Falun Gong is not a formal organisation. There are no initiation or membership procedures for those who wish to practise it. People are free to come and go as they choose and all contact persons are volunteers. There is no hierarchy or structure, no obligations or formalities. It is quite possible to practise Falun Gong without meeting other practitioners. Of course, an organic network of contacts naturally forms between many practitioners, through their common interest in Falun Gong. The basis of Falun Gong is to improve oneself by following the principles of Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance. It is evident that this can only be achieved by the individual and has nothing to do with an organisation.
Falun Gong is not a religion. It has no worship, ritual or devotional practices. There is no deity nor any personality to follow. It does, nevertheless, share similar goals and themes with traditional religions, such as emphasizing high moral standards, offering an insight into the mysteries and truth of the universe, understanding the purpose of human life and guiding spiritual fulfilment. However, Falun Gong does not have any temples, rites, ceremonies or clergy.
Buddhas School practices and Buddhism
Falun Gong is sometimes referred to as a "Qigong* practice of the Buddha's school", and practitioners sometimes use the term Buddha. The term "Buddha's school" is not synonymous with "Buddhism."
Buddhism refers to the religious forms, which centre on a belief in the existence of Buddhas or the wish to achieve Buddhahood whereas "Buddha's school" refers to all cultivation practices, which seek to attain Buddhahood. Therefore the Buddhas school includes both religious and non-religious forms of practice. In the West, we tend to perhaps equate belief systems with religion. This is not so in the East, where there exist many spiritual paths and systems which do not adopt any religious forms whatsoever, but which are nonetheless separate and complete systems in their own right, having no direct relationship with religions. Falun Gong does not adopt the form of religion, but nonetheless seeks to ultimately achieve Buddhahood. Thus, it is a Qigong practice of the Buddha's school, but has nothing to do with Buddhism the religious form.
Falun Gong has no political agenda or political aims whatsoever. Because of the terrible persecution in China, practitioners have appealed to all governments and organisations world-wide for their help and support. However, the motive and means have no political element. Whilst it is a communist government which persecutes practitioners, practitioners do not see politics as either the cause or the solution. Practitioners are not against the Chinese government, but are against the government's persecution of Falun Gong. It cannot be said to be political to appeal for the most basic of human rights. We hope that all kind-hearted people, (including those who hold political power), can use the righteous means at their disposal to put pressure on the Chinese government to stop the persecution. This would simply reflect compassionate concern for fellow human beings and not a political agenda.
Throughout this most brutal and severe crackdown, Falun Gong practitioners have never been politicized and have never used political slogans but have continually called for an end to the persecution.
Sect implies that Falun Gong is a sub-division or branch of some other religion. The issue of religions has been addressed above. Falun Gong is not an offshoot of any religion or any other spiritual practice. It stands alone. In some European countries, the word sect has a negative meaning that implies the members are distanced from society and collect a lot of money. Falun Gong is open for everyone, no fee is involved and people can come and go as they wish.
Falun Gong is not a martial art. Whilst some forms of Qigong involve martial arts, and some martial arts use Qigong practice, Falun Gong is not one of them.
Falun Gong is sometimes described as a traditional breathing exercise. This is probably because if you look up Qigong in an average Chinese-English Dictionary, it will say something like "traditional form of breathing exercises." Whilst many Qigong practices do pay attention to the breath and use various methods of controlling the breath, some do not. Falun Gong has no special breathing techniques. In all of the Falun Gong exercises one breathes naturally without paying any particular attention to the breathing.
*Qigong is the modern name given to traditional Chinese systems of self-refinement, which focus on the cultivation of the mind, body and spirit. In India, there is yoga. In China, there is qigong.
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