NTD India brings you an exclusive interview with Suren Rao, a former advertising professional in the creative field in Mumbai. Currently, working as a freelance content writer based in Kolkata, Rao is an adherent of the ancient spiritual practice of Falun Dafa (also known as Falun Gong) and is actively involved in promoting this self-improvement meditation system.
In the extensive one-to-one talk, Rao, who is the president of Falun Dafa Association of India, shares how Indians have embraced the practice’s unique exercises and teachings in the past two decades, and uncovers the suppression of Falun Dafa practitioners in China.
NTD India: Being the President of Falun Dafa Association of India, how significant in your view is this ancient spiritual system to India, a country with its own rich cultural and traditional heritage?
Suren Rao: Talking from my personal experience, I was practicing high level yoga for more than a decade. It did help me on a health and fitness level but… without making any comparisons, I would say Falun Dafa helped me adopt a way of life that is mindful of every moment, in the sense you try to align yourself to the universal principles of Truthfulness, Compassion and Tolerance. So it becomes second nature to judge your every thought, speech and action by the yardstick of these universal principles.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation (sadhna) practice which teaches you to get rid of all negativities, and retain your goodness and balance under all circumstances, good or bad. I think, any society or country that has an open mind and not jingoistic can easily embrace this ancient practice. Falun Dafa can bring a positive change in the moral fibre of society and a better quality of life for its people.
NTD India: It is interesting that many people in India are showing interest in this spiritual system. Could you tell us how the practice was introduced in India?
Suren Rao: Somewhere in the year 2000, Falun Dafa practitioners from Sweden, Finland, Taiwan and the United States had come to New Delhi to introduce the practice. I had read about it in a magazine and wrote them an email. They came to Mumbai, and I joined a 9-day seminar where they taught us the five exercises and showed the video lectures of Mr. Li Hongzhi, the founder of Falun Dafa.
I was one of the first persons in India to learn Falun Dafa exercise and meditation practice in the year 2000, and since then it has become a way of life for me. Gradually, Falun Dafa made its presence in Bangalore, Hyderabad, New Delhi, Nagpur and spread across the smaller towns.
I found my life’s calling after years of yoga and other new age practices. Since I had gained so much from Falun Dafa, I wanted to share it with society and also tell the world about my unfortunate fellow practitioners in China who are brutally persecuted for 19 years.
Practiced in 140 countries, Falun Dafa is voluntary and free of charge. There are no specific forms, no membership, no fees or donations involved. Falun Dafa is meant to be available for anyone who wants to cultivate to a higher level, be it rich or poor.
NTD India: Throughout antiquity many spiritual systems have taught meditation. Why do you advocate this particular discipline? What is the highlighted feature of this practice?
Suren Rao: I have done Buddhist as well as Yoga meditation. I feel one of the salient features of Falun Dafa is having a permanent awareness and clear consciousness about one’s own conduct. This is one of the greatest advantages of Falun Dafa as against thousands of other meditation forms.
The practice of Falun Dafa focuses on cultivating one’s own heart and mind, thus the benefit will stay with you. The principle of cultivating the heart includes a process of “letting go of attachments.” Attachments could be a fondness for, or obsession with material possessions, or being overpowered by emotions or sentiments. To let go of attachments, such as jealousy, anger and fear will make the heart become more benevolent and compassionate. The process of letting go of sentiments passes by many levels and is a journey of steady learning.
After practicing Falun Dafa for quite some time, one does not only become calm and peaceful, but while being a part of the society and fulfilling the requirements of daily life, one will experience a new dimension to life and living. The interactions in the society with neighbours, colleagues, family members etc., provide the practitioner with situations and opportunities where he or she can learn to let go of attachments and to think less about his or her own benefits. In this way, the body becomes like a peaceful temple and one cultivates to a higher realm by participating in the daily life.
NTD India: You have been practicing Falun Dafa for almost 18 years. Can you summarise how this practice helped you personally?
Suren Rao: I am greatly indebted to Master Li Hongzhi. There was no other system that I could adopt as my way of life. Whatever the situation or circumstance or whatever interactions I have with people, it comes quite naturally to me to ask myself: Am I being true to myself? Am I being tolerant and compassionate? It’s not because somebody is keeping an eye on me! Using these yardsticks, it becomes easy to resolve a lot of conflicts.
At a recent school reunion, I found my schoolmates, all in their sixties suffering from diabetes, vision and heart related problems. They found me calm and someone said, “I am frozen in time.” I did not get an opportunity to tell many, but I told some of my friends that I was cultivating in Falun Dafa and how many of my niggling problems like sinus related headaches, spondylosis and chronic stomach problems eased off without my realizing it.
I also find unlike most of my contemporaries who get intimidated by computers and digital technology, I picked up pretty fast and engage myself in writing work.
NTD India: We have seen the “spiritual mindfulness” trend gradually gaining a foothold within school communities, in India and abroad. Do you think Falun Dafa can fulfill this need in the Indian context? All our schools are not technology-smart yet.
Suren Rao: In several hundred schools across the length and breadth of India, Falun Dafa has been introduced, and many schools have included it as part of their curriculum. Some headmasters have shared how hyper-active children have calmed down and do better in their studies. A principal of a missionary school once shared with me that Falun Dafa exercises help students to stay fit and there is less absenteeism among the students, and they are more disciplined.
I found schools where the teachers were enthusiastic in learning the exercises and studying the teachings of Falun Dafa, the students also picked up the practice fast and became diligent. In schools, mostly Falun Dafa has spread by word of mouth from one principal or teacher to another.
Incidentally, besides schools, Falun Dafa was well received by the Police academies in Delhi and Hyderabad. Falun Dafa adherents were invited by several large organizations to introduce it to their senior executives, and interestingly jail superintends too have requested to introduce the exercise and meditation practice to inmates.
NTD India: “Truthfulness-Kindness-Tolerance” are three beautiful principles, but it is still hard to stomach that China has outlawed this system since 1999. Why?
Suren Rao: First, we have to look from the perspective of the immense benefits that the people of China gained from Falun Dafa since its introduction in 1992.
By the late 1990s, 70 to 100 million people were practicing Falun Dafa, including many high-ranking officials in the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the military.
Five independent health surveys conducted in China in 1998 involving 35,000 practitioners of Falun Dafa showed an average cure rate of 60 percent, an improvement rate of 80 percent in physical health and 95 percent in mental health. Therefore, the surveys indicate that Falun Dafa has a clear and significant effect in disease healing and health promotion.
Unable to tolerate the overwhelming popularity of Falun Dafa, the ex-chief of the CCP, Jiang Zemin, put a nationwide ban on the practice on July 20, 1999.
Banned by the Chinese regime, Falun Dafa has spread to over 140 countries with over a 100 million people practicing it across the globe. The founder of the practice, Mr. Li Hongzhi, has also been nominated for the “Nobel Peace Prize” in 2000 and 2001, and the “Sakharov Prize For Freedom of Thought” in 2001.
What one cannot fathom is how a spiritual practice that saved enormous medical bills to the Chinese communist regime, one that made the moral values of people stronger and made them healthier and better human beings, could be banned in China, all of a sudden. But, the truth is that Chinese communist party, since it came into power, has always been broadly suppressing freedom of religion and thought, persecuting Christians and Tibetan monks among others.
NTD India: What are the steps the Indian community has taken in order to bring awareness of the brutality that is ongoing in China?
Suren Rao: The volunteers inform the people who come to learn the practice about the persecution of Falun Dafa practitioners in China. It moves most of the people because they all wonder why a peaceful meditation practice is being persecuted.
At large gatherings, book fairs and festivals, volunteers distribute information flyers and put up banners. The Indian Falun Dafa practitioners have also conducted signature campaigns to inform people and request them to sign petitions.
We have also screened award-winning documentaries—like Hard To Believe, Human Harvest and Free China, which exposes the live organ harvesting and the ongoing persecution in China—at various Indian colleges, press clubs and theatres to select audiences.
NTD India: Is there anything that you would like to convey to our readers?
Suren: I would say it with absolute conviction: Falun Dafa is one of the greatest gifts Mr. Li Hongzhi has given to humankind. You will get as much as you put into the practice.
I will make some random observations of Falun Dafa in India.
In India there are so many practices and each one is vying for attention. Many people keep flitting from one practice to another. I also find most Indians can’t give up their age-old rituals and customs and there is resistance among the slightly older generation about why go for a “foreign practice” when we have our rich traditional practices.
Over the years, I have observed that since all Falun Dafa activities are voluntary and free of charge, people tend to take it for granted and not value it. Whereas practices that charge a heavy fee, people are there on time and want to get full value for their money.
Many have suggested that we charge a fee but the core philosophy our Master Li Hongzhi has given us is that if you benefit and experience the goodness of Falun Dafa you should try to share it with as many people in society. I believe Falun Dafa can provide us with a clear understanding of the purpose of our human life and gives us the right direction to follow.
I sincerely wish more and more people embrace this amazing practice for a better future for themselves and for mankind. Through consistent practice, Falun Dafa can enable one to reach a state of altruism, health and inner balance.
I would like to share a thought of Dr. Au, an orthopaedic surgeon from Taiwan, which has stayed with me. Dr. Au, an accomplished martial arts expert and Tai Chi practitioner of 15 years, gave it all up to take up Falun Dafa. According to Dr. Au, he realized that all this training to build physique and control energy was like earning money, limited only to this lifetime.
Dr. Au said, “You die and it is all lost. Only Falun Dafa clears your past karma, helps cultivate your body, mind and spirit in the present life and helps you on your way to enlightenment in the future lives.”