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Falun Gong – A heresy attached to Buddhism, with the characteristics of folk religion --- Review of Li Hongzhi’s “Zhuan Falun” and his Falun Gong (2)
Adjust font size:   Close kaiwind Chen Xingqiao 2016-01-23

In the previous part of the article, we have shown that Falun Gong is neither a breathing exercise nor Buddhism. But what is it? I think it is a new type of modern superstition and cult in the name of Buddhism.

Falun Gong believes that there are numerous, multilayer, supernatural and superhuman gods and Buddhas, belonging to the multi-god belief. It has its own doctrines and mixed and disorderly theories. Though at the beginning stage, it already had its own organizations – Falun Gong Society - and professional and part-time staff members (coaching station heads etc.), it also had its imperfect commandments and cultivation requirements like a religion. Although its embryonic form was as a religion, it developed from among the people outside the religions such as Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Islam, which are recognized and protected by the state. In the present-day social environment, it appears in the guise of breathing exercises and yet it deals with almost all religious issues. It does its upmost to denigrate Buddhism and other religions and tries to avoid the form and name of religion to deceive or hoodwink the government and kind-hearted people. That is why I say that it is a cult in the name of Buddhism, with the characteristics of a folk religion.

Since the Yuan Dynasty(1271—1368)scores and even a hundred folk religions emerged in China, such as White Lotus Society, Luo Zu, Huang Tian and Wenxiang. The theoretical bases of these folk religions were Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and witchcraft. They were mostly of multi-god belief, with a multitude of doctrines that were heavily superstitious. The rulers of the country regarded most of them as cults and tried to suppress them, so they had to survive secretly.

Falun Gong has a similar theoretical basis and characteristics. Analysis shows that it is a heretical sect of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism as well as Christianity, Shamanism and folk religions. Although influenced by a number of scientific and materialistic concepts, these concepts are nothing but ornaments and cover. Running throughout the book “Zhuan Falun: Turning the Law Wheel” are repeating theological doctrines.

Li Hongzhi has also designed a logo for Falun Gong. It is made up of the Buddhist peace sign Swastika 卐matched with Taoist yin-yang symbol and named the “law wheel” (In Buddhism, it is called The Wheel of Dharma). It is one of the possessions of a legendary chakravatin king. It is the supreme ideological weapon, commonly referring to Buddhist doctrine. The logo reveals that Falun Gong is a folk religion in nature.

Explaining the design, Li Hongzhi said:

“Some people have asked: “Since we’re of the Buddha School, why is there also Taiji? Doesn’t Taiji belong to the Tao School?” It is because what we cultivate is very immense, which is the same as cultivating the entire universe. Then think about it, everyone: This universe consists of two major schools, the Buddha School and the Tao School. With either of them excluded, it will not constitute a complete universe, and neither can it be called a complete universe. Consequently, we have included things from the Tao School. Also, some people have said that in addition to the Tao School, there are also Christianity, Confucianism, other religions, etc. Let me tell you that after its cultivation reaches a very high level, Confucianism belongs to the Tao School; when many Western religious cultivation practices reach high levels, they are classified as belonging to the same system as ours, the Buddha School. There are only two such major schools.”

What a mismatch! Li Hongzhi has drawn together religions that are incompatible with one another and even have conflicting theoretical systems. This shows similar thinking to such historical Chinese folk religions as Yiguan Dao (I-Kuan-Ta ), a reactionary sect advocating five religions in a big family. Falun Gong tends to mix all sects of religions with Buddhism and Taoism as the main body. Conversely, it overvalues itself while denigrating and excluding other religions and Qigong (breathing exercises).

According to Li Hongzhi, the Falun (law wheel) is not merely a logo and it has great soul and functions. He said:

“In a sense, Falun is a miniature of the universe…The whole universe is in motion and so are all the galaxies within it. Therefore, the Taichi symbol and the small swastika 卐 symbol in the emblem are also rotating. The entire Falun is rotating as well. The large symbol in the center is rotating as well.” “Those with supernormal abilities can see that this Falun is rotating.” “The same is true for our small Falun badges, which are also rotating.”

What functionality does it have? Li Hongzhi said:

“Our Falun Dafa does not follow the inner alchemy. Our routine aims at cultivating a law wheel in the abdomen. In the training class, I take it upon myself to install the law wheel in the trainees. When I lecture on Falun Dafa, we install the law wheel into the listeners one by one. …The law wheel is the epitome of universe with all the functions of the universe. It moves and revolves automatically.” “It revolves endlessly in the belly. Once it is installed, it will never stop, year in, year out. It automatically absorbs energy from the universe in the process of rotating. It in itself evolves into energy to supply to all parts of the body and at the same time, when it rotates counter-clock-wise, it can give off energy to expel waste matters that disperse around the body. When it releases energy, it could drive it very far away and brings in renewed energy. The energy it releases benefits all people around you.” “So this exercise routine automatically transforms a man. This is what is called ‘exercise training man” or ‘law training man’. Before you practice the routine, it is ‘exercise training you’ and when you practice the routine, the routine training you, too.” “I tell you, the law wheel is more valuable than your life. It is a life of higher order. In no time should it be destroyed.”

How wild an imagination he has! How magic it is! This fully caters to the mentality of those people who do not make progress in following the exercise routine and lack confidence, but have a maggot in their heart. Men of vision have no difficulty in seeing through the deception and absurdity in all the talk. However, there are many people who cast no doubt about it, trying by hook or by crook to let Li Hongzhi install the non-existing law wheel into their abdomens. They believe that, with the law wheel, they will be free from any disease and become a Buddha.

All folk religions (or cults) try every means to deify their doctrines, such as being impenetrable by sword or spears and elevating the body and flying away and so on and so forth. Falun Gong refuses to play second fiddle, as evidenced by the “Falun theory”. Like other chieftains of folk religions, Li Hongzhi leaves no stone unturned to deify himself, creating a personal cult. This can be seen in his books. The most representative is his possession of Fashen or “body of law”.

In Buddhism, Buddha-body, also called Dharma Body (Dharmakāya) embodies the nature of law, integrating merit, virtue and law. Li Hongzhi has distorted its meaning, bragging at will that:

“when a man has cultivated himself to a considerable high level outside the secular law, he would have the possession of the “body of law”. The “body of law” engenders in the Dantian part of the belly, made up of law and results of practicing the routine, embodied in another space. The “body of law” empowers a man. The consciousness and thought of the body of law are controlled by the subject. Yet, the body of law is in itself a complete, independent and down-to earth life of the individual. So he can do anything independently. The body of law and the subjective consciousness do the same things. ….What I want to do, such as adjusting the bodies of my disciples who are really cultivating themselves, is done by my body of law, because the body of law is different from the body of ordinary people. It is in another space.”

That means that his body of law, like himself, is omnipotent, doing something to you without your knowing it. Li Hongzhi said:

“The site for our practicing routines is better than any other similar sites. So long as you come to this site, it is much better than treating your diseases. When my body of law sits there, there will be a canopy in the sky over the site, there will be a Dafa wheel covering the site to guard it.” “Every trainee has my body of law behind and not only one.” I have the possession of uncountable number of bodies of law, which can even oversee far more than these trainees.”

It seems that the so-called body of law is omnipresent and omnipotent, as if he is the “savior” and a “deity” that sways all things in the world. Once believing in his religion, one would be subject to control by his body of law. In Buddhism, there are no numbers and only incarnation is countable. It seems that Avalokiteshvara is not his comparison although the Buddha can respond to a thousand requests. Li Hongzhi said: “Every word in my books is a law wheel at the primary level, but it is my body of law in the underlying level. Even the radicals of Chinese characters are individuals that are different when they are read through your mouth.” Some people have described Li Hongzhi as “smart as a whip but audacious to the extreme”. It is really the case that he dares to think, dares to say and dares to deceive. The bigger and the more fantastic his boasts, the easier it seems for him to touch people. No wonder many people in these years have prostrated themselves before Li Hongzhi, seeing him as a grand Buddha or regarding his books as “scripture”, reciting them or copying them or sitting together to discuss them with a surge of passion.

In the previous period, some Qigong masters have tried their utmost to exaggerate the functions of information, exploiting to the full its psychological hint to hold Qigong mass, passing on and receiving Gong from long distance and selling water, books, audio tapes, video tapes, souvenirs and law objects that carry their Gong information. Now Li Hongzhi has used the Falun doctrine and the body of law fallacies to substitute for information. He lauds them to the skies, saying that the law wheel and the body of law can at all times automatically exercise their functions of regulating the body, curing diseases, passing on the Qi and protection, which makes his books, recordings, video tapes and color photos sell quite well. If we say that the theory of information has some scientific basis, the law wheel and the body of law theories are nothing but modern superstition fabricated by Li Hongzhi in the name of Buddhist doctrines. It is a major mark showing that Falun Gong is a new type of folk religion.

I often hear some friends who practiced Falun Gong say that their health has become better and mentality has improved. It is, in fact, because these people have their beliefs and spiritual ballast and have accumulated certain merits and virtues through some reasonable exercises. Besides, Buddhism holds that everything changes when you put your heart into it. The piety, focusing in their belief and their own psychological functions, has generated some results. It is absolutely not the so-called “law wheel” and the body of law that have played their parts.

I remember that in 1994 Li Honghi came to Harbin to give Qigong lectures to an audience of about 4,000 in an ice hockey hall (tickets were 53 yuan per person). It was said that about 1,000 people from Liaoning Province made a special trip to sit in the lectures. In the last session, I saw a woman holding a silk banner, which she planned to present to Li Hongzhi, shouting and asking Li Hongzhi to save her father’s life. At that time, her father’s body lay on the roadside. He looked about 60 years of age. He came with his daughter from the city of Jinzhou, Liaoning, to listen to the lectures. According to the woman, not long after her father arrived, he had a fever. He firmly believed what Li Hongzhi said, that people practicing Falun Gong do not suffer from diseases, so he persisted in listening to his lectures. Later on, she found that things were getting serious and found people to send her father to a hospital, where he was given an infusion and a medical checkup, but no cause was found. Then the old man was carried back to the ice hockey hall and his daughter asked Li Hongzhi for help. Li Hongzhi looked at the old man and said that he usually did not treat patients and it was too late, he had already died. The man’s daughter refused to accept it and insisted in getting Li Hongzhi to save her father, but she was shut out. In the end, Li Hongzhi and his followers hurried out from the side gate. That woman was still waiting outside the front gate, looking forward to Li Hongzhi using his unrivaled magic law wheel to create a miracle.

Perhaps some people may think that the death of the old man was accidental. But I have in recent years heard about many cases of family discord and deaths due to Falun Gong. The following is a report carried by the “Qianjiang Evening News” on February 27, 1998, with the title “Save my loved ones who have gone mad with Falun Gong”:

Of late, letters from readers have kept flying in, all reporting what evils the so-called Falun Gong have brought to their loved ones and their families.

“Save my mother, please”. A letter from an engineer surnamed Zhang from a designing institute in Hangzhou. He said that his mother suffered from diabetes in her late years. After being treated at a number of hospitals in Hangzhou, her conditions began to turn for the better. But, unexpectedly, his mother began to practice Falun Gong and refused to go to hospital again. Now her condition is worsening. But this old intellectual, whol graduated from a construction college in Shanghai, still refused medical treatment. She said to her son that she was receiving the tests by Zhuan Falun and master Li Hongzhi will help her drive away the disease.

“Falun Gong is about to tear my family apart”. A letter by Yang from Banshan of Hangzhou told our reporters that she used to have a happy family. But since her husband began to practice Falun Gong, he refused to go to hospital and prevented his wife and daughter from seeing doctors. For this, the husband and wife often engaged in bickering and their love for each other has been lost. After the Spring Festival, having reached the end of her forbearance, Yang took divorce proceedings at court. She said how she hoped that her husband would repent and restore the family to what it used to be.

“How should I save my daughter?”. This is a letter from a reader surnamed Chen, who worked with a hospital in Huipu. Her daughter went to the United States after graduating from high school. Nobody knows when she started being obsessed with Falun Gong and has gone to the extent of being mad with it. For eight years in the United States, she wandered from place to place, doing nothing.

Some people who have been hoodwinked into the superstitious activities of Falun Gong, which professed to have the ability of reaching the Heavens, suffer greatly. Some people have even lost their lives. In a news organization in Hangzhou, a staff member surnamed Jin was hoodwinked so much by Falun Gong that he could not get out. On the early morning of November 23, 1997, Jin, who suffered from diabetes, refused to eat for days on end and his health quickly declined. When his parents asked him to see the doctor, he flatly refused, saying that so long as he listened to the recordings by Grand Master Li Hongzhi, his illness would naturally get better. Even when Jin laid in bed in a coma, with his face turning grey, two fellow Falun Gong practitioners still sat by his bedside, playing again and again the recordings by the master. By and by, his face turned pale andhe  passed away amid the recordings of Li Hongzhi. He married only seven months previously. The wife of a worker surnamed Chen of a Jiaxing city machinery plant also suffered from diabetes. At the beginning of last year, she learned that Falun Gong could cure her disease, so she joined the ranks of Li Hongzhi’s followers and stopped taking medicine. Up to mid-November, her condition worsened. She was rushed to a hospital but it was too late.

All these cases show that the law wheel and the body of law preached by Li Hongzhi could not work miracles. Rather, they are enough to lead people to death.

Nobody knows whether these pious Falun Gong followers can go to the other bank –the law wheel world directed by Li Hongzhi. Li Hongzhi said that “the world of the law wheel is a magnificent and beautiful world hosted by the Buddha.” When asked whether the people practicing Falun Dafa can in the end reach that world, he said:

“My law wheel world could not accommodate them. Only those who have really reached perfection can go there…..How many million people are there. There will be more in the future. From generation to generation, they will go on and the law wheel world cannot accommodate them. But that does not matter. If people cannot reach perfection, they may go up to a higher level of space, where it is also very beautiful. Most of our trainees come from different levels and after they have got the gist of the law, they would return to where they come from.”

Nearly all religions have their own paradise theories and so does Li Hongzhi. Apart from recognizing the other bank theories held by some religions, such a paradise, he also has his own corresponding theories. Isn’t it very clear about the nature of Falun Gong as a folk religion?

Li Hongzhi tries his best to deny that Falun Gong has any relationship with religion, saying:

“Historically, we did not access religion. Now most of our followers are common people, who have no religious affiliations. The purpose of a religion is to meditate and save people, ….the routine exercises carried out by the common people can also have such functions. But we do not have a form of such religion. In the future, there will be disciples specializing in exercising Falun Dafa, but we have not reached that stage.”

Here Li Hongzhi only regards the external form of religion as religion. In fact, he is engaged in religion. He thought that without the form of religion it is not a religion and there are no disciples specializing in Falun Gong, so it is not a religion. This is really self-deceiving. It is just like a case in which a guilty person gives himself away by continuously protesting his innocence.

In view of this, it would be more conforming to facts to call what Zhuan Falun advocates “Falun Religion” instead of Falun Gong. In reality, Li Hongzhi himself declines to say “Falun Gong”. He would rather call it “Falun Dafa”, because it is the teaching created alone by himself but not a low level breathing exercise. Believing in religion and carrying forward religion is the private affair and freedom of the citizens, but they must abide by the law and regulations of the state and at least observe the religious ethics; seeking truth from facts rather than resorting to deception and creating confusion, or distorting and denigrating other religions to elevate themselves. Otherwise, they will in the end lift a stone only to crash on their own feet, harming others as well as themselves.

Falun Gong and Science

Science and technology in the recent century has developed by leaps and bounds, renewing with each passing day and bringing earth-shaking changes in all areas of human society. It has also triggered a revolution in the ideological and theoretical fields. For a time, science has become a symbol of progress in civilization while all kinds of superstitions have become a hallmark of ignorance and backwardness. So, all kinds of isms and theories try to claim kinship with science. Li Hongzhi is well versed in this. While putting up the signboard of Qigong for Falun Gong, he did not forget to put a veil of science to cover Falun Gong. Reviewing his book “Zhuan Falun”, Li Hongzhi expresses the following approaches to science:

1.He holds that Buddhism, including Falun Gong, is the most profound and the most mysterious and supernatural science. But to enter into this area, it is necessary to change one’s thoughts fundamentally. Otherwise, one can never have a true knowledge of the universe.

2. He stressed that modern science has proved that what the religions preach is true and correct. By using science, his intention is to elevate religions. Just as he said: “Einstein was no ordinary person. He discovered what religion and even theologians preach is right. … Einstein had climbed to the peak of human knowledge about science and technology. Go on studying and you will find that what religions say is totally true. Many contemporary scientists and philosophers have in the end turned to believe in religion.

3.He lauds China’s ancient science. He holds that the traditional Chinese medicine was the most developed in ancient times. “The current western medicine cannot surpass it even in years to come”. “China’s ancient science directly studies the human body, life and the universe. It follows another path. …. Some people asked whether or not we can have automobiles and trains today if we follow the path traversed by the ancient science. I say that you, in this environment, cannot know the things in another environment. Your thought should undergo a revolution. Without a television set, we have the head and we can see whatever we want to see, because we have the Gong in the head. Without a train or a car, a person can float up without a lift. It will bring about different states of social development, not necessarily confining to this framework.”

4.He denigrates and even is antagonistic to modern science. He said a Buddha with a high level of ability may create a new level of space in an instance by opening his mouth or by a thought. At a wave of the hand, all human diseases would be gone. “People feel that famous persons, scholars and all kinds of experts are all very great. But, in reality, they are small potatoes, because they are ordinary people. …Although they have the possession of all human knowledge. “The Western science has reached its extreme end” and “What the people want cannot be achieved by scientific and technical means of humans. If there are possible breakthroughs, it needs the devils falling from the sky.” “The people are too absolutely filled with the science coming from the West, making people more and more materialized. Weighing everything with the exciting theories has made people fall into the ranks of the ordinary. “The knowledge grasped by man has reached the end. When it has reached the end, it will restrict the development of science.”

Li Hongzhi treats science the same way as he does to Qigong and Buddhist theories. On the one hand, he utilizes it to advance his own purposes and on the other hand he denigrates and excludes it. His approaches to science have some markets and are in a way representative of all contemporary emerging religions.

As is known to all, science is a knowledge system about nature, society and thinking. It is the crystallization of the practical experience of man. It is divided into social sciences and natural sciences. Natural sciences focus on the study of material forms, structures and nature and the law governing their movements. It covers mathematics, physics, chemistry, astronomy, geology, biology and other basic sciences as well as such applied sciences as material science, energy science, agronomy and medicine. They are powerful weapons for knowing and transforming nature and developing the forces of production. Social sciences focus on the study and explanation of all social phenomena and the law governing their development. They include political science, economics, military science, law science, education science, science of art and literature, science of history, science of language, science of nationalities, science of religion and sociology. They constitute the knowledge system for people to know and transform society and build a new type of relations of production.

The features of science are seeking truth from facts. It studies phenomena by relying on perceptive experience and instruments and meters to test them again and again to seek the best solutions and rational answers. It does not blindly believe in supernatural things and fears no authorities. But religion is an ideology and a subject for study by social sciences. Although in some aspects, religion can make its case scientifically, it is quite different from science, after all. Religions believe in supernatural forces and the other bank world or paradise and following the leaders, prophets or founders. It believes in studying the spiritual world, stressing the necessity to get happiness at present and in the future through the religious rites and cultivation. It is a belief. It is, perhaps, a kind of blasphemy as compared with science. Falun Gong runs counter to the scientific spirit. It is pseudoscience, out and out. Li Hongzhi says science has proved correct what religions preach. It is nothing but rejection of science by brandishing science. It is too ambiguous, too assertive. As is known, science has denied the fallacy of man being the creation of gods and the geocentric view of the universe. The wind, rain and lightening deified by religions have been proved by science to be natural phenomena governed by certain laws. Science has not reached its end, not as Li Hongzhi has asserted. It is developing into further depth. Of course science is in no way omnipotent. In many aspects, it has its limitations. While creating the brilliant material civilization, it has brought about all kinds of drawbacks. But these drawbacks are mainly caused by the society and man in the application of science. In these aspects, philosophy and religion can often have their special values – making up for what science lacks.

It is erroneous to oppose science to religion or confuse them, just like Li Hongzhi does. We must view science and religion dialectically, display each other’s advantages and avoid their weak points, making both serve socialist material and spiritual civilizations.

Reflection about Falun Gong

How did Falun Gong come into being?

Superficially, Falun Gong was compiled by Li Hongzhi. In reality, it has its due historical roots and social causes. Li Hongzhi was born to an intellectual family on July 27, 1952 in the city of Gongzhuling, northeast China’s Jilin Province. He began to work for an oils and cereals supply company in the city of Changchun, Jilin Province. In 1991, he quit his job and went out to teach his breathing exercises. According to the book “The Problem of Falun Gong (Li Hongzhi)” by the China Breathing Exercise Society, Li Hongzhi changed his birthday to May 13, 1951 (the eighth day of the fourth month in the lunar calendar). It is said that it was the day in which Sakyamuni was born. Li Hongzhi also fabricated how he quit his job to engage in religious activities. According to the profile of Li Hongzhi written by the Falun Gong Society, Li Hongzhi was born a genius. At the age of four, he accepted the Gong from Master Quan Jue, the tenth successor to the Buddhist Dafa and cultivated truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance. At the age of 8, he was inspired by the superior Dafa, acquiring omnipotence. At the age of 12, he began to be taught the exercise of “Eight-Direction Real Person” by a Taoist master, exercising fists and kicking, sword and spears, cultivating both internal and external Gong. At the age of 21, he began to take up a job and received the “internal cultivation” exercises passed on by “Zhen Dao Zi” from the Changbai Mountains. At the age of 23, he was taught the principles and routines of cultivation exercises from a female Buddhist master. Later on, he learned from masters of both Buddhism and Taoism. Starting from 1984, he began to compile his Falun Gong by consulting international and domestic schools of breathing exercises. At this time, his masters all came back to direct him in the compilation. The work was finalized by 1989 and published in 1992. Of course, the descriptions in the profile are far more magic than this. We do not know who these masters are and whether they are believable. But some materials say that when Li Hongzhi’s mother return from Thailand to Changchun to see her relatives and learned that Li Hongzhi had “magic exercises”, she said indignantly: “It is nothing but bullshit, a lie, deception. Do not listen to him. I saw with my own eyes how he has grown up. I did not see any Gong in him at the early age, let alone a successor.” Another local official said that in his hometown the Swastika 卐 society was prevalent before liberation (1949) and it was banned as a reactionary secret society after liberation. The subsidiaries of the swastika society were Red Swastika Society, yellow swastika society and blue swastika society, mostly folk religions that integrated Buddhism and Taoism. It remains unknown whether Falun Gong has anything to do with the swastika societies. But in the environment where folk religions were so prevalent in his hometown and kept him in contact with so many so-called Buddhist and Taoist people, it can be imagined what influences he had.

In the 1980s, many people who professed to have extraordinary powers or Qigong masters emerged in Liaoning and Jilin provinces. Why? Perhaps it has something to do with Shamanism that used to be prevalent in Northeast China, where there were also some forms of local witchcraft, who said to have extraordinary powers. Besides, it was said that foxes and weasels, which were regarded as two deities used to run roughshod, have extraordinary powers. Li Hongzhi in his lectures often describes many breathing exercise masters and even many Buddhist sculptures as having such animals attached to them. He said:

How many people practicing breathing exercises have animals attached to them? If I tell you, many people would be withdrawing from practicing the exercises. There is a fearful number.” “I tell you that the books (referring to Qigong books) mention a lot of them, such as snake, fox and weasel. If you read these books, these things would jump out. I have said, the number of phony Qigong masters is far more than the number of real Qigong masters. You cannot distinguish them.”

Some people dared not come into contact with other forms of Qigong after hearing what Li Hongzhi said. Some people sent the god or Buddhist sculptures in their homes back to temples. In fact, living in such surroundings, Li Hongzhi perhaps may have acquired some special powers that can confuse some people. Even if he had, it would have been rather insignificant. As can be seen from his books, his bragging, his weird ideas, and his absurdities, he really looks like a person with something attached to his body which makes him talk rubbish.

That is why I said that Falun Gong coming into being has profound historical roots and social factors in addition to the personal factors of Li Hongzhi. It is a product of the Qigong fever, commercialization and religionization of Qigong in those years. All these indicate that people were thirsty for religion while knowing nothing about religion. In countries with a relaxed political environment and developed economy, all kinds of religious organizations and sects run wild and that has become a universal phenomenon in modern society. It is an expression of the spiritual void of people with strong material desires. It also shows that the traditional religions have declined in the period of transition. So, it merits attention when in the future all kinds of modern superstitions or irregular religions in the name of Buddhism, like Falun Gong, should appear in China.

Why Falun Gong has developed so fast?

According to Li Hongzhi’s estimate, the number of people learning Falun Gong reached hundreds of thousand from May 1992 to September 1994 and more in the last two years. There may be the following four reasons:

1.In China, religion is usually shut out of media coverage. Li Hongzhi took the opportunity to come out with a set of cultivation method suitable for practice by common people who wanted to practice religion but feared the name of religion. The exercise catered to the Qigong fans that were eager to seek the philosophy behind Qigong and they wished to attain a higher level. The exercise also catered to the religionization of Qigong and occupied spaces other than temples and churches. As it appeared in the name of Qigong, it gained widespread dissemination without subjecting to intervention by the government.

2.Buddhism is profound in its teachings, but the Buddhist circles still have their weaknesses in interpretation, the breadth and depth and method of spreading their doctrines. What Falun Gong preaches is easy to understand and can expound the teaching at will. Therefore, it attracted many common people who worship Buddhism but do not understand Buddhist teachings. Li Hongzhi exploits the weaknesses of China’s Buddhism and uses the slogan of “truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance” to fan up the religious mania among some people. It has objectively stimulated the development of Falun Gong.

3.Falun Gong brags that it is on a high level, tinged with religious ideas and caring for life, thus attracting some cadres and intellectuals to join it who lack the necessary religious knowledge. At the same time, the cult provides various training classes, coaching stations, prints a lot of books and issues audio and video recordings at very low prices. Through these means, it has won a lot of believers.

4.The related government departments lack alertness and necessary study of new forms of spreading feudal superstitions in the name of practicing Qigong. The state lacked the corresponding laws and regulations to manage such practices. The ordinary people seek things novel and magic, lacking the distinguishing abilities. All these left holes for Falun Gong to exploit.

The harm done by Falun Gong

The above analyses show that Falun Gong’s theories are full of hypocrisy and fallacies and self-contradictions. Li Hongzhi has worked flat out to denigrate other religions and various forms of Qigong, stressing the limitations of science and social crisis so as to get people to follow him and prostrate themselves before him. What is the most unacceptable is that he brandishes the banners of Qigong to denigrate Qigong, brandishes Buddhism to denigrate Buddhism and brandishes science to denigrate science. If this is allowed to continue, it will bring the following harms:

1.To the healthy development of scientific Qigong and the state management of Qigong according to law.

2.To the unity and stability of the Buddhist world and the state management of the Buddhism organizations by law.

3.To China’s reform and opening up and foreign exchanges. Buddhism is a worldwide religion and an important component part of China’s traditional culture. By distorting and denigrating Buddhism, Li Hongzhi has harmed the feeling of Buddhist believers and disrupted the thinking of the people, causing serious adverse effects.

4.To the normal production and living order of the people. By spreading superstitious ideas in society and the ideas of catastrophe, saying that the practice of Falun Gong would drive away all illnesses to the ignorance of science. By so doing, Falun Gong has disrupted the thinking of the people and the building of the socialist material and spiritual civilizations.

How to understand and treat Falun Gong?

Summing up, I have arrived at the following conclusions:

1.Falun Gong is not Qigong, but a new type of folk religion as shown by its main aspects.

2.Strictly speaking, Falun Gong does not belong to Buddhism. It is a hotchpotch of folk Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and some ideas of Christianity and Shamanism. It runs counter to Buddhist principles and sabotages Buddhism.

3.Practicing the exercises of Falun Gong may yield some good results in the body, but from a long-term point of view and in general, the development of Falun Gong is harmful to the Qigong world and the world of religion. It is harmful to the country and society, harmful to the dharmakaya of wisdom of Buddhist believers. As seen from the stand of traditional Buddhism, it is a cult and “Zhuan Falun” and other books are cultist books.

The emergence and development of Falun Gong is by no means accidental. We cannot take it lightly and turn a blind eye to the evil influence. We cannot solve the problem simply by criticizing and cursing it. Once Li Hongzhi is brought down, there might be Li Hongzhis in other names. On the other hand, we cannot take it too seriously and get in a panic, because it is absurd and blatant, after all. It has exploited the hole for the time being. It won’t last long. In history, there were numerous evil cults, but they could not cover the glory of rationale and the benevolent spirit. What is urgent for the present is, first of all, to thoroughly draw a line with it so that Buddhism would not continue to be wronged. The second is to make Falun Gong a teaching material by negative example, striving to raise the general qualities of the four disciples of Buddhism and adopt effective methods to spread orthodox Buddhism to enable all believers and the whole society to have a correct understanding of Buddhism and see through the nature of Falun Gong and other evil cults. The third is to criticize the ear-jarring fallacies preached by Li Hongzhi. The Buddhist world should have necessary reflections, draw lessons from this instance, constantly improve and strengthen themselves and expand the positive influence of Buddhism so as to correct people, including Falun Gong followers, with erroneous views about Buddhism.

We must draw a line between Li Hongzhi and his followers that have been deceived by him and between the absurdities designed to deceive people and some of the reasonable contents of Falun Gong. I have come into contact with some Falun Gong followers and found that most of them are kind people and have had a high level of education. Most of them got into contact with Falun Gong when practicing breathing exercises and were fired with the hope of driving away diseases and the idea of “truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance” and the pursuit for an eternal life. This is the strong desire hidden in most people. It is their kind aspirations that have led them astray. High monks with a high level of virtue and other Buddhist followers should display their pity, sympathy, understanding and care and give these people an opportunity to return to the correct path. We criticize Falun Gong objectively today in that we must safeguard the authentic laws and the lawful rights and interests of the Buddhists. We want to make more people, including Falun Gong followers, see through the hypocrisy and deceitful nature of Falun Gong so that they will walk out of the traps and find a belief and method of cultivation beneficial to their dharmakaya of wisdom and health and carry forward the real “truthfulness, benevolence and tolerance”.

In 1996, the State Press and Publication Agency issued a circular to ban and seal up all kinds of publications of Falun Gong, including Li Hongzhi’s “Zhuan Falun”. The China Qigong Society canceled the membership of Falun Gong at the end of the same year. All this indicates that the state departments and social organizations have seen the seriousness of the problem. But these measures have not effectively held in check the development of Falun Gong. Falun Gong has gone underground and developed externally, still bringing great harms. To resolve the problem of Falun Gong, the key lies in the solution to the underlying problems emerging in the course of social development and the improvement of the government’s monitoring and control means, as well as the laws and regulations for management. Special attention should be given to resolving the cognitive problems among the people. Li Hongzhi’s “Zhuan Falun” and other evil books cover wide-ranging issues. Limited in space, this article will not touch them one by one. I have to concentrate my analysis on some major arguments and major problems so as to deepen the understanding of the true nature of Falun Gong. I hope that the broad masses of Buddhists would be on high alert and try to make Falun Gong followers come to their senses. At the same time, I would like to draw the attention of the related state departments to study the emerging religions like Falun Gong and formulate corresponding laws and adopt resolute and effective measures against them.

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