In the Tai Ji Men case, I believe truth and justice will one day prevail. What we need to do is to keep our hearts pure, devoting a few moments every day to self-cultivation.
by Clare Huang*
*A paper presented at the session “Tai Ji Men’s Journey: A Fight for Conscience and Justice” of the 2023 Parliament of the World’s Religions, Chicago, August 15, 2023.
I am a Tai Ji Men dizi (disciple) and I am a graduate student at Harvard University. While the learning environment and academic resources at Harvard have provided me with opportunities to pursue excellence and work towards improving the condition of my fellow human beings in the field of public health, the most precious aspect has been the transformative change in my life brought about by growing up in Tai Ji Men. My Shifu (Grand Master), Dr. Hong Tao-Tze, has taught us the wisdom of conscience and justice and has guided us to maintain inner tranquility in an imbalanced world, using balanced wisdom to resolve conflicts.
I joined Tai Ji Men at the age of seven, and for the past eighteen years, I have been deeply influenced by the teachings and guidance of conscience. As you have heard from other papers in this session, Tai Ji Men has endured an unjust accusation for twenty-seven years. An additional detail about the Tai Ji Men case is that during this long period of time the National Tax Bureau repeatedly attempted to negotiate and suggested paying a sum of money to expedite the resolution of the case. However, my Shifu remained unmoved by these attempts.
He told me, “Throughout history, there have been many who embark on the path of self-cultivation, but few who attain enlightenment. The key lies in the self-cultivators’ unwavering commitment to discerning right from wrong and their pursuit of truth.” For the past 27 years, my Shifu has upheld the thousand-year-old cultural heritage of the ancient qigong martial arts tradition in our practice.
To me, the crucial point in the Tai Ji Men case that has been presented to you in this session is that the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that Tai Ji Men was not guilty and did not owe taxes. The defendants received compensation from the state for wrongful imprisonment, and our name was cleared. This is the truth that should never be distorted.
Our steadfast belief is that fairness and justice will prevail. In the face of adversity and persecution, seeing my Shifu and my fellow dizi’s ability to hold steadfast to their beliefs and values, unwaveringly defending the spirit of conscience, deeply moved me. It also motivated me to actively participate in the campaign for the redress of the Tai Ji Men case. We visited various government offices in Taiwan, including the Executive and Legislative Yuan, to petition government officials. Additionally, I participated in domestic and international forums on religious freedom, where I shared the significance of the Tai Ji Men case with other social organizations and individuals. I called for the respect of values such as conscience and freedom of religion or belief.
These experiences have not only helped me understand the importance of conscience in both individual and societal contexts but also reminded me that in my academic career and interactions with others, I should, as Dr. Hong taught us, regard conscience as an inner compass. By taking a minute for daily self-reflection, observing my own inner self, and discerning the people and things around me, I can gain a deeper understanding of what constitutes eternal values and how to conduct myself in life. Only by doing so can I live up to the expectations of both others and myself.
As an epidemiology graduate student, I have learned that a conscientious approach to problem-solving is essential. It means being aware of the impact of our actions on others, on the environment, and on future generations. It means taking responsibility for our actions and striving to make choices that have positive outcomes. For example, during my involvement in substance abuse policy initiatives with the State Department of Health, I constantly remind myself to ensure that the trials I design have high level of rigor and ethics, so that the results are valid and reliable. This includes considering factors such as patient safety, ethical considerations, and minimizing the potential for bias. For me, it is very important to be conscientious in my professional work because the safety and health of patients are at stake. I believe that a robust conscience-based health policy can bring about improved health outcomes for the public and enhance access to healthcare for everyone.
As the generation of digital natives, we have unprecedented access to an explosion of knowledge and perspectives through technology, the internet, and artificial intelligence. This abundance of information offers new opportunities for learning and growing, but also presents the challenge of how to discern what sources we may trust. It reminds us that each individual decision we make can influence the course of our lives, and the decisions made by leaders can potentially impact the life of millions of people.
In the course of the Tai Ji Men case’s development, if every individual, whether government officials or administrative personnel, had acted with conscience, this case would not have dragged on for twenty-seven years, nor would it have hindered judicial reform in Taiwan or the efforts of the Tai Ji Men disciples to promote love and peace. The Tai Ji Men case is an instance of unjust and discriminatory treatment, which has caused significant distress and harm to Tai Ji Men and its practitioners. It also reflects flaws in the judicial system’s protection of conscience and freedom of religion or belief. However, the steadfastness of the Tai Ji Men disciples represents a path guided by conscience, leading to freedom, shared human rights, and happiness for all.
Today, I would like to share with all of you how to cultivate a pure heart. In the midst of our busy daily lives, do we take the time to truly examine our inner selves? We can dedicate a few moments each day to reflect on our day, contemplate our emotions and thoughts. Are we excessively worried and anxious? Or are we able to maintain a joyful mindset and positive thinking? Let us spend a little time each day praying for the world, with the intention of “blessing with conscience, doing good with sincerity, wishing for peace with love.” Only when we hold the world in our hearts can we consciously consider how we can contribute to it. At the same time, we will discover our own shortcomings and continually strive for self-improvement. Most importantly, we need to understand that even a single thought of goodness or evil can have a real impacts on our world, our planet, and the generations to come.
May each of us possess a clear and pure heart, as well as the power to bring peace and goodness to the world. Let us work together to make this world a better place.