Clarifying the Truth to Chinese Students at a Scottish University (UK Fa Conference 2003)

Earlier this year, I faced a dilemma. I have a full time job and wanted to complete my Masters degree in my free time. I knew if I did this, however, that I would be left with very little time for Dafa work and activities. It seemed impossible to find the time do both things.

Clarifying the truth to the Chinese is a really important area of Dafa work, but I rarely had the chance to talk to everyday Chinese people face to face. Whilst I had no problem with handing out fliers, I didn’t feel particularly comfortable about approaching Chinese strangers in the street and attempting to start a conversation about Falun Gong. I would prefer to introduce the subject within a context that felt more natural.

I then had an idea that would allow me to complete my degree and clarify to Chinese people at the same time. My dissertation would require me to undertake a piece of social research on a subject of my choosing, preferably in the field of educational research. My university has a large number of students from Mainland China. I decided to propose to my tutor that I conduct research into differences between Chinese and British students in their approaches to studying. I would need to interview Chinese students on a one to one basis for this project, and this would be a great opportunity to clarify the truth to them.

I was given the go ahead by the university and proceeded to advertise for students willing to be interviewed. There was a big response from the Chinese and I set about conducting the interviews.

Initially, I found the interviews quite challenging and definitely felt as if I was being tested. I was reminded of Master Li’s words from the question and answer session of the New York Fa conference in April this year:

Question: In clarifying the facts I often feel that I lack wisdom. Is it because my cultivation state isn’t good enough?
Teacher: When you lack wisdom it’s usually caused by your being anxious, being anxious in your mind to do something, giving it too much importance, and thereby developing a different type of attachment.”

I was quite anxious to start and all sorts of worries ran through my mind such as:
* How should I introduce the subject of Falun Gong? I knew from previous experience that it was sometimes a very sensitive subject and could engender strong reactions from the Chinese.
* Would I feel comfortable enough, given my anxieties, to clarify the truth in an effective way?
* Was it essential that I give them materials as well as talk to them? How could I offer materials in a natural way without seeming as if the main purpose of the interview was related to Falun Gong. I thought that this could look unprofessional or deceptive, possibly resulting in complaints to teaching staff, particularly as I was also required to interview the students’ teachers.

The first interview was the most challenging. I had established a comfortable rapport with the respondent, and after the formal interview concluded we were having a friendly chat. I then mentioned that I practised Falun Gong, and his face changed. He had a negative opinion of Falun Gong, partly as a result of someone he knew of (who he said claimed to be a practitioner) who had committed suicide. I felt that I struggled to come up with rational arguments that would convince him. Clearly, I could not prove that this suicide itself was a fabrication, but could only point out that the regime had fabricated a lot of bad stories and that the person could not have been a true practitioner as any form of killing is wrong by Falun Gong principles. He was not having any of it, claiming that the teachings must therefore be different in China in a way that I as a westerner was not aware of. He would not accept material, believing our information to be fabricated.

The experience was quite uncomfortable, and I realised that it was inappropriate to argue back and forth like an everyday person trying to prove one’s point. I tried to end on a positive note by saying how it had been really interesting to have the opportunity to discuss an important contemporary issue with a student from the same university, and that debate in itself was a really healthy thing. Things became very amicable again, and when I have seen him since we have got on well. With the next few students there were mixed reactions to Falun Gong, and often people declined the offer of materials, some fearing that they could get into trouble. I realised later that they were reflecting my attachments about the materials.

Another reflection of my fears then came up at our weekly Falun Gong class. A new Chinese practitioner, who also attended the same university, told me that one or more students had told her they didn’t like me mentioning Falun Gong and had felt I had tricked them about the purpose of the interview. This served to undermine my confidence further, and I worried that I may have some trouble with the university. I felt a responsibility to persevere with the truth clarification, however, and things became increasingly easy from that point onwards. It was as if by forbearing the initial obstacles, I was rewarded by naturally being able to let go of my attachment of anxiety.

As I progressed with the interviews, I became more relaxed and found I did not even think about issues such as whether or not I should give materials to people. The offering of leaflets and so on then happened very spontaneously as part of our conversation. Amazingly, everyone then seemed to really want copies of all the different types of materials I had such as VCDs, booklets etc.

One girl had a very strong reaction when I mentioned Falun Gong. She said that she was scared of Falun Gong, and told me a lot of the lies that she had heard from the Jiang regime. She felt that the ban on Falun Gong in China was right. I had a sense, however, that this was only a surface part of her talking. We had a long conversation and I felt her stance soften considerably. We have subsequently met on a number of occasions, and she even decided to come along with a Chinese friend to our Falun Dafa evening at the Edinburgh One World Festival, as well as heartily cheering us on with her Chinese friends at the Edinburgh Cavalcade. She recently told me that she has no bad feeling at all now towards Falun Gong and that she thinks Zhen-Shan-Ren are good principles. She said, however, that when you have information drummed into you for years, it is difficult to change your way of thinking completely overnight. From then on all the other students were really receptive, and my confidence soared. Another student was visibly moved by the photos of torture victims and then expressed an interest in joining our class. One student seemed to have a real academic interest in modern Chinese affairs and Human Rights in general. He was very keen to have the opportunity to engage in in-depth discussions with a British person on Falun Gong, and told me how his university professor in China was currently in prison for practising Falun Gong. He expressed an interest in maintaining social contact.

As a consequence of these interviews, I now feel I have developed a network of friendly Chinese social contacts in Edinburgh. I feel that this will help generate future opportunities to clarify the truth to their friends. Written materials are undeniably very useful. I feel, though, that talking face-to-face is probably the most powerful form of truth clarification, and can supplement written material by offering an opportunity to directly answer specific questions. Being a westerner has its advantages, as it shows that this is an international issue. I also sense that some Chinese may respond in a different manner to Westerners, and the students always seem to enjoy the opportunity to practise their English.

Thank you, Master Li, for giving me the opportunity to clarify the truth and improve in my personal cultivation at the same time.

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