I’m not interested in mocking or ridiculing people of faith, but I will and I do question the ridiculous. As a Chaplain-by-Nature I come across 100s of odd beliefs and though I’m never shocked, I’m often amazed at the gullibility of people, and the amazing ability some have to manipulate vulnerable “followers.” My amazement leads to a strong need to confront the irrationalism and expose the powerful attraction some have to manipulate for their own needs. I’m also angered by the twisting of minds, especially among marginalized or persecuted groups who may be especially vulnerable to some “New Truth.”
Case in point. . .
Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) is one of the strangest new religions I’ve heard of in years. That millions of people have fallen for this cultish thing from China is. . .I’m not sure what to say. . .frightening, sad, weird, bizarre. . .ultimately discouraging.
My wife and I were walking in SF today and saw some young Asian women handing out colorful brochures on this. I asked about the symbol (with the swastika shape in the center):
One woman passionately told me it was all about Truth, Compassion and Tolerance. Nice things to focus on. She spoke of miraculous healings and powers but mostly about practitioners in China being tortured (which is of course a very bad thing). I took her brochure and we walked away. I said to my wife that this was just like the proselytizing of any evangelical group. We had a good walking conversation about “how inclusive can we be” in our work and lives? Can we tolerate intolerance? These ladies seemed open and tolerant, but of course never said anything about religion or asked us about ours. Yet, she did say the meditations used some Buddhist ideas, and it sure seemed they had “Found the Best Thing Since Buddha.” Oh? We remembered the film Kumare (required for any serious student of spirituality), shook our heads, smiled and felt not a little troubled by the experience.
When I got home I read the brochure, read some of their online material and an interview with the founder, and watched a video of the spinning wheel (hypnotic really) and The Master teaching “the thousand arms of Buddha” exercise.
Here was one hint that my suspicions about the religious nature of this movement were going to be confirmed:
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. Introduction
(made me curious how the “wheel” is “planted” in that, um, area)
But the most telling is this interview with the “Living Buddha” founder, Li Hongzhi, in TIME.
A few excerpts:
TIME: Have you seen human beings levitate off the ground?
Li: I have known too many.
TIME: What is the final goal?
Li: The ultimate purpose is to enable people to attain the Tao and to complete their cultivation practice. In the end they can free themselves from the worldly state.
TIME: You talk about placing the wheel into the body.
Li: I can use my mind to direct and order things to happen.
TIME: What happens after one attains the Tao?
Li: We have all heard about the Chinese deities. When one completes cultivation, one has special powers.
Since the beginning of this century, aliens have begun to invade the human mind and its ideology and culture.
TIME: Where do they come from?
Li: The aliens come from other planets. The aliens have introduced modern machinery like computers and airplanes. They started by teaching mankind about modern science, so people believe more and more science, and spiritually, they are controlled.
TIME: Are you a human being?
Li: You can think of me as a human being.
TIME: Are you from earth?
Li: I don’t wish to talk about myself at a higher level. People wouldn’t understand it.
I doubt I need to quote more! Behold Li Hongzhi, the “Living Buddha” (who now has a nice place in NYC–the Chinese Government thinks he’s “evil and deceptive”. . .I don’t tend to agree with that government much), who levitates, heals, installs an energy wheel in the private area, “attains the TAO,” thinks Aliens are Among Us and teaches millions how to “free themselves from a worldly state.”
I’ve been educated today (Chaplains are always open to education!), thanks to some young ladies under a bright umbrella by a pond in San Francisco. I now know that masses of human beings have once again been mesmerized by another “enlightened spiritual teacher” (how many more do we need as a species?) who came from the Land of Confucius, who once said,
“The one who learns but does not think is lost; the one who thinks but does not learn is in danger.” (Analects, 2:15)
“Asked about serving spiritual beings, Confucius said, ‘If we are not yet able to serve humanity, how can we serve spiritual beings?'” (Analects, 11:11)
Back in Evangelical days we would “test the spirits” with a concern for “cults,” especially Ego Cults.
Now, I would suggest we Test the Thinking, Ask Questions and See what Good for the Human Community comes of this Old Religion or that New Faith. What are the Ethics?
The Wheel keeps spinning. . .and so does my mind on these matters.