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(6 pages total)

Page 6 - Is Qigong Political? A New Look at Falun Gong


Zen is a system of meditation inspired by both Taoism and Buddhism. Instead of worshipping the Buddha, Zen Buddhists seek what the Buddha sought, enlightened awareness. The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, taught that suffering, dukkha, is caused by grasping, tanha. We want what we don't have and reject what we do have. Only by emptying the mind of self-centeredness can suffering cease. Emptiness also means that nothing exists in and of itself; subject and object exist in relationship (in Buddhist technical jargon this is called co-dependent origination). Emptiness is not the denial of the senses, it is rather ceasing to confuse our concepts about life with that which words describe. It means experiencing the world silently, quietly, without a filter of preconception or belief system.

Emptiness is considered the goal of qigong practice. According to a fundamental tenet of qigong, "Cultivate your bodily energy (jing), then your mind (qi), and finally your spirit (shen). When you cultivate your spirit you will reach emptiness (xu). In the empty state you realize the Tao." The Taijiquan Classics begin, "Taiji is born of Emptiness."

Conventional Medicine, Complementary Medicine, and ULTIMATE Medicine. In China Falun Gong, Li states, "If a practitioner takes medicine, it means that he does not believe his disease can be cured through practice..." A true practitioner is "supernormal" and "the diseases an ordinary person suffers from are not allowed to attack him." (p. 138) Odd that the Buddha may have died from bad pork, esteemed Buddhist Master Suzuki Roshi from cancer, and so many other holy men and women from various human ailments. If only life were so simple, if only goodness and wisdom ensured physical health. But microbes just don't obey the rules! As Lao Zi said, "Heaven and Earth are not benevolent."

I am not denying that Falun Gong can be good medicine. Like other qigong systems, scientific studies suggest that it may have positive effects on cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and other ailments. However, one of the largest studies of Falun Gong also states "only when those practitioners upgraded their Xingxing (mind nature and moral level) unceasingly, could the effects be remarkable." (The Effect of Falun Gong on Healing Illnesses and Keeping Fit..., October 18, 1998 www.ncsu.edu/stud_orgs/falun/ reports/Survey2new.html)

This suggests a strong placebo effect. The study is also suspect because it only surveyed practitioners--no non-believing "controls" for comparison--and was conducted by a Falun Gong association (Falun Gong Zizhuyuan Assistance Center, Beijing). If an organization has a vested financial or personal interest in finding a positive result, it almost always will. This is why western scientific protocol requires that research be judged by independent and, hopefully, impartial referees. (Biased research is all too common in China. When I wrote The Way of Qigong, I found that only about 10% of published qigong experiments were scientifically trustworthy.)

Qigong is complementary medicine and is a powerful adjunct to necessary medical intervention. It is now taught in several U.S. medical schools. I have more physicians in my own teacher training program than people of any other profession. Physicians are willing to study qigong because qigong does not claim to cure all diseases. Qigong is an excellent system of patient education. The more a student practices, the more he or she gains control over those aspects of health that can be controlled. Sometimes genes are stronger than qigong. People get sick in spite of qigong or any other therapy, but qigong gives the patient a better fighting chance.


China's Search for Meaning

It seems to me that the Falun Gong movement is symptomatic of the desperate search of the Chinese people for freedom, empowerment, peace, and, most importantly, meaning. When psychiatrist Victor Frankl was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps, he discovered that inmates who maintained a sense of purpose and meaning had the best chances of survival. Perhaps, meaning is the most important benefit of Falun Gong. However misguided the philosophy, it does confer a sense of hope for something better. This may, ultimately, be even more important for health than qigong.

---------------------------------

Ken Cohen ©2000, Kenneth S. Cohen, M.A., M.S.Th. is an internationally renowned health educator, Qigong instructor, and China scholar. He is the author of "The Way of Qigong: the Art and Science of Chinese Energy Healing" (Ballantine Books), "Taoism: Essential Teachings" (Sounds True), and more than 150 journal articles. His lectures have been sponsored by the Association of Asian Research Scholars, Zen Mountain Monastery, the Canadian Ministry of Culture, and many universities. He is executive director of the Qigong Research and Practice Center (http://www.qigonghealing.com).

Article reprinted from the Summer 2000 issue of "Qi Journal"


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