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Answers to questions about plagiary and tampering of Buddhist terms by Falun Gong


Editor's note:  With the outlaw of Falun Gong by the Chinese Government as an illegal organization, people from all walks of China has deeply launched a campaign to denounce Li Hongzhi's fallacies. However, Li Hongzhi has plagiarized a lot of Buddhist terms such as dharma chakra (or dharma wheel or Falun), dharma-kaya (or dharma body) and karma, etc., which have not only confused and cheated a great many of Falun Gong practitioners, but also made some people confuse Buddhist doctrines and creed with Falun Gong's fallacies. Therefore, many Buddhists have written to ask an analytic clarification of the Buddhist terms involved in Li Hongzhi's fallacies. In the 8th issue of  our magazine this year, an article written by Hu Xiaoguang made a comparative analysis of these terms theoretically. Further, this issue denounces the plagiary and tampering of Buddhist terms by Li Hongzhi in the form of questions and answers in simple and easy languages, in order that our readers can make a clear distinction between right and wrong.

Question: Falun Gong advertises itself as the supreme Buddha dharma also called Falun Dofa that means dharma chakra great dharma or "Falun Fofa" that means dharma chakra Buddha dharma. What relations does it have with Buddhism?

Answer: Nothing related, because it has nothing in common with Buddhism either in essential ideology or external form. Li Hongzhi himself has nothing to do with Buddhism, either. From the view of the Buddhist world, Falun Gong is no Buddha dharma at all, but a crooked sect attached to it and a cult. So the so-called supreme Buddha dharma is unfounded and fantastic.

Question: Li Hongzhi has used many Buddhism terms and concepts that we are familiar with in his book Zhuan Falun (meaning turning the dharma chakra). How to understand?

Answer: Li Hongzhi neither believes in nor understands Buddhism. He has only plagiarized some of the Buddhist terms with the intention to cheat those people who don't understand Buddhism with the influences of Buddhism.

Question: Can we interterpreted from your words that Li Hongzhi is only making use of some of the Buddhist terms and his fallacies have nothing in common with the tenet embodied in these terms?

Answer: Right. On one hand, it's because Li Hongzhi, with a degree of junior middle school, never seeks to understand anything thoroughly; on the other hand, with his sinister intention, he has deliberately distorted facts by means of hanging up a sheep's head and selling dog meat. For example, he opposes Qi Gong in the name of Qi Gong, rejects Buddhism under the signboard of Buddhist dharma and argues against science under the cover of science. Li Hongzhi deserves to be a super swindler at the end of the century.

Question: But a lot of Buddhist terms in Falun Gong have actually misled many people. Would you please analyze and clarify them one by one?

Answer: Surely. However, there are too many Buddhist terms and concepts plagiarized by Li Hongzhi, so let's begin with some of the major ones.

Question: Then, please begin with Falun or the dharma chakra that is originated from Buddhism. Li Hongzhi uses it as the name and symbol of its cult and infinitely apotheosizes it. Is there any Buddhist background about that?

Answer: Absolutely no. The dharma chakra in Buddhism is the shape of a wheel with eight spokes radiating from the hub that is originated from the chariot wheel in ancient Indian legend. It is regarded as one of the weapons used by the world-ruling king Cakravarti-raja who had all-conquering powers. Buddhism borrows it to metaphorize "Buddha dharma" and extends the three meanings of subduing evils, turning all the way and round and perfection. In Buddhist sutras, Buddha's preaching is often referred to as "turning the dharma chakra" and the development of Buddhism as "continuous turning of the dharma chakra". Therefore, dharma chakra or Falun is but a metaphorical term with symbolizing meaning which has evolved to be a synonym of Buddha dharma and the figure of the dharma chakra as one of the logos of Buddhism. At the Fifth Conference of World Fellowship of Buddhists held in 1956, it was formally identified as the religious emblem of Buddhism.

Nevertheless, the logo of Falun Gong is rigged up with five Buddhist characters and four Taoist Taichi symbols by Li Hongzhi to represent that Falun Gong is the "integration of Buddhism and Taoism". Besides, Li Hongzhi even described it as "epitome of the universe", it "has all the functions of the universe and can run and turn automatically", and "it is an advanced creature." According to him, it could be equipped in people's lower abdomen and turn continuously 24 hours a day. Turning clockwise could ferry oneself and turning counter-clockwise could ferry others so as to realize "people practiced by dharma" or "dharma practiced by people".

In such a way, a metaphorical word has been tampered with and apotheosized by Li Hongzhi into a substance with extreme spirit and mysterious role. It is clear that the dharma chakra is different from "Falun" in Falun Gong either in terms of shape or meaning. Li Hongzhi is merely making use of this term to fool people.

Question: Another term that Li Hongzhi uses most is dharma-kaya or dharma body. According to him, it is specific and mysterious. How to look at the dharma-kaya or dharma body in his words?

Answer: According to Buddhism, we can understand Buddha through three aspects dharma-kaya, sambhoga-kaya and nirmana-kaya. Kaya means assembling of all the dharmas. Generally, the eternal Buddha Shakamuni exists in the basis of the spirit of all human beings. It is like the dharma exists in the basis of the universe. Dharma-kaya is the body that reflects the truth of the universe. Sambhoga-kaya is the body of wisdom that generates all kinds of beneficial teachings. Nirmana-kaya is the body of compassion that appears for saving people. In simple words, our real bodies are called nirmana-kayas which are built up with physical bodies and spiritual wisdom such as the body of Buddha Sakyamuni emerging in front of all living creatures. This body tries to adapt to various changes in the nature and society depending on his or her own conditions and is thus called nirmana-kaya. For example, one person has a body of son for his parents, a body of disciple for his teachers, on the other hand, he has a body of parent for his children and a body of teacher for his disciples. If this very person can gather immeasurable merits of reciting amitabha encompasses, the extent and role of his adaptation to the changes are very large, like the 32 nirmana-kayas of Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (Guanyin). If the person understands the truth of all the dharmas in the universe, i.e. the doctrine of Dependent-Arising and Emptiness, his body that has accumulated doctrines is called dharma-kaya. Because doctrine itself is empty, the dharma-kaya is immaterial as empty as doctrine in everywhere. This is a philosophy about all the dharams, actually a personalized abstraction of the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism without shape or quantitive difference. Li Hongzhi, without real understanding, with incorporation of the concept in Qi Gong, said that dharma-kaya was a substance generated at people's lower abdomen that was consisted of dharmas and was also a creature in another space. He even boasted, "Each character in my book is a dharma wheel at low level and my dharma-kaya at high level." "I have countless dharma-kayas that have great powers, " and can help and protect Falun Gong practitioners at all the times and places. It has nothing to do with the dharma-kaya in Buddhism! To tell the truth, Li Hongzhi is doing nothing but apotheosizing himself with the fabricated "dharma wheel doctrine" and "dharma-kaya doctrine", which on one hand reveals his ignorance, and on the other hand expose his ambitions to confuse and control the disciples while considering himself as the savior.

Question: Karma and retribution theory is among the fundamental doctrines of Buddhism that has great impact on the mass of people. For this reason, Li Hongzhi especially likes to talk about karma and retribution, saying that they were the essential reason for all the diseases and misfortunes and one should repay his or her debt. Taking medicine would suppress the diseases and prevent the body to clean up, henceforth diseases should not be treated. He even wantonly promised that real Falun Gong practitioners would not fall ill. Therefore, a lot of Falun Gong practitioners didn't try to heal when they were ill resulting in a worse condition or even death. So, the Buddha circle in China needs a special clarification of karma and retribution.

Answer: According to Buddhism, "Creation is karma." Karma power means the power and effect produced by creation. In broad sense or in the theory of dependent arising of experiencing for the prior good and evil, every thing and all the phenomena of karma and vipaka in the universe are the effect of karma power, from formation, dwelling, decay and emptiness of the celestial bodies, to birth, aging, sickness, and death of the mankind, or arising, abiding, changing and extinction of all existences. There are many meanings for karma. It can be divided into karma of mouth, body and awareness in terms of form; kusala-karma, akusala-karma and avyakrta-karma in nature;collective and personal karma in terms of the retribution of oneself and other people. According to the karma and retribution theory in past, present and future, Buddhism believes that good and evil will have their karmic retribution and call these phenomena "karma and vipaka". From the depending level between karma and vipaka, there are fixed karma (niyata-vedanĩya-karma) and non-fixed karma (aniyata-vedanĩya-karma). The karma and retribution theory in Buddhism relates to the essence of life and its various forms and their interrelations, thus it is a complicated and sophisticated theoretical system far to explain in a few words. It's not proper to talk about karma or retribution simply and mechanically or misuse them everywhere because the factors that influence humankind's activities and their fate are intricate and complicated. In fact, the concept of karma in Buddhism is neither commentary nor derogatory, but a neuter noun. However, in folk opinions, it has been attached excessive emotions and is usually used as a derogatory term. Yet Li Hongzhi said "karma power" was something black, the retribution of wrongdoings. He even blamed all human diseases and misfortunes to the karma of previous life, speaking them as the debt owed by people in the previous life. In such a way, he explicitly or implicitly suggested to the Falun Gong practitioners that to be ill was to repay the debt, eliminate karma and pass the test and discouraged them to take treatment. This kind of words is extremely wrong and vulgar that could lead to great confusion and harms and are completely contrary to the Buddhist ideology and spirit.

Buddhism has always supported seeing doctors and taking medicine. For example, the four kinds of offerings in Buddhist sutras -- food and drink, clothing, bedding and medicine – includes medicine. Furthermore, Buddhism looks caring for patients as the first one among the eight good deeds. To relieve all living creatures from suffering is one of the important aspects of Buddhist Mercy Spirit. Sakyamuni has looked after patients by himself. Mahayana Buddhism strongly advocates practicing medicine, or medical science and regards it as one of the five kinds of knowledge. There are many parts in Buddhism Tipitaka especially talking about therapies of illness.

Thus it can be seen that the so-called "karam theory"of Li Hongzhi is nothing but vicious tampering and great distortion of the Buddhist karma theory!

Question: Li Hongzhi said that Falun Gong was one of the eight-four thousand bundles of the Buddhist dharma, telling Falun Gong disciples only to practice his dharma instead of anything else and saying that this was the very "Dharma-gate of non-duality". How do you comment this problem?

Answer: Dharma-gate of non-duality and eight-four thousand bundles of the Buddhist dharma are both special phrases in Buddhism. In Buddhism, eight-four thousand is a phrase used to represent that the amount is extremely large. Li Hongzhi, on the one hand, said that Falun Gong was among the eight-four thousand bundles of the Buddhist dharma, aiming to convince people that Falun Gong was Buddhist dharma that had nothing to do with modern Buddhism. On the other hand, he tried to promote Falun Gong to an unlimited high level, calling it a universe dharma, telling people to practice it exclusively while separated from any other ideology or dharma, and calling it the Dharma-gate of non-duality. His vicious intentions are obvious. In fact, the Dharma-gate of non-duality in Buddhism refers to a highest ideal or conception about everything that transcends truth or fake, good or devil, action or inaction, and even birth or death. People can take a great many of ways to experience or demonstrate this absolute ideal or conception, so there are eight-four thousand bundles of the Buddhist dharma. In here, non-duality and eight-four thousand are consistent with each other dialectically.

Besides, Li Hongzhi has ridiculously alleged that Falun Gong was a Buddha dharma rather than Buddhism, simply separating Buddha dharma from Buddhism. Generally speaking, "Buddhism" mainly refers to the doctrines of Buddha also called Buddha dharma. From the religious perspective, Buddhism also includes organizations of monks and laymen, regulations, taboos and commandments and religious rituals which are reflections of Buddha dharma in different societies and cultural contexts at different times and therefore can be regarded as part of Buddha dharma. Li Hongzhi, by separating Buddha dharma from Buddhism, has no intention but to "take advantage of " the Buddhist terms without real understanding in order that people would keep away from Buddhism or give up judging independently and walk on his evil road wholeheartedly. It calls for deep thought that in such a way, Li has blinded a lot of people who believe in Buddha heart and soul.

Question: Li Hongzhi frequently mentioned such Buddhist terms as Rulai (tatha-agata), Three Realms and three thousand great thousand worlds in his book Zhuan Falun. Can we suspect that it's a kind of tampering?

Answer: It's not only tampering but also extreme ignorance. Rulai is one of the ten titles that Buddhists use to indicate the supremacy of the Buddha from different perspectives, yet Li Hongzhi misconstrued it as another consciousness level apart from "Buddha"; According to Buddhism, there are Three Realms, i.e. Realm of Desire, Realm of Form and Realm of Formlessness, while Li Hongzhi called them realms of heaven, earth and human being (a theory of Shamanism); In terms of the three thousand great thousand world, in Buddhist doctrines, our celestial body under the sun and moon forms one small world, 1, 000 of these kind of bodies form one"small thousand world"; 1,000 "small thousand world" forms one "medium thousand world", and a thousand of these "medium thousand world" form one "great thousand world". So the "great thousand world" thus consists of 1, 000, 000, 000 small worlds. The "three thousand great thousand world" indicates the above three kinds of thousands. However, Li Hongzhi said, "Sakyamuni has also talked about three thousand great thousand world, meaning that in our galaxy, there are three thousand celestial bodies which have forms as we human beings." What a great gap between 1, 000, 000, 000 and 3,000! How obvious it is to identify that Li Hongzhi has interpreted Buhhism without real understanding!

Question: One cannot expect that Li Hongzhi, the founder of the "supreme Buddha dharma" Falun Gong, has made so many stupid mistakes about Buddhism terms. This indicates that when people criticize Li Hongzhi's fallacies, they should cautiously maintain vigilant against those Buddhist terms used by them and should not lump together these terms and those used in Buddhism so as to avoid greater confusion and hurt of the feelings of common Buddhists. Why has Li Hongzhi tried to plagiarize and tamper with a lot of Buddhist terms? And what lessons shall we learn?

Answer: Li Hongzhi knows well that Buddhism and its terms have extensive influences and great appeals in Chinese society, so he has plagiarized and tampered with a lot of Buddhist terms to exploit Buddhism. At the same time, he has wantonly distorted and denigrated Buddhism, requiring his disciples to only admire himself while keeping away from Buddhism. His intentions and means are extremely wicked. Speaking to lessons, the Buddhist World should seek the cause in ourselves instead of somebody else. First, we should strengthen religious consciousness of Buddhists, promote right belief, support proper dharma and reject all kinds of crooked sects attached to Buddhism. Secondly, we should deeply reflect on the issues about belief, ethos, systems, organization, personnel and management of temples and actually strengthen our self-construction so as to better adapt to the development of the age and meet the need of the common Buddhists to study Buddhism. Thirdly, we should make a clear distinction between Falun Gong by various means and at the same time, intensify the activities of denouncing and criticizing Falon Gong while fully using Falun Gong as a negative teaching material. We should not only enable the common Buddhists reach a higher level on the knowledge of proper dharma, but also help people from all walks of life understand Buddhism better and thus drive and improve our work of darma promotion. Fourthly, we should positively advocate the wise Buddhist theories, give full play to the Buddhist doctrines of ethical guidance role, and promote the rich and colorful Buddhist culture in order to purify the society, promote the construction of civilization and protect the world peace.

(World of Buddhism, June 8, 2006)