The international group, known internationally as Bodhi Meditation, may now have more practitioners abroad, but is still active in China despite a long repression.
by Zhao Zhangyong
Another group is being labeled as “xie jiao” (“heterodox teaching,” sometimes incorrectly translated as “evil cult”) by the China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association, which started a nationwide campaign in June 2023, with the police actively looking for clandestine practitioners of Bodhi Gong, or Bodhi Meditation, in several provinces.
The movement was founded by Di Yuming, known to his followers as Grandmaster JinBodhi, in 1991. He was born Di Yuwang in Wuyi county, under the administration of the prefecture-level city of Hengshui, Hebei province, in 1965. It seems that the name Di Yuwang was legally changed to Di Yuming in 1978.
When he was still a child, his family moved to Xining, the capital of Qinghai province. Qinghai has a sizeable presence of Tibetan Buddhists. Di studied Buddhism in several Tibetan monasteries. According to his followers, he was also cured of illnesses that had plagued his childhood through self-cultivation and meditation.
According to anti-cultists, he later became a member of Zhonggong, a qigong group less well-known than Falun Gong that was also persecuted and classified as a “xie jiao.” Di claims that his teachings come from Buddhist initiations he received in Qinghai and does not mention Zhonggong.
In 1991, Di established Bodhi Gong in Beijing, where it became immediately popular. He moved his headquarters from Beijing to Dalian, and then to Guangzhou, and set up branches in twenty-six provinces and regions. Its teachings combine Buddhism, qigong, and the Chinese classic “I Ching.”
The success did not escape the malevolent attention of the CCP. 1999 was the year of the great crackdown on Falun Gong, which persuaded the leaders of other qigong movements that they were also at risk. In 1999, Di Yuming escaped to Canada and settled in Vancouver. This was also the opportunity to promote a substantial international expansion of Bodhi Gong, most often called abroad Bodhi Meditation, which opened centers, in addition to Canada, in the United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Australia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Romania.
The branches in Taiwan and Malaysia, according to the Chinese authorities, also oversee a clandestine activity in China, where, however, the group may now have less members than it does abroad.
In 2015, the police arrested Qiao Jianzhong, identified as the main organizer of Bodhi Gong in China, together with more than one hundred local leaders and members. However, the movement did not disappear.
On the contrary, as did other qigong groups, it gathered new practitioners during the COVID-19 pandemic, attracted by the idea that practicing Bodhi Gong can boast the immune system. Hence, the new wave of repression, accompanied by a strong propaganda campaign denouncing Di Yuming/Grandmaster JinBodhi as a fraud.