23 November, 2008

Yoga and Falun Gong

Malaysia's top Islamic body has ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims.

In 1999, the Chinese government, led by
Jiang Zemin, banned the practice of Falun Gong, began a crackdown, and started a "massive propaganda campaign."

Yoga, according to Wikipedia, refers to traditional physical and mental disciplines originating in India; to the goal achieved by those disciplines; and to one of the six orthodox (āstika) schools of Hindu philosophy.

The Sanskrit word yoga has many meanings, and is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning "to control", "to yoke" or "to unite". Translations include "joining", "uniting", "union", "conjunction", and "means". Outside India, the term yoga is typically associated with Hatha Yoga and its asanas (postures) or as a form of exercise. A practitioner of Yoga is called a Yogi (gender neutral) or Yogini (feminine form).

Meanwhile, Falun Gong ( 法轮功 )was introduced to the public by Li Hongzhi (李洪志) in Changchun, China, in 1992. Its teachings cover spiritual, religious, mystical, and metaphysical topics. Falun Gong is an introductory book that discusses qigong, which introduces the principles and provides illustrations and explanations of the exercises involved in Falun Gong practice.

It has five sets of meditation exercises and seeks to develop practitioners' hearts and character according to the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance (真,善,忍), articulated in the main books Falun Gong (法輪功) and Zhuan Falun (轉法輪). The teachings deal with issues such as "cultivation of virtue and character", "moral standards for different levels", and "salvation of all sentient beings."

The The Eight Limbs of yoga are:

(1) Yama (The five "abstentions"): non-violence, non-lying, non-covetousness, non-sensuality, and non-possessiveness.

(2) Niyama (The five "observances"): purity, contentment, austerity, study, and surrender to god.

(3) Asana: Literally means "seat", and in Patanjali's Sutras refers to the seated position used for meditation.

(4) Pranayama ("Lengthening Prāna"): Prāna, life force, or vital energy, particularly, the breath, "āyāma", to lengthen or extend. Also interpreted as control of prana.

(5) Pratyahara ("Abstraction"): Withdrawal of the sense organs from external objects.

(6) Dharana ("Concentration"): Fixing the attention on a single object.

(7) Dhyana ("Meditation"): Intense contemplation of the nature of the object of meditation.

(8) Samādhi ("Liberation"): merging consciousness with the object of meditation.

The main body of teachings in Falun Gong is articulated in the core book Zhuan Falun (轉法輪), published in late 1994. According to the texts, Falun Gong (or Falun Dafa) is a complete system of mind-body "cultivation practice" (修煉). Truthfulness (真 Zhen), Compassion (善 Shan), and Forbearance (忍 Ren) are regarded as the fundamental characteristics of the cosmos—an omnipresent nature that permeates and encompasses everything from the most minuscule particles to the most gigantic cosmic bodies.

In the process of cultivation, the practitioner is supposed to assimilate himself or herself to these qualities by letting go of attachments and notions, thus returning to the "original, true self." In Zhuan Falun, Li Hongzhi said that "As a practitioner, if you assimilate yourself to this characteristic, you are one that has attained the Tao—it's just such a simple principle."

Through cultivation, Falun Gong promises "personal harmony with the very substance of the universe."

Falun Gong teaches that followers should "rid themselves of unnecessary ‘attachments’, to do what they know is right and hence to return to ‘the origin’, to their ‘original self.’

On 20 July 1999, following seven years of rapid growth of the practice within mainland China, the government of the People's Republic of China issued a statement "banning" Falun Gong:

"China today banned the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control after deeming them to be illegal.

In its decision on this matter issued today, the Ministry of Civil Affairs said that according to investigations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa had not been registered according to law and had been engaged in illegal activities, advocating superstition and spreading fallacies, hoodwinking people, inciting and creating disturbances, and jeopardizing social stability.

The decision said that therefore, in accordance with the Regulations on the Registration and Management of Mass Organizations, the Research Society of Falun Dafa and the Falun Gong organization under its control are held to be illegal and are therefore banned."

Xinhua further declared that Falun Gong was a highly organised political group "opposed to the Communist Party of China and the central government, [that] preaches idealism, theism and feudal superstition". It sought to make a distinction between "ordinary core members" and the leaders, which it referred to as "a small number of behind-the-scenes plotters and organizers who harbor political intentions". It struck a warning-bell against some important Party and government officials who were practitioners.

Xinhua also affirmed that "the so-called 'truth, kindness and forbearance' principle preached by Li has nothing in common with the socialist ethical and cultural progress we are striving to achieve."

Meanwhile,Malaysia's top Islamic body on Saturday ruled against Muslims practicing yoga, saying it had elements of other religions that could corrupt Muslims.

The National Fatwa Council's non-binding edict said yoga involves not just physical exercise but also includes Hindu spiritual elements, chanting and worship.

"It is inappropriate. It can destroy the faith of a Muslim," Council chairman Abdul Shukor Husin told reporters.



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