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Friday, September 03, 2010

Falun Gong: A young spiritual discipline with a turbulent history

CBC: Amidst the cars zooming past, tourists milling around and gardeners mowing the lawn in front of Queen's Park, they stand calm and relaxed.

Eyes closed, arms swooping slowly to soothing music, these followers of Falun Gong — an ancient Chinese practice for the mind and body — seem oblivious to the fact that they're in the heart of Toronto, Canada's largest and busiest city. They're here every day, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., doing one of the group's core practices, a deep-breathing exercise system sometimes combined with meditation. Passersby stop, watch and smile. It's odd that this innocuous-looking movement has been outlawed by the Chinese government, and its members reportedly imprisoned and tortured.

Falun Gong, which translates to wheel of law, borrows from Buddhist and Taoist traditions. But follower and Canadian spokesperson for the group, Joel Chipkar, says it is a spiritual discipline that can improve physical and mental health.

"It has a strong creed, strong belief in the divine and a strong belief in God, but there's no worship, no ritual, no temples, no membership, no money involved," he says. "The framework of religion doesn't apply to Falun Gong. It transcends racial and religious boundaries. It's open to anyone who wants to learn."

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