Martins Rubenis is a two-time Olympic medalist, a popular alternative-music DJ, and a man with an inspiring sense of purpose.
He became a national hero when he won the first Winter Olympics medal for Latvia in the 2006 Torino Olympics in Italy, a bronze in luge. In Sochi in 2014, he earned his second bronze medal in the sport.
Yet Rubenis has something in his life that he values even more than medals—his true spiritual path, which inspires him to live his life a little bit differently.
How a Latvian became interested in ancient Chinese wisdom
As a little boy, Rubenis had a fascination with martial arts. The connection between physical and mental discipline and Eastern values became firmly established in his mind.
As an adult and professional athlete, he developed health problems, and he felt in many ways that his body and mind were not in the best state.
“I knew that there was something that had to change,” he said. “I decided that probably I have to take a close look at myself.”
He asked his coach’s advice. His coach suggested a Chinese qigong practice named Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong.
“When I heard those words, it just resonated to me,” said Rubenis.
Falun Dafa teaches five meditative exercises and also guides people to improve their minds and hearts. Its three main principles are truthfulness, compassion, and forbearance. Forbearance includes tolerance and endurance—characteristics that could particularly resonate with an Olympian.
Coincidentally—or as Rubenis would say, as fate would have it—the first Falun Dafa practitioner he met in Latvia was also a professional athlete. She competed professionally in full-contact karate. He saw the inner peace she had found through the practice. He learned the meditation and began reading “Zhuan Falun,” the main book of Falun Dafa.
His physical and mental complaints began to lessen, and soon they were miraculously gone.
The strength he gained on many levels helped him achieve his Olympic success, he said. He dedicates his medals to Master Li Hongzhi, who first brought the ancient practice to the public in China in 1992.
What is the persecution of Falun Dafa in China?
Rubenis started practicing Falun Dafa in 2005, and he saw his rise to fame in 2006 as an opportunity to draw attention to the brutal persecution of the practice in China.
Some of his compatriots had trouble understanding him.
“At that moment, when I learned about the persecution … there was quite a lot of media following me and asking about my experiences of life and getting more interested. But at the same time it so happened that the whole world learned about the labor camp system in China, that there are thousands of Falun Gong practitioners whose organs are taken out and sold and people are killed on a large scale,” Rubenis said.
In 1999, when the Chinese Communist Party conducted a national survey and found more than 70 million people were practicing Falun Dafa—outnumbering members of the Party—a propaganda campaign against the practice began. The regime’s control over the media began a misleading propaganda campaign, and a special force called the 610 Office was created specifically to eradicate the practice and begin arresting practitioners.
To draw attention to the imprisonment and execution of thousands of practitioners in China, Rubenis held a three-day hunger strike in front of the Chinese Embassy in 2006. In 2008, he was a spokesman for the Human Rights Torch Relay, which called for a boycott of the Beijing 2008 Olympics.
“I believe the Olympic Games have always been a symbol of high moral standards, a natural striving of harmony between physical strength and spiritual force of human being,” said Rubenis at the time. “The Communist regime of China has no right to represent the highest principles of the Olympic movement.”
In Latvia, his actions were puzzling to many, as mainstream media had not covered the issue on a broad scale.
But later, as Rubenis found himself again in the spotlight after his second Olympic win, the situation changed. As many Latvian media outlets interviewed him, they actively asked about the persecution.
“They were determined to ask the questions about Falun Gong and what is happening in China and the current situation.”
Like a modern-day Arthurian knight
Rubenis decided to retire from luge and planned to spend some time traveling and further spreading the truth about human rights abuses in China.
In a 2009 documentary about Rubenis, titled “Lohengrin from Varka Kru,” the filmmakers draw parallels between Rubenis and a legendary knight named Lohengrin from medieval literature. Lohengrin fought injustice and helped people in need, explained the film’s synopsis.
When Epoch Times asked Rubenis how he felt about the comparison, he laughed a little, then paused to reflect. He answered with a touching solemnity: “It’s kind of an honor for me that the producer of the film decided to compare me with the knight.”
“I believe that now it’s a very special time,” he said. “Many things are happening and it feels like many things that were played out in history, they come now not as in stories, but as true happenings.”
The documentary names him “Lohengrin from Varka Kru,” referring to the creative team Rubenis works with as a DJ; the team is named “Varka Kru.”
From rebellion to harmony
When he started on the music scene, he recalled, “What was important for me was to be different … It was a will to be different.”
This is something he now realizes in retrospect. His perspective on music has changed.
“I learned how music can change and influence my body and my mind and other aspects of my life,” he said. “I believe that the most important part is the heart of the person who created the music at the moment, and what he wanted to express, and the feelings, and the wish.”
“The most beautiful music is made by people who are highly spiritual. That music at the same time brings other people closer to the divine,” he said. “The most important thing is to learn harmony … music can make people get angry, mad, and feel bad. At the same time, different music can heal, can help people solve problems, and have a brighter and lighter view.”