More than 8,000 practitioners of the Chinese spiritual discipline Falun Dafa attended the 2013 Experience Sharing Conference on May 19 in the New York metropolitan area.
Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, consists of physical exercises and a moral foundation in the practice of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
The founder of Falun Dafa, Li Hongzhi, spoke during the morning segment of the conference about what it means to be a Falun Dafa practitioner, and how practitioners can improve themselves moving forward.
Attendees arrived from countries all around the world, including from mainland China, where Falun Dafa has been brutally persecuted by the Chinese regime since 1999.
Li Zhenxiong, a 48-year-old colonel, flew in from Taiwan to attend the conference. Experience sharing conferences are valuable, he said, since they give practitioners of Falun Dafa a chance to see how others uphold the values of Falun Dafa when they face tribulations.
Practitioners of Falun Dafa are taught to look inward when they encounter hardships, and to consider others before themselves.
“The truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance is very helpful for society,” he said, through a Chinese interpreter. “When you see a lot of people cultivate, you feel it is very good for society.”
Many practitioners say Falun Dafa helps them improve various aspects of their lives—from reduced stress and health benefits, to more harmonious home lives.
Martin Czertok, 42, flew up from Argentina where he owns a hostel, to attend the conference. “Since I’ve been practicing Falun Gong, year by year I’ve been understanding the purpose of life,” he said. “To practice Falun Gong is about becoming a better person.”
He said the practice helped him understand that “everything you do in your life is very important, as everything has a consequence. It’s important for people to look inside themselves and see what their shortcomings are.”
Czertok said the value in looking inward is tied to the value he sees in the conferences. “Everyone has their own experience,” he said. “By learning from other people, how they go through some situations, you may see a point of view you maybe wouldn’t have seen yourself.”
During the afternoon portion of the conference, several practitioners of Falun Dafa took the podium to read papers about their experiences. All of them spoke about tribulations they’ve encountered, and how they not only overcame them, but also used the difficulties to become better people.
Janette Marks, 68, who works in customer service in Rhode Island, said she is often inspired by the stories of other people who practice Falun Dafa.
“The people are so selfless,” she said.