Buddha Lite

Falun Dafa, A New Faith from China, Comes to New York

This crackdown is one reason why Li left China two years ago for New York, the land where any faith (or fetish) can fly. Thirty years ago, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi embarked on a similar migration to the West, bringing Transcendental Meditation, or TM, a version of Hindu chanting-meditation. Rock stars of the day glommed on to the yogi in a wild white beard and flowing guru garb. But the '90s prophet has to be someone like Li, a clean-shaven suit-and-tie guy fit for Wall Street.

And as befits a faith for the information age, Falun Dafa's loose organization is entirely wired. Participants maintain many Web sites and post news of local gatherings.

To qi or not to qi: the faithful heal themselves at dawn.
photo: Michael Sofronski
To qi or not to qi: the faithful heal themselves at dawn.

The Internet is hardly the only thing about Falun Dafa that suits the times. Whereas TM was about emptying the mind (a head trip), Falun Dafa is about finding the spirit in the corporeal (a body buzz). But it's more than just a high. In an age when the body is regarded as a machine to be tuned and displayed, this new faith brings the dharma to the 'droid. If Li's teaching catches on, the joggers of the future might just be standing still.

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