Teachings of Falun Gong

Teachings of Falun Gong

The teachings of Falun Gong were introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in Changchun, China, in 1992. Falun Gong is also known as Falun Dafa (Great Law of the Law Wheel). The teachings cover a wide-range of topics ranging from spiritual, scientific and moral to metaphysical. Falun Gong was the fastest growing "qigong" practice in Chinese history, and by 1999, there were between 70 million and 100 million practitioners in mainland China. Sources of Statistical Information, [http://www.faluninfo.net/displayAnArticle.asp?ID=6517] , accessed 01/01/08]

The teachings of Falun Gong are based on the principles of "zhen" , "shan" and "ren" (which translate approximately as 'truthfulness, benevolence (or compassion), and forbearance')Zhuan Falun, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07] articulated in the two main books [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/pdf/flg_2006.pdf "Falun Gong"] and [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/pdf/zfl_new.pdf "Zhuan Falun"] . "Falun Gong" is an introductory book that discusses "qigong", introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises. "Zhuan Falun" is considered the central and most comprehensive exposition on the teachings of Falun Gong.

According to the book "Falun Gong", "Falun Buddha Fa is a great, high-level cultivation way of the Buddha School, in which assimilation to the supreme nature of the universe, "Zhen-Shan-Ren", is the foundation of cultivation practice." [ [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/dymf.htm Chapter One, The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa] , Li Hongzhi, November 13, 1996, retrieved July 04, 2007] The concept of "cultivation practice" in Falun Gong can be separated into two parts: "cultivation" and "practice". Why Doesn’t Your Gong Increase With Your Practice?, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07] . "Cultivation" refers to upgrading one's xin-xing ( heart/mind nature ) - through abandoning negative attachments and assimilating oneself to "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance". "Practice" refers to the five meditative exercises that are said to purify and transform one's body. Cultivation is considered essential; and the exercises are said to supplement the process of improving oneself. Qigong Is Cultivation Practice, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07]

Falun Gong is now practised in 80 countries and the teachings have been translated to over 40 languages.

Qigong and beyond

"See also Theoretical background and Background to persecution

Qigong refers to a variety of traditional cultivation practices that involve movements or regulated breathing. It is practiced for improving health, as a medical profession, a spiritual path, or as a component of Chinese martial arts.

The term 'qigong' was coined in the early 1950s as an alternative label to ancient spiritual disciplines rooted in Buddhism or Taoism, that promoted the belief in the supernatural, immortality and pursuit of spiritual transcendence. The new term was constructed to avoid danger of association with ancient spiritual practices which were labeled "superstitious" and persecuted during the Maoist era. [http://www.ruf.rice.edu/~tnchina/commentary/ownby1000.html "Falungong as a Cultural Revitalization Movement: An Historian Looks at Contemporary China."] Professor David Ownby, Department of History, University of Montreal, , accessed 31/12/07] In Communist China, where spirituality and religion are looked-down upon, the concept was "tolerated" because it carried with it no overt religious or spiritual elements; and millions flocked to it during China's spiritual vacuum of the 1980s and 1990s. Scholars argue that the immense popularity of qigong in China could, in part, lie in the fact that the public saw in it a way to improve and maintain health. According to Ownby, this rapidly became a social phenomenon of considerable importance.

In 1992, Li Hongzhi introduced Falun Gong and along with teachings that touched upon a wide range of topics, from detailed exposition on qigong related phenomenon and cultivation practice to science and morality. In the next few years, Falun Gong quickly grew in popularity across China. Falun Gong was welcomed into the state-controlled Scientific Qigong Research Association, which sponsored and helped to organize many of his activities between 1992 and 1994, including 54 large-scale lectures. In 1992 and 1993 he won government awards at the Beijing Oriental Health Expos, including the "Qigong Master most acclaimed by the Masses" and "The Award for Advancing Boundary Science." The Past, Present and Future of Falun Gong, A lecture by Harold White Fellow, Benjamin Penny, at the National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2001, [http://www.nla.gov.au/grants/haroldwhite/papers/bpenny.html] , accessed 31/12/07] [Clearwisdom.net, [http://www.clearwisdom.net/eng/weekly_category/recognition.html#china Awards and Recognitions] ] .

The content of Li Hongzhi's books include commentaries on questions discussed in China's qigong community for ages. According to Ownby, Li saw the qigong movement as "rife with false teachings and greedy and fraudulent 'masters'" and set out to rectify it. Li understood himself and Falun Gong as part of a "centuries-old tradition of cultivation," and in his texts would often attack those who taught "incorrect, deviant, or heterodox ways."Ownby, David, "A History for Falun Gong: Popular Religion and the Chinese State Since the Ming Dynasty", Nova Religio, Vol. ,pp. 223-243] Qigong scholar David Palmer says Li "redefined his method as having entirely different objectives from qigong: the purpose of practice should neither be physical health nor the development of Extraordinary Powers, but to purify one's heart and attain spiritual salvation... Falun Gong no longer presented itself as a qigong method but as the Great Law or Dharma ("Fa") of the universe."David Palmer, Qigong Fever: Body, Science, and Utopia in China (2007), Columbia University Press] . In his lecture, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/lectures/19980530L.html Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Europe] , Li Hongzhi states:

"Many people aren’t able to completely understand what qigong is about. Since the time Dafa was made public, I have unveiled some inexplicable phenomena in qigong as well as things that hadn’t been explained in the qigong community. But this isn’t the reason why so many people are studying Dafa. It’s because our Fa can truly enable people to Consummate, truly save people, and allow you to truly ascend to high levels in the process of cultivation. Whether it’s your realm of mind or the physical quality of your body, the Fa truly enables you to reach the standards of different levels."

Both its popular name, Falun Gong, and its preferred name, Falun Dafa, highlight it's practical and spiritual dimensions, according to ZhaoZhao, Yuezhi, "Falun Gong, Identity, and the Struggle over Meaning Inside and Outside China", pp209-223 in Contesting Media Power: Alternative Media in a Networked World, ed. Nick Couldry and James Curran, Rowman & Littlefield publishers, inc.: 2003.] . Falun Gong literally means 'Practice of the Law Wheel ( Dharma Chakra) ' which refers to a series of five meditative exercises aimed at channeling and harmonizing the qi or vital energy. Theories about the flow and function of qi are basic to traditional Chinese medicine and health-enhancing qigong exercises. Zhao says that traditional Chinese culture assumes "a profound interpretation of matter and spirit, body and soul," and Falun Gong "emphasizes the unity of physical and spiritual healing, in contrast to the Western distinction between medicine and religion." To bring about health benefits, the physical exercises must be accompanied by moral cultivation and spiritual exercises as a way of focusing the mind. For Falun Gong, the virtues to cultivate are 'truthfulness,' 'benevolence' and 'forbearance.'

Falun Gong draws on oriental mysticism and traditional Chinese medicine, criticizes self-imposed limits of modern science, and views traditional Chinese science as an entirely different, yet equally valid knowledge system. Concomitantly, says Zhao, it borrows the language of modern science in representing its cosmic laws. According to Zhao, "Falun gong is not conceptualized as a religious faith; on the contrary, its practitioners, which include doctorate holders from prestigious American universities, see it as 'a new form of science."

Prominent Falun Gong scholar David Ownby dilineates three core themes in the teachings: first, "Li presents his vision both as a return to a lost, or neglected spiritual tradition, and as a major contribution to modern science";David Ownby, Falun Gong and the Future of China (2008) Oxford University Press] second, "Falun Gong is profoundly "moral"; third, "Falun Dafa promises practitioners supernatural powers". Ownby also lists its "Chineseness" as a major part of the practice's appeal.

All over China before July 1999, says Palmer, the same scene could be observed at dawn: "Hundreds of people in the parks and on the sidewalks, practising the slow-motion Falun Gong exercises to the rhythm of taped music... yellow and red "Fa" banners hanging from trees presented the method and its principles. In the evenings practitioners would often meet in a disciple's home to read Zhuan Falun, discuss its teachings, and exchange cultivation experiences."


Teachings of Falun Gong

* [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/pdf/flg_2006.pdf Falun Gong] . Considered an introductory exposition of the principles of Falun Gong and the concept of 'cultivation practice' along with descriptions of the exercises of Falun Gong. First published in April, 1993.

* [http://www.falundafa.org/eng/howtolearn.html#listenlectures Nine Day Lectures on Falun Dafa] . From 1992 to 1994, Li Hongzhi presented his teachings across China, the contents of which were ultimately edited and compiled into the book "Zhuan Falun". The teachings entailed a one to two hour lecture on each of 8 to 10 consecutive days. Exercise instruction was offered thereafter. The final of these lecture series, delivered in Guangzhou, China, in 1994, were recorded live and they form a central part of Falun Gong's teachings.

* [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/pdf/zfl_new.pdf Zhuan Falun] -"Turning the Law Wheel". Considered the central and most comprehensive exposition of the teachings of Falun Gong. First published in January, 1995.

* [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/hongyin/v1/hy.htm Hong Yin] "- Grand Verses". A collection of short poems written by Li, often touching upon issues pertinent to the traditional Chinese concept of cultivation practice.

* [http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.html Lectures and Writings] . Transcripts of Lectures delivered by Li and articles periodically published by him also form a central part of Falun Gong's teachings.

Li Hongzhi describes Falun Gong as a "high-level cultivation practice" which, in the past, "served as an intensive cultivation method that required practitioners with extremely high Xinxing (mind-nature) or great inborn quality" [Falun Gong Cultivation Practice System, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/flg_2001_4.htm Falun Gong] ] ; he teaches that practice will reveal the principles of the universe and life at different levels to those who dedicate themselves to its study. By cultivating "xinxing" (mind nature and moral quality) to assimilate to the nature of the universe, and by eliminating karma though enduring tribulations and hardships, one can return to the "original, true self", and understand the truth of human life.Qigong Is Cultivation Practice, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 01/02/08] . In Falun Dafa, Truthfulness (Zhen 真),Compassion (Shan 善) , Forbearance (Ren 忍) is seen as the seen as the fundamental characteristic of the cosmos, and the process of cultivation one of the practitioner assimilating himself to this by letting go of attachments and negative thoughts. In Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi says, "As a practitioner, if you assimilate yourself to this characteristic you are one that has attained the Tao — The truth is really just that simple."

Falun Gong echoes traditional Chinese beliefs that humans are connected to the universe through mind and body, according to Danny Schechter.Danny Schechter, Falun Gong's Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or Evil Cult?, Akashic books: New York, 2001] Li challenges "conventional mentalities", and sets out to unveil myths of the universe, time-space, and the human body. The opening statement of "Zhuan Falun" includes the phrase "If human beings are able to take a fresh look at themselves as well as the universe and change their rigid mentalities, humankind will make a leap forward."

Li says that raising one's xinxing is fundamental to cultivating oneself. Improving xinxing means relinquishing human attachments, which prevent people from awakening. The term attachments refer to: jealousy, competitiveness, fame, showing off, pursuit of material gain, anger, lust, etc.. In "Zhuan Falun", he states "You must eliminate all ill thoughts among everyday people—only then can you move up.""

Li argues that having material possessions itself is not a problem, but that the problem is with developing attachments to material things: "In our school of practice, those who practice cultivation among everyday people are required to practice cultivation precisely in ordinary human society, and to fit in among everyday people as much as possible. You are not really asked to lose anything materially. It does not matter how high your position ranks or how much wealth you own. The key is whether you can abandon that attachment."Loss and Gain, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07] Ownby says that for Li Hongzhi, an attachment is "literally any desire, emotion, habit, or orientation which stands between a practitioner (or any human being for that matter) and the pursuit of truth and cultivation." At the beginning of "Zhuan Falun" Li says "the entire cultivation process for a practitioner is one of constantly giving up human attachments. In ordinary human society, people compete with, deceive, and harm each other for a little personal gain. All of these mentalities must be given up."

Li also says that loss and gain does not refer to the loss of money or the gain of comfort, rather the measure of how many human attachments one can lose, and how much one can enlighten in the course of cultivation practice.

Ownby regards as most difficult to practice Li's requirement for practitioners to reduce the attachment to sentimentality or qing(情). In Lecture Four of Zhuan Falun Li says: "Why can human beings be human? It is because human beings have sentimentality. They live just for this sentimentality. Affection among family members, love between a man and a woman, love for parents, feelings, friendship, doing things for friendship, and everything else all relate to this sentimentality. Whether a person likes to do something or not, is happy or unhappy, loves or hates something, and everything in the entire human society comes from this sentimentality. If this sentimentality is not relinquished, you will be unable to practice cultivation. If you are free from this sentimentality, nobody can affect you. An everyday person’s mind will be unable to sway you. What takes over in its place is benevolence, which is something more noble." Ownby regards this as "quite Buddhist, as it is a way out of the web of human relations... and thus a step toward individual enlightenment."

Ownby says that Li urges practitioners to abandon human attachments not for achieving selfish ends, but "quite the contrary. Practitioners are enjoined to treat others with compassion and benevolence in order to cultivate virtue and work off karma." He says that such compassion and benevolence should not be reserved to those with whom one had a prior attachment, nor should the goal be to inspire gratitude or love. "Instead, one should be good because this conforms to the nature of the universe, not for any ulterior motive, be it as innocuous as 'feeling good about oneself and others.'" Li also insists that practitioners do not withdraw from the world, and that they maintain interactions with nonpractitioners, including "even those who are hostile to practice." The point here, according to Ownby, is that before the practitioner cultivates to such a point that they are dispassionate in their compassion, the stress experienced in the secular environment "constitutes a form of suffering which will enable them to reduce their karma."

Articles written by practitioners on their experiences with Falun Gong are regularly posted to the Clearwisdom website. Looking Into Oneself is the Key to Cultivation, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07]

Looking within

Li tells his students that the most important aspect of Falun Gong is not the exercises, but the focus on changing the heart and mind: "Only when you are studying the Fa and cultivating your heart and mind in addition to the means of reaching Consummation—the exercises, and truly changing yourself fundamentally while improving your "xinxing" and elevating your level—can it be called true cultivation practice." [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/jjyz51.htm What is Cultivation Practice?] , accessed 31/12/07]

Li repeatedly emphasises the idea of searching internally when coming across problems; he says this is a key in the path of cultivation practice: "If you can examine yourselves with every thing you come across, then I’d say you are really remarkable, and nothing can block you on your path to Consummation. Yet when we run into problems, we often look outwards—'Why are you treating me like that?'—and feel that we’ve been treated unfairly, instead of examining ourselves. That’s the greatest and most fatal obstacle for all living beings." He says that when someone feels hurt or encounters misfortune, "it’s really difficult for him to still examine himself and see if he’s done something wrong." However, if a person can do that, Li says "on this path, on this path of cultivation, and for the eternity of his existence, nothing can stop him. It’s truly the case. The key lies in how you understand yourself, and whether you can correctly examine yourself and find within yourself the cause of the problem."Li Hongzhi, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/lectures/19980822L.html Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Singapore] , August 22 & 23, 1998, accessed 17/6/08]

Li also states that students should be thoughtful towards others in all circumstances: "You should always be benevolent and kind to others, and consider others when doing anything. Whenever you encounter a problem, you should first consider whether others can put up with this matter or if it will hurt anyone. In doing so, there will not be any problems. Therefore, in cultivation practice you should follow a higher and higher standard for yourself."Li Hongzhi, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , Lecture Four, Upgrading Xinxing, accessed 31/12/07]

Zhuan Falun, the main book

The teachings of Falun Gong are encompassed in two central works: " [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/flg_2006.htm Falun Gong] " and " [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] ". "Falun Gong" is an introductory book that discusses qigong, introduces the principles of the practice, and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises. "Zhuan Falun" is the main teaching and the most comprehensive work; it is an edited version of Li's nine-lecture series, 54 of which he taught across China between 1992 and 1994. Ownby regards "Falun Gong" and "Zhuan Falun" to be largely consistent in terms of content, though he says "important differences in nuance distinguish the two.". The World Book encyclopedia describes the contents of "Zhuan Falun" as examining "evolution, the meaning of space and time, and the mysteries of the universe." [Falun Gong, The World Book Encyclopaedia, 2002]

In a 1996 Lecture in Sydney, referring to the work Zhuan Falun, Li stated: "Although Qigong has been spread for quite a long period of time, several decades already, no one knows its real implications. Therefore, I have written in the book, Zhuan Falun, everything about certain phenomena in the Qigong community, why Qigong is spread in ordinary human society, and what the ultimate goal of Qigong is. Therefore, this book is a systematic work that enables one to practice cultivation. Through reading it repeatedly, many people feel that there is something unique about the book: no matter how many times you have read this book, you always seem to feel a sense of freshness, and no matter how many times you have read it, you always attain a different understanding from the same sentence, and no matter how many times you have read it, you always feel that there is still a great deal of content in it that is yet to be found. Why is it this way, then? It is because that I have systematically compiled many things that are considered heavenly secrets within this book, such as that people are able to practice cultivation, how cultivation should be practiced, and the characteristics of this universe, etc. For a practitioner, it can enable him to complete his cultivation practice successfully. Because no one has ever done such a thing in the past, when reading this book, many people find that a lot of the contents are heavenly secrets." [ [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/lectures/1996L.html Li Hongzhi's Lecture in Sydney] ]

Li says constant study will lead the practitioner to the final goal of "Consummation", or enlightenment. He says that by reading "Zhuan Falun" repeatedly, and acting according to its principles, practitioners assimilate themselves to the fundamental characteristic of the universe: "Zhen" 真, "Shan" 善 and "Ren" 忍, "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance."Zhen Shan Ren Is The Sole Criteria For Discerning Good and Bad, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07]

Topics Zhuan Falun expounds on include: "Zhen" 真, "Shan" 善 "Ren" 忍 is the Sole Criterion to Discern Good and Bad People, Buddha School Qigong and Buddhism, Supernormal Abilities, Loss and Gain, Transformation of Karma, Upgrading Xinxing (Mind nature and moral quality), Cultivation of Mind and Body, Transformation of Karma, Cultivation of Speech, The Issue of Eating Meat, The Issue of Treating Illness, Qi Gong and Physical Exercises, Enlightenment etc.

Since 1992, Li has given lectures which are later transcipted and posted to the internet, addressing different aspects of the teachings of Falun Gong and practicing cultivation. He emphasizes that "Zhuan Falun" should be viewed as the main guide for cultivation practice. In 2007 he said: "What I’ve said recently in different periods is supplementary to "Zhuan Falun". Just remember their relationship, and that what you should study frequently is "Zhuan Falun"."Fa Lecture U.S. West Fa Conference, 2003/2/27, accessed 31/12/07]

"Zhen" 真, "Shan" 善, "Ren" 忍

Falun Gong states that the fundamental characteristic of the universe is "Zhen" 真, "Shan" 善 "Ren" 忍, or "Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance." In "Zhuan Falun" Li says that the characteristic, Zhen-Shan-Ren, is in the microscopic particles of air, rock, wood, soil, iron and steel, the human body, as well as in all matter. "In ancient times it was said that the Five Elements constitute all things and matter in the universe; they also carry this characteristic, Zhen-Shan-Ren."

Ownby refers to Li's discussion of the moral universe, where "The very structure of the universe, according to Li Hongzhi, is made up of moral qualities that cultivators are enjoined to practice in their own lives: truth, compassion and forbearance. The goal of cultivation, and hence of life itself, is spiritual elevation, achieved through eliminating negative karma... and accumulating virtue."

Li teaches that practitioners are to assimilate their thoughts and actions to these principles, wherein higher aspects of the mysteries of the universe and life will be revealed: "A practitioner can only understand the specific manifestation of the Buddha Fa at the level that his or her cultivation has reached, which is his or her cultivation Fruit Status and level."


The term practice refers to the five exercises, one of which is a sitting meditation. In the book "Falun Gong", Li Hongzhi explains the principles behind the exercises: "Falun Buddha Fa also includes cultivation of the body, which is accomplished by performing the exercise movements of the Great Consummation Way—a great high-level practice of the Buddha School. One purpose of the exercises is to strengthen a practitioner’s supernormal abilities and energy mechanisms using his or her powerful gong potency ("gongli"), thus achieving "the Fa refines the practitioner." Li Hongzhi, " [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/pdf/flg_en.pdf Falun Gong] ",Updated April 2001, accessed 10th March 2007, p 49]

He says the exercises are part of the "harmonization and perfection" in the practice, and what make it a "comprehensive mind-body cultivation system." Li says that though Falun Gong requires both cultivation and practice, cultivation of "xinxing" is actually more important. However, "A person who only cultivates his "xinxing" and does not perform the exercises of the Great Consummation Way will find the growth of his gong potency impeded and his original-body ("benti") unchanged."

*The First Exercise: Buddha Showing a Thousand Hands::This exercise involves stretching movements which are aimed at "open [ing] up all energy channels" in one's body. In "Falun Gong", Li states that "beginners will be able to acquire energy in a short period of time and experienced practitioners can quickly improve." It is said to "break through areas where the energy is blocked, to enable energy to circulate freely and smoothly, to mobilize the energy within the body and under the skin, circulating it vigorously, and to absorb a great amount of energy from the universe." It is composed of eight movements.

*The Second Exercise: Falun Standing Stance::This exercise is a tranquil standing meditation composed of four standing stances. The book "Falun Gong" states that the exercise "enable [s] the entire body to completely open up and enhance [one's] energy potency. Falun Standing Stance is a comprehensive cultivation method to increase wisdom, upgrade levels, and strengthen divine powers. The movements are simple, yet much can be achieved from this exercise and what it practices is all inclusive."

*The Third Exercise: Penetrating the Two Cosmic Extremes::The principles of this exercise, as stated in "Falun Gong", are: "This exercise is intended to penetrate the cosmic energy and mix it with the energy inside of one’s body. A great amount of energy is expelled and taken in. In a very short time, the practitioner can expel the pathogenic and black Qi from his body and take in a great deal of energy from the cosmos so that his body can be purified, reaching the state of 'a Pure-White Body' quickly."

*The Fourth Exercise: Falun Heavenly Circuit::"Falun Gong" says the fourth exercise is "intermediate-level". "On the basis of the previous three sets of exercises, this one is intended to open up all the energy passages throughout the body (including the great heavenly circuit), so that energy channels will be gradually connected throughout the whole body from the top to the bottom." Li says the most outstanding feature of this exercise is "to use the rotation of Falun to rectify all the abnormal conditions of the human body, so that the human body, the small cosmos, returns to its original state and the energy of the whole body can circulate freely and smoothly."

*The Fifth Exercise: Strengthening Divine Powers::The fifth exercise has a set of Buddha Mudras or Buddhist Hand Gestures that precede tranquil meditation. According to "Falun Gong", "It is a multi-purpose practice intended to strengthen one’s divine powers (including supernormal capabilities) and energy potency by turning Falun with the Buddha’s hand gestures. This is an above intermediate-level exercise and was originally kept as a secretive practice."

Teleology of practice

In "Zhuan Falun" Li says that human life is not created in ordinary human society, but "in the space of the universe." He says that the universe is benevolent to begin with, and "embodies the characteristic of Zhen-Shan-Ren." When a life is created, it is assimilated to the characteristic of the universe. However, eventually a web of relations developed, and selfishness came about; gradually the level of beings' was lowered until, in the end, they reached this level of human beings. Genuinely Guiding People To High Levels, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07] Li says in his book that the purpose of being human is to practice cultivation and return to the "original, true self". "Zhuan Falun" says "One should return to one’s original, true self; this is the real purpose of being human."

Ownby interprets Li's meaning as "humans were originally gods of some sort, who lost their status as life became 'complicated' (a word with more negative connotations in Chinese than in English) and they engaged in immoral behavior. Presumably, humans can redeem themselves through cultivation and regain their divine status."

Li teaches maintaining virtue in everyday life, by cultivating or improving xinxing through slowly acknowledging and discarding human desires and attachments.Transformation of Karma, Zhuan Falun Lecture 4, accessed 01/01/08] A practitioner must also be able to endure hardships and tribulations to reduce karma, which Li says is a negative, black substance that blocks people from enlightening to spiritual truths. Its opposite, virtue, is said to be a white substance gained by doing good deeds and forbearing through hardships. Li teaches that virtue may be transformed into "gong", or "cultivation energy", which is said to be an everlasting, fundamental energy a human spirit possesses, and what ultimately dictates where the spirit goes after death.

Li states that an important aspect of his system is its cultivation of the Main Spirit. He says that a person is made up of a Primordial Spirit, which could be composed of one's Main Spirit and one or more Assistant Spirits. Reverse Cultivation and Gong Borrowing, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 01/02/08] Li states that upon death the Main Spirit is the part of one's consciousness that one perceives as one's own self, and is the spirit that humans must cultivate to ascend to higher levels. A person can also have one or more Assistant spirits. "Zhuan Falun" says that upon death, both spirits split from the body and go their own ways. In other practices that cultivate the Assistant Spirit, the Assistant Spirit will reincarnate into another body to continue cultivating, whereas the Main Spirit, which is the person themselves, will be left with nothing and upon reincarnation will not remember its past. It will be left to live locked in the human dimension, in delusion. Whoever Practices Cultivation Will Attain Gong, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 01/02/08] Li also teaches that other practices that teach trance, mantras, and visualization, only focus on the Assistant Spirit.

Li says that his teaching offers a chance for humans to return to their original, true selves, and he calls this "salvation of all beings." "In the Buddha School, 'salvation of all beings' implies bringing you out of everyday people’s most agonizing state to higher levels. You will no longer suffer, and will be set free—that is what it implies. Didn’t Sakyamuni talk about the other side of nirvana? That is the actual meaning of salvation of all beings." Supernormal Ability of Precognition, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07]

In "Zhuan Falun", enlightenment refers to the ability to let go of human attachments and desires, in the end achieving consummation. Through cultivation practice, Li says, "one’s gong will also constantly grow until the final step in cultivation practice. When this de substance has completely transformed into gong and this person’s cultivation journey designed by the master has come to an end, "Boom!" all locks will be exploded open at that very second. His Celestial Eye will reach the highest point of his level, and he can see at his level the truth of different dimensions, the forms of existence for different lives and matter in different time-spaces, and the truth of our universe. All of his divine powers will emerge, and he will be able to contact different kinds of lives. By this time, isn’t this person a great enlightened person or a person enlightened through cultivation practice? When translated into ancient Indian language, he is a Buddha." [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zfl_new_9.html#5 Enlightenment] , from [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07]

On science

David Ownby writes that one of Li Hongzhi's "favorite themes" of discussion is modern science. He says that Li often "returns to the limitations of the scientific paradigm and the blind arrogance of the world scientific community", at the same time without imparting an explicitly antiscentific or antimodern message. Without the internet for example, Ownby opines, "Falun Gong most certainly would not have achieved its present form." Instead, Li's teaching is directed toward attempting to show that "Falun gong offers the sole avenue toward genuine understanding of the true meaning of the universe, which he often labels the 'Buddha Fa'."

In "Zhuan Falun Volume II", Li says "The axioms set forth by today’s empirical science are quite narrow, and acknowledge only that which is visible and tangible; anything indiscernible to the eye or touch is not acknowledged. Its scientific axioms are not scientific whatsoever, and have completely boxed man in. When a person discovers via scientific means things normally invisible and intangible, is that not science?"Li Hongzhi, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zfl2.htm Zhuan Falun, Volume II] , published 1996, translated June 2008, accessed 21/6/08]

Ownby says his fieldwork demonstrates that Li's discussions of and challenges to modern science struck a chord with many Chinese intellectuals who took up Falun Gong practice. They say that in explaining the relationship of science "to larger cosmic structures and existential questions", that Li has made science more relevant than before. Li’s ultimate aim in talking about science is to “illustrate the limitations of scientific knowledge so as to make space for his own vision, which transcends science and returns it to a secondary, subservient role in our understanding of cosmic and human forces.” He attempts to do this with a number of strategies, Ownby says, including purported evidence from ‘parascientific research’. This includes claims of archaeological findings from hundreds of millions of years ago which undermine the theory of evolution. Li is suggesting, Ownby says, that “scientific paradigms are historically and culturally bound and thus epistemologically incapable of validating their own claims to authority.”

Again in Zhuan Falun II, Li says "Living beings are complex, and the structure of the universe is extremely complex. The knowledge possessed by man today has reached its peak. Having peaked, it has become something that limits the development of man’s science. For example, many accomplished scientists have set forth axioms in the fields of physics and chemistry. Within the confines of those axioms, what they say indeed holds true. And it’s fine to build upon them. However, truth is a many-tiered thing. When you surpass their axioms, you will find that the axioms have in fact served to limit people."

Ownby says that according to Li, one of science’s major shortcomings is its inability to understand the idea of multiple dimensions, that the universe exists at "many different levels simultaneously and that the process of enlightenment consists of passing through these levels to arrive at ever more complete understandings." Li tells his disciples in "Falun Buddha Fa: Lectures in the United States", that "The cosmos is extremely complex... Earth is nothing but a speck of dust, and it is insignificant. Yet within this expanse there are innumerable and complex structures of dimensions. What are these structures of dimensions like? ... Which level of dimension does our humankind live in? We live in the surface matter comprised of the biggest layer of molecular particles; we live in between molecules and planets—a planet is also a particle, and within the vast cosmos, it, too, is a trivial speck of dust. The Milky Way Galaxy is also a trivial speck of dust. This universe—the small universe I just described—is also but a trivial speck of dust. The largest particles that our human eyes see are planets, and the smallest particles visible to humankind are molecules. We humans exist in between the particles of molecules and planets. Being in this dimension, you think it’s vast; from a different perspective, it’s actually extremely narrow and tiny."Li Hongzhi, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/mgjf.htm Falun Buddha Fa: Lectures in the United States] , 1997, accessed 21/06/08] He says "The Buddhas, Daoist deities, and Gods we speak of exist in other dimensions that man cannot touch or see."

Ownby says that overall Li's discussion on the topic is simple, and attempts to sum up it up: "He invokes apparent anomalies in the archaeological or geological record to call into question the authority of the scientific consensus. On the basis of that challenge... he goes on to suggest a less human-centred view of the universe composed of hierarchically linked levels... Through cultivation, humans can transcend the level into which they were born..." Ownby regards Li's arguments unconvincing, and believes that Li is not particularly interested in scientific debate, or those who do not believe or doubt him, "his concern is rather to illustrate, "to those who are attracted to such a message", that Falun Dafa both contains within it "and" transcends the modern scientific viewpoint."

Transformation and higher dimensions

Connected with Li's discussion of cultivation practice is the idea of "supernormal abilities" and "special powers" that the adherent is supposed to develop in the course of dedicated study. These are connected to Li's teachings on apparent higher dimensional realities, which he says exist simultaneously and in parallel to the human dimension. Li teaches that supernormal powers are a by-product of moral transcendence, and are never sought after or to be employed for selfish intentions.Danny Schechter, "Falun Gong's Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or Evil Cult?", Akashic books: New York, 2001, p. 66] He has said that there are up to 10,000 supernatural powers, though as Ownby points out, has never listed them. Some of those he has discussed include the opening of the celestial eye, "which may enable practitioners to see into other spatial dimensions and/or through walls" according to Ownby, clairvoyance, precognition, levitation, and "the ability to transform one kind of object into another kind of object" according to Penny, among others.

Penny says the practitioner is supposed to pass through various levels until he or she reaches the state of "cultivation of a Buddha's body". Li says: "The supernormal abilities developed at this stage belong to the category of divine powers. The practitioner will have unlimited powers at this point and will have become incredibly mighty. Upon reaching higher realms, he or she will cultivate to become a great enlightened being. All of this depends on how you cultivate your "xinxing"... Dedicated cultivators find a righteous cultivation way and achieve Righteous Attainment—this is Consummation."

In the book "Falun Gong" Li says "Dimensions, from our perspective, are very complicated. Mankind only knows about the dimension in which human beings currently exist, and other dimensions have not yet been explored or detected. When it comes to other dimensions, we Qigong masters have already seen dozens of levels of dimensions, which can also be explained in theory, but yet to be proved by science." In "Zhuan Falun" the question of multiple dimensions is explained this way:

"As human beings, we have a body in each of numerous dimensions. When we examine the human body now, the largest elements are cells, and they comprise the physical human body. If you can enter the space between cells and molecules or the spaces among molecules, you will experience being in another dimension. What does that body’s form of existence resemble? Of course, you cannot use the concepts of this dimension to understand it, and your body must meet the requirement of that dimension’s form of existence. The body in another dimension can become big or small to begin with. At that time, you will find it also a boundless dimension. This refers to a simple form of other dimensions that exist simultaneously in the same place. Everyone has a specified body in each of many other dimensions."

David Ownby says that Li regards his discussion of multiple dimensions as a superior approach to knowledge and understanding. One of science’s major shortcomings, according to Li, is its inability to detect multiple dimensions. "Li argues that the universe—and human understanding of the universe—exists at many different levels simultaneously and that the process of enlightenment consists of passing through these levels to arrive at ever more complete understandings." In this context, transformation is both physical and intellectual. The motor behind such transformation is individual moral practiced, alongside cultivation under an orthodox master. Moral practice, says Ownby, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for cultivation and enlightenment. Individual moral practice burns karma and reduces suffering, but unless the individual is committed to an orthodox cultivation regime, they will not be able to break through the various "levels" and attain enlightenment and transformation. "What is required in this instance is a master, someone who has... the power to channel the moral behaviour and intentions of the practitioner in the proper direction." This leads to the oft-repeated phrase in Li's texts: "cultivation depends on oneself, "gong" depends on the Master" (修在自己,功在師父).

Li says: "Then how is it such practices manage to reach the lofty realms of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Arhats?" It’s because the true development and transformation of gong is extremely complex. The person’s very cells have to be evolved and transformed, a whole array of divine powers have to be developed, and there are a great many things yet unknown to man—things that are appropriate only for certain levels—and these too must be developed. To use an analogy, they are more intricate than even the most complicated precision instruments known to the human world, and are simply beyond man’s reach… But the real evolving that takes place in other dimensions is extraordinarily complex, and beyond the means of human beings. It is all done by the person’s master."

Richard Madsen, a professor of sociology at the University of California, however, says "among the Falun Dafa practitioners I have met are Chinese scientists with doctorates from prestigious American universities who claim that modern physics (for example, superstring theory) and biology (specifically the pineal gland's functioning) provide a scientific basis for their beliefs. From their point of view, Falun Dafa is knowledge rather than religion, a new form of science rather than faith." Richard Madsen, Understanding Falun Gong, Current History, Sept 200; 99, 638; Academic Research Library, pg. 243]

Falun Gong's exposition of physical phenomenon often differ considerably from today's mainstream theories. For instance, in a particular lecture, Li Hongzhi states: "The truth is, many understandings science has about this immediate physical world are wrong, and even their starting point is wrong. Even the theory of gravity is wrong." [ [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/lectures/200203L.html Touring North America to Teach the Fa] ] Li Hongzhi describes gravity as a phenomenon happening because, "...all matter, including air and water, that are on Earth and within the Three Realms—all things that exist in the Three Realms—are composed of particles of all the different levels in the Three Realms, and different particles of different levels are interconnected. This interconnection can, when there’s a pulling force, extend or move within the Three Realms. In other words, when you pull it, it can extend like a rubber band, and when you release it, it will go back. That is, there’s a basic, stable form of existence among particles. This is why any object in this Earth’s environment will come back to the ground after you move it. Of course, I’m not talking about moving a piece of rock to some different location, in which case it wouldn’t return to where it was. That’s not the idea. The surface of Earth is the boundary of one level. Within this level things can move horizontally since they are all at the same level. But when something moves towards a level beyond its level, it will be pulled back..." Li apparently explains that as one moves farther away from a celestial body, the higher dimensional interconnections between particles are broken and connections are sparser at the periphery, and thus strength of this pulling force decreases. [ [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/daohang_3.htm Li Hongzhi, Guiding the Voyage] ]

Maria Hsia Chang regards Li's teachings on these subjects "abstruse".Falun Gong: The End of Days By Maria Hsia Chang] Ownby acknowledges these as challenges to interpreting Li's message, but attempts to place Falun Gong doctrine within its historical and cultural context. Penny says "there are aspects of Falun Gong doctrine that could have been understood by a cultivator in China 1000 years ago," along with some of the teachings, such as those about extraterrestrials, for example, "that could not have appeared in China before the late 1980s". He says this is a "synthensis of age-old traditions and contemporary modes".

Schechter regards some of Li's statements as "worthy of our skepticism", but adds that "they do not seem to be central to Li's philosophy or teachings." When asked, Falun Gong spokesperson Erping Zhang said in reference to these teachings that "there are things that people might not quite understand yet, and they might understand later, and that's quite possible." Schechter reports a discussion with Falun Gong spokesman Erping Zhang on the subject, when he asked for Zhang’s views on 'higher consciousness' as a possible rationale. Zhang said: "Higher consciousness is a commonly used term in Eastern cultivation [where] … one can reach a higher level of consciousness via meditation. Higher consciousness may also refer to consciousness beyond this physical dimension. Levitation is a phenomenon or a by-product of one’s cultivation of mind and body."Danny Schechter, "Falun Gong's Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or Evil Cult?", Akashic books: New York, 2001, p. 66] The phenomenon of levitation seems also mentioned, in passing, in one of the lectures. In the lecture Li apparently explains the phonomenon of levitation as being possible because once human body's matter, which is "related to the Earth and is composed of surface-matter particles", has undergone transformation through cultivation of human-body, "it has severed its connection to the particles in this environment, and hence is no longer restricted by cohesive forces caused by interaction of matter of this particular realm."

Karma and the cycle of rebirth

Falun Gong teaches that the spirit is locked in the cycle of rebirth, also known as samsara Transcending the Five Elements and Three Realms, [http://www.falundafa.org/book/eng/zflus.html Zhuan Falun] , accessed 31/12/07] due to the accumulation of karma. This is a negative, black substance that accumulates in other dimensions lifetime after lifetime, by doing bad deeds and thinking bad thoughts. Falun Gong states that karma is the reason for suffering, and what ultimately blocks people from the truth of the universe and attaining enlightenment. At the same time, is also the cause of ones continued rebirth and suffering. Li says that due to accumulation of karma the human spirit upon death will reincarnate over and over again, until the karma is paid off or eliminated through cultivation, or the person is destroyed due to the bad deeds he has done.

Ownby regards the concept of karma as a cornerstone to individual moral behaviour in Falun Gong, and also readily traceable to the Christian doctrine of "one reaps what one sows". Ownby says Falun Gong is differentiated by a "system of transmigration" though, "in which each organism is the reincarnation of a previous life form, its current form having been determined by karmic calculation of the moral qualities of the previous lives lived." Ownby says the seeming unfairness of manifest inequities can then be explained, at the same time allowing a space for moral behaviour in spite of them. In the same vein of Li's monism, matter and spirit are one, karma is identified as a black substance which must be purged in the process of cultivation.

Li says that "Human beings all fell here from the many dimensions of the universe. They no longer met the requirements of the Fa at their given levels in the universe, and thus had to drop down. Just as we have said before, the heavier one’s mortal attachments, the further down one drops, with the descent continuing until one arrives at the state of ordinary human beings." He says that in the eyes of higher beings, the purpose of human life is not merely to be human, but to awaken quickly on Earth, a "setting of delusion", and return. "That is what they really have in mind; they are opening a door for you. Those who fail to return will have no choice but to reincarnate, with this continuing until they amass a huge amount of karma and are destroyed."

Falun Gong differs from Buddhism in its definition of the term 'karma',dubious|Dubious claim about karma Ownby says, in that it is taken not as a process of award and punishment, but as an exclusively negative term. The Chinese term "de" or "virtue" is reserved for what might otherwise be termed "good karma" in Buddhism. Karma is understood as the source of all suffering - what Buddhism might refer to as "bad Karma". Li says "A person has done bad things over his many lifetimes, and for people this results in misfortune, or for cultivators it's karmic obstacles, so there's birth, aging, sickness, and death. This is ordinary karma."

Ownby regards this as the basis for Falun Gong's apparent "opposition to practitioners' taking medicine when ill; they are missing an opportunity to work off karma by allowing an illness to run its course (suffering depletes karma) or to fight the illness through cultivation." Penny shares this interpretation. Since Li believes that "karma is the primary factor that causes sickness in people", Penny asks: "if disease comes from karma and karma can be eradicated through cultivation of "xinxing", then what good will medicine do?" Li himself states that he is not forbidding practitioners from taking medicine, maintaining that "What I'm doing is telling people the relationship between practicing cultivation and medicine-taking". Li also states that "An everyday person needs to take medicine when he gets sick." [Lectures in United States, 1997, Li Hongzhi] Schechter quotes a Falun Gong student who says "It is always an individual choice whether one should take medicine or not."Danny Schechter, "Falun Gong's Challenge to China: Spiritual Practice or Evil Cult?", Akashic books: New York, 2001, p. 66] .

Further reading

* [http://www.falundafa.org/eng/books.htm Listing of Falun Gong books available in PDF and DOC formats]

* [http://www.clearwisdom.net/emh/index.html Clearwisdom website]


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