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Religion studies expert's estimate of the religious status of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine


Borozenez Taras Candidate of Philosophic Science, Dean of the phylosophy department at the State Academy of statistics, accounting and audit.

The aim of the estimate: is to find out the religious status of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine.

The tasks of the estimate: are to study the texts of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" teaching, to find out the main statements of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine, to find out if they are of religious kind, to know their substance and trends. If the doctrine is considered to be a religious one, the task is to define Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" teaching's attitude towards traditional religions trends and to ascertain its position in the list of modern religious doctrines and trends.

The methodology of estimate: phenomenological-comparative approach.

The analyzed sources: Li Hongzhi Falun Dafa. — M.:Ed. board RUDN, 1999.–339 pages.

The structure, logics and the substance of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" book

One can see a clear and consistent logic in Li Hongzhi's ideas, told in "Falun Dafa" book. The structure of the book is made of the preface and of three chapters that are connected with one another. The preface (pp. 1-2) is called "About the Law of Buddha" and is telling about the core, the urgency and the perfection of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" teaching. The first chapter (pp. 9-286) that is called "Chzhouan Falun (The Great Falun Law of Buddha)" consists of nine lectures, which are dealing with the deeper understanding of the core of "Falun Dafa" teaching, its urgency and its goals as well as with the questions of ontology, cosmology, anthropology, global problems of the humankind and the ways of their solving with the help of self-perfection methods, under Li Hongzhi's guidance. The teacher's attitude towards the alternative trends, either religious or not, is given. The second chapter of the book (pp 287-334), called "The Method of the Falun Law of Buddha for the Ultimate Perfection" is also defining the practical methods of self-perfection "Falun Dafa", that can be done only under Li Hongzhi's guidance, the author gives the proof that the methods are very effective and urgent in comparison with other methods of self-improvement, the photos and explanations of special exercises. According to Li Hongzhi's point of view, doing these exercises is obviously necessary for achieving the spiritual and physical perfection. The third chapter (pp. 335-339) includes four appendixes, which are telling the rules of the consultation services, the tutor's requirements, the rules of studying, mastering and passing Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" for those, who are practicing the system.

We think that while Li Hongzhi's telling his gospels, he uses the certain logical basis, terms and ideology for solving different theoretical, spiritual, practical, organizational and institutional problems. Thus we can consider his doctrine to be quiet accomplished and systematically-integrated.

The terms of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa"

In "Falun Dafa" book Li Hongzhi is mostly using the religious terms. The key words of his doctrine were adopted either from Buddhism (for instance, The Law of Buddha (Fa), gong, karma, reincarnation, nirvana) or from Taoism (Tao, tzi, in and yan, de, the main soul (youanshen), inactivity, the divine eye). Moreover, the author himself points to it. At the same time the terms of Taoism and Buddhism are not separated from one another, they interact and influence each other, creating some specific Buddistic-Taoistic terminological mold, and this is historically quite typical for the syncretic religiousness of China.

Besides the religious terms, Li Hongzhi widely uses both philosophical (e.g. the substance, evil, good, theory, practice, philosophy, science, religion, self-perfection) and scientific terms (e.g. energy, energetic field, evolution, Physics, atoms, molecules, electrons and protons) which help to understand the first group of terms better.

Thus, the terminology, used by Li Hongzhi in his book gives us grounds to suppose his doctrine to be a syncretic religion before carrying out the deep analysis of its contents. Now we are going to start this analysis.

Lee Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" Cosmology

According to Li Hongzhi's doctrine, the Universe is an endless space-time continuum that has neither outer, nor inner borders. This common universal space-time consists of the hierarchical time-space levels and worlds, and each of them has the extremely complex various life forms and the evolution processes that are just partly known by today's science. The metaphysical shape of the Universe is pyramid.

Li Hongzhi thinks that the Universe is absolutely material so it has no elements, that are fully spiritual and the elements, which we consider to be spiritual are not the independent being but some certain life forms of substance (see p. 29).

Li Hongzhi claims that the main ontological property of the Universe, the universal principle, the law and the meaning of its life is Zhen Shan Ren (the Truth, the Kindness, the Patience), which is the Law of Buddha and the Taoist Tao. This property is shown and realized to different extent in the whole Universe, it seizes all its components and aspects, it penetrates all its levels (micro-, mega- and macro- ones), unites them into one whole thing, directs and guides them.

"Zhen Shan Ren" is mostly incarnated in the Sky. This is how "Falun Dafa" calls the Heaven that lies out of space and time (the other names of it are Sukhavati, Glaze World, Lotus World, Falun World). The Sky is meant for those, who have reached the highest level of perfection, so called The Great Enlighted. Besides, there are lots of other supernatural creatures in the Universe, such as the good or evil spirits that may contact with the person and thus help him or do harm. We should notice that there is no transcendent and absolutely spiritual God. There is no place for him in the monistic, immanent and self-contained Li Hongzhi's cosmological system.

This way, according to Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine, the Universe is the integral, self-contained, material, constantly evolving, endless, living, complex hierarchical incarnation of the united ontological principle Zhen Shan Ren. 

 Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" Anthropology

Using the grounds of the Buddhism and Taoism, Li Hongzhi claims that the human being is the microcosm where one can see the reflection, expression ad incarnation of the whole Universe. That is why the human being is "the most valuable creature and the soul of all the creatures" (p. 98).

The human being has an extremely complex structure and substance, just like the Universe does (p.19). The main its components are: the visible physical body (bentyi), the character, the natural inclinations, the main consciousness and the soul (youanshen or chzhuishee), the subconciousness (subyouanshen), the Body of the Law (Youanyin, the Diamond body or the Buddha's Body), the energetic field (Tzi), the positive energetic field (De-Gong) and the negative energetic field (karma or Ye).

Bentyi is the visible physical bodies with its organs covered with biologically active points (BAT, tzyao, gouan') and are penetrated with the channels, which connect those points. The system of the Bat and the channels is meant for perception, transferring and processing the energy, which is of vital importance (tzi-de-gong) that makes the life, the development and the perfection of the human being possible. The beginning and the basis of this system is the so-called Dan field (dantyan) that is situated in the lower part of the abdominal cavity under the belly-button and is responsible for creating the vital energy, the supernatural abilities, the Body of the Law and lots of living beings. The system of the BAT and the channels is crowned with the socalled divine eye, which is placed in the brain in the area between the brows and is connected with the pineal gland. When the vital superenergy of this esoteric eye is increased, the eye opens and the person becomes able to see the substance of this reality in all its aspects.

The youanshen is the central and immortal consciousness of the human personality that is responsible for the decisions that are of vital importance.

The subyouanshen is one of the parts of the consciousness which is mostly responsible for the moral control of the main consciousness of the person (youanshen). It is born with the person, but it also might come from the highest levels of the space hierarchy. In Li Hongzhi's system subyouanshen is something like conscience. 

The Youanyuin (the Bodyof the Law) is an integral, independent, individual person's high-energy double, which cannot be seen with the physical sight and which is born in the dan field and consists of the Law and the gong and is able to transform of incarnate in other spaces.

Tzi is a universal material substance with the main functions of giving birth to the person and the Universe as well as their maintenance and evolution.

De is the positive kind of tzi, the basis of morality. It combines with the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren. If it is stored and transformed, the full self-perfection of the human's soul and body are possible through the acquiring and multiplying the supernatural Gong power.

Karma is the negative kind of tzi and the mechanism of its inheriting or transferring. It is the result of the person's immoral behavior and the level of this, former and future lives' imperfection correspond with the existence and the level of it. There is a process of transformation between de and karma and the way of this transformation depends on the moral activity of the person (see, for instance, pp. 27-36; 89-90; 232-239; 268-273).

This way, according to Li Hongzhi's doctrine, the human being is the extremely complex hierarchical micro-model of the Universe that is fully immanent and connected with all its levels, worlds, processes and laws. It is obvious for the religion studies analysis that Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" anthropology has a significant religious and mystic character.

The Conception of the Origin and Today's State of the Mundane Man According to Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa"

According to Li Hongzhi's point of view, human being is created by the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren and naturally is its good incarnation. However, when the number of people increased and the social relations became more complex, social conflicts appeared thus deposing some people to the lower levels of hierarchy down to today's mundane level.

People, who are staying on this level have very limited abilities (because of the ignorance, rudeness and the weakness of their flesh), and they are living in the toughest conditions (such as the birth, ageing, diseases, evil and death). Even after they are dead their suffering do not end, as depending on the correlation of their evil (karma) and good (de) energies they reincarnate into other bodies (human, animal, plant or stone). And the awareness of their ruining position is available only in the human body. This is actually gives human the central position in our Universe.

People, who are in such a condition, should be finally destroyed but thanks to mercy of the Great Enlighted they were kept in the objective reality and got the last chance to return to the source of their life (see pp. 11-12).

Li Hongzhi claims that today our Universe came to disastrous condition because of people's evil activity (karma). This will result in the annihilation of this Universe and creation of the new one.

In this situation everyone has only two ways: either to get on with his egoism, thus moving away from the property of the Universe and die at last or to save oneself with the help of the Enlighted, returning to the unity with the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren.

The Teaching about the saving and Spiritual Practices of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa"

The general definition of the meaning of the person's life in the Universe is evident from the described pattern of the world, human being and its today's ruinous condition. Li Hongzhi considers that the meaning is in the perfect uniting with the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren, or, in other words, reaching nirvana, gaining the essence of Buddha or knowing the true Tao. This unity can be reached through self-perfection (soulyan) and the purposeful stepby- step transformation and increasing the level (sinsin) of the vital energy tsi-de-gong. According to this Li Hongzhi's conception about the saving does not differ a lot from traditional Buddhist and Taoist theories.

There is significant difference between the description of the spiritual and practical upgrade of the person in Li Hongzhi's teaching about the saving and the similar Buddhist and Taoist teachings. The person should save himself with through conversion, returning and following the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren (the Truth, the Kindness, the Patience) i.e., following the way of self-perfection practices, given in Teacher Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine (see, for instance, pp. 287-292).

The self-perfection in "Falun Dafa" means the following: determination to follow strictly only Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" teaching, breaking up with the passion (feeling affection to the life on the earth) and fighting against them, placid and patient enduring the sorrows, mercy, abstention from thoughts and desires (inactivity, ouvey) and five sets of exercises, given in the practices of the method (tsi-gong exercises) (see, for instance, pp. 75-76).

Thanks to all these components the negative energy (karma) transforms into the positive (de) and de transforms into the superenergy (gong). During this transformation there occurs the full clarification, healing and the supernatural transformation of the organism, the destroying of karma and overcoming all the circles of reincarnation and overrunning the limits of our material world, achieving the higher levels of hierarchy and the supernatural abilities (such as telepathy, levitation, omniscience, healing, etc), and, finally, the unity with the main property of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren (see, for instance, pp. 43-65; 113-139; 149-151).

Li Hongzhi singles out two stages of self-perfection: self-perfection according to "the mundane Law" and self-perfection according to "the post-mundane Law". "During the process of self-perfection according to the mundane Law the human organism is constantly and consistently, so, when the highest point of the mundane Law is achieved, the human body will be replaced with the high-energy substance. And self-perfection according to the post-mundane Law is mostly the improving of Buddha's body, that consists of high-energy substances and that will reveal all his supernatural abilities once again". (p. 13).

All, who does not follow the way of self-perfection and saving "Falun Dafa", preached by Li Hongzhi, which is overwhelming majority of people, are claimed to be deluded and to be annihilated soon.

Teacher Li Hongzhi's Status

"The matter of perfection your business and the Gong is only the Teacher's business" (p. 33). Reasoning from this original principle, Li Hongzhi determines and proves that he has the role of an exceptional importance when it comes to saving the humankind. "We (Li Hongzhi — author's note) are preaching the orthodox Law for the last time during the latest period of decline and the destruction of dharma" (p. 105; see also. p. 9). Li Hongzhi alleges that unlike other modern teachers, he preaches practicing the methods on the highest level of hierarchy; he alone can release a person from his karma or transform good de energy into supernatural gong energy, increase one's gong and thus bring to the highest level of perfection as he possesses the great spiritual power.

In order to do this, Li Hongzhi alone places special Falun mechanism, that possesses all the supernatural abilities, the Universe has, including the rational ones into the lower part of his disciples' bellies. This Falun is constantly evolving, and thus perceiving, producing and dispersing the Universal energy; it protects and improves the one, who possesses it and gives an outstanding advantage to everyone around (see, for instance, pp. 38-40). Li Hongzhi alleges that he places into his disciples not only Falun, but no less than ten thousands other mechanisms which are also automatically evolving and improving those who have them. Unlike the other teachers, Li Hongzhi guarantees his disciples their achievement of the high level of perfection, the ability of full and fast self-perfection (both physical and spiritual), gives them a complete defense against various temptations and problems in their usual life. He proves this is because he has infinitely many Bodies of Law that have the marvelous power, are omniscient and protect his disciples from all the possible troubles (see, for instance, pp. 41; 100-106).

Reasoning from the exceptional meaning of Li Hongzhi when saving the humankind, that is preached, we can surely consider him to be a charismatic leader according to the terms of religion studies.

"Falun Dafa" Symbolism

Li Hongzhi's idea of the Universe, the human and the ways of self-perfection are symbolically shown in the specially designed Falun emblem. The elements of it are the Falun Buddha's sign (whish is having the shape of swastika; the big yellow one against the background of the red inner circle and four smaller yellow ones against the background of the darker yellow outer circle) and the Taoist Taitzi sign (four small diagonal ones — two of them are white red and blue and two are white red and black against the background of the yellow outer circle). The main colors of the emblem are: yellow, red, blue, white and black (see pp. 140-142).

As we can see, all the elements, mentioned above, are adopted by Li Hongzhi from the Buddhist and Taoist symbolism as Falun emblem is the synthesis of it.

The Institutional Forms Of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" Doctrine

In the third, the final, chapter of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" book there are given some rules of how the main and the minor consulting centers should function, there are requirements for the tutors, who are managing those centers, the rules for those, who are practicing the system dealing with the process of studying, transferring and mastering of "Falun Dafa" doctrine and practices under the direction of Li Hongzhi. In fact, we are facing the canonic norms (unambiguous directions and strict bans) fixing and regulating the institutional life of "Falun Dafa's" disciples. The main principle of all those norms is the disciples' implicit and strict obedience to the doctrine and Teacher Li Hongzhi's will (see pp. 335-339).

This way, Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" system is institutionally composing a hierarchical centralized community of its adepts, who are united with the help of worshipping the sole founder, teacher and savior, with the sole saving doctrine, spiritual practices and symbols and organizational structure. Considering all these characteristics, one may give Li Hongzhi's organization the religious definition of a "church".

The core of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" Doctrine

After having discussed the terminology, cosmology, anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology and the symbols of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine, let us come to determining the core of this teaching.

Li Hongzhi himself defines it as the most mysterious, deep, universal, supernatural and supreme science that gives the only right understanding of the Universe, letting the person solve all his problems and reach the top of perfection (see pp. 1-2).

According to his consideration, "Falun Dafa" is the perfect synthesis of two orthodox systems of the Universe cognition (Buddha system and Tao system), which are connected somehow (Confutianity, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, etc) on some higher level of hierarchy. At the same time "Falun Dafa" follows the supreme law of the Universe Zhen Shan Ren, so it much better than the modern forms of science, philosophy and religion which are, according to Li Hongzhi's words, are restricted with the limits of the visible world, thus are very partial and one-sided ways of cognition of the Universe. Only "Falun Dafa", preached by Li Hongzhi, gives one a possibility of true and full understanding of the Universe with its endless levels, worlds, creatures, phenomena and processes (see, for instance, pp. 18-20).

On the other hand in his book Li Hongzhi is constantly repeating that his "Falun Dafa" is one of eighty-four thousands schools in Buddha's system that existed in some prehistoric period and now, during the crisis period of the humankind, is preached only by him (Li Hongzhi tells that the beginning of preaching occurred in the first half of the nineties, XX century) (see, for instance, pp. 21-25).

All other modern teachings and ways of self-perfection within Buddhism or Taoism, not mentioning other religions are claimed by Li Hongzhi to be defective, infertile, fake, heretical, urinal and unable to save anyone. The heads of these religions are claimed to be devils (see pp. 79-80; 91-91-97; 132; 144-147; 177-183).

Though Li Hongzhi is showing an antipathy and unwillingness to give some unambiguous definition of his teaching, its world outlook status and classify it, it is clear for the neutral religion studies expert's opinion that this teaching has the contents and the purposes that are definitely religious.


Reasoning from all the analyzed aspects we can come to a conclusion that both the essence and the trend of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" doctrine are definitely religious. The terms, symbols, cosmology, anthropology, soteriology, spiritual practices and ecclesiology of Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" teaching are in fact quite typical for the traditional oriental (Hinduist, Buddhist and Taoist) world patterns, which come from the prehistoric mythological consciousness. On the other hand, the exceptional status of the founder, specific elements of spiritual practices, extremely negative attitude to other doctrines and ways of saving, the time of the preaching and the appearance of the community are the evidence of unconventional kind of the teaching, organization and practices of "Falun Dafa" in comparison with all other traditional religions. Particularly, regarding to all traditional trends of Buddhism and Taoism, Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" can be defined as a heretical sect awhile regarding to all other religions, Abrahamistic religions, such as (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) included it may be concerned as an absolutely antagonistic religious trend. From the religion studies' point of view, in comparison with all the modern religions and institutions, Li Hongzhi's "Falun Dafa" can be classified as an Oriental organization and a new religious doctrine.