One of the questions on the lips of many Qigong practitioners here in the west, is whether or not Qigong has any connection to Buddhism and to other eastern religions. And if so, does that mean it is okay for someone of a different faith, and someone who has no faith at all, to practice it?
The short answer is a definitive yes. There is no reason that you can not practice Qigong if you do not follow any eastern religions that are occasionally connected to Qigong or influence it in someway. The long answer is a little more complicated though. It involves the history and the foundation of this practice and of Buddhism, which is the faith that Qigong is most closely associated with.
Qigong and Buddhism
It is true that Buddhism has heavily influenced the practice of Qigong, and this is not by chance. Qigong originated around the same time that Buddhism was making its way out of Nepal and into China. In fact, there is a good chance that Qigong was created several hundred years before then, and even several hundred years prior to the creation of Buddhism in modern day Nepal. But in the early days it was a relatively obscure practice and by the time it became popular with the people, the religion of Buddhism was equally favored.
As is so often the case, people looked for ways to work the religion that meant so much to them into the practice that meant just as much. Similar things have happened throughout history and it is why Christmas is celebrated in December, even though Jesus was most likely born in the summer (for the people to adapt to Christianity, the birth of Jesus, and many of aspects of the religion, were connected to preexisting pagan practices and traditions). But this just goes to show that there is always a way to adapt a practice to your own beliefs. Because if practitioners of Qigong could adapt this art form to their religious beliefs thousands of years ago, then you can do the same now, even if you have different beliefs.
Qigong and You
There is always a way to adapt Qigong to your own lifestyle, to take certain aspects of it that work for you and to ignore or change ones that do not. For instance, if you are muslim, you may choose to meditate or exercise prior to or following your daily prayers. If you are not a Buddhist, then you may choose to ignore the religious aspects, such as the Buddhist chants, as well as the aspects that connect to Buddhist beliefs, such as rebirth and karma.
Just because you do not believe certain aspects of Qigong does not mean that the whole practice is wrong. The important thing to remember is that this practice has changed over the years so that it can adapt to ancient and modern civilizations. But at its heart, Qigong is basic, simple and not connected to any particular religious beliefs.
Spring Forest Qigong
There are many schools of Qigong out there. Some of these exaggerate the ties that Qigong has to religion and to Chinese culture, but others, including Spring Forest Qigong, play these down. Spring Forest Qigong was established in the United States by Chinese Qigong expert Master Lin. Because of its base in the west, Master Lin chose to adapt this practice to that western audience, stripping away the things that connected it to Buddhism and to China and focusing on the basic, healing aspects of it.
This is what’s important after all. This is all that you need to learn about if you want to heal yourself and others. And as soon as you learn about these basics, then you can make Qigong what you want it to be.
There are aspects of Spring Forest Qigong that connect to Buddhism. These include the Heart Sutra Chant and the Six Word Chant, both of which were influenced by Buddhist monks. But these chants are simply influenced by that religion and you do not need to follow it or believe in it in order to benefit from them or to practice them.
That is the beauty of Spring Forest Qigong and it is why it has proved so popular in the west and down here in Australia. So, regardless of your faith and your belief, and regardless of where you stand on Buddhism, there is no issue practicing Qigong and there is definitely no issue practicing Spring Forest Qigong.