By Claire Harlin
Falun Gong is openly practiced in some 70 countries, however, it is widely suppressed in its homeland of China, making it the subject of what’s estimated to be the largest form of religious persecution in the world.
In Del Mar, however, the spiritual discipline is practiced peacefully and free of charge at Bindu Yoga, located at 1130 Camino Del Mar.
Also known as Falun Dafa, the practice combines meditation with a series of movements, and is deeply rooted to a philosophy of morality and virtue.
While he would prefer to remain uncredited under the “leave no name, seek no reward” philosophy of the practice, it is because of 31-year-old Mitch Gerber that Falun Gong is a part of the community.
He conducts the class at Bindu every Saturday at 4 p.m., but that is only part of Gerber’s efforts. He holds a total of eight free classes every week at six sites throughout the San Diego area, and it’s possible that he could have one of the largest followings of practitioners in the nation — as it is rare to see a city with even one Falun Gong practice site, let alone more than a handful.
Gerber discovered the practice during a campus demonstration about a decade ago when he was a student at the Georgia State University, where he earned a degree in international business. He connected deeply with Falun Gong and he said it changed his life when he became a daily practitioner.
After graduation, Gerber worked in investment banking for the now-defunct Salomon Smith Barney, but he said he was “discontent with the way society viciously operates.”
“I saw people in this rat race trying to survive, and I hated what I was doing,” he said.
Gerber has since decided to dedicate his life to Falun Dafa and sharing it with others, and he describes his efforts as the “purest form of nonprofit.” Not only are the classes free to the public, but Gerber does not receive a dollar himself.
“When I found out that people are being brutally persecuted in China for practicing Falun Dafa,” he said, referring to a crackdown of the Communist Party of China and myriad reports of torture and imprisonment, “I felt obligated.”
To make ends meet, Gerber works independently in the field of commodity exchange.
A South African native of Jewish background, Gerber is a natural human rights advocate. He was an Amnesty International leader during college at GSU, and he also organized a Falun Dafa club there. He said he remembers living under apartheid during his younger years and Nelson Mandela has always been a role model for him.
He said religion, as a whole, seemed like “modern mishmashes of hypocrisy and money,” but he was intrigued by Falun Dafa.
“It’s the one practice, it’s safe to say, that has a sincere path of connecting to a private source of peace and love,” he said.
For contact information and class times, visit Gerber’s meet-up group at www.meetup.com/FalundafaEncinitas.