In the past few days, two ideas have come to me that merit blogposts in this all too infrequently updated Buddhist blog. The first concerns the "Adverse Childhood Experiences" (ACE) studies I only now read about. I have to write a significant post on that - the ideas that ACE triggers provide so many answers to so many questions, both personally and yes, globally. But suffice it to say, there are reasons why we're all wounded in heart/mind that are pretty powerful, and make all of us responsible.
It also makes a mockery of some of the more moralistic behavior we've seen in the Buddhist convert community. Everything sticks on everything else like flypaper though.
But sometimes things have to be said, and that brings me to my second big topic, which I'll write about today. This topic is the fact that the organizers of this year's Portland Buddhist Festival (PBF) included Falun Da Fa (aka Falun Gong). To cut to the chase: The organizers of the Portland Buddhist Festival should not have included Falun Da Fa in their list of participating groups. I was rather surprised that they did, given the inclination not to accept money from the Frederick Lenz Foundation. Not surprisingly as well, there was a notable lack of real, actual Chinese Buddhist temples represented at the PBF. That's probably the result of a confluence of things for which we're all responsible.
I won't go into great detail in this post the reactions I got when I spoke to one of the organizers about my concerns about Falun Da Fa, other than to note that the person I spoke to was quite defensive, and took umbrage at the words "dangerous cult" as some sort of hate speech. To her credit, though, the organizer admitted a lack of knowledge about Falun Da Fa.
Well, I figured a post like this ought to make readers aware of what Falun Da Fa actually is. First of all, compared to Frederick Lenz's cult (and I won't refrain from the use of that word either for Lenz's group or Falun Da Fa), it's huge. In addition to its regular activities, it publishes the Epoch Times and is the force behind that Shen Yun traveling show. It appears in this way to be a bit like Scientology, in that there are several "coordinating" organizations which don't officially advertise as Falun Da Fa (or Falun Gong) but essentially are.
Now, I'd like to borrow some bits from the Rational Wiki page on Falun Gong, after which I'm going to go right to the source of course of course, and show you what Falun Da Fa actually says about itself. If you think this is Buddhism in any way, well you don't know Buddhism.
Anyway, according to sources referenced by the Rational Wiki, Falun Gong:
- Regarding Falung Gong founder:
- Li Hongzhi claims to have miraculous powers. He claims that he is the savior of humanity, who has come to the earth to "rectify" the way and prevent "true" spiritual teachings from being lost. He claims that ancient Chinese knowledge is far superior to current teachings. His propagandists are known for hijacking reprints of Buddhist texts and inserting him as the "Main Buddha of the Universe".
- According to the Wiki:
- An idea that once was prominent in Chinese Falun Gong is Yuan Man or "Consummation/Full Circle", a state related to Moksha but not very specific. (Mis)Intepretation by low-level Falun Gong instructor and missionaries often blends this idea into the more indigenous notion of an afterlife, so self-flagellation from removal of palatine uvula to ritual suicides are not uncommon even a few years after the crackdown. Today, it is redefined after the more sane Moksha.
- The Chinese government is apparently not so concerned with banning Falun Da Fa's materials, because, quite frankly, as we'll see, they kind of refute themselves. In fact, Falun Gong's "uncensored teachings are openly ridiculed by Chinese forum-goers and have given birth to the meme of calling any trend or popular thing a 大法 (or "Great Law"), combined with a ballad formatted after Falun Gong poems attacking the Chinese government. A collection of 'Great Law' copypasta can be viewed here."
So what do the Chinese people know, that the organizers of the Portland Buddhist Festival didn't know besides what's on the rational Wiki (and the Great Law of Google Chrome, evidently)?
Falun Dafa involves the cultivation of a Falun, or “law wheel.” The Falun is an intelligent, rotating entity composed of high-energy matter. The Falun that Master Li Hongzhi plants in a practitioner’s lower abdomen from other dimensions rotates constantly, twenty-four hours a day. (True cultivators can acquire a Falun by reading Master Li’s books, watching his 9-session lectures on video, listening to his 9-session lectures on audiocassette, or studying together with students of Falun Dafa.) The Falun helps practitioners to practice automatically. That is, the Falun refines the practitioner at all times, even though he or she isn’t performing the exercises at every moment. Of all practices made public in the world today, only Falun Dafa has managed to achieve a state in which, “the Fa refines the person.”
This is what they're saying about themselves! You can get an "intelligent rotating entity" planted in your "lower abdomen from other dimensions" by "reading Master Li's books, watching his 9-session lectures on video or studying together with students of Falun Dafa."
We Buddhists ought to be about transcending greed, hatred, and ignorance, which doesn't involve having intelligent rotating entities planted in our bellies from other dimensions. Of course some of our practices involve the cultivation of 気, but that's something we cultivate ourselves, and is intimately related with the focus of awareness, with that which is within.
The Fa I’m imparting today is immense—it can allow you all to reach different realms and levels through cultivation. This is by no means a small thing. A Fa this enormous has been introduced to the public, but if it couldn’t change people or couldn’t make people’s morality elevate again, then it wouldn’t matter whether it was taught or not. I know that since this Fa is the Truth and the Law of the cosmos, it will definitely have a tremendous impact on cultivators. So, every one of us knows what to do, and there’s no need for me to tell you specifically how to conduct yourselves.
Because practitioners of Falung Gong are only able to do what they do because of Li Hongzhi. Now I'm not big on Tibetan Buddhism, but even the Dalai Lama doesn't talk this way. This is guru sickness through and through.
But wait, there's more from that last link:
Back in the days when Buddha Sakyamuni was teaching his Dharma* there were over a hundred precepts. It’s said that Mahayana Buddhism now has over two hundred precepts. The purpose [of precepts] is to restrict you, and make you meet the standard and act accordingly. We don’t have any precepts today—we’re completely open. We don’t pay attention to any form, and instead we only look at people’s hearts and minds. That’s because our Fa has such mighty power. Also, from another perspective, no form manifest in ordinary human society is worthy of this Dafa. That’s why we have truly adopted a way suitable for spreading Dafa. What way is it? It is a “great way without form.” (Applause) We really have taken a “great way without form,” and only that truly fits our Dafa. So that’s how we have gone about things since I taught the Fa in the early days.
Li Hongzhi claims in that speech that he "chose to live overseas so as not to cause problems for the government." Really? He's sparing the Chinese government problems by choosing to live overseas? Even if you attribute the worst of behavior to the Chinese government (and I'm not going to defend the Chinese government here), what sort of idea is Li trying to give his followers?
OK, that was in 1998, although it's clearly not been refuted and is readily available on the Falung Gong website. Here's something more recent:
You have read in Zhuan Falun that there are eighty-four thousand cultivation disciplines in the Buddhist System and thirty-six hundred cultivation disciplines in the Daoist System. In fact, that was said from the vantage point of a very small level, that is the understanding at a certain level, and it was taught only to the extent that human beings could comprehend. You know, there are Buddhas beyond Buddhas, there are Heavens beyond Heavens, and there are Gods beyond Gods. So how big is the cosmos? It is just boundlessly and endlessly immense. Having reached the point I have reached today in going about Fa-rectification, even though I am already taking care of the final matters, the most, most basic elements that make up the cosmos are gigantic beings that exist in such a way that even to the high-level beings in the cosmos they seem incomparably gigantic and unreachable, much less to humans. In other words, there are so many gigantic beings in the cosmos, and the gods all have their own ways of establishing themselves, and they all have Fa-principles that have formed based on their own understandings of the cosmos. Here I am using human language to describe it. Furthermore, there are also tens of millions of different, gigantic cosmic systems in the cosmos. And those gigantic systems are of course all experiencing the final Fa-rectification of the entire cosmos.
Think about this, if these gigantic systems are Gods, won't they wonder: "How is it you Buddhas are supposed to be better than us? You're teaching the Great Law of the Cosmos by way of Buddha Fa, and rectifying the entire cosmos with the Buddha Fa. But our system is not directly related to yours, so how could you Buddhas rectify our Fa here? How could the gods of your system direct things in our system? Are those Fa-rectification approaches of yours suitable for our system? We have completely different understandings about the ways in which lives are to exist, and many of our understandings are incompatible. What are we to make of how you come across? Given the incompatibility, how could you rectify our Fa?" The cosmos is incredibly complex and awfully immense, and there are huge differences in the ways that lives exist, think, and understand life. Human beings think human beings are pretty good, but some gods think, "Human beings walking down the street with their arms swinging to and fro are so ugly." (Audience laughs) "Look at my great wings and my lion-like body, it's so magnificent." (Audience laughs) And there are even greater disparities between our understandings of lives and those of the gods in the distant, gigantic systems. [They might say,] "What you think of as good and bad is different here, so how can Fa-rectification determine good and bad here, where we are?" The differences among the beings [themselves] are also huge. The Great Law that I am imparting is the fundamental Great Law of the Cosmos that encompasses all. It's just that the manifestation takes the form of Buddha images and Buddhist principles. They don't know about these things, and that is why they think that way.
It's really quite clear that Li Hongzhi doesn't exactly place his organization as a Buddhist organization, but rather something he views as superior to Buddhism, and as he says, not directly related to Buddhism.
So why are their followers going to Buddhist festivals and claiming to be Buddhist? And why is the Portland Buddhist Festival giving these people a platform? And when someone says "Great Law that I am imparting is the fundamental Great Law of the Cosmos ," shouldn't we give pause to consider whether the person saying that or not has reason to say so? And if people are following such a person, should they not be helped? And if there are people giving out money to Li Hongzhi, isn't that enough of a harm?
I myself have heard Li Hongzhi say that only he could profit from his teachings - meaning financially profit. You can read Chinese sources that say worse, but I'm conveying what I have heard personally. And I have heard that with a well known Chinese scholar who has recently produced an updated translation of the Tao Te Ching. Li Hongzhi's own words show him to be teaching something that's hard to call Buddhism. Inclusion of Falun Gong in a Buddhist festival was an embarrassment for the Portland Buddhist convert community. And if the organizers don't believe me, I entreat them to seek out Chinese Buddhists to get their view. There's certainly enough of them in the Portland area. I have been pretty deeply involved with various Asian communities for quite a few years now. Is it really true that the European - descended US Buddhist convert community is so divorced from their Asian counterparts that they confuse Falun Gong with Chinese Buddhism?
Addendum: The more I read about recent events surrounding this group the more appalled I am. Here's a group led by a guy who's an obvious egomaniac, who has encouraged a regime that is often brutal to take actions that would clearly result in the regime called brutal to act brutal. That's fairly dangerous. So yes, yes indeed the term "dangerous cult" is apt. It's also bad 功夫 - bad kung fu. I'm also appalled that there are folks in the US who support this group, because "Chinese Communists". Then again, it's a similar but even worse instance of the same logic applied to the Dalai Lama. There's folks in the American Buddhist convert community who will respond with outright hostility when one mentions the Dalai Lama and his connections to the CIA and the economic issues associated with Tibet.