Guanyin Famen

A controversial spiritual movement combining Mahayana Buddhism with modern practices and facing significant legal challenges.

Guanyin Famen, also known as Quan Yin Method, is a spiritual movement established in 1988 by the Vietnamese-born Chinese teacher Ching Hai. It merges traditional Buddhist practices with modern elements, forming a unique new religious movement within the broader spectrum of Mahayana Buddhism.

Beliefs and Practices

The core of Guanyin Famen’s teachings is the Quan Yin method of meditation, which focuses on the “inner light and sound” of God or Buddha. This method involves a commitment to a vegan diet, adherence to the Five Precepts of Buddhism, and a dedication to daily meditation. The full initiation into the movement requires at least two hours of meditation daily, while a shorter form of initiation requires a half-hour daily and abstinence from meat for ten days each month. Ching Hai’s teachings integrate elements from various religions, including Christianity, Buddhism, and Hinduism, and are not considered part of the standard Buddhist repertoire.

International Presence and Activities

Guanyin Famen has a significant international presence, with more than 2 million disciples worldwide, including about 300,000 in Taiwan. The movement is known for its emphasis on a vegan lifestyle and environmental awareness, running vegan chain restaurants and meditation centers globally. These business activities, however, have been criticized and characterized by the Chinese government as forms of foreign infiltration and swindling.

Legal Challenges and Controversies

Guanyin Famen has faced legal challenges, particularly in China, where it is officially banned as a “heterodox teaching” and labeled as one of the “dangerous” groups. Members of the movement have been arrested and sentenced for their involvement in the group. In a notable case, six members were jailed for up to eight years in China for activities related to propagating the group’s views and attempting to recruit new members at local universities.

Financial Aspects

Despite the controversies, a review by Chuck McLean of GuideStar indicated that the American chapters of the group appear to utilize their funds for legitimate causes, raising questions about the financial practices and motivations behind the movement’s activities.