SAN FRANCISCO—Around 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners from the Bay Area and beyond gathered Saturday to tell one another about the challenges, joys, and breakthroughs on their spiritual paths.
Falun Gong, also called Falun Dafa, is an ancient Chinese spiritual practice, focused on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. It encompasses moral teachings and meditative exercises.
Partly due to Falun Gong’s popularity and moral teachings, the Chinese regime has been persecuting the practice harshly since 1999. According to the Falun Dafa Information Center 100 million people in China had taken up the practice by early 1999, a number greater than the membership of the Chinese Communist Party.
The Information Center has confirmed that more than 3,500 practitioners have died from torture and abuse in China’s labor camps. The actual number of such deaths is believed by the information center to be far higher.
While Falun Gong was first taught in China, it is now a world-wide phenomenon. According to the website FalunDafa.org, Falun Gong is practiced in more than 70 countries.
Falun Gong adherents strive to become better human beings by continuously ridding themselves of harmful habits and ideas, a process they call cultivation, according to the Falun Dafa website. Practitioners regard challenges, conflicts, and even the adversity they face in China, as opportunities to improve themselves.
Practitioners from all over California, out of state, and some from abroad came together for the conference Saturday.
For Ben Smith, who is originally from Australia, a conference like this is an “opportunity to share experiences, so that we can learn from each other, meet new people, and continue on our cultivation path.”
More than 50 attendees submitted papers describing their experiences in advance to the conference organizers. There was only time for 20 of them to be read to the assembled audience.
Ton Truong from Burlingame, Calif., told how he found out about Falun Gong. For him, it was what he had been looking for his whole life. Through the practice he discovered the power of upright thoughts and a sense of tranquility that comes with it. He realized he always has a choice “whether I let something someone said disturb my inner peace.”
Yuqi, who now lives in San Francisco, started practicing at a very young age together with his parents in Mainland China. When he was 12 years old, the persecution began. Yuqi witnessed how he and his parents were harassed by the police and pressured to give up their beliefs.
Being steadfast, his father was soon illegally arrested and held in captivity for over a year. Yuqi described how the family under such trying conditions, without a permanent home, made it a priority to tell people what Falun Gong really is about.
According to the Falun Dafa Information Center, “one key measure in the Party’s suppression [of Falun Gong] has been to limit, and distort, information about Falun Gong—both in China and elsewhere.” This propaganda campaign has the goal of dehumanizing Falun Gong adherents, making it easier for Chinese society to support the persecution.
Practitioners like Yuqi’s family have engaged in a mass campaign of civil disobedience in which they educate the Chinese people about what Falun Gong is and that it is being persecuted.
74-year-old Xian Wen Chen from Seattle talked about how she began to get up every night after midnight to call people in Mainland Chinese to help them quit the Chinese Communist Party.
Over the last seven years Falun Gong practitioners have sparked a global movement that gives Chinese people a platform to cut ties with the Chinese regime. So far, over 122 million Chinese people, who were forced to pledge allegiance to the Party, decided to quit, according to the Global Service Center for Quitting the CCP.After the conference, Nan Su from San Jose was delighted to have listened to talks given by people from different walks of life and who “showed so much appreciation for what they learned from the practice.” For him, Falun Gong is “an amazing practice with amazing principles that has benefitted many, many people in their daily life.”
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