Upon returning from a business trip in March 1997, Alan Adler went to visit his tai chi teacher, who was eager to see him.
“I have found it,” his teacher said.
“It” was a spiritual practice that Adler and his teacher, Da Liu, had been seeking together for years. The “it” turned out to be Falun Gong, and that conversation with his tai chi teacher changed Adler’s life.
Adler had studied tai chi for 25 years with Liu, who was a grandmaster. Liu had fled for his life from China in the 1950s after the communists took over, and is believed to be the first person to bring tai chi to the United States.
Although Liu had spent a lifetime practicing tai chi at a very high level, he was not content. In his later years, when qigong masters would visit New York City, he and Adler would go together to hear the master talk, seeking a practice that could answer some of the questions they shared.
Liu, then in his nineties, had gone to hear Mr. Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Gong and that led to his excited conversation with Adler.
The next week, Adler and Liu attended a nine-day lecture series in New York City. Over a period of nine days, a group of New Yorkers who wanted to learn more about Falun Gong crammed into a studio apartment and watched videotapes of Mr. Li giving lectures, most of which lasted two hours or more.
“The nine-day seminar was a little bit tough,” Adler said. “There were 50 of us crammed into a New York studio apartment. And there was simultaneous translation, in which someone tried to talk over the Chinese videotape. It was not easy to concentrate for two hours. But I got the idea from it.”
Adler began going to a park near his home in New Jersey, where together with others he practiced the Falun Gong exercises and read the book Zhuan Falun, which contains the comprehensive teachings of Falun Gong.
Adler was one of the first Westerners to begin practicing Falun Gong and the first in New Jersey. With a small business he owned and operated and a wife and three children, Adler lived a hectic life, full of pressure. He found this new practice calmed him in a way that his practice of tai chi never had.
“I liked the exercises. They were calm and gentle and they were free. I was having trouble crossing my legs, but the standing exercises were quite calming. The reading of the book was also quite calming. And without the intensity of the seminar I was able to digest it slowly.”
He soon realized that Falun Gong was very different than the tai chi he had practiced for so long. “Tai chi was like elementary school and Falun Gong was like college,” he said.
“With tai chi there was never a moral code—a book that went along with it. There were books, but those books were about how to do tai chi. But here with Zhuan Falun was a book that was more important than the exercise. Reading that book sort of put human life and everything else into perspective.”
“In the way I was brought up, I think I was taught much the same things as Falun Gong teaches, but the way Zhuan Falun explains things, the context it gives, it gave me a lot of confidence in the moral teachings. It also taught me that being truthful, compassionate, and tolerant has tangible results. I think the Chinese say, 'Good begets good, and evil begets evil,' something along those lines,” Adler said.