Tai Ji Men’s Call to Conscience

In Tai Ji Men, I learned what love and peace in action really mean. I also learn how to resist injustice with good conscience.

by Linda Chen*

*A paper presented at the session “Tai Ji Men’s Journey: A Fight for Conscience and Justice” at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago, August 15, 2023.

Tai Ji Men sword dance at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions.
Tai Ji Men sword dance at the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions.

I am a TJM (Tai Ji Men) dizi (disciple), and over the past twenty-eight years, I have dedicated myself to daily practices of TJM Qigong and meditation. The profound wisdom of Eastern traditions, imparted by my Shifu (Grand Master), Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, the Zhang-men-ren of TJM, has guided me to embrace my best nature and follow the right path towards realizing my utmost potential in life. Our TJM dizi come from diverse backgrounds and live in different parts of the world. Personally, I am a post-doctoral research associate in the medical field at Dalhousie University on the East Coast of Canada.

I am honored to be part of the Parliament of World’s Religions conference in Chicago this year. The previous conference I attended was a virtual one in 2021, held amid the pandemic. The Parliament has a long history of bringing together participants from around the world, fostering unity among diverse religious and spiritual communities and promoting peace, social harmony, and respect for all beliefs—an endeavor closely aligned with TJM’s core mission.

My initial exposure to interfaith education didn’t come from textbooks but from a video I watched during Christmas in 1999. The video captured a ceremonial prayer event organized by TJM on September 25 of that year, just four days after a devastating earthquake struck central Taiwan, causing significant loss of life and injuries. Having grown up in a family with a devout Buddhist grandmother, attended a Christian high school in Taiwan, and later studied at a Catholic-founded university in Canada, I had encountered various religions and spiritual practices throughout my early life journey, but always in isolation from one another.

An image of the event “Love of the World: A Gathering for World Peace” of September 25, 1999.
An image of the event “Love of the World: A Gathering for World Peace” of September 25, 1999.

It was not until my early 20s, when I viewed that particular video, that I witnessed Dr. Hong inviting leaders and representatives from numerous religious and spiritual groups in Taiwan to offer heartfelt prayers from their respective faith traditions. They stood side by side on stage, each adorned in their ceremonial attire, sincerely reciting their prayers one after the other. I must admit that I was utterly amazed and even taken aback by this display of unity and harmony among diverse faiths. The experience left a profound impact on me.

Though Dr. Hong didn’t label it as an “interfaith movement,” he exemplified the true meaning of love and peace in action, teaching me the valuable lesson of “OnenessAll is One,” without the need for verbal expression. His approach to educating his dizi encompasses an array of methods, all aligned with the principles of Tao. A main Tao principle is known as “one gives birth to two, two gives birth to three, and three gives to ten thousand things.” Notably, Dr. Hong leads by living example, taking actions instead of merely speaking, and genuinely practices what he preaches. To him, every life situation is an opportunity for teaching and learning.

TJM’s approach to education is comprehensive. The aim of TJM Qigong Academy is to promote the traditional essence of Chinese culture, and to advance the physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of world citizens. Much like a caring father, Shifu imparts the wisdom of life to his dizi, who are similar to student-children. The TJM Culture with over six thousand years of tradition had been passed down holistically generations after generations from Shifu to dizi, with invaluable life lessons, moral values, and profound wisdom imparted that often extend beyond the boundaries of formal education received in schools. I believe these teachings to be essential for all global citizens, contributing to a more enriched and enlightened society. For individuals like myself who are passionate about continuous learning, TJM offers not only lifelong opportunities for personal growth and development but also life wisdom for embracing change and challenges in life.

The pandemic, which I refer to as a “teacher for humanity,” has claimed countless lives and inflicted deep sorrow, pain, and trauma that may linger for generations. As a medical scientist, I have felt a sense of hopelessness at times, knowing that the research I study may take ten, twenty, or more years to develop into treatments for patients. I have pondered the fate of humanity, wondering if we have ten, twenty, or thirty more years before the next pandemic, catastrophic natural disasters, or war threaten us all. These concerns have driven me to contemplate what I, as a global citizen, and my communities can do to address our future.

Upon learning that the theme for the 2023 PoWR convening is “A Call to Conscience: Defending Freedom & Human Rights,” I was elated and immediately registered. I feel empowered by the like-minded souls worldwide who share the same vision and are eager to collaborate in raising awareness of topics that are dear to our hearts.

Dr. Hong has long been committed to education on human rights, freedom of religion or belief, tax justice, and global sustainable development. His advocacy for conscience-based education has been exemplary, culminating in the initiation of the international ANEOC (An Era of Conscience) movement in 2014, which ultimately led to the United Nations’ proclamation of April 5th as the International Day of Conscience in 2019.

A poster of the Movement of an Era of Conscience (ANEOC).
A poster of the Movement of an Era of Conscience (ANEOC).

Through my involvement with the NGO FOWPAL (Federation of World Peace and Love), founded by Dr. Hong, and as a disciple of TJM, I have come to understand that conscience is the key to a sustainable future for all. Conscience serves as a common ground and language of humanity, guiding us to make wise decisions for ourselves, our communities, our environment, and our planet.

By embracing conscience, we foster mutual understanding, effectively bridging the divides that may arise from diverse backgrounds and cultural disparities. Indeed, it stands as the most potent tool for resolving crises, allowing us to address challenges with empathy and discernment. Hence, a hope for a brighter future for all.

As we explore TJM’s journey to fight for conscience and justice during this session, I must acknowledge that cases of social injustice and human rights violations are unfortunately not uncommon. They include the Tai Ji Men case, where we have been targeted by unjust accusation, and even after we have been recognized as totally innocent by courts of law, we have continued to be harassed by ill-founded tax bills. However, what sets apart my Shifu, Dr. Hong, is the way he has guided us dizi in facing this injustice with unwavering dedication, tireless hard work, remarkable patience, and unyielding perseverance for the past 27 years. Throughout this process, we have exhausted all available legal remedies, initiated several successful international movements, and unwaveringly advocated for freedom and human rights with a stance of peace, conscience, and compassion.

Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan
Tai Ji Men protests in Taiwan.

Our collective efforts are fueled by the hope of awakening the conscience of the bureaucrats who harass us, leading to the eventual clearing of our name. But more importantly, we aspire to create a future where all individuals, including future generations, can thrive in a genuine democratic society where human rights are sincerely respected. As my fellow TJM sisters share their perspectives in the next five presentations, they will shed more light on different aspects of our remarkable journey.

In summary, the future happiness of humankind hinges on our universal understanding of love, peace, and conscience—the very essence of TJM’s teachings! Let us communicate heart-to-heart and take meaningful actions. People is Power! No one can turn the world around alone. Just as the heart requires synchronized signals from all the different types of cells in the heart to create a heartbeat. I believe we all are interconnected. Let us allow the signals of conscience to flow through each of our hearts, resonating with the healthy rhythm of love, feel the harmonious pulse of peace allowing the heart of mankind to beat strongly in harmony, empowering our positive energy to course through the beautiful planet we share.

Source: Bitter Winter