What is Falun Gong?
What is Falun Gong or Falun Dafa?
Falun Gong (also called Falun Dafa) is a spiritual practice in the Buddhist tradition.
Falun Gong combines meditation and gentle exercises (similar to tai chi) with a moral philosophy centered on the tenets of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance (or in Chinese, Zhen 真, Shan 善, Ren 忍). Falun Gong practitioners aspire to live by these principles in their daily lives.
In traditional Chinese culture, the process of perfecting and refining mind and body is called ‘cultivation’. Our modern language uses the word qigong to describe it.
What differentiates Falun Gong from other forms of qigong, is its emphasis on one’s morality and the cultivation of virtue.
The History of Falun Gong
Falun Gong represents a direct and authentic connection to genuine traditional Chinese culture, with a lineage reaching back thousands of years. The teachings of Falun Gong were passed down from teacher to student, generation after generation, until May 1992, when Mr. Li Hongzhi introduced the practice to the public under the name: Falun Gong.
The health benefits reported by people taking up Falun Gong are often immediate and many times dramatic, with some patients even recovering from severe illnesses. This sparked a wave of excitement about the practice in China during the 1990s, and the practice grew rapidly across the country.
By 1998, just six years after its first introduction to the public, official Chinese records estimated 70-100 million had taken up the practice, making Falun Gong the fastest growing, and most popular form of qigong in Chinese history.
However, upon gaining a better understanding of the practice via a thorough study of its teachings and applying these teachings to daily life, it became apparent to practitioners that Falun Gong was not just another qigong practice to improve health and wellness. Instead, the practice represented a rediscovery of the “old, good things of ancient China,” as one grandfather and former Chinese official put it. The virtues of Falun Gong’s teachings rekindled the values of China’s traditional past; the strength and honesty of Taoism, the compassion and goodness from Buddhism, and the wisdom to deal with people and social settings with righteousness and tolerance from Confucianism.
In Falun Gong people experienced a renaissance of traditional Chinese wisdom and values, and this resonated deeply with people all across China.
Falun Gong Teachings and Beliefs
At the core of Falun Gong’s teachings are the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance.
Three main tenets of falun dafa
Truth, Real, Truthfulness
Having Compassion, Being Good, Goodness
Enduring Hardship, Being Forgiving
Ancient Chinese schools of thought emphasized that seeking ‘harmony between heaven, nature and men’ can bring stability and prosperity to society. Similarly, for a person on a spiritual path, aligning with the guiding principles of the universe (the Tao, or the Way), and assimilating to its qualities, can bring greater mental and physical health, blessings and different levels of spiritual awakening.
Falun Gong teaches that the most fundamental characteristic of the universe can be summarized in just three words: Zhen, Shen, Ren — translated as being true, kind, and forbearing.
These three principles serve as a guide for Falun Gong practitioners in their daily life. That is, each day they work to cultivate these principles in their own character, becoming more true, kind, and forbearing people.
On Falun Gong Books
Falun Gong teachings are set forth in a number of texts, with the two main books being Falun Gong and Zhuan Falun.
Zhuan Falun, is the focal book and contains the complete teachings of the Falun Dafa practice. It is compilation of lectures given by Mr. Li in China between 1992-1994. In 1996, the book became a national bestseller in China.
Zhuan Falun has redefined the term qigong and cultivation practice for Chinese people, and while discussing very profound principles, its simple and accessible language allowed millions to embark on their own path of self-betterment. Among the many topics the book discusses are:
Falun Gong books have been now translated into thirty-eight languages, and are published and distributed worldwide. All instructional materials including books and videos are available free of charge at FalunDafa.org. Published Dafa books can be bought at TiantiBooks.org.
What does it mean to practice Falun Gong?
Practicing Falun Gong includes a conscious effort to strengthen one’s mind and reason, and weaken desires for fame, personal gain, and negative thoughts. It is a process of ennobling ones heart and mind with truthfulness, compassion and forbearance.
When encountering difficulties or conflicts, Falun Gong teaches not to fight back or blame others, but rather to search within oneself for one’s short-coming or cause, and improve oneself in the process.
Other forms of qigong talk about different levels of achievement. In Falun Gong, persons progress is tied strictly to improvement of one’s character.
The process of self-cultivation, supplemented with a set of energy exercises and meditation, can lead to improved health, inner peace, increased wisdom, and, in advance stages, to various levels of spiritual awakening (or enlightenment).
Falun Gong teachings consider one’s original nature as being good, and thus cultivation is sometimes referred to as returning to ones original, true, good self.
The Five Exercises of Falun Gong
Qigong is a science of the human body that is not commonly explored or well understood in the West yet. Many practices of the East, on the other hand, including Chinese medicine, have acknowledged and studied the conscious energy, and its circulation through energy channels of the body for thousands of years. Understanding of the energy channels and how they can be unblocked, opened, widened for health benefit of ones body, is the foundation of traditional healing systems of the east.
Similarly, qigong practices teach how to work with the life-energy of the body, how to improve its circulation inside the body, and at advanced levels it even talks about transforming the life-energy of the body into more potent energy, called gong. (Western science could describe it as something as bio-energy transformation at a sub-molecular level.)
Qigong exercises are often very slow-moving, sometimes even completely motionless. The practice of Falun Gong offers four standing exercises that include stretching movements, holding still positions, and slow movements that lead the energy through the body. It also includes sitting meditation.
Falun Gong’s Health Benefits
Several health studies (conducted in China, Russia, & Australia), including clinically controlled, peer-reviewed research at leading medical facilities, have begun to explore and confirm the positive, and sometimes dramatic, health benefits that so many persons attribute to the practice.
Typical benefits that people describe include increased amounts of energy and reduced fatigue; better health; greater resistance to disease; better sleep; emotional balance; a sense of calm; a positive outlook; improved relationships; greater self-awareness; a deeper sense of meaning; and spiritual growth.
Is Falun Gong a Religion?
To practice Falun Gong, there is no organization to join, no membership, no hierarchy, and no fees. Anyone who would like to practice may do so without spending a penny, in the privacy of one’s own home, and without requiring the help or approval of anyone else.
The practice does have spiritual teachings and a set of beliefs similar to what one would find in a religion, and it does share some of the same aspirations as groups more formally identified as religions, including the ennoblement of one’s moral self or the pursuit of spiritual awakening.
Under the law of most Western countries, Falun Gong is considered a religion or a protected creed. However, Falun Gong is not institutionalized; it does not have any formal means of initiation, a formal creed, nor devotional practices of worship, etc.
Falun Gong is not political, nor is it a business. All instructional materials are available on the Internet, free of charge, and volunteers provide all classes free of charge as well.
Falun—The Symbol of Falun Dafa
The emblem of Falun Dafa is called the “Falun,” a Chinese term that translates loosely as “Wheel of Law.” It is composed of two primary elements: yin-yang symbols, which are Taoist in nature, and srivatsa, which are Buddhist. The srivasta, or swastika as it is known in English, is commonly seen in Asian Buddhism.
In Asian culture, the negative connotations of the swastika attributed to Hitler and the Nazis are relatively unknown. In fact, the swastika has a history going back thousands of years in many cultures and is widely considered a symbol of good fortune.
Awards and Recognitions from Around the World
Falun Gong has been the subject of many citations, awards, and proclamations, conferred by government officials and a variety of organizations. Many who practice Falun Gong have been the recipients of service awards in their communities and at their workplaces.
Awards from China and Around the World
The practice’s founder, Mr. Li Hongzhi, is a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and was nominated by the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought. He is also the recipient of Freedom House’s International Religious Freedom Award.
Few people today are aware that Falun Gong and its practitioners received much in the way of official recognition in China during the 1990s, prior to a dramatic and violent change in political winds in 1999, which saw the practice persecuted. Mr. Li gave over 50 lecture series around China upon invitation from local governments and associations, (as well as Chinese embassies around the world).
Front covers of health, qigong science magazines, Recognitions by the Chinese Ministry in its media as… At Beijing’s 1993 Oriental Health Expo, Mr. Li was the most-awarded qigong master, including the highest awards for .
Falun Gong Around the World
In 1996, Mr. Li began giving free public seminars in North America, Europe, Australia, and Southeast Asia. Over the course of the next six years, Mr. Li and the practice of Falun Dafa received over 600 awards and proclamations from government officials across North America, as practice sites were established in 50+ countries by volunteers
Today, people practice Falun Gong in over 80 countries around the world.
Falun Gong FAQ
What are Falun Gong’s teachings and beliefs?
At the core of Falun Gong are the values of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance (or in Chinese, Zhen 真, Shan 善, and Ren 忍). Falun Dafa teaches that these are the most fundamental qualities of the universe. Practitioners strive to adopt these principles into their daily life through meditation, Tai-chi-like exercises, and the study of Buddhist-based moral principles.
Is Falun Gong a religion?
Qigong practices like Falun Gong are part of a broader tradition of “cultivation practice” that has existed throughout Asia for millennia. In the West, Falun Gong is classified as a religion on the basis of its theological and moral teachings, its focus on spiritual development as well as its extensive body of scripture.
Who practices Falun Gong?
Although Falun Gong was first made public in China in 1992 and became widely popular there, the practice has also been adopted by people around the world. Today, Falun Gong is practiced in over 80 countries across the globe. Falun Gong books have been translated into 40 languages.
How many people practice Falun Gong?
By early 1999, Chinese government officials and state-run media said there were 70-100 million people practicing Falun Gong in China, making it the fastest growing religion in the world at that time. Although the Chinese Communist Party launched a persecution campaign to “stamp out” Falun Gong, human rights organizations estimate that tens of millions continue to practice throughout China. Falun Gong practitioners are also found in 80 countries around the world, but because there is no membership, it is difficult to give precise numbers.
Who started Falun Gong?
Falun Gong was first made public by Mr. Li Hongzhi. A native of Changchun, China and now living in the U.S., Mr. Li is a five-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee and was nominated by the European Parliament for the Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought. He is also the recipient of Freedom House’s International Religious Freedom Award.
Why is Falun Gong banned in China?
Although widely popular and openly celebrated by the Chinese government throughout the 1990s, a few top leaders of the Chinese Communist Party launched a violent campaign against Falun Gong in 1999. They did so due to Falun Gong’s exploding popularity and because they felt Falun Gong’s emphasis on moral living and traditional Chinese culture were a threat to the atheist communist regime that largely ruled by fear. Many insiders also point out that China’s top leader at the time, Jiang Zemin, personally resented Falun Gong’s popularity, fearing it was stealing attention away from his efforts to build a lasting legacy for himself.
What’s the difference between Falun Gong and Falun Dafa?
“Falun Gong” is simply another name for “Falun Dafa.” They refer to the same thing — the Buddhist-based spiritual practice originating in China. “Falun Dafa” is the formal name of the practice, whereas “Falun Gong” is a more colloquial term made popular in China.