel with eight points is the symbol of the Eightfold Noble Path, but Li misuses the original term and representation in Buddhism, by saying that the Dharma wheel can be worked in the human body during practice. Li also claimed that “I, with the countless Body of Law (Dhammakaya in Buddhism), can exert super power to generate miracles to protect you from dangers.” Li made up lots of stories to support this saying.

Buddhism talks about the law of Karma, “As you sow, so shall you reap “. However Li alleged your master, have super powers to eliminate your Kamma, which apparently distorts the definition and essence within Buddhism. He further persuaded people to avoiding taking medication when they get sick (detailed in “Turn the Dharma Wheel”). A Chinese official report shows more than one thousand people died from their blind belief in Falun Gong and leaving their ailments untreated.

” I am not a Buddhist ” Li claimed, yet he poses in a monk’s robe sitting on a lotus pedestal with a painted halo overhead, which reminds one of the radiant (artificial) photo of Sung Ji-li (his counterpart in Taiwan). Since he has repeatedly claimed he is a not Buddhist, then why is he disguised in such a way? Although Li alleged Falun Gong is not a religion, members in Singapore consider Falun Gong a Buddhist group, and have requested to register it in the name of “Buddhist Falun Gong Association “. A leading Buddhist elder in Malaysia said, “An organization claiming to be non-religious should not register as a religion.”

Li openly despises Buddhism and other religions. He was quoted as saying “The Zen School is to get into a dead end “, “And the Dhamma which Sakyamuni Buddha had preached 2500 years ago was for the simple- minded people from the lowest-class in a primitive society.” Li’s articles are full of absurd, groundless remarks, such as “Sakyamuni Buddha’s enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree still failed to make him a Tathagata (the perfect one) at that moment. By preaching for 49 years, he continuously tried to enhance himself. Every time he reached a higher level, he negated his earlier teachings. Finally, he confessed he had not ever preached any Dharma and still not yet found the ultimate truth and law of the universe”.

Li dissuaded people from taking refuge in the Triple Gem. Disguised as Buddhism, Falun Gong does not just promote Qi Gong exercises as it did in the beginning. It has also adopted doctrines of Taoism. Falun Gong has exploited Buddhism in order to lure followers.

Primarily Falun Gong has advocated management at ease. One of its beliefs is “management with neither an economic entity nor administrative institution “. Later, it abandoned this belief and strives for registration worldwide. Since Falun Gong has been suspected of undermining orthodox Buddhism by abusing Buddhist terminology, statues, and symbolic objects to spread its own goals, so arousing protests from the Buddhist community, wishing to prevent the infringement of orthodox Buddhism.

In March, 2001, the Buddhist community in Malaysia unanimously indicated their opposition to Falun Gong’s attempt for registration to the Ministry of the Interior. The Buddhist community’s opposing Falun Gong’s attempt at registration received unanimous support from all parties concerned.

Some questioned whether Falun Gong could seek registration under another name, or still under the name Falun (Dharma wheel) but focus on Qigong exercises only and not spread paradoxes distorting Buddhism. Feelings are that no matter what it is dubbed e.g. vehicle wheel or anything else, no one can assure it would stop undermining Buddhism.

Some asserted Buddhists should try to communicate rather than conflict with Falun Gong. Indeed, the Buddhist community does not usually conflict with others. Even on the Sangha Day Celebration, the offering for monks was ridiculed as offering for “monkeys”. The Buddhist Community kept calm and tried to settle through negotiation rather than fighting with the offender. However having dialogue does not imply one can’t express otherwise, or can’t have one’s own viewpoint. Magnanimity does not suggest one’s right viewpoint can be given up to concede to wrong and evil.

Absurdly, some counted freedom of abuse as a human right, so as to justify Falun Gong, who disguises itself as Buddhist, has distorted the doctrine of Buddhism. The Buddhist community who opposed Falun Gong’s registration, so as to clarify and defend orthodox Buddhism, was accused of disregarding human rights. Who on earth infringes human rights, the one undermining the other religion or the one defending orthodox religion ?

The Buddhists who stood out to stop someone’s insulting Buddhism was condemned for disrespecting freedom of speech. What a confusion of right and wrong! Whose freedom of speech should be respected, the abuser or the victim struggling to stop the oral attacks?

Some, who are concerned about freedom of association, suggested accepting the registration of Falun Gong. Thus there would be grounds to punish it once it violates either the law of the nation or the law of Buddhism. This viewpoint ignores the fact of Falun Gong’s continuously undermining and trespassing on Buddhism. Why can’t orthodox Buddhism resort to law for suspending Falun Gong rather than ethical persuasion? When a faked product appears on market, why can’t the authentic producer call for the authorities to crack down on it, rather than instruct consumers how to discern the genuine from the fake?

In the commercial field, if a fabricator was found counterfeiting an other product’s brand or description, they will be branded as a dishonest and tricky businessman. The authentic producer would certainly point out the flaws in the imitated product and instruct consumers how to distinguish the genuine from the fake and also request the government for a crackdown. Is it possible to request the brand owner to “respect freedom”, “respect human rights”, “be open hearted” and take no any legal action to let the faked goods be rampant on the market?

At present, the Buddhist communities in Malaysia, on one hand, call for the authorities to reject the registration of Falun Gong, on the other hand, to conduct education on Buddhism. For example, the Malaysian Buddhist community held a joint seminar on the subject “Falun Gong & Qigong & Evil Religion” to directly educate people. In fact, opposing to Falun Gong’s bid for registration is substantially a mission of education, which not only fosters people’s ability of discerning good from evil, but also to develop their courage of denouncing vicious power and influence.

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