Cultivation of Selflessness
Shared at 2004 Washington DC Falun Dafa Conference
(Clearwisdom.net) Greetings to venerable Teacher and fellow practitioners,
I remember that, on my cultivation path, I used to always think about how to pass a certain test or how to eliminate a certain attachment. At the end of last year when I thought back about my cultivation path, everything became so simple. That is, when I put together the several incidents that had the biggest impact on me, I realized that the cultivation path is a journey of cultivating "selflessness."
After I'd been practicing Falun Gong for about a year, whenever I read the part in Zhuan Falun that says, "But as more beings are created, community-like social relationships form. Some of the beings might grow selfish and gradually lower their levels, so they can't stay at that level and have to drop," I always wondered why it said that selfishness might "grow stronger" instead of that selfishness might "form." At that time I couldn't quickly find the answer to this question so I didn't think much about it. Through studying the Fa constantly, my understanding now is that "selfishness" must have permeated all the way up to very high levels. The level we are supposed to cultivate to is the level at which we are no longer selfish.
In 1998, I took a required course in Law. The professor who taught the class talked very fast. Half of the people in my class took a small recorder with them and taped the professor's lectures. I did very well on the first exam, so gradually some of my classmates wanted to start borrowing my notes. Without any hesitation I lent my notes to three or four classmates, then to seven or eight classmates. But when half of the class and even people from other classes wanted to borrow my notes, I started to feel increasingly unsettled. I thought to myself, "Don't you all have your tape recordings, why don't you go home and transcribe from your tape recordings? I had to spend a whole night transcribing from my tape and you people just casually take away the notes that I worked so hard on." As a cultivator I clearly knew that it was my attachment that was at work, therefore, whether I liked it or not, I never refused any classmate's request.
In March 2001, during the sessions of Geneva's human rights commission, I went to Geneva to join the peaceful activities. On my way back to my hotel after attending an activity, I passed by some stores and saw a handbag that I liked very much. I wanted to purchase the handbag but my husband disagreed, and in the end I didn't buy it. I was very unhappy. I just couldn't understand--my husband never cared what I bought before, why would he just not let me buy it this time? However, while being unhappy, at the same time I also thought about what attachment I needed to discard. While on the flight back to New York, there were two "me's" asking and answering questions back and forth. The me on the one side asked, "If all the money you make were spent on making truth-clarification materials, and not one penny was spent on yourself, would you embrace that?"
When I was asked that question, the "me" that felt wronged was caught by surprise, "Wow, not a penny for myself! But, I made the money, can't I spend a little?" The "me" on the other side replied firmly, "No, not a penny for yourself, and you would live in a shed and drink plain tea and eat simple food. Your whole salary would be spent on making truth-clarification materials. Would you embrace that?"
Asking myself that question, the "me" that was an ordinary person started to hesitate. A picture actually started to form in my mind: a small shed standing in the wilderness; the wind continuously blowing away the straw on its roof; only one bed in the shed; me standing right by the bed, with a bowl in my hand in which there's only rice soaked in water.
Although I was just asking myself the question, I felt as if I had personally gone through the experience of losing my home that I always thought was a comfortable one, not spending any of my salary on myself, and eating rice soaked in water in that shed with nothing but bare walls.
I thought for a while and told myself, one word at a time, "I - would - embrace - it."
As soon as that thought emerged, I felt a release in my mind. I suddenly understood something that I had not been able to understand.
Once, several fellow practitioners came over to my home. During lunch a practitioner accidentally stained my new tablecloth. The fellow practitioner felt very bad about it. At the time I did not really mind and thought to myself, "I'll just wash it and it'll be okay." When I discovered that I couldn't wash it out, right away I got upset about it, and I started to complain about that fellow practitioner's carelessness. At the time I didn't realize why I thought it was okay when I assumed the dirty tablecloth could be washed clean, yet started to complain when I found out that it couldn't.
When I decided to embrace the idea of living in a shed, drinking plain tea and eating simple food, and giving up all the money I make and not leaving a penny for myself, I understood the following: I used to think that I was "selfless," but actually, that was not "selfless," that was just a display of ordinary human generosity where the precondition was that my self-interest would go unharmed.
At the end of 2001 I became an official part of the TV station. Before the TV programs were to be broadcasted via satellite, we had about two months to practice and prepare. During that time I went to the TV station after I got off work. Going home around 12:30 a.m. was considered early for me, and instead, I usually went home at around 1 a.m. Practitioners whose job was program editing worked even harder--they usually couldn't leave until 3 or 4 a.m. And we all had to work the next day.
The first training I had was in pronunciation and makeup. A fellow practitioner whose profession was in makeup taught me how to put it on. I looked at the cosmetics on the desk and could only recognize a few of them, and even then I didn't know how to use them. Of course, makeup was just one of the many things--there was hair, clothing, accessories, and then when I'm on the air, there's the expression on my face, the tone I use, and the speed and articulation of my words. Putting all these elements together presents to the viewers the whole image of a TV anchorperson, and at the same time, the image of an anchorperson is also the image of a TV station.
During the two months of practicing for the satellite launch, something happened that had an enormous impact on my cultivation.
One night I was rehearsing for reporting TV news. I rehearsed with a program editor, and we rehearsed as if we were actually making the news program. I was in front of the camera from 8 p.m. until 12 o'clock midnight. On my way home I thought, "After four hours of work, we should probably have produced a half-hour news program." The next day I asked the editor, "How long was the news program we produced last night?" "Ten minutes," he said. I couldn't believe my ears, so I asked, "Only ten minutes of news?" "Yup, only ten minutes." On my way home I kept thinking, "Four hours for ten minutes. So in order to do a thirty-minute news program, we'll have to work twelve hours. If we started working at 8 p.m. and worked until 8 a.m. the next morning, then I would be able to make it to work by 9 a.m." I thought I could stay up and work all night. But I didn't know how long I could last.
Ever since I started practicing Falun Gong, I had never been fearful of any tribulation or test, because I have Dafa, and as long as I study the Fa I can pass any test. Nevertheless, at that time, I felt that making a half-hour news program was harder than climbing up to the sky. I thought about how some other practitioners who did truth-clarification work, consistently and clearly understood what they were doing. Then I thought about myself. I understood before that what I did was necessary for truth-clarification, yet now I was doing ordinary people's programs. How do I understand the connection between that and truth-clarification and saving sentient beings? Should I go back to doing what I used to do? Some practitioners had already filled the roles I had left. Should I continue doing TV programs? After thinking about all this, I still wasn't able to understand the link between what I was doing and validating Dafa and saving sentient beings. At that time I felt deeply that not being able to find my role in validating the Fa and saving sentient beings was something more painful than any other tribulation or test I had ever encountered in my cultivation.
Then the 2002 New York Fa Conference took place and Teacher sent out a congratulatory statement. I kept reciting these words from the "Congratulatory Statement to the New York Fa Conference," "At present, all that you are doing is the most sacred, all that you are doing is for the sentient beings..." I told myself, "Teacher said that what we're doing is the most sacred, so that must also include the TV programs that I'm working on. Teacher affirmed what we're doing. Just go ahead and do it and it will be alright, and I'll be doing what a Falun Dafa disciple is supposed to do." I kept reciting those words in order to strengthen my righteous thoughts.
During those few days, I kept reciting another sentence from that same congratulatory statement: "...everything of yours that is pure and righteous will be what ensures that the colossal firmament has formation and stasis, but not destruction." I enlightened from Teacher's words that how long future beings live depends on how pure and righteous my cultivation is. The more pure and righteous my cultivation is, the longer those beings will live.
One day while on my way to work, I thought to myself, in order for those beings to live longer, I have to make more sacrifices in my cultivation now. I do not know how many beings there will be in my world in the future. And even if there are only about a dozen of them, in order for them to live longer, no matter how difficult it is, I'll persist in cultivating and making it through.
As soon as this thought came out, I immediately felt a release in my mind. The attachments that I did not know how to get rid of just a few seconds ago now disappeared completely. At that moment I felt a thought coming from a very distant place and connected straight to me in this dimension: "In this cosmos, a being exists for the benefit of sentient beings--that is the most meaningful life."
At that moment, I had a new understanding of cultivation. To me, cultivation instantly became very simple and turned into a simple sentence: "Teacher uses this great Fa to teach me how to be selfless."
Afterwards, I did TV programs calmly and steadily.
Once when I was in front of the camera, I asked myself, "What do I have that can compare with America's main TV anchors?" I thought about my hair, makeup, clothing and reporting skills, and I said to myself, "Nothing." Those anchormen have professionals to market them, while I have to rely on myself and I cannot use other practitioners' time for that. Then I thought, "What do I have?" And I told myself, "I have Dafa. I want to display in front of the camera the peace and kindness that we cultivate from Falun Dafa, through my expressions and words, so that viewers can feel Falun Dafa's goodness through a cultivator's peace and kindness."
Here, I'd also like to mention another thing. On an extremely busy night, in the time spent from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m., I did a total of five programs, which included one five-minute program, one fifteen-minute program and three half-hour programs.
At the end of last year, I wasn't able to handle well the matter of spending time helping a friend who was a non-practitioner and I was caught up in human affection and could not break out of it. I felt that when I tried to follow Dafa disciples' standards to cultivate away human affection, everything in this dimension clung tightly to me and would not let me go. I told myself, as if I was telling those substances that I could not see, "No matter how difficult it is, I will definitely do what Teacher asks us to do. If I followed human attachments, I'd be walking toward a dead end. Only by doing what Teacher asks us to do can we have a bright future."
I understood that it was very important to clarify the truth. I also understood that I should put my mind to saving people. Yet, on the other hand I told myself, "Recently your cultivation was awful, why don't you cultivate yourself well first?" Then, more and more I thought about myself, and in the end I started to worry that I might have fallen down because I hadn't done well. Worrying about my cultivation level was an attachment I had when I first started practicing Falun Dafa. I thought to myself, "It's been so many years since that time, how come I've started to worry about this again?" For about two days what I thought was just, "Have I fallen?"
I knew that such a state was not right, so I calmed my mind and sorted out my thoughts. I asked myself, "What's the most important responsibility for a Falun Dafa disciple at present?" "It's clarifying the truth." "And what are you doing?" "I'm worried that I might have fallen." All of a sudden I realized: It turns out that when time is so precious and should be used to save sentient beings, I've been spending my precious time worrying about if I've fallen. It all boils down to being selfish. I told myself, even if I have fallen all the way down to the bottom, today I'll cultivate back up, starting from ground zero.
As soon as this thought emerged, all the other thoughts that interfered with me immediately disappeared.
Clarifying the truth is for the sake of saving sentient beings. Cultivating oneself well is also for the sake of saving sentient beings. Whenever I read this line, "And when you return, they will truly regard you as their Lord, their King, and have boundless reverence for you, because you saved them, you sacrificed for them, and you gave them everything they have," (Touring North America to Teach the Fa) I feel that countless pairs of eyes in this cosmos are watching me and these countless pairs of eyes are filled with expectation. I remind myself that I must cultivate myself well. I must live up to their expectation.
Teacher has saved me. I am giving my life to sentient beings. I'm using each and every moment of my eternal life that exists for sentient beings to be worthy of Teacher's grace in saving me.