What is Falun Gong?What’s the difference between Falun Gong and Falun Dafa?Is this like Tai-chi?Is this Qigong?Is this a branch of Buddhism?What is the goal of practicing Falun Gong?What are the benefits of it?Can it cure things like cancer?Who practices Falun Gong? Do you have to do it outdoors?Do I have to know Chinese to practice it?Can I do this if I’m a Christian/Jew/etc.?How long does it take to learn it?Is Falun Gong hard to do?Can young kids practice it?How long do you have to do it for? Does it take a long time?How does a person begin the practice?Is Falun Gong religious?What are Falun Gong’s political views? What is Falun Gong? Falun Gong is a traditional Chinese spiritual discipline that is Buddhist in nature. It brings together meditation, energy exercises, and moral teachings as a means to cultivating the mind and body, with the ultimate aspiration being spiritual transformation, or what in the East is known as “enlightenment.” As of 1999 some 70–100 million persons in China were reportedly practicing Falun Gong, making it the most popular practice of this nature in all of China, if not the world. It is taught by Mr. Li Hongzhi. What’s the difference between Falun Gong and Falun Dafa? These are two names for one and the same practice. The name “Falun Gong” was used during the practices early years in China, and “Falun Dafa” from around the time of 1995 on. In the West the practice is most commonly referred to as “Falun Gong.” What do the names mean? “Falun Gong” translates as “Practice of the Law Wheel” or “Law Wheel Qigong,” while “Falun Dafa” translates as “Great Way of the Law Wheel.” Is this like Tai-chi? The four exercises of Falun Gong bear some semblance to Tai-chi, in that they are slow moving, gentle, and balance and strengthen the body on an energetic level. The practice of Falun Gong differs in its prioritization of what in China is known as “self-cultivation,” which can be thought of as a program of moral teachings. Is this Qigong? Falun Gong includes four exercises which are indeed a form of qigong, and similarly, these work to balance and renew the body beginning from an energetic level. The practice is more similar to traditional qigong disciplines of China insofar as such exercises in Falun Gong form but one part of a larger spiritual discipline. In traditional China qigong was usually the province of Daoist monastics, for example, who used it as a means to not only health and longevity but also higher religious ends, such as transcendence. Is this a branch of Buddhism? Falun Gong is Buddhist insofar as it aspires, ultimately, to the cultivation of Buddhahood and is one of a number of disciplines comprising the larger Buddhist system or school of practices. Some such practices trace back to Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha; Theravada Buddhism is one example. Others, such as the Kagyudpa tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, do not. Falun Gong does not. Falun Gong is more properly classified as Buddhist qigong rather than religious Buddhism. While the two ultimately share in the same aspiration---enlightenment, or liberation---Falun Gong's approach involves, alongside moral self-cultivation, disciplined physical practice of qigong exercises. By contrast religious Buddhism generally features a devotional component, a monastic/lay distinction, a ritual calendar, set doctrine, etc. All of this is best understood within the larger context of Falun Gong's teachings, however, which are beyond the scope of this section. Readers are referred to the book Falun Gong, where this question is addressed in greater detail (link). What is the goal of practicing Falun Gong? Different people take up the practice with different goals in mind, some of which might be health, stress relief, emotional balance, more energy, relaxation, and spiritual fulfillment. The highest ends of Falun Gong, as taught in the book Zhuan Falun, are of the latter (religious) variety, and include enlightenment, spiritual perfection, returning to one’s “original, true self,” and “attaining the Dao.” What are the benefits of it? These are similar to the above, and include thing such as relaxation, better health, stress relief, a sense of emotional balance, greater energy, deeper awareness, spiritual insight, and various forms of religious achievement. Can it cure things like cancer? While healing is not a goal of Falun Gong proper, it could be called a feature of it to the extent that it commonly occurs in the process of disciplined practice; it is more of an a byproduct, meant to enable better, more focused practice. Those who practice sincerely report a wide range of health benefits, including the complete remission of a variety of diseases and health conditions. Indeed, a number of these cases involve various forms of cancer. Who practices Falun Gong? Pretty much anyone you can imagine. It is now practiced in over 70 countries, with the largest number of adherents being in mainland China. Ages range from kids barely old enough to read to retired adults in their 90s, while ethnic and social backgrounds vary equally. Followers include federal government officials, military personnel, police officers, university professors, scientists, craftsmen, medical doctors, many artists, as well as actors and actresses. Do you have to do it outdoors? No, though outdoor practice is encouraged. Falun Gong’s exercises and meditation can be done anywhere, anytime. Do I have to know Chinese to practice it? No, you don’t. The teachings of Falun Gong have been translated into twenty-some languages, and the instructions for its exercises are available in a number of languages or can be taught by a local volunteer. How much does it cost? Nothing per se. All Falun Gong books are available online for free reading or download, and are carried in most major libraries. The exercises can also be learned online for free. All Falun Gong workshops, exercise sessions, and related events are always free of charge. How long does it take to learn it? The exercises and meditation can be learned fairly well in about one hour, and perfected over the course of about a week or so; to sit in the full-lotus position (both legs crossed) can take longer, but is not necessary at first. The primary teachings, as set forth in the books Falun Gong and Zhuan Falun, can be read in several sittings. Mastery of these, of course, is a lifelong process of spiritual development. Is Falun Gong hard to do? How easy or hard it is tends to be a highly individual matter. The exercises are quite easy for most people to learn, and far less complicated than, say, Tai-chi or most forms of qigong. The meditation tends to be harder, specifically, the full crossing of the legs. The difficulty of living by the teachings in daily life is a combination of many personal factors, and varies tremendously; in general, however, most people find the principles of Falun Gong easily graspable, immediate, memorable, and easy to implement. When both mind and body are cultivated together, progress can be remarkably fast, many persons report. Can I do this if I’m a Christian/Jew/etc.? Yes, persons of any faith tradition are welcome to learn the practice. Whether someone decides to focus exclusively on the practice of Falun Gong at some point is always a personal choice. A number of Buddhist monks and nuns are counted among Falun Gong’s adherents, for instance, as are some Christian ministers and other religious professionals. Can young kids practice it? Certainly. Many parents testify that Falun Gong is a wonderful source of positivity in their child’s life, with its moral certainty rendering the concerns most parents have over things like drugs, smoking, and premarital sex bygone worries. Many kids learn the exercises quickly and enjoy the sensations of energy and calm they bring; some parents relay that Falun Gong is the first thing that got their child to sit still. How long do you have to do the exercises for? Does it take a long time? There is no set amount of time. The full session of exercise music, if one wishes to listen to it while practicing (which is recommended), is 60 minutes long for the four qigong exercises, and 60 minutes long for the meditation. Shorter versions of each can be downloaded from the internet. Regular, daily practice is of course best, but any amount that can be fit into a busy schedule will bring benefits. How does a person begin the practice? The teachings of Falun Gong, set forth in the books Falun Gong and Zhuan Falun, can be accessed online for free or found in a bookstore or library. The exercises can also be learned through the online instructions, though learning from a volunteer in person is preferable. The ideal way to learn both is to attend a Nine Day Seminar, offered periodically wherever people practice; these involve a video showing Mr. Li teaching the practice and instruction in the exercises, and usually last about two hours each evening. Is Falun Gong religious? Falun Gong comports with the definition of religion generally accepted in the West, in that it involves a systematic program of spiritual exercises and teachings that seek to effect moral growth, inner purity, and higher states of spiritual realization. Its teachings discuss, as do most major religions, otherworldly realms and the existence of other, higher lives or forces. It does not, however, have any initiation rituals that differentiate member from outsider; an institutional structure; physical premises, such as houses of prayer; or worship of or devotion to any specific deity or combination thereof. What are Falun Gong’s political views? The practice itself does not have any express political views. Political opinions among adherents are as diverse and varied as you might find in any given population. Some persons are members of liberal parties, some conservative, some reform, etc.