My spirit collapsed when I found out I needed heart surgery and could be bedridden for the rest of my life. I was at a high point in my career when this devastating blow came. It was early summer of 2015. I was a lieutenant colonel and an honored martial arts teacher at the air force academy of my country, Vietnam.
I had been teaching martial arts there since 1986, when I was 22 years old. Dozens of my students had won high awards in national tournaments. I was so confident and proud of my physical strength and athletic skill. Then my health and passion were threatened by disease.
A routine health exam before a national competition revealed that I had very high blood pressure. The organizers wouldn’t allow me to compete.
I was diagnosed with mitral incompetence (also called mitral valve regurgitation), a disorder where the mitral valve on the left side of the heart malfunctions and prevents efficient blood flow away from the heart.
I took pride in having a strong and agile body and I never thought I would have to worry about my health. But there I was, at 51, with no confidence in my future.
Expert medical treatment didn’t help. I was fatigued, short of breath, and had chest pain. There was no cure except expensive heart surgery to repair the valve.
There was a risk that I would be debilitated for the rest of my life and discharged from the academy.
Three years later, I am in good health and I never had the surgery thanks to advice from my wife.
I share my story so that others may benefit from my experience and understand what I mean when I say “a healthy body indeed comes from a sound mind and a compassionate heart.”
In My Most Desperate Moment
I had a lifelong passion for martial arts. My dream came true when I was hired as a martial arts teacher at the Vietnam Air and Air Defence Forces Academy.
Then the disease came. I fell into a fog of despair as the world collapsed around me. Questions without answers churned in my mind.
Is my future gone? Are the glorious days of practicing martial arts and training students over? How did my condition develop after a healthy life? Why, after endless treatments, am I not cured?
But good fortune soon smiled upon me. My wife had suffered from many health issues including arthritis, stomach ailments, balance problems, and high blood pressure. As a teacher, she had to request leave every month to go to the hospital for treatment and then recover at home.
The same summer that I learned of my heart condition, my wife began to practice a traditional Chinese discipline for improving the mind and body called Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong. Miraculously, her illnesses disappeared shortly after she started doing the Falun Dafa exercises and reading its main book of teachings, Zhuan Falun, which emphasizes elevating one’s moral character based on the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance.
The Falun Dafa exercises are different from the martial arts training routines I was used to. They consist of four standing exercises and sitting meditation. The movements are not vigorous but gentle, slow, and fluid.
My wife encouraged me to read the book and do the exercises with her, but I never took her seriously. Then one day, seeing me in especially low spirits, she came to my side and tried again. “You don’t have to be sad or worried. We can practice Falun Gong together. It has helped many people,” she said.
I finally decided to give it a try, only because I had reached a dead end. If Falun Dafa could not help me at least I would learn something new for my work.
Surprisingly, after only a few days of doing the exercises, the pain in my chest eased up and I could breathe normally. It was as if my body was gradually being cleansed and restored.
This miracle compelled me to carefully study the book Zhuan Falun. Its spiritual truths made a deep impression on me; it was the first time I read a book focused on teaching people to better themselves on a path toward spiritual enlightenment by improving their moral character. Its principles of truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance resonated deeply with me.
I read the book and did the exercises every day, and I started to change fundamentally. Remarkably, my body underwent a complete transformation. I stopped dwelling on my illness and embraced an optimistic mindset and a greater consideration of others.
In the past, I regarded myself as a good person, particularly because I completed assigned tasks well at work. But after I started practicing Falun Dafa, many people noticed that my character changed along with my health.
For example, it is a custom at the academy for students to give their teachers “gifts” of money to show appreciation. As a practitioner of Falun Dafa, I understood I should not take this money, so I stopped accepting it.
When my colleagues heard this, they said it was moral and upright. They recommended me to the head of the academy for praise but I told them there was no need. I only did what was right.
Then, three months after I started practicing Falun Dafa, a relative wanted to give me 15 million Vietnam dong ($650) to help him find a job. I told him: “I will certainly help you, but please there is no need to give me money. I don’t need anything in return.” I then helped him find a good job.
When my brother’s family heard this, they didn’t understand why I rejected the money. I told them stories about other Falun Dafa practitioners helping others without any thought of reward or recognition. I explained how Zhuan Falun teaches unconditional kindness toward others, giving of oneself freely, and being motivated solely by compassion. My brother’s whole family was touched and called Falun Dafa a great teaching. Later, they even began practicing Falun Dafa themselves.
Practicing Falun Dafa, my mind became serene and I developed more clarity about what is right and wrong. I could remain humble even amid the fame and honors of martial arts competitions.
However, false and misleading information from the ruling Chinese regime’s persecution of Falun Dafa caused many of my friends and colleagues to misunderstand the practice.
Falun Dafa is a practice from the Buddhist school with a long history. It used to be taught in private in China before it was made public by its teacher, Li Hongzhi, in 1992. Its benefits in improving people’s health and moral character quickly spread by word of mouth all across China. Unfortunately, its popularity led to it becoming a target for persecution in 1999.
While Falun Dafa adherents simply strive to be good people by following the principles of truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance, they were demonized in a nationwide propaganda campaign, and countless practitioners were taken into custody and tortured in attempts to force them to renounce their beliefs.
The persecution continues to this day, 19 years later, and there are investigative reports with alarming evidence that Falun Dafa prisoners of conscience are being subjected to forced organ harvesting to supply China’s lucrative transplantation industry.
The Chinese regime’s misinformation about Falun Dafa has spread so widely that it reached Vietnam and many people believed it, my colleagues among them. One day my office suddenly reported me to senior management for speaking about Falun Dafa.
I felt great pressure but remained calm. I knew I had done nothing wrong. I sincerely shared my understanding with my colleagues in hopes that they would understand the goodness of Falun Dafa and the deceit and brutality of the persecution.
In the end, one of the colonels met with me and quietly listened to what I had to say. As a result, he came to understand that Falun Dafa is a good practice that benefits people.
I have since retired from the academy and now value the time that I have to let more people know about Falun Dafa, how it has benefited me and my family, and how it is being persecuted in China.
I hope more people will come to understand the beauty of Falun Dafa and have a chance to experience its profound benefits, just as I and my family have seen the miracles it has brought into our lives.
Nguyen Quynh Xuyen lives in Vietnam.