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(6 pages total)

Page 4 - Is Qigong Political? A New Look at Falun Gong


Taoists have been politically suspect for more than two thousand years. Throughout the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Zhang Dao Ling's lineage descendant, the "Heavenly Master," was forbidden to issue Taoist ordination diplomas. The Reformist Movement of 1895 tried to convert as many Taoist temples as possible into public museums, hospitals, and schools. In the New Life Movement of the 1920s, students participated in the destruction of temples around the capitals of Beijing and Nanjing. When the Communists occupied the Taoist Holy Mountain, Dragon Tiger Mountain, in 1927, the Heavenly Master, Zhang Enpu, was driven out. His lands were seized and distributed among the poor, and his brother was executed for "advocating superstition." Not surprisingly, in 1951, Chen Duxiu, leader of the Chinese Communist Party, complained that Taoism exerted an anarchistic influence on Chinese youth, making it difficult to recruit them into the Party. Taoists were branded fan dong "counter-revolutionary", and both Buddhists and Taoists were forced into lay life.

Chinese Buddhism has also inspired revolution. Since the seventh century A.D. numerous individuals have declared themselves to be Maitreya (the future Buddha) on earth and inspired their followers to take up arms. One thousand years ago, the Song Dynasty government declared Maitreya Sects to be "heresies and unsanctioned religions", phrases now applied to Falun Gong. Tens of thousands of Maitreya Sect followers were killed. (For a more detailed history of these movements, see my article on Falun Gong in the Summer 2000 issue of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review.)


Qigong Chop Suey: My Personal Opinion of Falun Gong

In Li Hongzhi's A Brief Statement of Mine, he says, "Falun Gong is simply a popular qigong activity." (www.falundafa.org). The exercises and meditations he recommends are, in my opinion, good qigong. However, the philosophy of Falun Gong is a mish-mosh of bizarre beliefs about Buddhism, Taoism, and UFOs. This does not in any way condone Chinese censorship or the persecution of Li's followers. However, the scholar in me cringes when I read the Falun Gong materials or when Western media assumes that Falun Gong is representative of Buddhist or Taoist philosophy. Falun Gong is neither Buddhist nor Taoist; it is the personal philosophy of Li Hongzhi blended with messianic and millennial beliefs. I have outlined below several of the most serious errors in Falun Gong philosophy by offering personal commentary.

Automatic Spirituality. Li claims "the falun is constantly rotating, putting the practitioner in the state of cultivation for 24 hours a day. Of all the qigong or cultivation systems known to the public, Falun Dafa is the first and only one that solves the conflicting time requirements for practicing and work or study." (Brief Introduction of Falun Dafa www.falundafa.org) This is a grandiose claim sure to attract followers. Are the cures attributed to Falun Gong a massive placebo effect, the power of expectant trust? I would like to see how long-term followers react to a Beijing traffic jam or how American followers meditate on Tax Day.


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