Is Falun Gong a mere breathing and exercise group?

Is Falun Gong a mere breathing and exercise group?

I have met a few of the FG practicioners in Keelung and they all saythey also believe in Master Li as a kind of Christ figure and they believe in UFOs and auras and the end of the world, which they call the Final Consummation.

Yowzers! Sounds like more than mere breathing and exercising to me. but the newspapers never report this. Why?

Sure, Red China should NOt kill or detain or jail Falun Gong people, no matter what they believe. Freedom of thought and all that.

But … what is the real truth about FG and their weird leader Master Li who lives in rich house in New York City? Is this another high IQ cult like the Raelians.full of engineers and scientists and doctors in Taiwan?

Anyone ever practice FG or read their lit?

As far as I can tell Falun gong is a kind of mix of chi-gong (qi gong) and a very strange version of Buddhism. I am familiar with it through both my interest in human rights and in martial arts.

Their major books are available for free (in english) on the internet. Makes for strange reading.

The “Brian theory” about why the PRC government is so worried about them is that they have some vague resemblance to earlier groups that had sought to overthrow the Chinese government. The earlier groups include the Tai Ping rebellion group, the I-Ho-Chuan (the Boxers) and various “Red Spear” groups.

All these groups have/had in common: an intererest in chi gong, a strange mix of religions/beliefs, a central “head guy” who thought he was verrrry special (the leader of the Tai Pings claimed he was the brother of Jesus), wide popular support and eventually some kind of showdown with the government.

What the PRC fears is that the Falun gong people are some latter day Tai Ping type group. Whether that is true or not only time will tell.

Swami Brian
Master of Weird Cult Knowledge

If Falungong were just qigong it wouldn’t have been banned, since other forms of qigong are very widely practiced in China with no problem.

If it were just a religion, it wouldn’t have been banned either, judging by the fact that Buddhism, Daoism, Islam and the mainstream Christian churches are all practiced openly in China.

What makes Falungong a cult is that it’s leader Li Hongzhi claims to have the key to his practitioners’ qigong - It is Li who supposedly has the power to unlock the practitioners’ potential. That makes the practitioners psychologically dependent on Li, which gives him power over them.

I guess the majority of people have enough strength of character to do Falungong without psychologically enslaving themselves to Li or accepting all his barmy ideas, but others have done crazy things. Like Li Ting from Chengde in Hebei Province, who thought his parents were evil spirits, and killed them by stabbing them repeatedly.

At present the Taiwan government is providing a base to the Falungong so that they can use it against China. Notably Vice President Annette Lu frequently attends their events, and Ma Yingjiu put in an appearence at a Falungong event last night. You might have seen the free newspaper produced by the Falungong that is being given away at I-Mei stores. I haven’t heard of any Taiwanese Falungong pratitioners stabbing their parents or immolating themselves…so far.

For more information, click here.

Thanks, Juba,for the information re Master Li, the personality cult thing. Your analysis is spot on! Whoa, you should be a reporter! (Maybe you are…?)

And Kennedy-san, thanks for the legal POV, too.

I guess that as long as FG does not self-destruct or Master Li go looney on us (or them), everything will be okay. Just some harmless yellow t-shirt people egging China on.

There’s a good book on the Falun gong (“Falun Dafa: something something something”) at Asia World bookstore, it’s by a reporter. The media isn’t really interested in learning about their beliefs in depth. (For that matter the media is rarely interested in anything in depth.) This book corrects that. (For you, not for the media–reporters don’t read books.)

Yeah, it’s a weird little religion. The founder is worshipped, basically. The have a holy text, and rituals, and distinctive spiritual beliefs. They say they’re not a religion (why wouldn’t they want to be one? hmmm) but a health practice or something. But then Christian Science says they’re a science, so we can’t necessarily take their word for it.

Offhand I can think of a more dangerous ideological cult active in China. Sure, nobody really believes in Communism anymore over there, but they somehow seem to have neglected to yield power after discovering that they didn’t have all the answers after all.

Religion, needless to say, is not freely practiced in China. Roman Catholicism is banned, at least in the form of that religion that follows the pope. Tibetan Buddhists are constrained in which lamas they’re allowed to venerate. House churches and unauthorized mosques are banned. A lot of traditional Chinese practices are banned for being superstitions, which certainly raises questions about how you tell a superstition from a religious belief (especially in the case of a religion that consists of almost nothing else).

Or to look at it another way, the PRC has five approved religions. If yours isn’t one of the five, or you would prefer a different leadership / interpretation, then you don’t have religious freedom in China. And even if you’re happy with one of the official choices, you might be too young (under 18) or afraid of losing your job, or of your relatives losing their jobs. There’s some talk of expanding the list, but not about getting rid of it altogether.

Now there are a lot of chigong and t’ai chi movements around, which the PRC supports as patriotic–like Chinese medicine. So how do you tell the difference between a medical exercise, and a religion? Well the PRC noticed that the Falun gong included teachings about the soul and afterlife in their health exercise, and had this thing about wanting to save the world. A lot of Buddhist symbols, money going to the founder…

They made a big deal about not following any other medical exercise, because only theirs was pure. The PRC has accused them of also rejecting normal medicine, which may be true, though I can’t imagine the medical consequences would have been worse than the mass torture that the Chinese government has subjected them to.

And of course, the fact that they could assemble tens of thousands of demonstrators on extremely short notice to protest their banning, only confirmed in the government’s eyes that they were dangerous–even though most of them were retirees. The next religion to do this might not be so elderly and pacifistic.

A second-hand report, from a friend in Hainan who was friends with a policeman:

Apparently they raided a house and arrested a bunch of Falun Gong devotees, who were duly taken away for ‘questioning’. The cop was quite put out because beating these people didn’t seem to do any good. Apparently none of them acknowledged feeling any pain…