Get SF Weekly Newsletters
Pin It

Spiritual CULTivation 

In China, Falun Gong practitioners are beaten and persecuted, so the U.S. is granting them asylum. But is this movement as harmless as it seems?

Wednesday, Mar 15 2000

Page 6 of 6

Chung Phang, the San Francisco lawyer who's won asylum for Lian and six other Falun Gong members, says he has mixed feelings about the group. He finds Falun Gong's basic principles of truth, compassion, and tolerance very noble. He also does not dismiss the Eastern idea that a connection between mind and body can relate to health, but says he would not practice Falun Gong cultivation himself.

"The reverence for Master Li could lend some credence to the allegation that Falun Gong is a cult," Phang says. "They revere him, without a doubt, but I don't think they do so uncritically. Depending on one's level of education and sophistication, I think people can and do differentiate between components of what Master Li teaches -- especially when he talks about extraterrestrial beings."

Phang says he knows Falun Gong members who are Silicon Valley software engineers, university professors, research scientists, and Ph.D. candidates. "I'm as suspicious of a cult as anyone," Phang says. "But these are people I respect. They are very intelligent, and hardly fools."

Indeed, the Falun Gong conference at Caltech was attended by many people who hold advanced degrees. Lili Feng, a biologist at Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, spoke about her devotion to Falun Gong. Feng made international news last December when she was arrested by the Chinese government during a trip home. A permanent U.S. resident, but not yet a citizen, Feng had no protection in China. She was jailed for 13 days and forced to make hairbrushes, before Scripps scientists and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein helped orchestrate her release.

At last month's conference, Feng did not talk about her ordeal, but excitedly told the crowd about her plans to scientifically prove Master Li's theory that Falun Gong followers can see through a third eye that protects them. Feng says the brain's mysterious pineal gland serves as this celestial eye, and its production of the hormone melatonin is key. "I want to compare the levels of melatonin in practitioners and regular people," she says. "If the melatonin is more potent in us, and our pineal glands are more active, it might explain why we have better health and how Falun Gong can cure so many diseases."

Despite China's crackdown, Lian isn't concerned for her mother's safety back home. After all, Master Li is supposed to protect his practitioners. Stories circulate among Falun Gong followers about people in China who have walked away from police beatings unharmed. And if someone does die, that might be a sign he or she wasn't a true cultivator of Master Li's teachings.

To avoid that fate, Falun Gong's adherents must focus on their xin-xing or virtues, shedding the attachments of everyday existence while preparing for the promised trip "home." Already, Lian's entire life in China has become a distant memory in the 10 months since she fled to the U.S. "It feels like a thousand years ago," she says. "I am cultivating myself at a totally different stage now. What I was proud of in the past is not worth being mentioned anymore. I'm not interested in thinking about or remembering what I used to be. I am just interested in what I should do in the future, so I can keep going to higher levels."

About The Author

Joel P. Engardio


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Popular Stories

  1. Most Popular Stories
  2. Stories You Missed
  1. Most Popular


  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"