Sunday, December 12, 2010

New research into the Ziguang Shang Shi Sect by Ah Ming


Introduction

 A native speaker of Chinese identified only by the pseudonym Ah Ming did a Chinese language internet search and discovered some new information on the Ziguang sect, without coming up with any definitive explanation for its move to Amsterdam.  Ah Ming has no connection with the Ziguang sect and has never met any of its members. Since the report has an objective  and even-handed tone and does not express any hostility to the group, I decided to publish it here without any editing or abridgment.


Background on Ziguang Shang Shi

Guang Huan Mi Zong has  both an  English and Chinese website. The Chinese version does not limit access to members, and provides some biographical information on Ziguang:

He is said to have become a Buddhist at the age of 5. At 7, Ziguang was forced to flee with his mother  (unclear from where, to where, and why). Five years later, he was "enlightened" and decided to devote his life to spreading the teachings of Buddhism . He started learning from various masters. In 1986, he began touring the world and treating the sick.

I was surprised I could not find his Chinese name. Most of the time, a Shang Shi (holy master)  has a Chinese name they go by in addition to this title.  "Shang" means "holy" and "Shi" means "master." In any Buddhist group, a Shang Shi is the highest authority. "Ziguang" translates literally to "purple light." Usually, when a person obtains a religious title, he/she also picks up a name with religious significance. I didn't find any reference to purple light in Buddhist sects, but it appears his name suggests he shines a light on the inner soul and clears the body of illnesses.

There is no evidence of use of the name "Lucas Wang" before he arrives in US. There is also no mention of this name in Chinese media. It is really unusual for a Shang Shi to hold an English name like "Lucas." If for nothing else, such a common name detracts from a Shang Shi's claim of religious authority.

Connection to Hong Kong Federation of Education Centers

 Based on a  search of Chinese-language sites, it appears Guang Huan Mi Zong has some sort of connection with Hong Kong Federation of Education Centers. The HKFEC is a non-profit organization based in Hong Kong, and according to its website its mission is to promote education and provide professional training. However, the HKFEC is also "Angel-sound Newspaper Office." Nearly all of the educational links on its website deal with physical and spiritual health, and in many cases Ziguang's quotes are used. The HKFEC says it recognizes the Guang Huan Mi Zong's commitment to improving human health.

What seems strange is that the HKFEC's director Sita Mak and its board members Dr. Raymond Wong, Franki Law, and Stella Choi are all educators. Most notably, Dr. Wong writes for several reputable Hong Kong publications. His articles focus on teaching children financial skills. I haven't found anything that linked any of these four people to religious teachings, so it seems odd they would start an organization that promotes Guang Huan Mi Zong.

Similarities with Other Buddhist Sects

Based on my own experience, I would see the Ziguang group as similar to a number of Buddhist sects that exist in the US, China and Taiwan. Faith healing is certainly common among Buddhist sects, many of them which are relatively new. They are mostly seem as scams by those who do not belong to the sects. People often turn to these sects when they get an illness for which there is no cure or the cure is too expensive. A lot of people probably would have live longer by receiving the proper medical treatments. But there are cases in which treatments offered by these sects "work." Whether or not it is coincidental, such instances certainly help the sects attract a group of devoted followers who feel they owe their lives to the sect and its leader.

 Guang Huan Mi Zong

"Guang Huan" means "ring of light." "Mi Zong" means "secretive religious order." Mi Zong actually can be adopted by any religious group whose teachings are based on secretive connections with the divine. The term originates from religious groups in India. Today there are many religious sects that call themselves Mi Zong in India, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Japan, although most people would associate Mi Zong with Tibet.

"Guang Huan" is a popular Chinese phrase; many stores and business uses the name. There isn't really a reason to suspect these businesses have a a connection with Guang Huan Mi Zong, which does not seem to refer to any other group.

I haven't found any teachings of Guang Huan Mi Zong that are associated with property-owning, but some Buddhist sects do preach owning property as essential to establishing power. As for funding, it is puzzling, but some sects do attract a tremendous amount of money.

Similarities to the Ching Hai sect

A well known example which might interest you is the Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association. The group has been deemed a cult by the Chinese government and by many respected Buddhist organizations. Ching Hai was born in Vietnam into a Catholic family, and she later formed a Buddhist group (whose teachings are not Buddhist at all). Her case is pretty fascinating. She sells expensive memorabilia to her followers and charges highly for various services and programs. She even once claimed her bathwater can cure illnesses and had her followers drink it. There are numerous accusations of her organization being a scam. In fact, charges has forced her to fled many places. Some say she has gotten at least hundreds of millions of dollars through scams. Nevertheless, she continues to have a huge, devoted following around the world among Asian communities. Her followers continue to donate to her in large amounts and argue charges against her are false. You can find a lot of information and videos about her by searching "Supreme Master Ching Hai," though many English sources seem to portray her in a much better light than Chinese ones. Perhaps the way her group operates can give insights on Guang Huan Mi Zong (the "contact us" page on her website puts the sheer size of her organization in perspective).

Some thoughts

Guang Huan Mi Zong can be seen  as part of a larger trend of a rise of new Buddhist sects that have gotten wealthy through donations. But this doesn't seem to explain why Ziguang  would choose to go into a non-Asian community. He does not seem to have a bad reputation among the Chinese-speaking community. And if his primarily interest is to make money, his choice of investments seems bizarre.

One last note on Guang Huan Mi Zong. It is entirely possible that it has the largest following in Hong Kong. When I typed in Ziguang Shang Shi, the first few pages are mostly blog and forum pages, mostly on  Hong Kong websites. The blogs all detail miraculous stories of how Ziguang has saved lives. Whenever there is a post questioning the legitimacy of Guang Huan Mi Zong, the post is almost always replied by Ziguang's followers arguing otherwise. Also, his website is in traditional rather than simplified Chinese. Only Taiwan and Hong Kong still use traditional Chinese, and Guang Huan Mi Zong does not appear to have a following in Taiwan. (Though of course many religions are still practiced in secret in China.)



2 comments:

  1. I joined Guang Huan Mi Zong at the end of 2010 after meeting Holy Master Ziguang Shang Shi during a free class he was giving at the time.

    After spending about half a year with them since then I can offer some perspective as a Westerner who has been inside the group.

    Basically they function like any other religious group, the Holy Master goes from place to place holding public classes and from those he finds his students who support him and his organization.

    I can affirm that he is not in it for the money. I have seen how he lives, and it is very humbly.

    I think his mission in Amsterdam is just as he says it is, to spread Buddhism in the West according to a religious vision he received. Other than that, I don't know why he would stay here.

    From my own experience and from the Western and Eastern students of the Holy Master I have met I can say that his Health Dharma really works, and it isn't 'faith healing' or some scam.

    On their different websites Guang Huan Mi Zong has 'miraculous' stories of recovery from different diseases. Maybe they don't sound plausible when you read them, but I have met some of the people who wrote them, and I have a story of my own as well.

    After following the Holy Master, and practicing his teaching, I can say for sure that he and his organization are legitimate and thoroughly good.

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  2. We will find a connection with Dorje Chang-III and Amsterdam. It seems he either has disappeared or changed his name. In New Zealand we come across a Dorje Chang-III as an affiliate of the gelug FPMT. It would not surprise me if Dorje Chang-III and Ziguang Shang Shi are one and the same person.

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