In 2019, Bitter Winter revealed a secret plan to eradicate the group, whose leader died on November 10, in China. It did not succeed.
By Zhao Zhangyong
In 2019, Bitter Winter published a confidential document by Fujian province authorities whose title was “Notice on Conducting the Special Work of a Massive Investigation, Massive Purge, and Massive Research of Guan Yin Citta.” The document noted the expansion in China of a Buddhist new religious movement headquartered in Australia, Guan Yin Citta, labeled it a xie jiao (i.e., a group banned for propagating “heterodox teachings”: the common translation “evil cult” is less accurate), and called for a crackdown, which extended to Shanxi and other provinces.
It seems that the crackdown was not successful. In October and November, devotees of Guan Yin Citta have been taken to police stations to be interrogated in Shanghai and other cities, and another violent media campaign has been started against the movement, claiming its growth in China is cause for serious alarm.
What is Guan Yin Citta? Its complete name is Guan Yin Citta Dharma Door (心靈法門) and it has been founded by Master Lu Junhong (卢军宏), who died on November 10, 2021 in Sydney, Australia, at the age of 62. Lu was born in Shanghai on August 4, 1959, in a family of musicians. His father was a teacher at the Shanghai Opera School, where Lu also graduated. After graduation, he worked as a conductor in Shanghai.
In 1989, he moved to Australia, and in 1995 became an Australian citizen. He started devoting more and more time to spreading Chinese Buddhism in Australia, through a magazine he founded, “Buddhism,” an Australian Chinese Buddhist Association, and several radio shows, which led to the foundation of his own radio station, the Australian Oriental Chinese Radio. Eventually, the Australian Oriental Media Chinese Buddhist Association obtained registration as a charity in Australia, followed by the UK Guanyin Citta Dharma Door Buddhist Charity Foundation, registered as a charity in London in 2016.
Several centers were also opened in the United States, Singapore, Malaysia, and Taiwan. According to the Fujian confidential document, activities in Mainland China were started clandestinely in 2009. As other leaders of Asian new religious movements, Master Lu was also involved in peace activities, including through participation in events hosted by the United Nations.
Guan Yin Citta emphasizes the repeated recitation of classic Buddhist mantras and sutras, and the practice of setting animals captive or in danger free in the nature. For instance, devotees buy and liberate in appropriate waters fishes sold for domestic aquariums.
Some of Lu’s practices have been criticized by other Buddhists as non-traditional. Lu practiced “totem readings,” believing that each human being has a “double” in the spiritual world called “totem,” which remains the same through the various reincarnations. Contacting the “totem” allows a spiritual master to know about the past lives of a devotee, and also to obtain information useful to improve health and cure illnesses.
Lu also introduced the practice of the “yellow paper houses.” These are sheets of paper with dots to be crossed each time the devotee chants a mantra. When all dots have been crossed, the “yellow paper house” is ritually burned. Critics also claim that Lu was worshipped by disciples as an incarnation of Guan Yin or Avalokiteśvara, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion. Devotees argue they saw Lu more as a “spokesperson” for the bodhisattva.
In 2017, an article in the CCP-owned daily The Beijing News claimed that Guan Yin Citta had been listed as a xie jiao. Devotees of the movement have repeatedly told Bitter Winter that as far as they know Guan Yin Citta is not included in any official list of the xie jiao. However, it seems that now being consistently called a xie jiao by CCP media and the China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association leads to being treated as a xie jiao by the police and the courts of law.
The CCP has also mobilized the government-controlled China Buddhist Association, which has declared that from a Buddhist point of view Guan Yin Citta is not orthodox, and similar statements have been published by the Hong Kong Buddhist Association and Malaysian Buddhist bodies that are normally influenced by their Chinese counterparts.
These statements did not seem to have stopped the progress of Guan Yin Citta, either in China or internationally. The China Anti-Xie-Jiao Association recently claimed that Guan Yin Citta has three million members. It looks like just another failed attempt at eradicating a movement labeled (although perhaps not listed) as a xie jiao. Normally, these failures lead to more violent forms of persecution, although how the group will evolve after the death of his leader is difficult to predict.