Are There Dangerous Qigong Teachers?
Unscrupulous Qigong teachers can be dangerous to your wealth, health, intellect and spirit.
Two examples of people donating large sums of money to organizations will be given. There are many other examples. The danger of these con men is their charm. They pretend to be your best friend, care about your welfare and "feel your pain". Many victims, even after they know that they have been taken, still adore these con artists.
One well-known guru was driven around in a Rolls Royce. His followers donated money to him, while they lived in poverty in an ashram in Oregon. He did not impose a moral code on his followers and beatings were documented at the ashram. He died in prison.
Another famous story involves a prisoner who practiced breath control. Without being detected he could cause pages of a book to move by blowing. He pretended to be a born again Christian and converted many inmates by causing the pages of a bible to move and attributing this to the Holy Spirit. After being released, he opened a Kung Fu school and had a large following because of his mystical powers. He became famous and was even invited to Egypt to treat Anwar Sadat. One wealthy man had donated large sums of money to this charlatan and began to spend hours meditating in his room. His sister became suspicious and hired Randi the magician to investigate this martial artist. One of his tricks was to cause a dollar bill under a fish tank to move by blowing in a small space between the tank and the table. Randi distracted him and turned the tank so there was no longer any space between the tank and the table. The Kung Fu artist could not make the dollar bill move. Randi made it move by blowing in the crack, which now faced him. The martial artist thought Randi was a Master and wanted to study with him. This con artist also persuaded some of his students to get guns for him. He was arrested and jailed on a weapons charge. He escaped from jail and still at large. This story appeared in a popular Kung Fu magazine. Even though this con artist had been exposed, it was hinted that some of his powers were real.
Both sleep paralysis and narcolepsy can induce vivid hallucinations since the sufferer is "awake" in a REM sleep state. Some of these people can vividly describe being kidnapped by aliens and having operations performed on them. There are even marks where the instruments used in the procedures were inserted. One explanation of these marks is that these people are in a hypnotic state due to sleep paralysis or narcolepsy. The mind influences the body, which causes the marks to appear. Not many people believe these stories. However, millions of people believe Qigong Masters when they describe their travels in other dimensions, new forms of Qigong, extraordinary powers, etc. Two masters can have entirely different methods and interpretations of reality. Both claim millions of followers. Can they both be right, each have part of the truth or are they delusional? Do you believe that any Qigong system has millions of followers? Any Qigong teacher or long time practitioner will know that many students quit after a few lessons or don't practice regularly. Are such students followers?
The danger of belonging to such a cult is that it dulls the intellect. Some people become mindless robots and accept everything at face value instead of using logic, science or proper statistical methods. For example, a common claim is that a Master can cure any disease. This fact has never been verified.
In spiritual Qigong most Masters warn their students not to use any esoteric powers that they gain - for example, don't spend time treating sick people. Some reasons given are that one can be injured by the evil that is causing the disease or that you really can't cure a sick person because it's his karma to be sick. Such advice will keep a disciple on the spiritual path, but is not conducive to the development of science.
There are many example of Qigong masters in China and elsewhere who used fake photos, chemically treated paper which catches fire and other carnival tricks to impress their followers. Other phenomena can be explained using Physics or Physiology. For instance, to convince a student that he was injecting Qi, the Master would push hard on the student's eyeballs. This would cause flashes of light, which were interpreted as Qi flow. Sometimes it was the students who used trickery to impress non-believers in the powers of their Master.
Improper and excessive practice of Qigong and meditation can cause psychoses. Such cases have been documented in a book on the Kundalini experience. Now there is even the medical term "Qigong psychotic reaction" listed in the diagnostic manual of the American Psychiatric Association. The dangers of excessive practice are also known in China. Dr. Zhang Tongling of Beijing Medical University found in a study of 145 people that fanatical Qigong practice could bring out latent psychiatric problems and cause hallucinations. She runs a clinic for obsessive Qigong practitioners.
Preoccupation with Qigong can also cause ardent practitioners to become dysfunctional and neglect necessary daily tasks or dull ambition so that one does not reach his full potential
Seizures can also result from improper or excessive practice of Qigong or meditation. These seizures become easier to induce with practice. Some Masters regard seizures as a form of religious ecstasy. This behavior should be investigated scientifically. It is more common in Indian meditation, since many teachers don't emphasize putting the tongue on the roof of the mouth to connect the Du and Ren channels so that excess energy does not get stuck in the head.
Improper practice or the wrong kind of Qigong can cause many physical problems such as hair loss, dizziness, headaches, nausea, difficult breathing, etc. Concentrating on acupoints can lead to Qi stagnation and other problems. Improper breathing can raise or lower the blood pressure. Strenuous Qigong and low postures are contraindicated in pregnancy or during menstruation. People with arthritis or injured joints should not practice certain postures. Gentle movements are better than static movements for certain conditions such as hemorrhoids. Qigong that creates heat is not suitable for people who suffer from a hot, Yang condition such as inflammation. Improper posture can cause chronic pain in any part of the body.
The proper practice of Qigong can also cause problems for certain students. The teacher should warn the students of these problems and not prescribe that type of Qigong if the student doesn't have the will power to resist temptations. For example certain forms of Qigong can increase one's appetite for food and/ or sex.
Energetic problems such as deranged flow of Qi and blood, stagnation of Qi and blood. Leaking of genuine Qi and unchecked flow of pathogenic Qi can occur. A teacher should be able to recognize and treat such problems and any others which occur.
Claims of being able to treat diseases or producing spiritual enlightenment by projecting Qi or teaching people how to do this in a few lessons should be carefully investigated, especially if a large sum of money is demanded. Why don't all the Master's family or disciples have this power? Why aren't they all in perfect health and enlightened. Another telltale sign of a charlatan is that they claim to treat every imaginable disease. Most legitimate Qigong practitioners would agree that acute diseases or emergencies should not be treated by Qigong. For example, beware of anyone who claims to treat dislocations or poisoning by Qigong.
Being treated by someone who just intuits your problem without physical contact can be dangerous. Patients with digestive problems, slipped disks etc. who were misdiagnosed by a local Qigong "Master" and not cured have come to our clinic for treatment. Some studies in China on this type of diagnosis have shown that it not reliable.
During lectures by Qigong Masters, there are people who exhibit spontaneous movements; others don't. Some people claim to have been cured of diseases. Similar phenomena occur with Christian and Russian faith healers. Are they using Qi? Why doesn't everyone move or be cured if the Master is so powerful? Studies in China have shown that there is no correlation between the movements of the patient and the Master. This seems logical because different people have different blockages to their Qi flow. The injected Qi breaking through these blockages probably causes the movement.
A large component of a legitimate healing at such an event may be belief. The mind can control the body. There are people with split personalities having one personality well while another has diabetes. An interesting experiment would be to publicize a non-healer as a Master and see how many people he could heal. These results could be compared to those obtained by a healer who is unknown to the audience.
Not all studies of treating animals and humans successfully by Qigong should be accepted. Some of these have been designed or analyzed inappropriately - for example the sample size is too small. People familiar with biological experiments know that some have been fudged. Even the results that seem legitimate need to be duplicated before they are accepted. The well-known biofeedback experiment in which rats learned to control the blood flow to their ears may negate the argument that animals can't be brainwashed and Qigong is not a matter of belief for animal experiments.
Most authorities estimate that it can take years to teach someone to project Qi for healing purposes. Dr. Y. Omura devised a new method and taught some children to project healing Qi in less than a week. This method was not tried on adults, so it is not certain if it is faster than conventional training. According to the Taoist's theory of aging, children should be able to learn Qi projection faster than adults. However, some of the children suffered side effects and he is no longer teaching this method. Dr. Omura also detected abnormalities in the meridians of practitioners of certain forms of Qigong. It is not known if these abnormalities are permanent or harmful in the long run. He also devised methods to avoid certain side effects of Qigong practice. However, some people think that some side effects are a way for the body to cure itself and should not be stopped. For example, the body may be discharging toxins. They eventually stop on their own with practice. The interested reader can find further details in Dr. Omura's J. of Electroacupuncture.
Neither my teacher, Gin Foon Mark, nor I have ever met anyone that could push people without physical contact. Their technique works on their own students or others with a similar mind set who are suggestible or believe in such things. Most such Masters admit that they can't push some people because they are not open to absorbing Qi properly and will only become ill. Masters of empty force estimate that they can push from 3 to 6 out of 10 people without contact. Some students of such teachers said that they don't have to move but they just jump to show respect to their Master or because they feel his Qi and jump to rid themselves of this unpleasant sensation. The danger with this type of training is that some students believe that such techniques are good for self-defense. Even if such techniques worked on 9 out of 10 people you could be killed in a random encounter.
What is an empty force Master doing? If he is actually exerting a force, then he should be able to push a chair. So far no empty force Master has been able to do this. Another more plausible explanation is that his Qi contains some information, which influences some control system in the body, which in turn causes the movement. This is how a minute current can cause a crane to lift tremendous loads.
To test this last hypothesis is not simple. You must find subjects who are not familiar with Qi. They should have no idea what the experiment involves and should be placed behind a large screen so that they cannot see what the empty force Master is doing and when he is going to exert the force. The empty force Master should be instructed to push the subject in a randomly chosen direction, say North, West or East, by using a random number generator. Then, his successes and failures should be recorded in a few thousand trials and the results analyzed by a statistician.
Some teachers say you can learn Qigong from a video and it is safe, provided that you listen to your body and remember the motto "pain no gain". The Qi will know where to go; so don't force it. This is probably true for videos designed for general health maintenance. A person may even get good results from a bad video or book because he believes the person is an expert or because it is a mild form of exercise. The only danger is that the student may believe that he knows something when he doesn't. For example, there are books on Qigong massage written by people who are ignorant of one or both of these topics. After reading such a book you will know hardly anything about either subject.
However, in some forms of Qigong, such as standing on the stake, unpleasant sensations and pain are quite common. You must have guidance on how to overcome these sensations. Man is distinguished from other animals by his intelligence. Thus, the ultimate authority should be your brain and not your feelings.
Some Masters claim to project external qigong during their lectures. One such lecture in the Shanghai Auditorium, which can hold more than 18,000 people, occurred on March 7, 1990. It is described in the Xinmin Evening Paper. During the six hour lecture many in the audience began to shout, laugh, cry and move about A young worker, Pan Jiangang, experienced heart palpitations, a flushed face, and sweated profusely. Eventually, he ran out frightened for his life. Guo Daiwu, an officer in the Industrial and Commercial Bureau, danced for joy in the stands. He began to spit white foam and died. Some people claimed to be cured of diseases.
Psychologists studied people who reacted strongly during the lecture. The results indicated that these people were childish, immature, and have hypochondriac and hysteric tendencies. It would seem that the reaction of the audience caused by listening to a Qigong Lecture is mainly due to psychological suggestions.
Meng Jikong, a leader of the Hengyang Acrobatic Troupe in Hunan province was not a Qigongist. He wanted to expose these fraudulent Qigong lectures. He billed himself as a super-qigongist and widely advertised that he was going to hold a Qigong Lecture using super Qigong to heal diseases. Over one thousand believers attended the meeting. Forty percent of the audience could not sit still and had all sorts of strange reactions. This is about the same proportion of the audience that exhibit reactions during a Qigong lecture by a so-called Master. After the lecture, Meng confessed that he did not study Qigong and could not project external Qi, but caused the people to move by suggestion.