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(6 pages total)

Is Qigong Political?

Falun Gong has been in the international news and has become a political topic as China attempts to ban the practice and jail participants. Mr. Cohen not only describes the discipline to help us understand it better, but also gives his personal opinions on this very hot topic. Falun Practice in LA

What is Falun Gong?

Qigong has always been associated with spiritual traditions. Although modern practitioners generally consider qigong a healing art or even a branch of Chinese medicine, the majority of early qigong texts are found in the Taoist Canon, a collection of more than 1,000 texts on Taoist philosophy, religion, ritual, and qigong. In Taoist literature, qigong is called daoyin, "leading and guiding the qi" or yang sheng, "nourishing the forces of life." Qigong exercises were probably originally modeled on ancient shamanic postures and dances, similar to the postures described in anthropologist Felicitas Goodman's landmark book Where Spirits Ride the Wind. Ancient people discovered that specific postures or combinations of postures produce specific states of consciousness and influence the flow of subtle energy in the body.

Qigong is an evolving art. Old styles are modified and refined, and new styles are created according to the experiences, insights, and talents of practitioners. One of these new systems, called Falun Gong, was introduced by forty-one year old Li Hongzhi in 1992. Fa is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit word dharma, meaning Buddhist teachings. Lun translates the Sanskrit word chakra, meaning wheel. Falun is the dharma chakra, the wheel of Buddhist teachings. To turn the wheel of the dharma is to practice and propagate Buddhist teachings. Gong means skill or it may be short for the skill of controlling qi: qigong. Thus the name Falun Gong means "a qigong method that spreads Buddhist wisdom." Alternately, this system is called Falun Dafa, the Great (Da) Method (fa) of Falun. It includes both dynamic qigong (dong gong) in which qi is stimulated through gentle exercises, as well as quiescent qigong (jing gong), in which the mind controls qi during meditation.

Falun is more than a philosophical principle and a qigong system. The falun is also a spiritual energy center in the lower abdomen. This is not as esoteric as it first sounds. Imagine that you are a belly dancer doing hip gyrations--these movements, by the way, are part of a sacred healing dance tradition from the Middle East, originally practiced by women preparing for childbirth. Now imagine the movements getting smaller and smaller until your body is hardly moving at all, yet you still sense motion within the belly. The feeling of subtle rotating energy is actually very pleasant. The "energy ball" massages the internal organs, relaxes the diaphragm (causing a deepening and slowing down of the breath), and awakens an awareness of the body's untapped potentials. In conventional qigong and Taijiquan practice, this sensation is called dan tian nei zhuan, inner rotation of the dan tian (elixir field). I am convinced that the turning of the falun mentioned in Li Hongzhi's various publications is a variation of dan tian rotation. It is a valid qigong technique.

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