An Olympic Hero’s Spiritual Journey

An athlete, DJ, national hero, and man of humble compassion
By Tara MacIsaac, Epoch Times
February 28, 2014 Updated: March 7, 2016

Martins Rubenis is a two-time Olympic medalist, a famed alternative-music DJ, and a man with a sense of purpose that carries far beyond the luge track.

Having set his life-course along a spiritual path, he has used his fame to uphold human rights. He became a national hero when he won the first Winter Olympics medal for Latvia in the 2006 Torino Olympics in Italy, a bronze in luge. In Sochi, he earned his second bronze medal in the sport.

His spiritual faith has given him a unique perspective not only on fame, but also on his athletic career, his music, and the future.

How a Latvian Became Immersed in Ancient Chinese Wisdom

As a little boy, Rubenis had a fascination with martial arts. The connection between athleticism and Eastern discipline and values was already established in his mind.

As an adult and professional athlete, he developed health problems, and he felt in many ways that his body and mind were not in a good enough state.

“I knew that there was something that had to change,” he said. “I was always looking outward and trying to change the environment and what was around me. … I decided that probably I have to take a close look at myself and start changing a little bit of myself.”

He asked his coach’s advice. His coach suggested Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, having done an Internet search for an Eastern practice that would be good for both the body and the mind. Rubenis described what he felt when he first heard the words Falun Gong: “When I heard those words, it just resonated to me in a light way.”

Falun Dafa includes meditative exercises and also teaches people to improve their minds and hearts. Its three main principles are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. Forbearance includes tolerance and endurance—characteristics that could particularly resonate with an Olympian.

Coincidentally—or as Rubenis would say, as fate would have it—the first Falun Dafa practitioner he met in Latvia was also a professional athlete. She competed professionally in full-contact karate. He saw the inner peace she had found through the practice. He learned the meditation and began reading “Zhuan Falun,” the main book of Falun Dafa.

His problems, both physical and mental, were essentially resolved. The strength he gained on many levels helped him achieve his Olympic success, he said. He dedicates his medals to Master Li Hongzhi, who first brought the ancient practice to the public in 1992.

Something to Say, Mixed Reactions

He had started practicing Falun Dafa in 2005 and saw his rise to fame in 2006 as an opportunity to draw attention to the brutal persecution of the practice in China.

Some of his compatriots had trouble understanding him.

“At that moment, when I learned about the persecution … there was quite a lot of media following me and asking about my experiences of life and getting more interested. But at the same time it so happened that the whole world learned about the labor camp system in China, that there are thousands of Falun Gong practitioners whose organs are taken out and sold and people are killed on a large scale. … At that moment, I didn’t know any other way to express it and to let people know there is something so terrible happening in the world,” Rubenis said.

In 1999, when the Chinese Communist Party conducted a national survey and found more than 70 million people were practicing Falun Dafa—outnumbering members of the Party—a propaganda campaign against the practice began. The regime’s control over the media easily took care of the propaganda, and a special force created specifically to eradicate the practice, the 610 Office, began making arrests.

To draw attention to the imprisonment and execution of thousands of practitioners in China, Rubenis did a three-day hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy in 2006. In 2008, he was a spokesman for the Human Rights Torch Relay, which called for a boycott of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

“I believe the Olympic Games have always been a symbol of high moral standards, a natural striving of harmony between physical strength and spiritual force of human being,” said Rubenis at the time. “The Communist regime of China has no right to represent the highest principles of the Olympic movement.”

In Latvia, his actions were puzzling to many, as mainstream media had not covered the issue on a broad scale. Now, as Rubenis finds himself again in the spotlight after his second Olympic win, the situation has changed.

Rubenis said that in recent days, as many Latvian media outlets have interviewed him, they have actively asked about the persecution. “I really felt that people are waking up,” he said. “They were determined to ask the questions about Falun Gong and what is happening in China and the current situation.”

Like a Modern-Day Arthurian Knight

Rubenis has decided to retire from luge. He is unsure what the next step is, though he is on the lookout for new challenges and possibilities. For now, he thinks he will probably spend some time traveling and further spread the truth about human rights abuses in China.

In a 2009 documentary about Rubenis, titled “Lohengrin from Varka Kru,” the filmmakers draw parallels between Rubenis and the legendary Knight Lohengrin. Lohengrin fought injustice and helped people in need, explains the film’s synopsis.

When Epoch Times asked Rubenis how he felt about the comparison, he laughed a little, then paused to reflect. He answered with a touching solemnity: “It’s kind of an honor for me that the producer of the film decided to compare me with the knight.”

“I believe that now it’s a very special time,” he said. “Many things are happening and it feels like many things that were played out in history, they come now not as in stories, but as true happenings.”

The documentary names him “Lohengrin from Varka Kru,” referring to the creative team Rubenis works with as a DJ; the team is named “Varka Kru.” Rubenis, now 35 years old, began his music career about 15 years ago. In addition to being a celebrated sports star in Latvia, he is also a famous DJ in the alternative music scene.

From Rebellion to Harmony

When he started on the music scene, he recalled, “What was important for me was to be different. … It was a will to be different.”

This is something he now realizes in retrospect. His perspective on music has changed.

“I learned how music can change and influence my body and my mind and other aspects of my life,” he said. “I believe that the most important part is the heart of the person who created the music at the moment, and what he wanted to express, and the feelings, and the wish.”

“The most beautiful music is made by people who are highly spiritual. That music at the same time brings other people closer to the divine,” he said. “The most important thing is to learn harmony … the music can make people get angry, mad, and feel bad. At the same time, different music can heal, can help people solve problems, and have a brighter and lighter view.”

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