NEW YORK – A wave of yellow, white and blue T-shirts and jackets emblazoned with ‘Falun Dafa is Good’ message swept streets and parks last week as for over three days more than 10,000 Falun Dafa practitioners – men and women, young and old – from 57 countries marched, sang, danced and gave speeches in New York City to celebrate the 25th year of one of the most popular meditation and spiritual practices in the world – estimated to be spread in over 100 countries and practiced by over 100 million people. And highlight too, China’s blatant persecution and atrocities of those who dare to practice one of the most serene forms of physical and mental exercise one can ever see or comprehend.
Unless you walked about with your head fixed astutely at high rises, it was almost impossible to miss the presence of the throngs of Falun Dafa devout at popular public spaces, including Times Square, Union Square, and the United Nations. May 12 saw a grand parade, the centerpiece of the World Falun Dafa Day activities in New York.
Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Dafa, was cheered loudly as he spoke about the growth of the practice, viewed with suspicion and abhorred by the Chinese government.
It’s likely that the Chinese oppression started after they suspected the Falun Dafa movement could be harnessed by a shrewd politician, shaped to be a political force on the lines of the Aam Aadmi Party in India, start a revolt against the Communist regime which disavows religion. At its core, Falun Dafa exhorts teachings based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
It’s common enough to see Falun Dafa practitioners go through their drill of slow circular motion and meditation in parks, and quiet nooks. It’s more than likely you’ve been handed a brochure of what Falun Dafa or Falun Gong is all about by a practitioner on the streets of Manhattan, or other towns and cities in the US.
The people who hand out these brochures share some common traits: they always have a compassionate smile on their lips – not in a smug way. It just seems to suggest vast contentment; unlimited patience. As if years could go by, and hey, rest assured, I’ll be doing the same chore, with nary a complaint.
It certainly gave the jitters to former Chinese Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin, who initiated the ban of Falun Gong. However, despite gross human rights violations over 18 years to eradicate the practice, it has survived.
Last week, Falun Dafa practitioners gathered signatures for a petition by the non-governmental organization Doctors Against Forced Organ Harvesting (DAFOH) which calls on the Chinese regime to stop killing Falun Dafa practitioners to supply an alleged organ trade missive. A 2017 Freedom House report on religious freedom in China noted that Falun Gong surviving Chinese brutality “is impressive and amounts to a genuine failure of the party’s repressive apparatus.”
Falun Dafa and Yoga share common characteristics of trying to shape the body and mind, underlining spiritual peace. The former practice however, is also heavily tilted towards ‘self-cultivation’, with strict adherence to ethics and morality as centerpiece of it.
For many, the tenets of Falun Gong might seem as too harsh, and at odds with each other. Take for example, the fact that although it preaches no political doctrine, Falun Gong practitioners are encouraged to observe the laws set by politicians and government, to not distance themselves from society. One can only wonder how one can achieve that without having political opinions and leanings too.
If you thought Jain monks lead a tough life, Falun Gong practitioners are not too far behind in their almost ascetic ways.
Falun Gong practitioners are taught to, “not hit back when attacked, not talk back when insulted”; “abandon negative thoughts and behaviors,” such as greed, deception, jealousy; not allowed to smoke tobacco or drink alcohol; are forbidden to kill living things—including animals for food; are required to relinquish the pursuit of fame, monetary gain, sentimentality; barred from having sex outside of marriage, give up on lust.
If you shook your head, balked at trying to be a Falun Dafa practitioner, there’s some good news: the International Yoga Day is coming up next month, in June. That asana and tough contortions don’t seem too bad, after all, do they?