Dr. & Master Zhi Gang Sha claims, “The purpose of life is to serve. I have committed my life to this purpose. Service is my life mission” (Zhi Gang Sha, Soul Mind Body Science System, Preface xiii, 2014).
But Sha’s critics say he “uses brainwashing” and bilks people out of money through his books and other paid services, “expensive karma cleansing” and through pricey retreats they call “brainwashing camps.”
What is the truth about Dr. & Master Zhi Gang Sha?
At his website Dr. & Master Zhi Gang Sha claims that he is “an M.D. in conventional modern medicine…” However, nowhere on the website is there any mention of what school he specifically attended, where he graduated and from which he received a medical degree.
This in sharp contrast to three well-known medical doctors that combine conventional modern medicine with alternative healing methods.
Dr. Andrew Weil, an advocate of holistic medicine, received his A.B. degree in biology from Harvard, an M.D. from Harvard Medical School and did his medical internship at Mt. Zion Hospital in San Francisco, later working for the National Institute of Mental Health.
Often controversial, but popular Dr. Mehmet Cengiz Oz, TV host and health guru, is a board certified Thoracic Cardiovascular surgeon.
Dr. Deepak Chopra, who was once closely associated with a purported “cult leader” Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, is a cardiologist with an interest in alternative medicine that graduated from All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi and moved on to become chief of medicine at New England Memorial Hospital (now called the Boston Regional Medical Center).
All three of these doctors have medical degrees that can be easily be verified, but not “Dr. Sha.”
In his book “Soul Mind Body Science System” Master Sha explains his beliefs, theories and practices in great detail. He claims that he can “create “The Source Field,” which he says is capable of healing people. Sha claims (see Preface xviii), “I am the servant, vehicle, and channel of The Source. The Source has given me the honor and authority to connect with The Source in order to create The Source Field.”
Master Sha further claims (see Preface xxiii) that he has been “chosen” to offer “Divine and Tao Soul Downloads.” Sha says (see Preface xxii), “A preprogrammed Tao Soul Download is permanently stored within this book.”
Such exclusive seemingly self-aggrandizing claims are often associated with people called “cult leaders.”
For example, cult leader David Koresh claimed that an angel from heaven explained to him the meaning of the Seven Seals in the Book of Revelation. And that he alone knew how to open the seals, which would usher in the Day of Judgment. Koresh died with many of his followers in a fire, at the conclusion of a 51-day standoff with federal law enforcement. In the end there was no day of judgment for anyone other than Koresh, who was later proven to be guilty of sexually abusing children.
The single most salient feature of many destructive cults is their authoritarian and personality-driven nature. That is, usually a single individual dictates over a group of followers and makes special claims about his or her authority. Whatever the leader says is right is right and what whatever the leader says is wrong is wrong. The leader becomes the master, while followers in large part are urged to essentially abdicate their ability to make independent value judgements of their own.
Master Sha has released many books and he states (see page 67), “All eleven of [his] books share profound soul secrets, wisdom, knowledge, and practical techniques to transform all life.” But Master Sha doesn’t simply write a book like other authors, he flows a book. Sha explains, “When I flow a book, a Heaven’s Team is also above me to guide and assist me.” His team supposedly includes (see page 68), “Gautama Buddha,” “Maitreya (the buddha of the future’),” “Yuan Shi Tian Zun (one of the three top saints in the traditional Taoist pantheon),” “Jesus,” “Mother Mary,” “St. Germaine,” “Albert Einstein,” “Sir Isaac Newton” and “Eight other renowned scientists in history are also above [his] head.”
How can anyone that believes in Master Sha question his authority? Questioning Sha, according to him, would be tantamount to questioning Buddha, Jesus or Albert Einstein, not to mention the other unnamed scientists who guide him.
Similarly, purported “cult” leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon, founder of the Unification Church, also invoked heavenly authority. According to Moon no less than 36 late presidents — “from the vantage point of heaven” endorsed him as “the Messiah.” However, Moon was convicted of tax fraud, served prison time and was apparently a sinful messiah.
Sha claims that every sentence in his book is divinely handed down. He states (see page 69), “We [Sha and his followers] can hear Heaven’s writing team, as well as guidance from the saints, the Divine and Tao. After flowing one sentence, the next sentence is ready for us. Sentence after sentence flows out. When one paragraph is done, we can then hear the next paragraph clearly. Then, that next paragraph flows out.”
Beware critics, before you review a book by Master Sha, consider the karmic consequences, and don’t anger “Heaven’s writing team.”
Sha also has received from The Source “profound inspiration” to create special “I Ching practices for healing, rejuvenation, longevity, and immortality.” According to Sha (see page 100) making yet another exclusive claim, “This is the first time in history that I Ching power has been brought for these applications.” Sha says (see pages 108, 112) that he is engaged in a dialog with “the Divine.” He asks and the Divine answers him “immediately,” seemingly no matter how cosmically complicated the question might be. And not unlike the leaders of groups called “cults” Sha claims that his teachings are the best. He concludes (see page 116), “I cannot emphasize enough my deepest insight in my spiritual awareness, which is the highest sacred wisdom, knowledge, philosophy, principle, and practice in the Wu World and You World.”
Secret to immortality
Sha also claims to “know one sentence secrets.” He says (see page 75), “How do I know one-sentence secrets? Remember, there is a Heaven’s Team above my head. I also have a Jin Dan download…They then borrow my mouth and flow out a new one-sentence secret.” Sha thus serves as the mouthpiece for Heaven.
How important are Sha’s secrets? He claims (see page 126) to have a “one-sentence secret for the cause of all sickness and the solution for healing all sicknesses…”
What is the essence of his big secret?
Sha summarizes (see page 156), “If you are searching for rejuvenation, longevity, and, most especially, immortality, you have to remove desires for fame, money, power, control and much more, because these desires will dramatically affect your rejuvenation and longevity journey.”
Again, this is not unlike a purported “cult” leader named Charles Brown, founder of the Eternal Flame, later known as “People Forever” and “People Unlimited.” Brown claimed that he had discovered the secret for eternal life and could literally stop aging through something he called “cellular awakening.” Like Sha, Brown said he had received revelation and that only through him and his process could others receive the gift of immortality. However, Brown aged and died, despite his fantastic claims.
Sha says the key to immortality is to give up striving for status and wealth. He states (see page 156), “If you are searching for rejuvenation, longevity, and, most especially, immortality, you have to remove desires for fame, money, power, control and much more, because these desires will dramatically affect your rejuvenation and longevity journey. There is no way you can reach immortality if you hold these kinds of desires, dreams, and attachments.”
Then why does Master Sha have a “business team” (see page 259) and appear to be so concerned about money?
But is Sha really a legitimate best-selling author or does he manipulate his followers to artificially inflate his book sales?
It has been alleged that Zhi Gang Sha stages “book campaigns” to conflate his book sales by obtaining individual commitments from his followers to make large purchases, for example one follower might make a commitment to spend $1,500 to $2,000 on books during a specified period of time either through an online bookseller or through some other retail outlet.
One critic explains, “A book release is timed usually to coincide with one of his retreats. At the retreat, besides charging exorbitant fees for useless downloads, in exchange for some of the highest priced downloads he gets his followers to buy large numbers of the book to primarily give away to others. In this way, Sha manipulates the best seller list to try to convince book buyers that he’s on the level. It’s dishonest, to say the least – he is lying to his followers as well as the public” (Cult Education Institute public message board January 28, 2013).
Apparently Sha is quite adroit at organizing such book campaigns amongst his followers. “Master Sha is a best seller because he is the best at getting his followers to spend money they don’t have on books that no one wants, so he can have the stature of a best-selling author,” says one critic (Cult Education Institute public message board Jun 8, 2008). Another critic adds, “All those who have talked about the book campaigns and reviews are telling the truth” (Cult Education Institute public message board Mar 6, 2009).
The net effect of Sha’s financial demands can be devastating. One critic concludes, “The book campaigns are 100% true, the expensive karma clearings, the downloads, the endless marketing. I could go on and on. I didn’t leave the cult until I was bankrupt, lost my business and home and was cut off from my family. I lost everything” (Cult Education Institute public message board Jul 31, 2011).
One critic further explains some of Sha’s money schemes, “All of the downloads were very expensive, and after a while it was clear that what cost $1,000 yesterday was now available for $100 today, because, after all, the Divine was now downloading a newer and higher version of it. There were a number of people I knew personally who hid from their spouses the thousands of dollars they spent on downloads” (Cult Education Institute public message board January 28, 2009).
“I went to a seminar with Master Sha in Europe. And I was totally shocked. He is so greedy and manipulative. Scares the s… out of people by telling them that they will die if they don´t clear karma with him! I spent almost 3,000 Euros on Karma Cleansing that weekend and other Downloads and when I think of that now I also feel a little bit embarrassed,” says one European critic (Cult Education Institute public message board October 23, 2012).
There is also special divine calligraphy made available through Sha for a price to his followers. One follower explains (see page 240), “This calligraphy will be everywhere. It is accelerating Mother Earth’s transition. People have to get this fast. Everything is speeding up. This is the plan. There is no other answer.” Another says (see page. 243), “I also felt that the calligraphies created by Master Sha are all holy doctrines, created one by one on by one, and they have a bigger message.”
Chanting and visualization
But what is it exactly that Sha does to help people?
Can he actually heal anyone?
One critic states, “During the time that I was part of the cult, I did not see any healing that could be documented and I did not heal from the aliments that I suffered from. Master Sha would tell us of his healings, some of his students would attest to the healings, but there was never any documented evidence” (Cult Education Institute public message board January 28, 2009).
Sha claims (see Preface xxv), “Where you put your mind, using creative visualization, is where you receive benefits for healing, rejuvenation, and transformation of relationships and finances.” He calls this “Mind Power,” which is dependent upon “Sound Power,” summarized as “what you chant is what you become.”
Master Sha repeats this over and over and over again throughout his book. “What you chant is what you become” and “Practice, Practice, Practices” to “Transform, Transform, Transform.”
This transformation is apparently accomplished through endless hours of chanting and meditation. Sha prescribes such chants (see p. 22-25) that must be repeated aloud and/or recited silently.
Practitioners are also told to visualize a “golden light ball.” The origin of the golden light ball is interesting. Sha explains (see page 67), “I received a Jin Dan, a golden light ball [original emphasis] from The Source.”
This technique of visualization has been called “guided imagery” by experts and can be seen as psychological manipulation to assist in trance induction for the purpose of making someone more suggestible. Psychologist Margaret Singer wrote, “A considerable number of different guided-imagery techniques are used by cult leaders and trainers to remove followers from their normal frames of reference.” And that this can be seen as “trance” or “hypnosis” and “When this method is used in a cultic environment, it becomes a form of psychological manipulation and coercion because the cult leader implants suggestions aimed at his own agenda while the person is in a vulnerable state.”
Sha explains how his visualization and chanting techniques become a cure-all for virtually anything. If there is a specific ailment, for example a bad back, Sha’s devotees are instructed (see page 28) to “chant repeatedly: Soul Order heal my back” for certain time periods. This chanting can last for hours or more. Sha repeatedly throughout his book incessantly instructs his followers to chant (see pages 79, 120, 121, 123, 127-129, 133,-137, 144-151, 160-164, 174-184, 188, 190, 202-208, 214-229, 246-247, 251, 253-254) daily.
Sha says (see page 79), “I emphasize again: practice, practice, practice. We cannot practice enough.” Chanting appears to be Sha’s solution for virtually everything. Sha states (page 169) concerning one of his many formulas, “We cannot chant this mantra enough.” And then advises to “chant nonstop” and that “the more you chant the Grand Scientific Formula, the more benefits you can receive.”
Chanting is the solution according to Sha. One example (see page 201), “To chant this Divine Soul Song is to self-clear negative karma.” Sha says (see page 209), “You cannot chant it enough.”
Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman describe in their book Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change:
“Almost every major cult and cult-like group we came upon teaches some form of not thinking or ‘mind control’ as part of its regular program of activity. The process may take the form of repetitive prayer, chanting, speaking in tongues, self-hypnosis or diverse methods of meditation. Such techniques, when practiced in moderation, may yield real physical and mental health benefits¦. Prolonged stilling of the mind, however, may wear on the brain physically until it readjusts, suddenly and sharply, to its new condition of not thinking. When that happens, we have found, the brain’s information-processing capacities may be disrupted or enter a state of complete suspension, disorientation, detachment, hallucinations, delusions and, in extreme instances, total withdrawal.”
Psychologist Margaret Singer who counseled many former cult members warned about the negative consequences of excessive meditation. Singer said this might include a range of impairments, some of which remain after many years out of the cultic group such as anxiety attacks, memory difficulties, long term emotional flatness and visual hallucinations. Singer explained, “Meditation, in itself, is not good or bad. But when a venal person wants to sell you courses and persuade you to turn over your life to him, you must beware.”
A seminal and excellent documentary, Directed by Pierre Lasry, Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 1983 “Captive Minds: Hypnosis and Beyond,” can now be seen online. The film examines the vulnerability, malleable nature and suggestibility of the human mind. The documentary looks at various examples of trance induction through religious rituals, chanting, meditation, training and hypnosis, as seen within an array of situations, venues and groups.
There seems to be a pattern of manipulation within Sha’s teachings that can be seen as form of mind control to gain undue influence. For example, there are thoughts, which are labeled “wrong thoughts” Sha suggests (See pages 80-82), “That unpleasant though is not from your mind. It is another soul that affected you.” And he offers a “formula,” which consists of chanting and visualization, to purge wrong thoughts from the mind.
Sha elaborates (see page 209) on the net results of the incessant chanting he insists upon. “Many people want to chant. Many people want to meditate. Many people cannot do it for a long period of time. Some people chant for a few minutes and stop. Some people could lose hope and think chanting and meditation are not for them. Some people want to empty their minds. They may have difficulty emptying their minds in meditation. They could become frustrated.”
Sha seems to be urging his devotees to exceed the limits of what Conway, Siegelman and Singer might consider reasonable, to reach his stated goal, which is apparently the “emptying [of] their minds.”
What is the effect of all this emptying?
How does it ultimately affect the thinking of Master Sha’s devoted followers?
One says (see page 189), “As we were chanting it seemed as if all of our bodies were doing a cultivation process. As we were pulling the light and energy from the planets, stars, galaxies, and universe…My body turned into golden light.” And all this light is attributed directly to Master Sha. Another devotee tells Sha (see page 189), “When you started to chant with us, it was amazing. When you opened your mouth, the words became golden, went out into the universe, and came back to us. We received blessings beyond words.”
This would seem to parallel and reflect the net result of excessive chanting and meditation, which is the delusions and hallucinations described by Conway, Siegelman and Singer.
There is also evidently an element of emotional control as well in Master Sha’s teachings. He says (see page 36), “The heart is more crucial than the mind in determining the degree of consciousness one has…Reality depends on one’s soul, heart, mind and body.”
Here Sha seems to be referring to the “heart” as the figurative center of emotion and feeling. In their book Holy Terror Conway and Siegelman explain how ritualized instructions tied to specific beliefs, writings and images can be manipulated to suppress a person’s bedrock emotional responses and everyday feelings in a systematic effort to promote obedience and compliance.
One of Sha’s critics says, “Dr Sha uses brainwashing methods to keep those attending retreats constantly busy from early morning to late at night with little or no time to eat and little time to sleep. There is no real time for them to contact family members or the outside world,” says one critic (Cult Education Institute public message board November 07, 2008). Another critic elaborates, “His retreats are run like a brainwashing camp. The participants get up early, run all day with little food, time to do anything, but attend meetings and go till late at night…People who attend these Soul Enlightenment Retreats come home totally brainwashed in the dialogue of the cult, Sha’s divine nature and stories of amazing healings” (Cult Education Institute public message board November 05, 2009).
Sleep deprivation and control over the environment and communication are the hallmarks of cultic manipulation and thought reform. Robert Jay Lifton, who wrote the book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, describes this as “milieu control.” Lifton wrote, “The most basic feature of the thought reform environment, the psychological current upon which all else depends, is the control of human communication. Through this milieu control the totalist environment seeks to establish domain over not only the individual’s communication with the outside (all that he sees and hears, reads or writes, experiences, and expresses), but also – in its penetration of his inner life – over what we may speak of as his communication with himself. It creates an atmosphere uncomfortably reminiscent of George Orwell’s 1984.”
Lifton also wrote about the three most basic principle characteristics of a destructive cult in his paper “Cult Formation,” published at Harvard University. He explains that perhaps the most pivotal feature of a cult is “a charismatic leader who increasingly becomes an object of worship…”
The central importance and significance of Master Sha is emphasized in his book and echoed within it by follower after follower. One participant at a retreat states (see page 191), “The first thing I saw was that Master Sha was creating a Jin Dan for the readers of this book. He started by calling the light of Mother Earth. Then Master Sha called Heaven’s light. I saw Heaven opening. I saw the golden light from Heaven coming…Next, Master Sha called the Tao light. Tao light came and enveloped the [Jing Qi Shen] of Mother Earth’s golden light and Heaven’s golden light.”
Sha apprarently is not only heaven’s mouth, he is also the chosen vessel and vehicle of The Source. He seems to be the impetus for everything.
Has Master Sha created a personality-driven “cult”?
One devoted follower seems (see page 231) to have found the ultimate chant, which is simply chanting the name “Master Sha,” which is recommended by Sha. The devotee says, “I said I needed a tool to break through. Master Sha said, ‘Chant Master Sha.’ The mortar started to crumble away. The more I chanted, the more it started to recede above me…Master Sha and the golden light all around…what Master Sha has created today…”
The key ingredient always seems to be Master Sha as the essential element required for everything.
Another follower exclaims (see page 231), “Thank you Master Sha for this priceless treasure…” Another states (see page 234), “We are in a time warp with Master Sha. There is no time, no space–just this incredible place.”
Master Sha is rather specific about his singular status and special importance. Sha states (see page 65), “In July 2003 I (Master Sha) was chosen as a divine servant, vehicle, and channel. I was given the divine honor and authority to offer Karma Cleansing. I have created more than thirty Divine Channels who offer Divine Karma Cleansing services. Together, my Divine Channels and I have created nearly six thousand Divine Healing Hands Soul Healers around the world.”
Sha appears to be the sole means of validation. Only through him the “divine servant, vehicle and channel” can his followers become “Divine Channels.”
One critic states, “His meetings are like a tent revival with people claiming miraculous [healing]. Members swoon and clap.” “Supposedly he sends blessings through the air. Cult members have jars of water that are energized with healing power for physical or psychological benefit,” says the same critic. But, “There is no [meaningful] follow up to see if the healing [is] genuine” (Cult Education Institute public message board November 07, 2008).
People are healed because they subjectively feel they are through their group experience and because Sha says so, speaking as a divine authority.
“If you have an ailment, Dr. Sha may ‘download’ a new organ for you by grasping the top of your head with his hand and putting on quite a show as he grunts and shakes, although he also does this remotely to [thousands] at a time, without having to touch anyone at all. Some days he may download a whole system like ‘Divine Digestive System,’ other days it may be just an organ like ‘Divine Liver,'” says another critic (Cult Education Institute public message board February 21, 2009).
“He’s here for one thing: to make money from others suffering. He’s very skilled at mind control and has a number of people, his followers, under the delusion that he’s a being more powerful than God,” summarizes a critic (Cult Education Institute public message board January 27, 2013). While another critic warns, “It just seems to me that they are frauds not only morally but also under civil law – Practicing Medicine Without a License – you cannot claim medical cures” (Cult Education Institute public message board March 05, 2009).
But sadly it seems Sha’s influence can potentially produce negative changes in his followers.
One critic observed, “What I personally experienced was the transformation of good people into competitive, lying, and hurtful fanatical members who would do anything to be special and gain Sha’s favor…even if that meant lying or slandering another student to block or harm their soul journey. The issues regarding money are well documented in previous postings. I saw many spend their life savings and deny their families so that they could progress on their soul journey with expensive downloads, webcasts, and retreats,” says one critic (Cult Education Institute public message board July 31, 2011). The same critic concludes, “There is a fanatical air that seems to be promoted with great zeal.”
Who and what is “Dr. & Master Zhi Gang Sha?
Is Zhi Gang Sha a real medical doctor with an M.D. from an accredited and well recognized institution, or merely a poser and charlatan?
Is he a “faith healer” following in the footsteps of controversial Pentecostal preacher Benny Hinn? Or is Sha a sinister “cult leader” manipulating people through “brainwashing” so he can financially bilk them?
Is Zhi Gang Sha a legitimate “best-selling” author or a master of manipulation?
Zhi Gang, Sha, Soul Mind Body Science System: Grand Unification Theory and Practice for Healing, Rejuvenation, Longevity, and Immortality. BenBella Books, 2014.
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Forum, public message board, Cult Education Institute, Trenton, New Jersey, June 07, 2008 — February 25, 2013.
Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change, 2nd ed. (New York: Stillpoint Press, 2005).
Singer, Margaret, Cults in Our Midst (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 1996).
“Captive Minds: Hypnosis and Beyond,” Documentary, Directed by Pierre Lasry, Montreal: National Film Board of Canada, 1983, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnloSvB2pCY, (accessed April 7, 2015).
Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman, Holy Terror: The Fundamentalist War on America’s Freedoms in Religion, Politics, and Our Private Lives (New York: Doubleday, 1982).
Robert Jay Lifton, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012).
Robert Jay Lifton, “Cult Formation,” Harvard Metal Health Letter, February 1981.
About the Author: Rick Alan Ross is the author of the book Cults Inside Out: How People Get In and Can Get Out and executive director of the Cult Education Institute of New Jersey. Ross has been qualified as an expert and testified in numerous court proceedings across the United States, including United States Federal Court.