What is Falun Gong?
Falun Gong refers to five sets of movements, which include physical exercise and meditation, that practitioners believe heighten their physical well-being, spirituality, and moral awareness.
Falun Gong motions are done to rotate the falun, a spinning body of energy said to be located at the lower abdomen. Followers believe that performing the exercises stimulates energy within the body and absorbs energy from the universe, which releases negative elements from the body and remedies abnormal conditions within the body.
Falun Gong stems from the Chinese tradition of qigong, an ancient tradition of exercise and meditation. The Falun Gong movement was formerly affiliated with the Qigong Research Association of China, a national federation of qigong groups. Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong, withdrew from the movement in 1992 because his Falun Gong practice had a more spiritual focus than the other groups, which focused primarily on physical well-being.
What does Falun Gong mean?
Falun means "law wheel," and Gong means "the cultivation of energy and capabilities." Falun Gong is the name for the actual practice; its followers and practitioners typically were called Falun Dafa. However, Falun Gong has come to refer to both the practice and the movement.
The Falun Gong emblem is a mixture of Taoist and Buddhist symbols. In the center is a swastika, or "wan," surrounded by spinning swastikas and yin-yang signs. Li Hongzhi describes the emblem as a miniature of the universe, with the swastika representing the rotating universe.
When was Falun Gong founded?
Falun Gong was founded in 1992 by Li Hongzhi, but it is based on ancient practices. Li is the author of "Zhuan Falun" ("Revolving the Law Wheel"), and "Falun Gong." These books are summaries of the basic principles and exercises of Falun Gong and are considered the primary texts for learning more about Falun Gong and beginning to practice it.
Li Hongzhi fled China in 1996 and currently lives in New York.
Is Falun Gong a religion?
Falun Gong is a mix of the teachings of Taoism, Buddhism, and the teachings of its founder Li Hongzhi. Li Hongzhi and other practitioners maintain that Falun Gong is not a religion, but a system for spiritual and physical betterment, and that participation in the Falun Gong movement does not preclude affiliation to other faiths.
There is no official hierarchy in Falun Gong and no official organization or membership. Followers do not worship Li Hongzhi, though they do show him great respect and often refer to him as "Master Li."
What do Falun Gong followers believe?
Followers believe that practicing the five exercises of Falun Gong will help them cultivate their mind, body, and spirit. The exercises are simple, but followers believe they have profound effects, including the healing of illness and improved physical fitness, increased moral behavior, and attaining greater spiritual awareness.
Falun Gong followers try to conduct their lives based on what they refer to as the three universal virtues: truthfulness, benevolence, and tolerance.
Practitioners claim Falun Gong helps them maintain calmer, more peaceful lives, decreases negative feelings, and enables them to act more kindly toward others. The focus of Falun Gong is on individual improvement, rather than improvement as a group.
Li Hongzhi also teaches that aliens from other planets have invaded the human race and brought chaos to life on earth. Li believes aliens manipulate humans to have wars and conflicts and to be dependent on technology. He has said that aliens invented modern machinery and cloning, and that their eventual goal is to completely replace human beings.
How many people practice Falun Gong?
Li Hongzhi claims to have 100 million followers worldwide, 80 million of which are in China. The Chinese government claims that there are only 2 million followers. Participation in Falun Gong is free and open to everyone. Falun Gong's influence and appeal have spread quickly throughout the world because of the Internet. There is no official membership policy, and many people practice on their own or in small groups, so actual numbers of participants are impossible to determine.