- Mime-Version: 1.0 Date: Sun, 25 Jul 1999 00:57:22 -0800
To: firstname.lastname@example.org From: email@example.com Subject: News Story: The mystery
of Falun Dafa, China sect that's sweeping world - July 23, 1999 Cc: firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Mystery Of Falun Dafa - China's Newly-Banned Religion
- http://www.thestar.com 7-24-99
- By Nicholas Keung Toronto Star Staff Reporter 7-24-99
- Susan Mitchell could feel the ground shifting under her
feet and her body levitating while waiting for a traffic light at Jarvis
and Shuter Sts.
- Wang Gongshi has seen, through his celestial eyes, a
gang of monstrous gargoyles emerging from his bedroom wall, giggling at
- The vivid visions of these Falun Dafa practitioners can't
help but fuel myths about the unstructured quasi-religious group, whose
doctrines draw on martial arts, Buddhism and Taoism. Devotees, of whom
there are reportedly 100 million worldwide, say its teachings improve their
health and make them more moral.
- ``The purpose of the practice is to return to one's true
self, so one can see through his or her celestial eyes into objects in
other spaces and dimensions,'' Wang says.
- Falun Dafa's growing influence in China has angered its
government, which officially banned it yesterday, just days after arresting
30,000 followers. Beijing says the group, which held protests across China
this week, is an illegal organization that cheats people, spreads ``superstitious,
evil thinking'' and threatens the social order.
- Little is known about Falun Dafa, which is also referred
to as Falun Gong, but the movement is drawing more and more adherents,
including Mitchell, 56, and Wang, 44, both from Toronto. Practice groups
have sprung up in every part of Canada.
- In Toronto, more than 1,700 people gathered at Nathan
Phillips Square in May for a Falun Dafa celebration.
- In an endorsement of the event, Mayor Mel Lastman praised
Falun Dafa as a ``cultivation system of mind, body and spirit that helps
people lead more peaceful, happy and healthy lives.''
- Founded in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, a soldier-cum-spiritual
leader who left for the United States in a self-imposed exile in 1996,
Falun Dafa is a blend of mind and body work. Zhen-Shan-Ren (Truth-Compassion-Forbearance)
are the core values in Li's 191-page bible China Falun Gong.
- Li, 48, now lives in Florida and New York city with his
wife and teenage daughter.
- The practice's five sets of exercises, similar to Tai
Chi, are said to help improve health, which then assists personal enhancement
of the mind and spirit.
- Followers, who connect through Web sites, come together
to practise and to share what they have learned from reading Li's teachings.
There are no places of worship and Li says practitioners should follow
Falun's laws, not him.
- Followers do not actively recruit other members, although
videotaped copies of Li's lectures circulate among the group.
- Unlike other Eastern spiritual philosophies, Li's borrows
liberally from North American concepts and popular culture, incorporating
such things as UFOs and aliens.
- After reading a book about Falun Dafa, Zhang Zhaojin,
a Chinese Canadian weekly news reporter, attended Li's nine-day video lecture
in Toronto and now spends up to two hours a day on exercises and teachings.
- ``The lecture is free and even the books can be downloaded
from the Internet. We don't ask people to pay for anything. We don't worship
anyone. All it takes is the desire to be a better person,'' he said.
- Followers insist the group is not a cult, an accusation
made by China's Communist party.
- ``A cult restricts people, but whether you cultivate
Falun Dafa is up to you,'' says Mitchell, who quit her 19-year fellowship
with an Indian meditation guru in 1994. She took up Falun Dafa early this
- Falun Dafa is not a cult or sect at this point because
it lacks structure, says theologist David Reed of Wycliff College at the
University of Toronto.
- ``A cult is considered as a highly authoritarian and
isolated religious group . . . I can only call (this) a large spiritual
- Reed says that, like North Americans, more and more people
in China are turning to a ``seeker culture'' that emphasizes individualism.
- Allen Chong, a researcher at York University's Centre
for International and Security Study, agrees.
- ``China is now in some kind of uneasy mix of communism
and capitalism. When people no longer have the same philosophical and ideological
anchor to help them order their lives mentally, what should they believe
- The ban on a spiritual group with millions of members
highlights official unease in China that such movements could become rallying
points for public anger at rising unemployment and rampant corruption.
- Beijing is especially eager to stifle dissent before
the 50th anniversary of Communist rule on Oct. 1.
- Zhang, who came to Canada in 1994, was skeptical when
first introduced to Falun Dafa by friends in China.
- ``In Marxism, we don't believe in God and the Communist
party teaches people to follow materialism, not religion,'' says the 35-year-old
- But in Canada Zhang felt ``miserable and distressful
after the variety store he owned collapsed.
- ``My friend gave me this book on Falun Dafa and its loose
structure simply fits me more.''
- Mitchell, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in October,
1997, said the benefit of Falun Dafa on her physical health is phenomenal.
- Against her physicians' and friends' recommendations,
the OnTV program announcer opted to treat the disease by following Falun
- ``After two days of exercise and reading, my cancer was
totally gone and my whole body returned to normal.''