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Falun Gong, literally "Practice of the Wheel of Law" also known as Falun Dafa, lit. "Great Law of the Wheel of Law") is a system of "mind and body cultivation" introduced by Li Hongzhi (whose surname is Li) to the public in 1992. Falun Gong refers to five sets of meditation exercises (four standing, and one sitting meditation), and Falun Dafa refers to a set of religious teachings. Li claims to provide salvation for mankind and his Dafa (great law) is judging all beings in a process called Fa-rectification.
Falun Gong has been the focus of international controversy since July 20, 1999, when the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) began a suppression of the movement nationwide, except in the Special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau. The PRC government claims to have banned the group for what it considers to be illegal activities. The Falun Gong claims that the ban was the result of personal jealousy of the group’s popularity on the part of Jiang Zemin, a former President of the People's Republic of China. The suppression of Falun Gong is considered a human rights violation by a number of (mostly western) human rights groups and politicians.
The exact number of Falun Gong practitioners is not known. A figure of 70 million practitioners was quoted in a New York Times article published April 27, 1999. According to the article, this figure was the estimate of PRC government. However according to a statement posted on November 1, 1999 the membership estimated by Beijing was 2.1 million. A main Falun Gong website states a figure of 100 million practitioners worldwide, including 70 million in mainland China.
Falun Gong (Falun Dafa) was introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi on May 13, 1992 in Changchun, Jilin. According to Li, Falun Gong is an advanced "cultivation system" in the "Buddha School" which, in the past, was handed down to chosen disciples and served as an intensive "cultivation method" that required practitioners with extremely high “Xinxing” (mind-nature; heart-nature; character) or “great inborn quality.” Li taught the practice for three years and since then Falun Gong has also been promoted by practitioners themselves voluntarily. Falun Gong quickly grew in popularity in China, and starting in 1996 Li has introduced the practice to other countries.
At the beginning, Li introduced himself to the public as a Qigong master. In A Short Biography of Mr. Li Hongzhi, which appeared as an appendix in the Chinese version of his book, Zhuan Falun, before 1996, it was claimed that Li was guided by more than 20 masters of both the Buddhist and Taoist cultivation ways since the age of four. Li’s first teacher reportedly introduced him to the cultivation of truth, compassion and forbearance (真 zhen, 善 shan, 忍 ren). At age of eight, he was reported to have acquired supernatural powers, among which included levitation and invisibility. The biography also claimed Li has discovered the truth of the universe and the origin of humankind and has foreseen the development and future of the humankind.
In a lecture held on May 23, 1999 in Toronto, Canada, Li was asked: "I want to recommend to a newspaper that they publish the Master’s biography. Is this appropriate?" and he answered:
No. I don’t want to speak about my own situation. Nobody should. Because everybody wanted to find out about me there was a very, very simple biography in Zhuan Falun. Now I had asked them to take it out. What I tell you about is the Law (Dharma), everyone should study this Law. Have no interest in my circumstances! Just study the Law and that will lead you to consummation.Interviewed by Time magazine in May 1999, Li Hongzhi was asked to name his teachers. In response Li stated, "I do not wish to have their names known. I had masters in two schools."
- Main article: Li Hongzhi
Li Hongzhi is the founder and leader of the Falun Gong, but Falun Gong practitioners themselves call him "master" or "teacher". According to the Communist Party of China, a biography which is now generally accepted by the western media with a few points of discretion, Li was born in a small town in Jilin Province and moved to Changchun as a child. He played the trumpet when he was a teenager, and would eventually join the People's Liberation Army, worked as a department clerk, and went on to take an interest in Qigong shortly after it became popular in China in the late 1980's. This version of the biography is impossible to verify except through circumstantial evidence, which may have been skewed as part of Falun Gong's ban in China. Currently, however, there is no comprehensive biography of Li available, although in his first version of the book Zhuan Falun, which was circulated in China until the 1999 ban, there was an extensive biography detailing his years of training under a number of spiritual masters. This biography draws very sharp contrast to the CPC's biography of Li, and includes mention of Li achieving a supernatural state of body and mind, and special powers including levitation, invisibility, achieving supernatural feats with thoughts alone . This biography is presently seldom mentioned by Li or Falun Gong practitioners.
As a result, much is left to speculation about Li's true identity, and when he is asked about it personally, he has always given responses open to interpretation. When a Time reporter asked Li “Are you a human being?”, Li responded: “You can think of me as a human being.”  Based on his quotations, especially his claims (direct or indirect) of divinity, many experts have suggested that Falun Gong can rightfully be considered a religion. In addition to his apparent admission of a divine nature, according to some cult experts, Li demonstrates the classic characteristics of an authoritarian cult leader. However, whether the Falun Gong itself should be labeled a cult is the subject of much debate.
History and timeline
- Main article: History of Falun Gong
Falun Gong was introduced to the public by its founder Li Hongzhi on May 13, 1992, in Changchun, Jilin. Invited by Qigong organizations from each area, Mr. Li traveled to almost all major cities in China from 1992 to 1994 to teach the practice. From 1995 to 1999, Li introduced the practice to other countries. Since then, Falun Gong has been voluntarily promoted by practitioners themselves, with Li giving speeches on an irregular basis around the world that extends his teachings.
Suppression of the Falun Gong
In April 1999, a Tianjin professor wrote an article in the Tianjin College of Education’s Youth Reader magazine entitled “I Do Not Agree with Youth Practicing Qigong,” and made special mention of Falun Gong . On April 25, Falun Gong practitioners lined the streets near Zhongnanhai in a silent protest against the government, alleging unfair treatment of its practitioners in Tianjin. In July 1999, the People's Republic of China banned the Falun Gong in mainland China, fearing "a serious ideological and political struggle that would have a bearing on the future of the Communist Party and the State". Theories on the motives behind the ban vary. While some attribute Falun Gong's ban as the result of a personal directive of then-President Jiang Zemin, Falun Gong claims institutionalized persecution of their practitioners under the singular body of the Communist Party of China. Since the ban various human rights groups and western governments have condemned the Chinese government for alleged human rights abuses, including allegations of torture. The ban continues to this day.
Beliefs and teachings
- Main article: Teachings of Falun Gong
The foundation of Falun Dafa are teachings known in traditional Chinese culture as the "Fa" (Dharma), or "Dharma and principles" – that are set forth in the book Zhuan Falun. Falun Gong students are taught that their Fa or "Buddha Law" can be summarized in three words – Zhen 真, Shan 善 and Ren 忍, which translate approximately as 'truthfulness, benevolence (or compassion), and forbearance'. The process of cultivation is said to be one in which the practitioner assimilates himself or herself to Zhen, Shan and Ren.
The teachings and principles of Falun Gong are captured in two main books written by Li Hongzhi: Falun Gong (Law Wheel Qi Gong) and Zhuan Falun (Turning the Law Wheel). Falun Gong is an introductory book that discusses qigong, introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises. Zhuan Falun is the core text of Falun Dafa practice.
Research into health benefits
Research conducted into the health benefits of Falun Dafa include work by Quan-Zhen Li (Ph.D, M.D), Richard J. Johnson(M.D.), Ping Li (Ph.D) et al. Their paper titled Genomic Profiling of Neutrophil Transcripts in Asian Qigong Practitioners: A Pilot Study in Gene Regulation by Mind–Body reports the result of studies conducted on Neutrophils/polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) of Falun Gong practitioners. The study reports that among the 6 practitioners on whom the genomic profiling was done, in comparison to the control group, about 200 genes were found consistently up-regulated or down-regulated. The study states:
"We here report the cellular and molecular changes in Falun Gong practitioners' PMNs that may attribute to enhanced immunity, alteration of apoptotic properties in favor of a rapid resolution of inflammation, as well as PMNs longevity based upon a much more economical balance of protein synthesis and degradation."
"Drastic system-level changes of gene expression were detected in PMNs of Falun Gong practitioners, while little changes were detected among non-practitioners, despite the differences in age and gender. Most interestingly, the genes that are regulated in a consensus fashion among the practitioners can be grouped into several functional clusters, which are directly linked to PMN functions in anti-viral immunity, apoptotic property and possibly longevity based upon a much more economical balance of protein synthesis and degradation."
The Falun Dafa Australia website lists three surveys conducted in China in 1998, all of which suggest significant improvement in health levels. While the latter two provide no information related to who performed the surveys, the first lists a team of eleven researchers assembled from various institutes, hospitals, and universities. This survey was conducted on over ten thousand Falun Gong adherents in Beijing. The results suggest that among the participants Falun Gong’s disease healing rate was 99.1% with a cure rate of 58.5%
The rate of improvement in physical health was 80.3%, while 96.5% in mental health. The results of this survey indicate that Falun Gong has a significant effect in disease healing and improving health.
Criticism and controversies
Apart from the general negative rhetoric against Falun Gong from the Communist Party of China, Falun Gong's critics also come from political, religious, and philosophical circles [How to reference and link to summary or text]. Recently Falun Gong has also gained the attention of cult experts in the United States. The Rick A. Ross Institute based in New Jersey classifies Falun Gong as a "controversial group" or "movement" and Falun Gong has received criticism from anti-cult experts in Seattle. . Some skeptics claim Falun Gong has misinterpreted or skewed principles of Qigong, Buddhism, and Taoism. Li Hongzhi has been subject to controversy based on the contents of his lectures and his claims of having supernatural powers.
Differences between Falun Gong and other beliefs
Whether Falun Gong cultivation practice derives legitimacy from the ancient teachings of Buddhism is a matter of some controversy. Supporters say that traditional Chinese teachings called the Fa (Dharma) or “Dharma and principles” form the foundation for their Falun Dafa. In Zhuan Falun, Li states “the Falun Dafa is one of 84,000 cultivation ways in the Buddha’s School, which has never been made public during the historical period of this human civilization.” However, as reported by Benjamin Penny (2005), Falun Gong’s earliest critics stated that by dramatically changing the meanings of traditional Buddhist terms, Li misrepresents the basic tenets of Buddhism and should not claim to be part of that tradition.
Li as a savior or supernatural entity
Li has never directly said he is God, but some critics say that he assumes the role of a divinity by virtue of his claimed supernatural powers (Chang, 2004). In addition to claiming to be the exclusive savior of mankind during this "Dharma ending period," Li promises his disciples that they themselves will become gods some day. He has numerous fashen (law bodies) which, it is claimed, can also exercise "great supernatural power," cure illnesses and know what the practitioners are thinking at all times.
Fa-rectification: Li's version of the apocalypse?
Whether Li’s teaching that his Dafa (great law) is judging all sentient beings amounts to an apocalyptic prediction is a matter of some debate. Practitioners strongly reject the apocalyptic label, while commentators generally come to an opposite conclusion. Maria Chang (2004) writes: "Just as human civilizations had been destroyed in the past because of immorality, Li is convinced that the moral decadence of our times is leading to another apocalypse. His writings and speeches are replete with references to the 'Dharma-ending period' of 'the apocalypse,' the 'Great Havoc,' and the 'end times' (mojie). With the end days approaching, Li has set about disseminating Falun Dafa so as 'to provide salvation to mankind ... in this final period of the Last Havoc.'"
Debatable significance of Falun Gong awards and recognitions
There is some controversy about how meaningful Falun Gong’s many municipal awards and recognitions are and how they are used to promote the Falun Gong. Patsy Rahn (2000), states they “are documents routinely obtained by groups from public officials in the US for public relations purposes” and may be used to mislead people in China into believing “that the American government supports Master Li and his Falun Gong practitioners.” Noah Porter (2003) argues that these awards are not always easy to get, citing one example from Tampa, Florida.
Falun Gong and sexual orientation
Li has made statements condemning homosexuality, suggesting a homosexual has a "dark heart, turning demonic." However, homosexuals can practice Falun Gong if they "correct this bad behavior". The teachings of Falun Gong are seen as homophobic by critics, while defenders of the Falun Gong dispute whether statements made by Falun Gong's founder are fairly interpreted.
Falun Gong lays emphasis on its interpretation of good moral nature. Practitioners are required to emphasize virtue (de), be a good person in all environments, and always think of others before doing things.
According to Li Hongzhi, the sole criterion that distinguishes good from bad is the unchanging characteristic of the universe: Zhen-Shan-Ren (Truthfulness, Benevolence and Forbearance). In Zhuan Falun, Li states:
In a speech in Los Angeles (2006), Li Hongzhi spoke for the first time about what he sees as a big problem—cultivators not accepting criticism well. He also suggested that practitioners may be too focused on making judgments about others:“As a practitioner, one must follow this characteristic of the universe to conduct himself instead of the standard of ordinary people…. As a human being, if you can follow this universe’s characteristic of Zhen-Shan-Ren, you are a good person.”
- "As cultivators, think about it—I've talked about this in Zhuan Falun and in my earlier teachings on Fa—I have said, "Don't hit back when hit, don't talk back when insulted." When others mistreat you, you should respond with just a smile and let that be the end of it. And when others are embroiled in conflict and you are just an onlooker, you should think about it, "How can I do better? If I were in that position, would I be able to control my xinxing and face the criticism and disapproval like a cultivator?" Cultivation is about looking inside yourself. Whether you are right or wrong, you should examine yourself.
- Cultivation is about getting rid of human attachments. If you always reject reproaches and criticism, always point your fingers at others, and always refute others' disapproval and criticism, is that cultivating? How is that cultivating? You have grown used to focusing on other people's shortcomings, and never take examining your own self seriously. When others' cultivation one day meets with success, what about you? Isn't Master hoping that you are cultivating well? Why won't you accept criticism, and why do you keep focusing on other people? Why not cultivate inward and examine your own self? Why do you get agitated when you are criticized? How many of you seated here can keep at ease when someone points at you out of the blue and berates you? How many of you can stay unruffled and search for the reason on your part when faced with others' criticism and chiding?"
Falun Gong also believes in the act of retribution, and that all good and evil deeds will be paid in return in the due time. Because of this, Falun Gong practitioners see the PRC government crackdown as an act of "evil", and some pro-Falun Gong groups have reported claims of a number of people dying or suffering spontaneously after their alleged involvement in the crackdown of Falun Gong.[How to reference and link to summary or text]
The Epoch Times
- Main article: Epoch Times
According to the Epoch Times, it was founded in New York in May 2000, following the arrest of a small circle of journalists in China , however Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong (also known as Falun Dafa), has stated in his lectures that the Epoch Times “was established by Dafa (literally: great law) disciples for validating the Fa."  As a result of these conflicting statements and claims, whether or not the newspaper is actually Falun Gong's mouthpiece in the media is under considerable debate. The publication itself, however, presents an obvious political slant that is pro-Falun Gong and anti-Communist Party of China. The website's home page has a centered counter which displays in large numerals the number of people who have allegedly quit the Communist Party of China. This number is now over 17 million .
Theoretical and epistemological studies
The content of Li Hongzhi's books include commentaries on questions that have been raised in China's qigong community. Falun Gong's teachings tap into a wide array of phenomena and cultural heritage that has been debated for ages. It is noteworthy that the definitions of a number of terms used in the Falun Gong context differ somewhat from the definitions traditionally used in Buddhist and Daoist belief systems.
Falun Gong outside mainland China
The suppression of Falun Gong practitioners has been regarded by most western governments as a major international human rights issue. As of December 2005, sixty-one lawsuits have been filed[How to reference and link to summary or text] in about thirty countries charging Jiang and several other senior officials with genocide, torture, and crimes against humanity for their roles in the treatment of Falun Gong in mainland China. The PRC government is accused by Falun Gong and many human rights groups of violating the United Nations Convention Against Torture (UNCAT), also ratified by the People's Republic of China.
- ↑ http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/north_america.htm
- ↑ http://falundafa.org/book/eng/jjyz2_46.htm
- ↑ "China Bans Falun Gong", (July 22, 1999) People's Daily Online, retrieved June 14, 2006
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 Falun Dafa Clearwisdom.net "Answers to Commonly Asked Questions about Falun Gong", retrieved June 10, 2006
- ↑ United Nations (February 4, 2004) [http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2004/hrcn1073.doc.htm Press Release HR/CN/1073], retrieved September 12, 2006
- ↑ Faison, Seth (April 27, 1999) "In Beijing: A Roar of Silent Protesters" New York Times, retrieved June 10, 2006
- ↑ Embassy of the People's Republic of China (November 1, 1999) "Falun Gong Is a Cult", retrieved June 10, 2006
- ↑ "Master Li Hongzhi: A Short Biography of Mr. Li Hongzhi", retrieved June 10, 2006
- ↑ Dowell, William (May 10, 1999) "Interview with Li Hongzhi", retrieved June 10, 2006
- ↑ BBC: Is Falun Gong an "evil cult"?
- ↑ TimeASIA interview with Li Hongzhi, 1999
- ↑ Select photos from Clearwisdom.net
- ↑ Over 28 European Parliament members representing different political groups nominated Mr. Li Hongzhi for 2001 Sakharov Prize - Clearharmony.net
- ↑ The Truth Behind the April 25 Incident (Abridged version) - Faluninfo.net
- ↑ Hongzhi, Li. "Comments for Republication". Falundafa.org, retrieved June 19, 2006
- ↑ Li et al., 2005. Sourced from the Epoch Times. Genomic Profiling of Neutrophil Transcripts in Asian Qigong Practitioners: A Pilot Study in Gene Regulation by Mind–Body Interaction
- ↑ Dan et al, 1998. Falun Gong health effects survey: Ten thousand cases in Beijing.
- ↑ Falun Gong Health Effects Survey. Australian Falun Dafa Information Centre. URL accessed on 2006-09-21.
- ↑ Falun Gong Derided as Authoritarian Sect by Anti-Cult Experts in Seattle
- ↑ Rahn, Patsy (2000) "The Falun Gong: Beyond the Headlines", Cultic Studies Journal, volume 17 pages 168-188
- ↑ Porter, Noah (2003) [http://www.lib.usf.edu/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-06122003-113105/unrestric ted/FalunGongInTheUS-NoahPorter-Thesis.pdf "Falun Gong in the United States: An Ethnographic Study"], (Dissertation.com) paperback ISBN 1-58112-190-3
- ↑ Hongzhi, Li (July 7, 1998) "The World's Ten Evils" Hong Yin (English Translation Version B) retrieved June 12, 2006
- ↑ Hongzhi, Li (May 30 - May 31, 1998) "Falun Buddha Fa:Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Europe", retrieved June 12, 2006
- ↑ Li, Hongzhi Zhuan Falun: The Complete Teachings of Falun Gong (Yih Chyun, Fair Winds Press edition 2001) ISBN 1-931412-53-7
- ↑ Hongzhi, Li (February 6, 2006) "Teaching the Fa in the City of Los Angeles", retrieved June 13, 2006
- ↑ Clearwisdom.net: Li Hongzhi's Lecture, San Francisco, 2005
- ↑ Epoch Times Homepage
- ↑ “Falun Gong files case against Jiang Zemin in Spain”
- Ian Adams, Riley Adams and Rocco Galati, Power of the Wheel: The Falun Gong Revolution (Toronto: Stoddart Publishing, 2000) hard cover ISBN 0-7737-3270-5
- Maria Hsia Chang, Falun Gong: The End of Days (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2004) ISBN 0-300-10227-5
- Barend ter Haar, Falun Gong - Evaluation and Further References (incl. extensive bibliography)
- Li Hongzhi, Falun Gong (Law Wheel Qigong) (Yih Chyun, 1993)
- Li Hongzhi, Essentials for Further Advancement (Yih Chyun, 2000?)
- Danny Schechter, Falun Gong's Challenge to China (Akashic Books, 2000) hardback ISBN 1-888451-13-0, paperback ISBN 1-888451-27-0
- Margaret Thaler Singer, Cults in Our Midst: The Continuing Fight Against Their Hidden Menace Revised edition. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003). ISBN 0-7879-6741-6
- Mo Wen, Poisonous Deceit: How The Chinese Government Literally Gets Away With Murder By Lying Deceiving And Fabricating Its "evidence" Against Falun Gong: An Hbcu Story (Toronto: Deep Six, 2002) Paperback. ISBN 0-9731181-0-5
Falun Gong sites
- Falun Dafa
- Falun Gong official website
- Falun Dafa Information Center
- Falun Dafa Minghui Net
- Falun Canada includes Zhuan Falun II in Chinese
- Pure Insight
- Global Coalition To Bring Jiang To Justice
- The Epoch Times
- Friends of Falun Gong
- Genomic Profiling of Neutrophil Transcripts in Asian Qigong Practitioners A Pilot Study in Gene Regulation by Mind–Body Interaction reports the result of studies conducted on Neutrophils/polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNs) of Falun Gong practitioners. The study reports that among the 6 practitioners on whom the genomic profiling was done, in comparison to the control group, about 200 genes were found consistently up-regulated or down-regulated.
- The True Nature of the Falun Gong by Samuel Luo, a Falun Gong critic.
- The Two Tales of Falun Gong: Radicalism in a traditional form, a DOC file
- Critics and followers of Falun Gong: Adherents find fulfillment, but detractors call movement a cult (September 18, 2005) A San Francisco Chronicle report
- Rick Ross Institute A extensive set of links to articles critical of FLG
- San Jose Mercury News article 2001 news report on how Falun Gong manipulates politicians in the U.S.
- Steve Hassan’s Freedom of Mind Center, an exit counselor's claims of mind control techniques used by Falun Gong
- Bay Area Reporter: Supes Support “Homophobic Cult” detailed report on SF Resolution 66-06
- SF Indymedia: “Homophobic Mind Control Cult” discussion on Falun Gong's view on homosexuality initiated by Samuel Luo; includes extensive user blog comments at the end
- SF Chronicle: Dissident media linked to Falun Gong exposes the connection between the Falun Gong and the Epoch Times
- People's Daily excoriates Falun Gong
- FLG article and discussion from bi-racial website
- Time Asia's article on Falun Gong (May 10, 1999)
- Falun Gong Derided as Authoritarian Sect by Anti-Cult Experts (2001) San Francisco Chronicle Report on "Cults and the Millennnium" conference in Seattle
- Commentary About Falun Gong (August 3, 2001) James Randi Educational Foundation
- The Falun Gong: Beyond the Headlines (2000) abstract of article by Patsy Rahn available in Cultic Studies Journal, Volume 17, pages 166-186.
- The Falun Gong: Is it an exercise group, a cult, a well-financed anti-communist group-you decide A Falun Gong program on KPFA
-   Excerpts of a series of Chinese Communist Party's responses to Falun Gong (translated into English) (Originally broadcast July 1999 as 'Li Hongzhi's "religious texts" review' (李洪志“经文”点评), republished in Xinhua News in July 2006 under the same title).
- Falun Gong disrupts social harmony and stability China Daily, Hong Kong edition.
- Falun Gong lies slammed by hospital China Daily. Health officials' response to Falun Gong allegations about organ harvesting.
- Falun Gong - Evaluation and Further References (Prof. Barend ter Haar, Leiden Univ.) An introductory analysis of the Falun Gong movement in Chinese society and culture from the perspective of the scholar of traditional Chinese religious culture.
- The China Psychiatric Crisis: Following Up on the Plight of the Falun Gong
- Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports regarding Falun Gong
- Tsinghua University practitioners' views on science. Part 1 and part 2.
- Controversial preliminary data and claims on Falun Gong's effect on the body: cardiac cells, neutrophil functions, gene expression, and immunity.
- Link to a story about controversial quotes from Li Hongzhi about FLG
- A H2G2 edited-guide BBC: Is Falun Gong really an "evil cult"?br:Falun Gong
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