(Shared at the Great Lakes 2000 Conference)

Esteemed Master, fellow practitioners,

My name is Zhi Xianwu; I am a Dafa practitioner from Michigan. I acquired the Fa in Beijing in May 1998 and came to the United States at the end of December 1998. I have been in Dafa cultivation for two and a half years.

Today I would like to share with you some thoughts and experiences in my cultivation since 20 July of last year.

1. Regarding stepping forward

Ever since the April 25 incident, I have viewed my fellow practitioners' courageous deeds in Zhongnanhai with great admiration. Reflecting on my own cultivation there was indeed a lot left to be desired. This has prompted me to become more diligent.

I was shocked to learn that the Chinese government had arrested a large number of practitioners on July 20. I could not comprehend nor accept the fact that the government was maliciously suppressing my fellow practitioners in China when they had not done anything wrong. On July 21st, I went to the Chinese Consulate in Chicago [to convey my heart-felt indignation]. I firmly believe that the practitioners inside China and outside are one body, and the suppression of practitioners in China is akin to dealing the same blow to practitioners abroad. This is thus totally unacceptable.

Since July 22nd, I have gone to Washington DC three times to participate in events there. However before each trip, I would always hesitate and worry; but after I got there, I would realize that it was the right thing to do. Through this process, I have rid myself of a number of attachments and have made advances. During the 10-hour travel each way, we exchanged experiences and felt we had improved our understanding of the Fa.

It has not been easy stepping forward each time. My wife was the only breadwinner in the family, and she had not been at her job for very long. She borrowed a lot of money when she was studying. I was also paying for my own studies early on. The pressure lessened somewhat only after I obtained a scholarship in January this year.

Sometimes my wife would join us for group Fa study, but has not started her own cultivation, though she has had some understanding of "Zhen, Shan, Ren". Through contacts with fellow practitioners, she could gauge that I was not conducting myself well because I was not doing well in my cultivation; and that other fellow practitioners were behaving better because they were doing better in their cultivation. Thus she has some understanding of my cultivation practice however, she has yet to lend her unequivocal support for my stepping forward.

After the first trip to Washington DC, I really hesitated about telling her I wanted to go to DC a second time. Every trip needs money. I did earn some money from my summer job, but that was hardly enough to pay for my regular expenses, not to mention tuition fees. I thought there was no way she would consent. However, I felt compelled to go. I had gained so much being a Dafa practitioner. At a time when Dafa needed me to step forward, I was using personal problems as excuses. I would not feel right if I did not show my support for Dafa. After endless cerebrated debate, I finally mustered up enough courage to ask her. But as expected, she was cool to the idea. I felt a bit sorry but I was determined to go. When she realized how determined I was, she caved in and after making me agree to a few quite reasonable conditions, gave me some money for me to go.

When the third trip came, it was even more difficult to raise the issue. My wife said to me, "I don't object to your cultivation. But you have already been there twice; so you have shown your support. We are not like the other families; they have two wage earners. They have green cards. They have no worries. Aren't you worried about problems we might face when the time comes that we have to go back to China? Besides, you've already done it twice. Some cultivators have not been there at all." From the ordinary people's perspective, what she said was very reasonable and I really could not top that. But I thought to myself, how could I possibly hang on to these ordinary people's way of thinking, stay at home and call myself a Dafa disciple; when there is a warrant issued for Master's arrest. I simply could not! If she wouldn't agree, I just had to go without her knowledge.

We had planned to leave in the afternoon; my wife would be at work at that time. Conditions would have been just right for me to sneak out; and I had already written her a note. But later the plan was changed, and we had to leave after work hours. Also we had to meet at a different practitioner's home that I had never been to. I was calling around for this fellow practitioner's home address but could not reach anyone. I was disenchanted and thought that I would not get to go this time after all. My wife came back and read my note. I explained that I had planned to sneak out but because I could not find anyone, I couldn't go. She did not seem to be at all surprised; I realized then that she wasn't as determined to stop me going as I had thought. I felt disheartened not being able to get in touch with any fellow practitioner, and go. The agreed time to meet had passed. But at that very moment, a practitioner called and asked if I still wanted to go. With the phone in my hand, I asked my wife. Sensing the way I felt, she said, "Go ahead. You could go nuts if I don't let you go." So I set foot on my third trip to D.C. relieved.

I felt that we were all connected as one. I also realized that as long as I had the will, Master would always arrange for me to do what I wanted to do for Dafa, albeit with a little test..

During my second trip to D.C. last summer, there was a fellow practitioner who was visiting his son in the US. He sneaked out from his son's home and came to D.C. When he was in D.C., he was worried that his son would be mad at him; so he prepared himself to uphold his xinxing (mind nature, moral character/ed) and to calmly face any eventuality that may arise. But when he got home from Washington D.C., his family acted as if nothing had happened. His son quietly said that he should tell him if he wanted to go out again, so he could ensure he had enough money with him; and that he should not spend fellow practitioner's money thereby losing De. That was totally beyond everyone's expectation and everyone felt the power of Dafa.

At the Dafa convention in New York this April, there was another fellow practitioner who sneaked out. When he left home, he did not have his wallet and clothes with him. When he went back, nothing untoward happened to him. It only sent a message to his family of his conviction to Dafa, and they have not tried to stop him for any events since.

If these experiences are "tests", I believe we can pass them if we really want to, as long as we keep our heart righteous, and set our mind on the Fa. Looking back, they don't seem to amount to much, all it takes is determination to take the initial step; after that, perhaps we reach a different level.

This year I participated in the New York Dafa convention in April; the celebration activities of "World Falun Dafa Day" in Toronto in May; the Dafa conventions in Chicago and Washington D.C.; the mass assembly in New York in September, and again in Chicago in October. I have also been to the many activities within Michigan. The more I step forward, the more I realize how important stepping forward is to my cultivation. It also becomes increasingly effortless. When I feel the need to step forward, I can now do so with ease. It's no longer a major decision to make. It has in fact become routine.

2. Diligence in Dafa cultivation

In early November last year, my child was born. Suddenly things became hectic. For two weeks I did not participate in group practice or Fa study. I learned from email exchanges between fellow practitioners that they were advancing rapidly. I felt I had become a bystander. I clearly felt distanced from my fellow practitioners, so much so that for a long time afterwards I was still trying to catch up.

From this experience, I no longer dare to neglect my cultivation. It's a matter of enlightenment quality whether and how much I comprehend. But if I relax my self-discipline or Fa study, the loss would be my own doing.

3. My little dizi[disciple] at home

My daughter Xiaozhen was born on Nov 3rd last year and had her first birthday last month. When she was little, I played audiotapes of Master's lectures to her; notwithstanding objections from my mother-in-law. After a while my mother in-law stopped interfering. Thereafter whenever I was home I would play the audiotapes for my daughter. During Thanksgiving last year, we had intensive group Fa studies and I took her along with me for two days and completed Zhuan Falun. During Christmas, we had nine days of Fa study and I took her with me the whole time. Everyone noticed that she was really quiet and did not cry or cause any disturbance. She has been growing up really well. Although she is only one year old she looks more like a two-year old. She is very friendly, not shy with strangers and smiles at everyone. Now whenever we have Fa study, I will take her along. She plays alone while we study the Fa. Fellow practitioners call her "little dizi".

In April this year, I took her with me to the Dafa convention in Toronto; and in June my wife and I, along with my daughter, attended the Chicago Dafa convention.

Having a child with me does take up a lot of time that I could otherwise spend on Fa study or practice. On the other hand, this is good for my own cultivation. I learn to relinquish sentiments towards the child. This does not mean lack of closeness or neglect however. When I regard everything as part of cultivation, and regard my child as a practitioner, then it is much easier to resolve many issues. Because of cultivation, the child has developed along nicely. My wife also appreciates what I am doing. What is important is to have my child with me so that she is also in an environment of cultivation, which will definitely benefit her.

November 3rd this year was my daughter's first birthday. My wife had agreed to take care of her and celebrate the birthday with her, while I could go to a Fa-promotion event. However she changed her mind after coming back from work one afternoon and said that I should stay home for our daughter's birthday. She said someone else could easily take my place for the Fa-promoting event. Besides, there would be several guests coming, and she might not be able to cope by herself. I could understand her predicament and I loved the child too. But I had signed up for the event, and everything was already arranged. I really did not want to back out at the last minute.

My reasoning being, although my daughter's birthday celebration was important, the Fa-promotion event was of greater importance to me and I should not look for other people to substitute. That was what I should do for Dafa. So I did not give in. As soon as the guests arrived, I settled them in. My wife excused on my behalf with the guests and ushered me to leave lest I be late for the event. After the night's Fa-promotion activities, we also had a long discussion on the organization of the event. By the time I got home, it was one o'clock. My daughter was already fast asleep; the guests had left but my wife was still up waiting. I did not feel sorry for not staying for my daughter's birthday party. My wife did not show any displeasure with me either. I felt what I did was good for all concerned.

4. My final thoughts

In the recent lecture in San Francisco, Master said to the dizi who had stepped forward: "I thank you all". All of the dizi felt undeserving, knowing that we still have a long way to go. I felt the same way. Ever since ancient times, there has seldom been a Master saying "thank you" to dizi. As a dizi, regardless of what one does for Master, it has always been a matter of course. Master and Dafa have given us so much; our gratitude is beyond expression. Even if we have done some little pitiful things, aren't those also opportunities that Master has given us to elevate ourselves? Without these opportunities, how can we cultivate and advance? Therefore, even if we have the opportunity to do something within Dafa, in reality it is by courtesy of Master and Dafa; we are merely utilizing it to cultivate ourselves. As mortal beings, notwithstanding Master's acceptance of us as practitioners, we are nonetheless human beings; and within the boundless Dafa, we amount to hardly anything. It is our Master who cherishes us. Therefore, what we do for Dafa is what we must do and we in fact do it for ourselves. Even sacrificing our lives for Master and Dafa is insignificant and we should not hesitate to do. Dafa created everything in the Universe; Master and Dafa do not need us to do that. It is solely for the sake of our advancement, that Master has been telling us again and again to relinquish human mentality, attachments and sentiments.

In fact, giving up one's life is not so difficult; to relinquish attachments is. For the practitioners in China, it takes a great deal of sacrifice and involves a great deal of danger for them to step forward. They could lose freedom, family, job, personal properties and even life itself. They have indeed given these up and stepped forward without hesitation. What they gained is sublimation and freedom in a far greater realm, which cannot be measured in material riches. What a realm of existence that is! In comparison, what have we, the practitioners in this free world and especially me, done for Dafa? What is there in this world for us to genuinely give up that is worth talking about when we step forward. For me, there is nothing. What must be relinquished are the human sentiments and attachments that once relinquished will lead to further advancement. It is high time for us to do so. Master values us so much. He cherishes us so much. He has given us opportunities again and again. We cannot but treasure ourselves and cherish the opportunity. I now understand when Master said, "I cherish you more than you do yourselves". This is so true indeed.

As Dizi, what we really should do is "validate the Fa with reason, clarify the truth with wisdom, spread the Fa and offer people salvation with benevolence"(Rationality). Let us forsake our mental baggage. Regardless of what we feel about Master's "Thank you" statement, whether uneasy or undeserving, let us treat Master's remark as motivation or Master's expectation of the rest of us; let us strive to do better, relinquish all human sentiments and attachments; let us be diligent; and strive to follow and help Master's Fa-rectification process in this human world; to reach consummation and to attain the highest level possible within the boundless Dafa.

I'd like to thank my wife. Through her understanding and support, she helped me relinquish many human sentiments and attachments.

Finally, I thank our most compassionate Master from the bottom of my heart.

Thank you all.