Mathematics professor Poornima Raina has no connection to China but she has a bone to pick with it. She compares the Chinese government’s treatment of Falun Gong practitioners with the Nazi persecution of Jews. “You can’t know what’s going on [in China] and be silent,” she says. She is one of a few thousand Indian followers of the Falun Gong, a movement banned in China and slowly finding numbers here. It now has a presence all over the country, from Varanasi to Thiruvananthapuram.
Falun Gong is a Taoist-Buddhist spiritual discipline started in China in 1992 by Li Hongzhi. It believes in a system of five sets of simple exercises and meditation that leads to ‘cultivation’ of personality, eventually leading to enlightenment.
The sect is considered one of the world’s fastest growing spiritual movements, with millions of practitioners around the world, some 70 million in China itself. It was enough to scare China into banning the group in 1999 and persecuting its followers. Members of the Indian chapter say they’re not anxious to spread the word, but are vocal about the Chinese government’s treatment of group members.
In Mumbai, every Sunday morning, a small group of Falun Gong practitioners get together in a public park and practise their movements; if you like what you see, join. They attest to Falun Gong’s therapeutic benefits more than spiritual ones, pointing out there are folks of all religious persuasions among them. Delhi-based Rajeev Kumar says he came into the fold a few months ago after he tried it out as a cure for blood-pressure problems. “Our practice preaches truthfulness, compassion and tolerance, it is meant for people from all spheres of life. You don’t have to give up anything, and still you are improving yourself by doing good deeds,” says Raina. Maybe a session will help the Chinese government change its mind.