A Letter to a Practitioner Who Went Astray -- Making Diligent Progress Together and Becoming Calmer, More Clearheaded, and Mature
Dear fellow practitioner, how are you?
After reading your letter, many thoughts went through my mind, for I had a similar experience. I'd like to share with you my experience, so that we can both learn from it.
I started practicing Falun Dafa at the end of 1998. I knew it was what I had been looking for all my life and I was very excited. I talked about it to whomever I met. However, I only stayed at home to read the Falun Dafa books and did not reach out to other practitioners. Sometimes I tried the movements in front of the mirror. I finally went in March of 1999 to find a practice site. Several months later, on July 20, Jiang Zemin's regime banned the practice. I was confused. The few practitioners I knew stopped practicing. What was I to do? A little later, the local police came to my home. They must have found out that I downloaded articles from the Clearwisdom website. They said either I signed the guarantee to renounce Falun Gong, or I would have to come to the police station with them. I signed the paper. After that I started smoking again. Bad habits of the past came back. I knew that this was the end of me and thus became numb to the world.
I was struggling in the sea of fame and self-interest. After searching within, I started to read Zhuan Falun again. I felt that Master immediately started looking after me again. I went back to practicing Dafa. Everything was fine until the spring of 2001. During the Chinese New Year, a member of our community public security office told me in secret, "The community committee is planning to send you to the brainwashing center." She repeatedly asked me not to reveal that she had told me about it. With my whole being, I refused to cooperate with the evil, and nothing ever came of it.
On the morning of May 1, the International Labor Day, I received a call from a local policeman from downstairs. He asked me to come and fix his computer at the police station. I was apprehensive, but he swore there was no trick. My wife didn't believe him, so she and our child came with us. Once we were at the police station, they forced me to go to the brainwashing center. The party secretary of the community was present. It was a horrible scene. My wife and kid were crying hard, watching me being taken away. Afterwards, the party secretary resigned.
During the subsequent two months, I experienced several big tests. My bunkmate at the brainwashing center was a practitioner who was suffering from demonic interference from his own mind. Seeing his behavior, along with my own problems, I felt I was at the verge of breaking down. During that particular time, I couldn't say anything or think of anything. I only thought about writing a repentant letter renouncing Falun Gong so that I could get out. I managed to recite again and again Master's articles and book of poems, Hong Yin. There was such heaviness in my heart. The pressure almost drove me crazy. I had to keep on reciting the Fa silently from morning till 9 to 10 o'clock at night. At that time my heart became lighter and the heaviness had disappeared. I could talk again. It took about five days to eliminate that stuff.
Two months later, people in the brainwashing center told me that someone had written the repentant letter. I didn't believe it. He was a veteran practitioner who attended Master's lectures three times. I only heard about practitioners who attended Master's lectures, but had never met them until I was taken to the brainwashing center. In my heart they were role models who had reached unreachable high levels. Yet they were forced to give up their beliefs! One after another, the practitioners in the brainwashing center succumbed. In the end, only an old man and I were left. They threatened us by saying that the armed police would be there soon. If we didn't sign the paper, we would be put in the hands of the armed police. I once read an article written by a Taiwanese person of how the armed police tortured him. I was extremely frightened. I convinced myself into thinking that it was all right since others signed the letters, so I gave in.
After I returned home, I regretted it deeply. As I read Master's new article "Dafa Is Indestructible," I cried loudly when I was alone at home. I knew in my heart that Falun Dafa was wonderful, yet I had signed a repentant letter.
Actually, that was just mere superficial agony. Later I found my attachments. At that time, all I could think of was to make amends. I distributed truth-clarifying materials everywhere. If I couldn't get the printed material, I would print some myself or wrote truth-clarifying articles. Three days before the New Year of 2002, police from the City Police Department broke into my home and took me for interrogation the same night.
I remember clearly what happened that night. The evil surrounded me, and my attachments surfaced. All I could do was to maintain a righteous mind and tell my wife that I would not commit suicide. If something would happen to me, no one else but the police was responsible for it. Because of my righteous thoughts, I was neither handcuffed nor tortured that night. At that time, I was determined to remain silent. Moreover, I kept sending forth righteous thoughts, so they would not be successful in capturing related practitioners. Finally they sent me to a forced labor camp. I thought I had to do well this time. I couldn't go astray any more.
In the labor camp, I studied the Fa [the teachings of Falun Dafa] with a calm mind and thought about my attachments. Gradually I found the attachment. In fact, I wasn't clear about cultivation. What is true cultivation? A veteran practitioner always told me to truly cultivate. At that time, I recited again and again Master's article "Towards Consummation" and Essentials for Further Advancement, especially the first few articles, which talk about the fundamental issues of cultivation. I felt I had to make it clear to myself. For example, in "Broad and Immense," Master says, "Only then can one truly see what the Fa is." In "Be Levelheaded," Master addressed the relationship between thought karma and bad thoughts. In "True Cultivation," Master reveals the truth of cultivation. All those are issues a cultivator should think thoroughly through. Even when he is not very clear about them, he should, as he makes progress in cultivation, get a clear understanding of them. I realized that even if I were solely imprisoned in the labor camp so that I could clarify the truth of Dafa, it would not be true cultivation if I would not let go of my deeply rooted attachments.
After studying the Fa with a calm mind, I understood why I was taken by force to the brainwashing center and labor camp. "It is precisely because of one's ill intentions that one brings to oneself bad things." (Zhuan Falun) I didn't really solve many fundamental issues. Strictly speaking, I am only in the beginning stages of learning to practice Dafa, but not yet a Dafa disciple. It is not that Master isn't protecting us, but it is us who are asking for all the tribulations. Master couldn't help me, nor could the Falun help me. The righteous gods and guardian gods were restricted and couldn't help either.
Did I really resolve the issues Master addressed in "Towards Consummation" and "True Cultivation"? Why would I suffer and be afraid? What elements made me give in to the evil? "As a matter of fact, when you agonize over infringements upon your reputation, self-interest, and feelings among everyday people, it already indicates that you cannot let go of ordinary human attachments. You must remember this: Cultivation itself is not painful--the key lies in your inability to let go of ordinary human attachments. Only when you are about to let go of your reputation, interests, and feelings will you feel pain." ("True Cultivation") The nature of cultivation is to give up the attachments, the attachment to everything in this world. In the past, the cultivators usually left home and went to a monastery. We don't need to go to monasteries, but our cultivation has a higher standard. If we could completely get rid of the attachments, who could make our hearts move?
Master has said, "If so, you cannot be counted as my disciple." ("Towards Consummation") It is indeed a serious matter. After I recognized my attachments, I felt like a huge gate had opened and the true principles of the Fa just poured towards me like a tide. The wonderfulness was inconceivable. Only then did I understand a little about cultivation.
After recognizing my attachments, my situation in the labor camp changed. No one kept an eye on me any more. The inmates assigned by the guards to punish me were very good to me. They didn't make any trouble for me, nor would the guards come to bother me. At that time, they were running an intense campaign to force practitioners to give up their beliefs. Yet no one came to force me. So I studied the Fa and sent forth righteous thoughts, and felt quite peaceful.
I am not saying that I have done extremely well. In reality, there was another unresolved serious attachment that produced great trouble for me later on. Cultivation is really not kids play. When there is a strong attachment that's not eliminated, it is likely for this person to go to the opposite side. No matter how well one did in the past, it was the past. The nature of cultivation is to get rid of the attachments. There is no compromise in that. It doesn't matter if one makes mistakes. The point is to find the attachments and let them go.
After I was released from the labor camp, I was taken to the police station. They said that I would be sent to the brainwashing center. My mind was very firm and righteous. In the end, they let me go home. However, what was waiting for me at home was a larger tribulation. My wife used to be a practitioner. Although she didn't cultivate diligently, she was very supportive of me. After I experienced one year of torture and persecution and returned home exhausted, I found that my wife stopped practicing and she was having an affair. She pressed me for a divorce. At the beginning, I had a strong righteous mind. Gradually, my human thoughts emerged. I started to feel miserable. I wanted so much to save my marriage, and my righteous thoughts soon weakened. One day the police came to my home and took me by force to the brainwashing center. This time I was haunted by strong human attachments and had no righteous thoughts at all. Although I knew it was wrong, I gave in.
I couldn't even cry out this time. My heart felt like ice. After I returned home, I saw that it was impossible to save my marriage. It was a period just as Master described in Zhuan Falun about the people who had to endure hardship after hardship. I tried very hard to find a job, but failed. I owed a lot of money before I started practicing. All my creditors came to claim their money. My wife sometimes said coldly, "Look at you. You are good for nothing. Your career is a failure. Now you can't even find a job. Your personal life is a mess. Even someone else pays the tuition fee for your child (it was paid by her boyfriend). You practiced Falun Gong, but renounced it." She said she had been taking care of the child during the time I was in jail. Now since I was back, it was my turn to take care of the child. So I took care of the child while she went out with her boyfriend to restaurants. When I agreed to the divorce, she said, in return, she could ask her boyfriend to get me a job. Even my classmate (who is also her classmate) felt sorry for me, saying, "You are hopeless." I knew that at that time, everyone felt sorry for me and despised me. It is the reflection of a certain level in the human world. It was the result of my betraying Dafa.
My dear fellow practitioner, I understand how you feel, for I have been through that before. Under the arrangement of the old forces and the persecution of many beings, I almost collapsed. I really had the following thoughts, "What is there to live for in this world? If I jump from a bridge, all my troubles will come to an end."
However, in my heart I knew that Master was still taking care of me. Anyone can despise me, but Master will not. Master must feel sad seeing me like this, but he would never give up on me unless I gave up on myself. That thought kept me going. Although I was at the lowest point of my life, I kept on studying the Fa and sending forth righteous thoughts. I decided to double my efforts to make up for the loss. I would not slack off in doing the three things.
When there seemed to be no hope, I suddenly found a pretty good job as department manager in a company. With a relatively high salary, I didn't have to worry about finances too much. I started to clarify the truth in the new environment and gradually came back to the path of cultivation.
Looking back at the detours I took, I came to understand more clearly the reasons behind them. Actually, Master summarized it in one sentence, "All who have been supposedly 'reformed' are people who couldn't let go of their attachments to [things of] humans and who stepped forward with the idea that they might be lucky." ("A Suggestion") When it comes to the understanding of this sentence, there are profound principles on one level after another.
What is attachment to things of humans? Sometimes I thought I understood it and no one was able to affect me any more, and then I found that I actually hadn't. To put it in simple words, all I found was the "pathogenic qi" "black qi." I didn't really know the fundamental reasons that caused the illness. Therefore, although it looked cured on the surface, the root was not eliminated. When the time comes, it will make itself known again. In the past I thought I could be considered as one of those practitioners who stepped forward. I was clarifying the truth to people. When distributing flyers, I "covered" one residential community after another. However, if the root cause was not solved, it is similar to an everyday person doing good things for Dafa. Master says in "Unintentional" (Hong Yin):
Cultivations in three religions all teach "unintentional",
Using mind improperly is intentional;
Doing good things only is still intentional,
Removal of attachments is truly unintentional.
It is just because the root problems were not resolved that the old forces wouldn't let go of me. My thoughts encouraged them to take advantage of my loopholes. So they thought they could help me and take care of me. After all, I asked for it. So Master couldn't do anything about it. As Master says in Zhuan Falun, "Nobody will force you or make you practice cultivation." That's how I had gone astray.
It seemed complicated when addressing this issue and that issue. Actually it's pretty easy to solve those problems. It's so easy that I myself find it hard to believe. Master has said it already, "To a genuine practitioner, I would say that it is very easy and not something too high to reach." (Zhuan Falun). If Master says, "it is very easy," it must be very easy, for it is the Fa. Why is it easy? My understanding is that our cultivation way is "the Fa cultivates the practitioner." As Master says in "Seeking Discipleship with Teacher," "All of the gong and Fa lie in the book, and one will naturally obtain them by reading Dafa." So I realized the importance of studying the Fa. Actually, all the problems, be they my fundamental attachments or shortcomings, are the elements carried by the beings in the old cosmos. They have come to the stage of degradation and destruction. Some carry more, others less. There is not much difference. Master is going to save us all. In this huge furnace of Dafa, what difference does it make if one throws in a piece of wood or a piece of steel?
So the critical point centers on studying the Fa. Everyone knows that already. But, I only came to understand the importance of this thought recently. The more I study the Fa, the more I feel that I am far from valuing Fa-study enough. No matter how highly you value Fa-study, you will feel that you haven't valued it highly enough. The understanding of "value highly" is different on different levels.
When I recite the part of "Why Doesn't Your Gong Increase with Your Practice?" (Zhuan Falun), I began to understand why people could ascend to high levels. As we know, when attachments are eliminated, one can ascend. Now there are two issues, how are attachments eliminated? How does one know what the attachment is? In the past, I hadn't really thought about those issues deeply enough. Now, when I recite the Fa, this thought does enter my mind. I realize that I am not very clear about those fundamental issues. It is actually the Fa that tells us what attachments we have. Sometimes, you think it is a righteous thought on this level, but from a higher level, you will see that it is actually an attachment that should be gotten rid of. Before you reach that higher level, you cannot know that it is actually an attachment. It is measured as attachment with a higher-level standard. As to eliminating the attachment, it is not something that we can do. "Cultivation depends on oneself, while Gong depends on one's Master." The attachment is manifested as a distorted element in higher levels. How can we change it? It is Master who is doing it. It is Dafa that's doing it. The reflection on the surface makes us know that we have such an attachment. Then we put a strict requirement on ourselves to get rid of it. However, the attachment that we are allowed to know is actually nothing but the "pathogenic qi" after the root of the sickness is eliminated.
To put it in simple words, the Fa tells us what attachments we have. The Fa also helps us get rid of the things at the root of those attachments. The Fa has also done a lot of things that we do not know yet.
Understanding that, I came to realize the meaning of Fa-study, a deeper meaning of "Fa cultivates the practitioner," and a deeper meaning of "very easy" said by Master. It is indeed very easy as long as you value Fa-study and study the Fa constantly. All the necessary changes will come along. There is no need for one to worry about it, and there is no use worrying about it.
I remember that many practitioners mentioned the issue when they shared their experiences. When one does well in Fa-study and makes breakthroughs in Fa-study, cultivation becomes easy. Often times, one makes progress without noticing it. There are fewer problems and less interference.
So far I can say that the reason for my going astray is not because of the attachments, but because of a lack of Fa-study. I didn't really study the Fa with a calm mind and learn everything with my heart. Before I was first put into the brainwashing center, I was busy doing business. My mind was full of business. I couldn't really calm down to study the Fa. Hence, the evil took advantage of this loophole. It was the same situation before I was taken to the labor camp. Although I studied several lectures a day, I did it by listening to the cassettes on the bus. I was sleepy and my mind was full of odd ideas. Thus the evil took advantage of this loophole again.
I realized that the attachment itself is not dangerous. What's dangerous is not studying the Fa. As long as we study the Fa with our hearts, we are walking along the path arranged by Master. During the process, the attachments will be eliminated. There is no room left for interference by the old forces. It is that simple and easy.
I went astray. Had I ended up in self-reproach, I would have died many times. The substance of self-reproach belongs to the same group as those that forced me to write repentant letters. One is external. The other is internal. They ganged up to try to destroy me. Because the latter appears in the form of your thoughts, it is more deceptive and hence more harmful. The things it accused you of sound reasonable and noble, yet they are meant to destroy you further.
So stop the self-reproach! It doesn't matter if one makes mistakes. The beings in the old cosmos have gone to the stage of degradation and destruction. Can they not make mistakes? What's more important is to find the reasons for the mistakes. If we fell to the ground, we certainly would not sit there forever. We would for sure get up and walk away. The point is to see clearly what made us fall so that we won't fall again in the same place or for the same reason.
The above is the understanding limited by my level. I put it down in words just to share with fellow practitioners and hope we will remind each other to progress diligently. Meanwhile, it is a way to examine my shortcomings. I hope we can all learn from these lessons and make progress together in Dafa.