New Series of English Dafa Newspapers for Truth Clarification
When the truth-clarification effort in Manhattan first began, many of us in New York realized that we needed to greatly improve our English materials. In terms of approach, style and presentation, most of the English materials we had were formulated several years ago, and in order to meet the needs of the current state of Fa-rectification, we felt improvements were needed in many areas. We felt the content needed to be mature and broad-minded, comprehensively clarifying the facts about the persecution and the nature of Falun Gong, while also being touching to read and fully integrated with the sensibilities and interests of everyday people. We also felt the format and presentation needed to be professional and attractive, and yet also reflect the heart and compassion of Dafa disciples.
Thus, over the past few months practitioners in New York have worked together to try to achieve these goals and have developed a series of English-language newspapers that are currently being used for handing out on the street or in the subway stations as well as being included in packages for media and VIPs. These are Dafa materials and not third-party newspapers.
In the following article, we would like to share with fellow practitioners...
1) On-line versions of the newspapers that you can share with friends and family over e-mail.
(NOTE: If you choose to send a link to someone using the E-mail links below, we suggest you type a few words of your own into the e-mail before sending so it doesn't look like spam to the receiver).
2) Some of the content and contact information in these newspapers is specific to New York City, so it might not be appropriate to print these newspapers in your local area/country in their current form. However, if you would like to have the source files so you can customize a newspaper for your local area/country, please send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org, providing your name, name of your local assistant center contact, and details of which newspaper's source files you would like.
(NOTE: Source files require the Adobe InDesign software to open and modify).
3) An article from the team of practitioners in New York who produced these newspapers sharing their experiences and understandings
Newspapers On-line and Downloads
Experience Sharing: The Process of Making Falun Gong Today
The following are some of the experiences, challenges, and understandings we came to in the course of creating an informational newspaper about Falun Gong, called Falun Gong Today. The following is a collaborative report about that process, written by the several of us who put the newspaper together.
I. Origins of the Newspaper
The idea for the paper began, in a sense, a number of years ago. A small handful of practitioners in the tri-state area felt the need for an informational newspaper that presented Falun Gong to a general audience in terms familiar to, and resonant with, the average American reader. Through a process of discussion, and a week of intense work, the outcome was the newspaper called Forbearance, which was published first in July of 2001. The outcome was pretty good, and the paper was well received from what we could tell.
However, for whatever reason, we never really followed up on that effort, and there was never a second or further editions of the newspaper. Its contents and general framework were adopted several times by other practitioners in different regions, which resulted in a few different incarnations of the paper, but we never followed up much on the initial effort.
Just a few months ago, when the guidance came that we needed to focus our efforts on Manhattan and clarify the truth better here, we realized a new Dafa-specific newspaper was needed. After a number of group discussions, we had a better sense for where a newspaper would fit in at this time, and in relation to our other materials, such as flyers, vcd's, and things like torture exhibits. The discussions were important in that they wed the newspaper to the larger context of efforts in New York, ensuring that it would complement other materials and approaches. It also became clear to us, we felt, that with this effort we would have to raise the bar, so to speak, in our truth-clarification, as now our target audience was clearly English-speaking Americans, and a rather challenging audience, being cynical New Yorkers with high standards. Only in New York could you have, for example, a newspaper that thrives on sarcasm and cynicism, or for that matter an entire Television show that creates fake news and then dissects it in order to show viewers how information and messages can be manipulated and distorted for certain purposes. In this sense, our target audience, we knew, was a demanding one, and we would have to truly give this our best effort and deepen our wisdom. Materials that worked in other settings, like small town America, would be rather out of place here, we felt.
II. Grounding the Effort in Fa
While the above were the particulars, or details, we were dealing with, we knew well that for the paper to really have any true success--that is, to meet the standards of Fa-rectification at this time--it would have to be grounded thoroughly in an understanding of Master's Fa. We felt that it was important for all of us involved to share and discuss our understandings first, lest we get lost in the details and the surface of things.
In this vein, we made a point to get together in person and discuss our ideas and plans face-to-face. It turned out at our first meeting only three of us (out of the five) could make it, but we still knew it was key to go ahead with things. It was the weekend, and so we began by doing the exercises in the park for a couple hours and sending righteous thoughts. When it turned to discussion our minds were clear and focused. We each brought different past Dafa materials, along with a few newspapers and materials from ordinary society. We looked over the Dafa ones carefully, identifying their strengths and qualities, and noting the areas we could possibly improve upon; we also tried to be aware of what, in terms of content and message, was still in keeping with the needs of truth-clarification today and what was slightly out of date. The ordinary publications, meanwhile, were helpful in giving us a better sense for what tastes readers in New York have; and by "taste," we're referring not just to contents, as in what stories they read, but also their style, layout, integration with graphics and photos, tone, and so on. By extension, we discussed a lot about New Yorkers' tastes and style, habits, concerns, issues, and so on, and in a sense tried to put on their shoes for a while. It was challenging, but also enlightening, to step out of our own mindsets and really look at things from their perspective. From that point on we began to be more perceptive and alert to the things around us in New York and how we could make use of them in truth-clarification.
Along with this we spent much time discussing what we understood to be Fa-rectification's current requirements, that is, in terms of truth-clarification in general and Manhattan in particular. One important point, we realized, was that we have to keep in mind what the average New Yorker's level of understanding is, and what ours is, and not mix up the two; or more specifically, not forget the gap in levels. In particular, we were reminded of what we had recently heard, which is: that these people were still pretty much at the level of when the persecution first started, and at the level of the propaganda. In other words, while our understanding of Dafa had grown and evolved so immensely over the past six years, our readers' understandings had remained stagnant, and at the same, confused level.
From this we realized we would need to find ways to speak in terms that are very basic, familiar, and accessible to our readers. And of course, we felt, we are in great position to do this, being from this culture, and having a deeper understanding of Dafa now: we realized we should be able to find things in this culture that can help people to understand Dafa and the persecution, and utilize them in keeping with the Fa. That afternoon we did a few brainstorming sessions, jotting down terms, phrases, and ideas from Western society and culture that could be used to describe Falun Gong and the persecution. It was a remarkable, mind-expanding experience, to say the least. We could feel an excitement brewing among the three of us, as new possibilities and insights were emerging every minute.
One of the participants expressed with excitement that, "This is something we've needed to do for years, but have never done. It's easy to get in a rut." Another one shared that she felt this was something Teacher had been hoping to see us do for some time, given how he had talked about each human culture in history being created for the purpose of allowing people to understand this Dafa today as well as ideas like what is cultivation.
Afterwards, we made a point of sharing our discussion and understandings with the other two practitioners who weren't there. We tried to make sure that our work was integrated with our cultivation, and didn't fall into ordinary ways or ordinary thinking. We asked each other along the way about how each other's Fa-study was going, and we would ask about how others were doing with balancing this with ordinary work, family, and other things. We tried to each care about each other as cultivators, and make our work as pure as possible. If we got on the phone to discuss a certain page of the paper we were working on, and realized the other person hadn't done his Fa-study yet, or was having some interference, we would move the call back a couple hours and say something like, "Why don't you take an hour or two to do your Fa-study, and we can get back on the phone after. I'm sure we will all be more efficient and things will go even better then."
As a result of this approach, although our time-frame was tight, and the pressure was much, since the need for the paper was urgent, things went extremely harmoniously, and we became more and more efficient with each day. There weren't conflicts or even tense moments, we were able to joke and feel at ease, even when staring deadlines in the face. Also, we were able to detect or notice if and when something might not have been quite right. For example, when once in a while somebody might have been joking around a little too much or speaking too lightly while working on something, another person would remind him right away, saying something like "Hey my friend, let's make sure we all keep in mind the sacred nature of this work. We have a lot of sentient beings who are counting on this. And we don't want to lose time." People could easily accept such feedback, and so we improved along the way as cultivators while ensuring the quality of our work. One practitioner was surprised at how much energy she had along the way, and how little sleep she needed.
III. Design of the Paper
One of the speeches we studied before working one day was "Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art." In that talk Master discusses the Western art of a certain time as being the pinnacle of achievement in human art. What typified the art of that time, it was explained, was the attention to detail--the exacting standards for proportion and realism when portraying the human form, architecture, and landscapes. It was the attention to the surface of things, notably, that was the hallmark of great Western art.
We had this very much in mind as we went about mapping out the design of the newspaper, and discussed the Fa of Master's talk on fine art quite a bit. We felt that the Fa of that talk very much applied to the visual dimension of our paper. Just getting all the writing and pictures to fit was not enough, in other words; that is just the technical matter of assembling material.
The practitioner mainly in charge of design put enormous thought and care into the visual presentation of the paper, and shared many insights into why this was important. For one thing, he said, "We should take note of how much of the way Westerners today respond to art--or anything visual, for that matter--was formed during an earlier time period, and harks back to the high standards of past great art." He went on to explain, "In Western culture, we have a deeply rooted tendency to look at the surface of an object, and from that, make a judgment of the object's inner worth. That is to say, if the surface doesn't look good to a Westerner, he assumes that what is inside is not good. And of course, what looks good to somebody from another culture might not look good to a Westerner; their sense of taste is very much acquired, and specific. This quality perhaps comes from a more ancient, less degenerate time, when it was in fact true: that is, if an artist, craftsman, writer, or architect truly put in the effort and talent and purity of mind to create something of worth, then it naturally followed that the object would have an outward aspect that reflected its inner beauty. Similarly, for somebody to look beautiful the person would have to have a lot of virtue. So, this is to say there was a correspondence between surface appearance and inner goodness in days of old. Whereas if the object was thrown together without concern or care, its outer form would reflect that, and not look good."
We also found, upon reflecting on making and distributing Dafa materials over the years, that Westerners tend to, generally speaking, respond very strongly to the presentation, or outward form, of our truth clarifying materials. This does not reflect any shallowness of character on the part of Westerners really, but rather, it is just part of how they think. It is part of their cultural heritage, you could say.
As we shared more, we came to feel that rather than try to "break these people's notions" with respect to appearance, or ignore them, we could work with them, and through them, to touch and appeal to the Western reader. At the same time, it would be in keeping with the Fa of maximally conforming to society, it seemed; if Master, the Lord of the Cosmos, can wear a suit to conform to society and set a high standard--that is, not think of himself as an exception--then it would seem our paper could and should look good and have a high standard.
In the words of one practitioner, "By spending time on the presentation of the newspaper and putting a lot of time into it, we did two very important things: First, we made the information inside of it easier to digest. And secondly, because the paper looks like we put a lot of thought and care into it, people who see it get the impression that the people who wrote the paper care a lot about the subject. And that's right, we do."
Indeed, it was very touching to see how much care this practitioner put into the layout and design of the paper. Even though he had professional training in graphics and layout, he still was constantly trying to improve his skills and deepen his understanding. He was so careful about the selection of fonts, the overall effect of photos and color shades, the use of space and depth, lines and shapes. He would even bring with him books, such as "the best newspaper designs," to study and learn from. When one of us remarked at how much care he was putting into it, he shared a story of how one great 19th century artist once painted the very same scene, which was of a church, something like 25 times, just as practice, in order to master the balance of light and shade; he painted each of the 25 at a slightly different time of day in order, when the light was slightly different. Clearly he was holding himself to an extremely high, strict standard.
IV. Contents of the Paper
Of course, we knew it wouldn't be enough to have the paper merely look good; the contents had to be every bit as good and powerful. In fact, some practitioners shared how in the past things had been made to look nice and glossy at times when the contents were a bit sub-par or lacking, and it could even be funny to the reader. We tried to thus set a very high standard for ourselves in terms of both the content that was chosen and the quality of the writing.
As mentioned before, we tried to keep close in mind what we understood from the Fa, and to have that guide our selection of contents. For example, we knew it would be important to include something about Charles Lee, as Master has explained the importance of exposing that to Americans. Or, similarly, since we knew New Yorkers were at the level of the propaganda in terms of clarity, we specifically targeted China's propaganda in our first issue of the newspaper, and exposed to just what extent China's regime had tried to distort the truth about Falun Gong. Also, we looked to Clearwisdom (Minghui.net) for guidance and general direction as well, and from this gained much sense of direction.
At the same time, we knew we needed to clarify the truth both more broadly and deeply, and so used different angles and articles to try to achieve this. One thing we did that might be worth noting was to use a lead-in story, called "Five Years on 42nd Street," that connected with local readers and their lives. We had each run into a lot of people in the course of doing truth-clarification who would say "Oh, Falun Gong, is that the group that's always on 42nd Street? What's that all about, anyway?" It seemed a lot of people had seen us there, but didn't know why we were there, or even that we were across from the Chinese Consulate. They wanted to know why, and were curious, and so we used this angle to introduce the persecution to them. Also, since we made it our lead article, we tried to have it give the readers sort of an "orientation" to the rest of the issues, so that it covered everything. And, we wanted to be sure that, if they only read that one article they'd have a pretty good understanding of the truth. We also used the article to show how the persecution in China related to people right here in America, or New York, by portraying how China's situation impacted locals.
We tried to bear in mind what Teacher had taught recently about how it is good for everyday people to hear what other everyday people say, and so we made sure to include quotes from everyday people, some articles from them, and to cite in our articles things they have reported and consider trustworthy. As one practitioner on the project shared, "Practitioners' words have gong behind them, and that is powerful, but everyday people's words have a different sort of power, which is, legitimacy. Trust and legitimacy are important to Westerners, so we made sure to include references to media agencies and individuals that they would recognize and feel comfortable with."
One thing Teacher has said several times is that some people like sweet, some salty, some sour, etc. We thus we tried to have a variety of articles and approaches to appeal to a broad range of people. Knowing that many New Yorkers have been poisoned by the lies, we tried as hard as we could to think of the things that would best help them break out of those thoughts. We tried to keep the message simple and focused, even if conveyed from different angles: that is, that a brutal persecution is happening, and that the victims, our practitioners, are good, normal people. We tried to always think from compassion in planning and making decisions on the paper.
We also tried to be, along the way, open to finding our shortcomings and changing things. On the afternoon we were supposed to finish the first edition of the paper we got news that there would be an important meeting for all practitioners in New York that evening. As it turned out, at the meeting Master spoke about clarifying the truth in New York, and touched on many, many crucial things. Afterwards the main group of us got together to reevaluate the paper in light of that evening's Fa and see if our understandings were lacking in some way or other. We felt the standard was higher now, and we had to be more clear on some things. As it turned out, we indeed find several things that were inadequate on our part, and we were so grateful that Master had told them to us just in time. It was all within His arrangement, we could tell, as long as we were able to let go of our own things and look within and look critically and humbly at our own work. He gave us a chance to improve the work just in the nick of time, before going to press.
During our conversation that evening after Master's talk, we found a few things in the paper that weren't good enough or right, and so we shared our understandings for some time, trying to elevate on Fa.
The main thing we felt we needed to adjust was our article about the involvement of businesses in the persecution. We knew now that the article should be written completely without intention of changing anyone, and purely from goodness and kindness and the desire to help these people see that the persecution is bad. We also knew that we shouldn't try to come across as experts or claim to be more informed than they are on their area of expertise, as that could have the opposite effect. Instead, all we needed to do was share a good, informed understanding of the persecution. As far as their investments and business practices go, it would be up to them to decide, after they learn the truth. We would let them know the truth, and then they would have a chance to make their own choice. In the end we managed to keep the article on business in our paper, but changed it in several key ways so that it was purely informative and without certain intentions mixed in. We all felt much better about it afterwards, and could feel our understandings and hearts aligning more closely with Fa.
A second thing that might be good to share, is how we found a problem with another article. In this one, beginning from the title, we were calling the persecution a "genocide." After Master's talk that day, suddenly, we felt something was not right here.
As one practitioner explained it, "I realized that we merely needed to help people see that the persecution is bad, and that there is no requirement for them to accept the idea that it's genocide. While we all know it is genocide, and the worst persecution in history, Master has never said that we have to get everyday people to see it that way. And if we try to do that, and tell them it directly, they might not be able to accept it. After all, for years a lot of our own practitioners didn't even agree it was appropriate to use the word genocide. So rather than telling them how to interpret it, all we need to do, and what's better for them, is to show them what the persecution is, and how bad it is, and they can label it however they choose. And we can show them what lawyers are saying about it, to help them. But that's different from us telling them what to think."
Through discussion, we realized that the reason we as a whole had come to be comfortable using the term "genocide," especially after most of us resisting it originally, was that some lawyer practitioners had come to establish it as such on legal grounds. The classification of "genocide" involves, thus, complex legal terms and arguments. So the situation was similar to with the business article, in that we were telling people we knew more than them or acting as experts of a sort, and indeed, in his talk that day in New York, Teacher also mentioned the legal field to us, and seemed to be implying we needed this sort of caution. After all, as Master taught in the Fa in 2003 in Los Angeles, "You can only talk about our being persecuted, about our real situation, about our being good people and being wrongly persecuted, about our freedom of belief being violated, about our human rights being violated. They can accept all those things, and they will immediately support you and express to you their sympathy. Isn't that enough?" In the end, we found what felt like a good solution, which was to quote a prominent attorney describing, as if it were a given, the persecution in terms of genocide. We felt this satisfied the requirements of the Fa.
There were several challenges along the way, particularly in creating the second edition of the newspaper, which just came out.
One of the biggest challenges was physical interference. The practitioner who was coordinating the writing and contents this time began to have, during the final week of work, terrible physical interference. Right during the critical days her body suffered terribly from sickness-karma like manifestations. It was the worst she had experienced in almost six years of cultivating. She was terribly congested and expelled copious amounts of phlegm, even getting choked by it; her throat was raw, and she started coughing up blood; she came down with chills and had a fever; worst of all, one of her ears became so plugged up and painful that she found it extremely hard to concentrate, and couldn't sit still.
However, she didn't accept the interference, and pushed through. As she recalls it, "I kept telling myself and the old forces that I did not accept it. I looked long and hard within, and found problems with my xinxing. I asked Master to give me strength, and I kept reminding myself of Master's line in the 2003 Lantern Festival lecture about the requirement of rejecting the old forces' arrangements by 'not just saying it but putting it into action.' But it was so hard to do, as the pain was very intense. My husband and I sent righteous thoughts together many times, and it helped a little at the time, but not much that I could perceive at the surface. We kept sharing understandings about what was happening. He was a little bit strict with me, but it was good. He pointed out that by fidgeting to try to distract myself from the pain I was acknowledging the evil old forces' persecution, and he also pointed out that I was talking with a tone of voice that sounded like I was feeling sorry for myself. While at the time I didn't accept what he said 100%, I did somewhat, and began to send righteous thoughts again and with more determination. I was determined not to acknowledge any of it now. Through sharing and then sending righteous thoughts I was able to not acknowledge in my actions the evil imposition. Although the pain and everything was just as intense, I found myself not acknowledging it in my heart. My tone of voice became different and I was moving about with more confidence. Without even thinking about how I was feeling I offered to wash the dishes after dinner; I had let go of selfishness to a greater degree. Right when I finished doing the dishes my ear started making gurgling sounds, and then a reddish liquid started coming out. The pain was lessened significantly. Finally I could go back to working on the newspaper without much distraction. The liquid came out periodically for the rest of the night as I continued to push through the tribulation. The pain was lessened further and further, and I was able to finish all of my work on time."
One other practitioner, who did a lot of writing for the newspaper, found it extremely difficult to write during the second edition. It was almost like experiencing "writer's block," as it's called--something he hadn't struggled with in years. It was so strange, he thought. Another practitioner shared having the same challenges. Through looking within and discussing with others, we realized that this time, with the second edition of the paper, the standard, in terms of Fa-rectification's requirements, had gone up for us, and that we would need to do an even better job than the first time. We had to be stricter with ourselves, continually improve our understandings, and fully negate everything of the old forces. As the practitioner with writer's block shared, he found that he had been treating things a little too casually the second time around, even being a little laid back, as he had become somewhat complacent and self-satisfied after the first edition. After realizing this, he became more strict with himself, began to send righteous thoughts every hour and study Fa more, and firmly in his mind not accepting any arrangements from the old forces. Suddenly it was like a fog was lifted from his mind and he could write freely, naturally, and persuasively with great efficiency.
Each step along the way we continually shared and cared for one another, making sure nobody fell behind or was interfered with or targeted. We looked over one another's work and gave feedback to help perfect and supplement things, and made a point of improving as a whole, while keeping in mind the solemn task of enlightening our readers to the goodness of Dafa and the persecution's wickedness.
V. Coordination Matters
While we didn't have that many people working on the paper--a core of four people most of the time, with supplemental help from a few others--we were able to accomplish quite a large amount, and in a short span of time. It was pretty amazing, in fact, most of us felt. Having a few dedicated people with the right skills and experiences, coupled with a good group cultivation environment, things turned out well.
This prompted one of the participants to reflect much on coordination, which is something he had done a great deal of. He explained some of his realizations, saying: "Proper coordination is being responsible to the Fa, from top to bottom, with no aspect omitted. When the large-scale truth clarification effort first began in Manhattan, we realized early on that our English materials needed to be greatly improved. So what we did was to send invitations for help far and wide, and discussions were kind of all over the place. While it seemed like we were being 'inclusive,' in reality, we were not truly giving others a chance to participate, but just panicking to have enough people on hand to execute. Ultimately we ended up sacrificing the quality of product in order to, seemingly, allow more people to be involved. What lay beneath it, I feel, was the mind of pursuit--pursuit to get things done--and it was not grounded in Fa. But if we are going to be responsible to a project, to be responsible to the people, and be responsible to the Fa, something different is required of us. I think it begins with thinking very carefully about who would be good for that project, and then selecting a finite, focused team." He also shared that, "I think the question at this time is not 'how many do we need?', but rather, 'how few?' When we can ask that, we are being truly responsible for all projects and efforts. If we look at things as 'our' project and end up hoarding people, we are actually hurting something else. We have to thus truly step out of self and care for all the projects out there, for Fa-rectification as a whole."
Lastly, we found in ourselves a big oversight in the end that we will make sure not to repeat. It seems to be related to the above matter, in fact. With the second paper, as things came down to the wire and we scrambled to meet a tight, imminent deadline, we asked a few other practitioners to work on a couple of pieces for the paper, and asked for some feedback on the paper as a whole. In the end, when all was said and done, we couldn't use one of the pieces somebody had worked on revising for us, and we felt it best not to implement all of the feedback suggestions we had received this round from the other person. While that's fine to do, and these people, being practitioners, wouldn't have a problem with it, we were rather inconsiderate in not emailing or calling them as a follow up right away to let them know and explain the situation to them.
On the surface, it was because we were exhausted, having worked around the clock for several days and had little rest, and we all had things in our ordinary lives we needed to attend to. But on a deeper level, it reflected a hidden mentality on our parts of "getting the work done" and not, instead, treating it as cultivation and thinking more deeply of others. We were just relieved to be done, get a little sleep, and take care of our own things. But this sort of inconsideration can cause misunderstandings, and be hurtful to people, and end up, thus, as a gap in Fa-rectification that gets exploited.
Thank you for the opportunity to share with you all, and our thanks to Master.
Category: Flyers and Handouts