China

Falun Gong devotee named refugee

wildmind meditation news

Kim Mi-Ju, JoongAng Daily:

The Seoul High Court recognized a Chinese woman yesterday as a refugee who can’t live in her homeland because of her belief in Falun Gong, the meditation-based religion banned in China.

The 40-year-old woman surnamed Wang, who has been working in Korea and was involved in promoting the religion, filed the case against Korean Minister of Justice Lee Kwi-nam after the Justice Ministry rejected her request to be acknowledged as a refugee.

Wang came to Korea in 2001 for economic reasons and become a Falun Gong practitioner in 2004.

She was hired as a reporter in the Korea bureau of NTDTV, a Falun Gong-affiliated, Chinese language network based in New York. She is also a vocal critic of Chinese Communist Party.

“There are grounds for Wang to feel afraid of being persecuted by the Chinese government because she has been reporting China’s crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners on NTDTV,” the verdict reads.

“The word refugee not only refers to a person who fled China because of threats but also someone who is likely to be persecuted by the government if she returns because of her active involvement [in Falun Gong practices] in Korea.”

A lower court rejected Wang’s plea because it suspected Wang was using Falun Gong as a way of extending her stay in Korea, especially since Wang didn’t practice Falun Gong in China.

Yesterday’s verdict, however, found Wang’s motive believable. This was the first time a local court acknowledged a Falun Gong devotee as a refugee.

Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 and boasts more than 100 million practitioners in 60 countries, according to the Falun Gong Information Center. The practice is banned in China and the government has brutally cracked down on its followers.

In 2008, the Seoul Administrative Court gave refugee status to two Korean-Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who fled China, but the ruling was overturned in appeals. In March, the Supreme Court upheld the overturned ruling.

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“There are grounds for Wang to feel afraid of being persecuted by the Chinese government because she has been reporting China’s crackdown on Falun Gong practitioners on NTDTV,” the verdict reads.

“The word refugee not only refers to a person who fled China because of threats but also someone who is likely to be persecuted by the government if she returns because of her active involvement [in Falun Gong practices] in Korea.”

A lower court rejected Wang’s plea because it suspected Wang was using Falun Gong as a way of extending her stay in Korea, especially since Wang didn’t practice Falun Gong in China.

Yesterday’s verdict, however, found Wang’s motive believable. This was the first time a local court acknowledged a Falun Gong devotee as a refugee.

Falun Gong was founded in China in 1992 and boasts more than 100 million practitioners in 60 countries, according to the Falun Gong Information Center. The practice is banned in China and the government has brutally cracked down on its followers.

In 2008, the Seoul Administrative Court gave refugee status to two Korean-Chinese Falun Gong practitioners who fled China, but the ruling was overturned in appeals. In March, the Supreme Court upheld the overturned ruling.

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Meditation, ritual, and pain

Welcome to our new format of news, which is more of a news round-up, often with links to several stories in one post.

The Times of India has a couple of stories about meditation. One is based on an article by University of North Carolina (Charlotte) psychologists Fadel Zeidan, Nakia S. Gordon, Junaid Merchant and Paula Goolkasian, in the current issue of The Journal of Pain. The study found that relatively short and simple mindfulness meditation training — one hour of training spread out over a three day period — can have a significant positive effect on pain management.

The other Times of India article, Sit still, breathe!, reviews a number of meditation techniques, from “Osho’s gibberish” (their term, not mine), to a Hawaiian (who knew!) form of meditation called Ho’oponopono. It’s a strange selection of techniques that they review: no Vipassana, no lovingkindness meditation, no Tibetan visualization — it’s a totally random and lopsided selection.

On a more somber note, the LA Times reports that a memorial wall and meditation garden has been dedicated to Chinese laborers and others whose forgotten graves were excavated during Metro construction. Coming to this resolution seems to have been difficult, and has involved what the LA Times described as “tense negotiations” with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Los Angeles County. Gordon Hom, the president of the Chinese Historical Society of Southern California, said the ceremony provided closure on painful reminders of a time when Chinese Americans faced discrimination.

There was also tension within the Chinese community, with younger members tending to believe that pottery, coins, etc, disinterred along with the bodies were valuable cultural artifacts that should be preserved, while older members thought they should be re-interred along with the bodies, to respect tradition. Hopefully these tensions will subside, now that the ceremony has been performed. While meditation can heal physical pain, community ritual can be a powerful way of healing emotional scars.

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Possible Dalai Lama successor bridges age gap

The Dalai Lama’s not getting any younger.

He turned 75 on Tuesday and by all accounts he’s in good health. But, inevitably, the question of who will succeed one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders looms large.

Increasingly, the spotlight has been turned to the Karmapa Lama. He is close to the Dalai Lama and calls him “a spiritual and personal father figure.” As head of one of the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism, he is also an accomplished scholar in his own right. But he’s of a new generation.

He plays video games and spends time after meditation listening to rap music. On a recent visit to his monastery in Sidbhari, a village near the Dalai Lama’s exile home in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, the Karmapa Lama tossed around ideas for which team might win the World Cup — not exactly the subject that first comes to mind when you think monastery and Dalai Lama.

“Some people were saying Argentina would win but now they have lost and are gone so now people are saying Germany,” said the Karmapa.

There’s no doubt the Karmapa Lama is an unusual young man. His is an eclectic mix that bridges the gap between old and young. It’s also turned him into the modern icon of the Tibetan struggle against China for autonomy.

Born Ogyen Trinley Dorje, he was pronounced the 17th incarnation of the Karmapa Lama as a 7-year-old boy and whisked away to a monastery near the capital Lhasa. He was quickly recognized by China which hoped it had found a potentially powerful rival to the Dalai Lama.

But a 14-year-old Karmapa had other plans.

“At 18 I might have had to take a position in the Chinese government hierarchy … and turn against the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan cause. That was one of the reasons I decided to leave.”

Leave he did, fleeing his home in rural Tibet for India, embarking on an eight-day journey by foot and horseback across the Himalayas. China was infuriated by the dramatic escape that echoed the Dalai Lama’s flight four decades earlier.

The fact that many believe he is being groomed for the top is hardly a secret, but the prospect of taking on such responsibility has failed to enthrall the young man.

“I’m not very excited about the possibility but His Holiness has great faith and hope in the young generation and I’m part of the young generation so I will do what I can to support his work and hope to leave behind a rich legacy like his,” said the Karmapa.

He isn’t the only one downplaying the hype. The Dalai Lama’s spokesman, Tenzin Taklha, praises the young monk but said no one knows what will happen after the Dalai Lama.

“[The Karmapa] is charismatic, good-looking and has great potential. He’s a promising leader and will certainly be one of our most important spiritual leaders but I could not say he is the only next leader.”

Tibetan Youth Congress President Tsewang Rigzin echoes Taklha’s caution, explaining that while the Karmapa is a “potential spiritual leader, it’s just too early to tell.”

The Dalai Lama has discussed his succession although no decisions have been made.

Traditionally monks in Tibet would fan out across the region to find the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation after his death, but some fear China will hijack the situation and insert its own chosen figure, as it did in 1995 with the Panchen Lama. At that time, the Dalai Lama named a competing incarnation, who promptly vanished.

This time, the Dalai Lama has signaled he could break with tradition and name a spiritual leader to succeed him prior to his death.

While the succession question remains unanswered, for now there’s universal agreement that losing the Dalai Lama would be a devastating blow.

“When you don’t have a leader you are very lost so it’ll have huge impact on the Tibetan exiled community and Tibetans in Tibet, as well as globally … I cannot even contemplate that in my everyday life,” said the Karmapa with a sigh, his broad shoulders slumping.

For now the Karmapa’s everyday life is packed with study, meditation and meetings with people that range from community leaders to Hollywood celebrities like Richard Gere.

India has granted him asylum but restricts his travel, wary of aggravating already tense relations with neighboring China. The Karmapa has been abroad only once in 11 years, when he went to the United States in 2008.

It’s a source of great frustration to a young man itching to spread his wings and meet his spiritual brethren around the world.

“Lots of people are waiting for me to come to their countries so it is upsetting as I can’t fulfill their wishes,” he said.

He may be struggling to fulfill his followers wishes abroad but closer to home the Karmapa is doing just fine.

“Young people love the Karmapa,” said Lobsang Rampa, a 22-year-old student who arrived in Dharamsala from Tibet five years ago. “He’s one of us, the younger generation, he’s our future.”

[via CBS News]
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Access to insight in Beijing

Chanting sutras before dawn, hearing the song of the bell at night, eating three vegetarian meals a day, living in a room with a bed, a mosquito net and little else. When legs get too sore or the mind too restless for meditation, he reads Buddhist sutras.

After five days of bone-tiring work, Song Ming, a 45-year-old sales manager begins his weekend in a Buddhist meditation center in suburban Beijing.

Besides sutras, he reads Confucian and Taoist texts that include dozens of stories about hermits in the hills of ancient China. Song really likes these stories. He could understand someone wanting nothing but to live a simple life. Given a choice, Song said, he prefers to be a hermit.

The desire was seemingly fulfilled in the fall of 2007, when he found the meditation center and traded his life of bustle for his own hermitage at weekends. “It is a relaxed and laid-back refuge from the bustling city. Meditation here leads me to experience the tranquility and concentration of my spirit.”

Beyond the city

Song Ming is not alone, as more and more city folk flee from the grime of the capital to this otherworldly place.

They are teachers, sales managers, civil servants and even graduate or overseas students. In the center, the only thing they do is to sit cross-legged on the cushion to meditate. Hobnobbing with other meditators, studying sutras together and getting teachings from the abbots but are not necessary.

Since Annie Liu has been infatuated with meditation, coming to the meditation center at weekends is part of her life. The quiet girl is often tortured by work-related stress, sleeplessness and on-the-job accidents.

“With nowhere else to turn, a friend suggested meditation. I half believed,” Annie said of her first “encounter” with meditation.

“The abbot of the center guided me to practice meditation to make the mind empty.” Yet initially meditation and doing nothing was not easy to obtain. Her mind wanted to be doing something all the time. She didn’t see the real benefits until failed several times.

“Being relaxed, breathing and focusing on the aware mind… according to the direction of abbot, I learned gradually to cut the conscious mind off and achieve nothingness during meditation.”

Stepping out of the center, Liu attempted to incorporate meditation into her daily habits, “the result is amazing.” Now Liu feels she can manage reactions to stress and recover quickly from disturbing events through short meditation, which was not easily achieved in the multi-tasking world.

Tired, yet also rejuvenated by finally being in the meditation room, Li Jinwen, 23, a graduate student of Beijing Forestry University, can’t wait to ask the abbot the inevitable question: “What’s the goal of meditation?”

“In Buddhism, enlightenment is the main goal. Meditation is the most commonly prescribed practice for enlightenment, in other words, spiritual development.”

Over the next hour, she drank cup after cup of tea and listened to the abbot carefully. Enveloped in a lifestyle of excessive materialism, Li still believed what Socrates said “the unexamined life is not worth living,” so she regards weekend meditation as another philosophy class.

“I come here not to recharge but to see the essential facts of life, explore my inner world and live deliberately.” Intensely personal and passionate conversation with nuns, monks or abbots makes Li feel she has met the happiest and wisest people in Beijing. “They are not rich, but they had a way to awaken my life.”

“Generally, besides the curiosity, mediators are roughly divided into two separate groups – those who recollect themselves and those who reinvent themselves. By means of idea talk or meditation, they eventually live deeply,” concluded Abbot Ming Zang.

Misunderstanding

As time passed by, Ru Cong became associated with meditation in spiritual life rather than urban life. During workdays, she is a volunteer at the meditation center; at weekends, she is a self-disciplined mediator.

The 40-year-old Buddhism hobbyist resigned her job last year after bumping into the meditation center. “It was a kind of destiny. After a few days satisfying my Buddhism interest, I decided to stay here.”

Resting, praying and meditating, as Ru Cong immerses herself into the life of seclusion, she grows more distant from her family and friends.

“Most of them consider meditation as spiritual opiate or superstition which leads me get sidetracked,” Ru disagreed with such views completely. “Just like if you are provided with a meal, how can you judge it delicious or not without tasting?”

Nevertheless, every time after debating with people, Ru doesn’t fall asleep until late, wondering if her choice was right or not.

“People’s reaction reflects their belief in the crises of our age. With the diminished importance of religion, to find people who truly believe is the biggest problem we have. People willing to reduce their desires or cultivate tranquility in this modern age are very few,” said Abbot Ming Zang.

Recently Ru Cong has taken comfort from the fact her mother tries to understand what she does. “I was once a self-centered person and never cared for others’ feeling. Meditation let me calm down to know or reflect on myself to rebuild my relationships with others. Now I am more tolerant and generous than before.”

Witnessing Ru Cong’s change, her worried mother accepts the power of meditation.

When Rena Coleman traveled all the way from the US to the meditation center, she found the world here is far bigger than the walled world of the city, and cannot agree with outsider’s criticism. “People in here no matter nuns, monks or mediators are detached from the utilitarian values imposed by the consumer society. Their spirit, in my view, commits to the most ancient Chinese values.”

Zen-like

Abbot Ming Zang is a busy man. Walking up and down the stairs, from one meditation room to the other, he cannot slow down. There are meetings, meditation courses and visits. But his job gives him satisfaction because he sees the center grow, sees more and more students trickle in to enjoy the meditation.

His interest in Buddhism began long ago. He read books, researched sutras and visited temples. All of them shaped him. Returning to Buddhism was natural.

Living in the temple, he was finally feeling at home with the infinite. Rather than just Zazen, he set out to create an organization that would spread Buddhism to others.

“Economic development masks people’s inner confusion. People that are willing to reduce their desires or cultivate tranquility in this fast changing age are not few. I have to do something to help them rebuild their belief.”

Following the idea, Abbot Ming Zang swung into the action. It was a challenge to get noticed at the start. “By using the form of a meditation center, I got rid of some formalities of Buddhism such as worshipping Buddha, burning incense… only focused on teaching people to still the mind. Once they can do that, they can do it anywhere, even in a noisy city.”

His first meditation center was launched in Lushan, Jiangxi Province in 2000. To further socialize Buddhism in an accepted and simple way, the Abbot continued establishing the center in other cities.

Though located in Huairou, the Beijing center attracts a lot of people. They double their number of students every year.

Even though some people have questioned the abbot’s motivation, wondering if he just wants to make money and criticizing his simplified Buddhism as blasphemy, he refuses to give in to regret. “It’s a calling. It’s the only thing I am willing to do since I became a monk. ”

Confident he has sown the seeds for the center, the abbot has no big aspirations for its future.

“Buddhism inspires me to do not what I am obligated to do, but what I have an oppor-tunity to do.”

Address: Ganjian meditation center, Ganjianyu Village, Huairou, Beijing

{via Global Times]

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Obama administration in talks with Dalai Lama

The Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama today confirmed that discussions between the Dalai Lama and a senior US Government delegation took place in Dharamsala on September 13 and 14. The delegation was led by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs and Public Engagement, and included Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs (designated to serve concurrently as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues) and other US Government officials.

According to a statement posted on the official website of His Holiness the Dalai Lama (https://www.dalailama.com/news/432/htm), Ms. Jarrett personally conveyed the commitment of President Obama “to support the Tibetan people in protecting their distinct religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage and securing respect for their human rights and civil liberties” as well as the US President’s commendation for the Dalai Lama’s consistency in seeking genuine autonomy for Tibetans within the People’s Republic of China through his middle way approach.”

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Olympic torch relay marked by protests

Dalai LamaWorld attention continues to be focused on human rights abuses in Tibet. The relay of the Olympic torch from Greece to China has been marked by protests in London and Paris. An estimated 10,000 protesters gathered in San Francisco, although the protests may have been subdued by the rerouting of the torch relay at the last minute, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Despite the ongoing protests, the Assembly of National Olympic Committees issues only a watered down statement, expressing confidence that China would strive to find through dialog and understanding a “fair and reasonable solution” to “the internal conflict”, The Hindu News Update Service reported. Although this was clearly a reference to Tibet, the word Tibet was omitted in the final draft of the statement.

According to the BBC, the head of the International Olympic Committee has said anti-China protests had created a “crisis” but that the Games in Beijing would “rebound”. Mr Rogge urged China to respect its “moral engagement” to improve human rights ahead of the Games.

The BBC also reported that world leaders are continuing their attention on the the human rights situation in Tibet, with members of the European Parliament calling on EU leaders to boycott the games if there was no resumption of dialog between China and the Dalai Lama. Both Democratic presidential hopefuls have called on President George W Bush to consider boycotting the Beijing opening ceremony if China does not improve its human rights record.

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A not-so-fine romance

Nicholas KristofNicholas Kristof writes in the New York Times: In the aftermath of the Tibet upheavals, the complicated romance between America and China is degenerating into mutual recriminations, muttering about Olympic boycotts and tensions that are likely to rise through the summer.

It would be convenient if we could simply denounce the crackdown in Tibet as the unpopular action of a dictatorial government. But it wasn’t. It was the popular action of a dictatorial government, and many ordinary Chinese think the government acted too wimpishly, showing far too much restraint toward “thugs” and “rioters.”

China and the U.S. clash partly because of competing interests, but mostly because of competing narratives. To Americans, Tibet fits neatly into a framework of human rights and colonialism. To Chinese, steeped in education of 150 years of “guochi,” or national humiliations by foreigners, the current episode is one more effort by imperialistic and condescending foreigners to tear China apart or hold it back.

Read more here

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Monks’ protest disrupts media visit to Tibet

London Guardian: A China-organised media trip to Lhasa was interrupted by protesting monks who accused the government of lying to the outside world. More than 30 monks at Jokhang Temple – the most sacred in Tibetan Buddhism – burst in on a briefing during the first foreign journalists tour since riots erupted in the Tibetan capital on March 14. Interrupting a speech about inter-ethnic harmony by the head of the temple’s administrative office, the lamas surrounded the journalists and said, “They are tricking you. Don’t believe them. They are lying to you.” Read more here.

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An update on Tibet

Tibetan monk cries as he talks to journalistsAs protests for Tibetan autonomy continued into the third week, China further stepped up its crackdown within Tibetan and Chinese provinces. According to Reuters, China sought to contain ongoing protests in its ethnic Tibetan regions, as it stepped up detentions in Tibet’s capital Lhasa and vowed tighter control over monasteries. The western province of Qinghai was the latest area to report anti-government activities, with hundreds of civilians staging a sit-down protest after paramilitary police stopped them from marching.

The Chinese government and some of its citizens also took steps to defuse its escalating public relations problem. Yesterday China allowed foreign journalists into Tibet for a short, supervised tour of Lhasa, The Associated Press reports. It was unclear how much freedom to report the small group of foreign journalists would have during the Chinese government-arranged two-day trip.

Angry Chinese nationalists are using the Internet to denounce Western media coverage of Tibetan unrest, amid a campaign by the Beijing government to discredit what it says are biased foreign reports, according to the AFP. Despite its attempts to sway world opinion, The Sidney Morning Herald reports that China is still refusing to allow foreign diplomats into Tibet. Australian embassy officials in Beijing made a written request to China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Thursday asking to visit Tibet, but were turned down after China issued a blanket denial to all requests for foreign visits due to “safety concerns”.

Meanwhile, support for Tibetan people continued outside of Tibet. The International Herald Tribune reports that some 60 Tibetan exiles protested outside the United Nations office in Indian-controlled Kashmir on Wednesday, calling for an international investigation into China’s crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet. World leaders and public figures such as George Bush, Desmond Tutu, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner condemned China’s actions in Tibet.

Controversy over the upcoming summer Olympic Games in Beijing also continued, according to Democracy Now. Human rights demonstrators breached tight security and tried to hijack the Beijing Olympic torch lighting ceremony in ancient Olympia, Greece on Monday, while the president of the International Olympic Committee, defended the decision to hold the summer games in China.

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Unrest over Chinese rule in Tibet spreads

Monk walks past barricades in Gansu provinceFollowing last weekend’s violent protests in Tibet, the Chinese government arrested dozens of people involved in a wave of anti-Chinese violence and sent in more troops to crush further unrest, The New York Times reports. Accounts by the Chinese government and the Tibetan community continued to differ sharply, with the Chinese government stating that 13 Han Chinese died in the Lhasa violence, and at least three rioters. Exiled Tibetan groups have said as many as 100 Tibetans died. Because foreign journalists are restricted from the area, neither account can be independently verified.

China accused the Dalai Lama of instigating the violence, a claim the Dalai Lama has denied. According to the BBC, the Dalai Lama remains committed to a peaceful solution and sought “the international community’s support for our efforts to resolve Tibet’s problems through dialogue”. The Dalai Lama has also asked Tibetan activists not to undertake a controversial march from India to Lhasa, fearing additional violence. Earlier this week the Dalai Lama threatened to resign as the spiritual head of the Tibetan government in exile if the riots spun out of control because such violence conflicts with his religious convictions.

China has acknowledged that protests for Tibetan autonomy have spread beyond Tibet into neighboring provinces. According to CNN , the Xinhua News Agency said there were “riots in Tibetan-inhabited areas in the provinces of Sichuan and Gansu.” Protests also continued among the Tibetan exile communities in Nepal and Dharmasala, India. While some of the protests are peaceful, others have become violent as Tibetans express decades of pent-up frustration over the systematic repression of their culture.

The Washington Post reports “solemn, peaceful marchers hold[ing] candlelight vigils and pray[ing] for an end to the Chinese crackdown’ alongside mostly younger ‘Tibetan activists shouting “Shame on China!” and “China, get out of Tibet!”, some furiously call[ing] for the death of Chinese President Hu Jintao’. Activists continue to call for the boycott of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, while China maintains the Games will continue as planned, including the marching of the Olympic torch through Tibet.

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