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(6 pages total)

Page 3 - Is Qigong Political? A New Look at Falun Gong

Paranoia is spreading

On September 23, 1999, the Chinese Health Ministry issued rules that restricted all forms of qigong. "General" and "health enhancing" qigong are allowed, but only among small, scattered, local, voluntary groups that register with the government. Qigong schools are prohibited. Qigong may not be practiced in "important places" such as government or military institutions, embassies, airports, train or bus stations, ports, or streets. The terminology of the Health Ministry statutes seems deliberately ambiguous. It leaves the definition of "important place" or "qigong school" to law enforcement authorities, and may allow them to arrest practitioners on a whim. This may already be occurring. In December of 1999, Chinese police in Shanxi Province closed down the largest training school for Zhong Gong, a qigong healing meditation society unassociated with Falun Gong. On January 19, 2000, The New York Times reported that Chen Jinlong, 51, a Zhong Gong teacher from Zhejiang Province was sentenced to two years in prison. He allegedly provided medical care that he was not qualified to deliver and harmed patients. The founder of Zhong Gong, Zhang Hongbao, 45, has not been arrested. His followers will, understandably, not reveal their master's whereabouts.

There are conflicting reports about the current status of medical qigong in China. Medical qigong is, in itself, considered scientific and acceptable. Spiritual qigong schools, especially those which claim many followers, are perceived as threats to Communist power, control, and dogma. But how does one draw the line between medical and spiritual? You cannot heal the body without transforming awareness and spirit, and vice versa. The interconnection of jing (body), qi (mind), and shen (spirit) is the basis of all schools of qigong.

China wants to distinguish scientific from supernatural. Unfortunately, many competent teachers make supernatural and bogus claims, either to boost their status among gullible students or to compensate for personal feelings of incompetence. A person who has power does not need to brag about it. We should also take into account that in a despotic regime, people will latch onto anything that promises power or salvation.

Recent events have already had unfortunate results for Western students. Many are hesitant to travel to China for qigong training. On March 3, 2000, a Chinese official, who prefers to remain anonymous, told me that foreigners would not be allowed to present at an upcoming medical qigong conference because of the "falun gong paranoia."

The Taoist Messiah

Throughout Chinese history Taoism, Buddhism, and qigong have been associated with political revolts. Does this mean that Falun Gong is a political threat? Not at all! However, a brief look at Chinese religious history may help us understand why China is so fearful and mistrusting.

Lao Zi, the fourth century B.C. founder of Taoism, left his job as librarian at the Zhou Dynasty court because of his distaste for political intrigue. Yet he wrote a book that advised emperors how to rule wisely. Perhaps he realized that unless justice prevailed, Taoist recluses would not be able to remain undisturbed for long. Zhang Dao Ling, the second century founder of the first Taoist Church (called the Heavenly Masters), was a charismatic medium, ritualist, and healer who attracted tens of thousands of followers during his lifetime. He created an egalitarian Taoist theocracy, with equal roles and rights for men and women. His Taoist armies were defeated by the Han Dynasty General Cao Cao in 215 A.D.

Many Taoists expected an apocalyptic end to the Chinese dynasties. Taoist scriptures such as the Annals of the Sage Who Is To Come (Shang Qing Hou Sheng Dao Jun Lie Ji) declared that after the wicked had been exterminated by plagues, war, and flood, Lao Zi would return to earth as a God. These events were prophesied to occur in the ren chen, water dragon year 512 A.D. Taoists prepared themselves for the new world by reciting sacred texts and practicing qigong. When the renaissance did not occur, new dates were calculated. (Interestingly, renowned Taoist scholar and author, Dr. Michel Strickmann, once confided in me that according to his interpretation of the early texts, the Taoists were one thousand years off. The proper date for the Taoist apocalypse is the water dragon year of 2012 A.D.-- the same year that some indigenous scholars believe marks the end of the Aztec Calendar!)

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