Western Practitioner: Coming to New York
Shared at the 2005 New York International Falun Dafa Cultivation Experience Sharing Conference
(Clearwisdom.net) A couple weeks ago, a fellow practitioner asked me if I was going to write an experience sharing paper for the Fahui. I told him I wasn't, because I felt I had nothing profound to share. He told me that what might seem everyday to me might be profound to other practitioners, and could help them in their cultivation process. I said, "No, but I really don't have any stories to share." He said, "How about your decision to come to New York? That could be helpful for other practitioners who are thinking of coming, but are wavering and haven't done it. I want to write one, too. We should do it together." I still was resistant to writing one. Besides, I was too busy with other projects.
At that point, my alarm went off and it was time to Send Righteous Thoughts, so, we ended our discussion. After Sending Righteous Thoughts, I looked at him and said, "Alright, so when are we going to start writing?"
I had actually begun to realize last summer that I should come here to New York. At that time, I was about to enter my junior year in college. Out of the blue, my dad told me that it might be a good idea to take some time off school and get an internship, because the work experience would be good for my resume and help me get a job when I graduated.
Last October, I was flying from my home in California to the East Coast for personal reasons. So I decided to stop for a few days in New York to help out with truth-clarification activities, and also look for a job. My dad knew a couple people at a major bank, and helped me get three interviews with people from different departments.
This bank is the largest financial services company in the world. They have been doing business with China since 1902, and they have certainly made some deals with the Chinese Communist government. So when I went to the interviews, I felt that the most important thing was to clarify the truth, because if they didn't hire me, then they might not have another chance to know the truth.
Even though the first two interviewers showed no interest in hiring me, I made sure to tell them about Dafa.
My third interview was with one of the top managers for the bank in New York City. I got there early, and he wasn't in his office. The door was open, and I glanced inside. His walls were covered with awards and plaques from West Point Military Academy. When he arrived, we sat down and started talking. He was telling me about what he does, and what it's like to be a manager of so many thousand people, and so on, and then he looked at me and said, "You know, the most important thing about being a manager is to really let go of your ego." He paused to gauge my reaction. I looked at him inquisitively. He said that he meditates every day.
"No kidding! I meditate every day, too," I told him. "I practice Falun Gong." The rest of the interview was a half-hour philosophical discussion about mediation, letting go of attachments, and improvement through hardships. He seemed to understand at a deep level that I looked forward not to making money or the excitement of New York, but to improving my character through hardships.
I was offered the job.
But when I got home, some practitioners shared with me their understanding that I should not take time off of school to go to New York and do Fa-rectification things, because it might not conform to the normal way of living in society. I felt torn. I really want to leave a straight path for the future. But then I thought, well, people of the future will understand, it's for Fa-rectification.
Later, I realized that that excuse really didn't hold up, because anyone could use that justification to quit their job, leave their family, and only do Dafa work. So I decided not to go to New York.
But then I thought more about it. I had seen so many signs that I should go: my dad's suggestion, a job interview that was more than a coincidence, as well as hints from other people over the last several months.
I had a guaranteed job, so I had a means to support myself, and at this human level, a means to get job experience for the future. My school and parents were very supportive, and I had no major obligations at home.
So with my parents' encouragement and blessing, I took a one-year leave of absence from college and flew to New York.
Initially, I had reservations about working for a big company like this. Like many banks, they have done some questionable things over the years. In fact, were it not for the fact that they are doing millions of dollars worth of business with China, I would not have wanted to place myself there. But, I knew there were many people to clarify the truth to there. Plus, by paying me a salary that allowed me to live in New York, weren't they also contributing to Dafa, indirectly?
Because of my unique internship, they have rotated me through different departments. At my request, I spent a month in the Manhattan Chinatown branch. Every one of my co-workers was Chinese.
I decided that I would wait a little while to tell them that I was a Falun Gong practitioner. I thought: if I tell everyone right off the bat, if they have negative thoughts, it will prevent them from getting to know me. So I got to know people in a friendly way, and when co-workers saw that I spoke some Mandarin and had a strong affinity to Chinese culture, many of them liked to talk with me.
One day, after three weeks, a co-worker was bragging to me that in the future he would be a high-ranking Communist Party official. I knew that I had to talk to him about it and give him a chance to be saved. Sometimes, when I try to clarify the truth, I make the mistake of telling people the facts that I want them to hear. But after a recent discussion with a fellow practitioner, I realized that a better technique might be to ask them questions, listen to them, and find out what their notions are, so I can really help them break through their notions. I had been reading the Nine Commentaries the night before, and I felt it really opened up my wisdom.
"Do you know what happened in the Tiananmen Square incident?" I asked my co-worker.
"Yes, the student attacked the soldiers and set them on fire," he said.
I asked him if he'd seen the videos played by Western media that showed that in fact the soldiers killed several hundred unarmed students. He said he hadn't, but anyway, China has to maintain social stability. After all, where would China be without the Party?
I asked him, "For whose sake is it important to maintain stability? The government or the people? Aren't the people what are most important?" He nodded his head in agreement. "The Communist Party has only been around for fifty years," I said, "but the Chinese people have a glorious five-thousand-year history. Historically speaking, they are the most advanced civilization on Earth. So, with or without the CCP, won't the people do just fine?" He seemed to understand. I continued, "But the Communist government has killed so many of its own people - the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution..."
But China is improving, he told me. I said that I had just read in the New York Times that millions of Christians were being persecuted and the same with Falun Gong practitioners.
"Oh, Falun Gong is different," he said.
I needed to find out how he was poisoned. I asked, "What do you know about Falun Gong?"
He replied, "Did you know Falun Gong tells people not to eat and not to go to work?"
"Where did you hear that?" I asked him. "It's true," he said. I told him, "I guarantee you that's not true."
He said, "How do you know? You're not a Falun Gong member."
"Actually..." I said, "I've been practicing Falun Gong for years." Now he was curious, so I had the opportunity to explain many things to him, and answer all of his questions. Since he'd seen me do a good job at work, that I knew about Chinese history, and that I respected Chinese culture, he was willing to listen to what I had to say.
But I haven't always done so well at my job. After I left the Chinatown branch, the next place I transferred to was an office building where they handle the credit cards sales. Unlike in the branch office, here I had my own private desk with a computer and phone; it was very comfortable.
My first week on the job, I fell asleep every day, even in a few meetings. I thought it was because I had been busy with Dafa work and only slept a few hours each night. The research I was asked to do was very difficult and boring at the same time. I worked very slowly. The worst part, perhaps, was that, because I was at a big corporation and my salary was paid by someone other than my direct supervisor, no one cared if I did any work or produced anything, so there was no human incentive.
I was very embarrassed when my supervisor asked me if I was narcoleptic. I made some excuse that I had been working on some volunteer work, and he told me I needed to sleep more; at home, he meant.
It was like this for my entire first week. I wasn't leaving a good impression of Dafa practitioners. I couldn't understand why I was so tired all the time.
I remembered Teacher's words in Teaching the Fa at the Assistants' Fa Conference in Changchun in 1998.
"You all know about enduring hardship. Yet you haven't realized that your sleepiness, too, is a demon tormenting you and trying to stop you from cultivating! Isn't this when your willpower should take control?...You have to pass this hurdle." Teacher also said, "Don't you get sleepy? Don't you feel sleepy as soon as you read the book, or become drowsy once you study the Fa? Let me tell you that those are gods at a level in this human dimension. If you can't break through them, you remain a human. They aren't intentionally doing anything to you--they treat everyone like that. That's why people feel tired and sleepy. If you want to break away from being a human, you have to break through everything before you can make it. If you go along with them they'll think you are just a human." (Falun Buddha Fa -- Teaching the Fa at the Assistants' Fa Conference in Changchun)
I was treating myself as a human. Lacking self-control, I gave into the demon-nature of laziness. When I felt tired, I would just let myself be tired. I was also affected by the human sentiment of thinking my job was boring. So I knew I had to break through that.
The next day, I went to my supervisor and told him I was sorry and had no excuse, and took responsibility for not getting enough done. I told him that I was committed to being more focused and doing a better job. Things went much more smoothly after that, and even though I didn't sleep more at night than before, I did not fall sleep at work.
Soon thereafter, I was given a major opportunity to clarify the truth to my company. My boss asked me if I wanted to attend the company's 1st Quarter Earnings Live Broadcast, because he thought it would be interesting for me. I thought, "Sure, why not check it out?"
After he signed me up, I learned that there would be time at the end for the audience to ask questions to the CEO. I realized, "Oh, I'm supposed to ask him a question tomorrow." But as soon as I thought about what question to ask that would clarify the truth, I started shaking with nervousness. At first I wanted to ask him how he felt about working with a country that persecuted millions of innocent people. But that evening, I talked with a fellow cultivator who gave me some honest feedback. I realized that my question came out of the attachment of zealotry. He said that I need to think of the CEO and his interests first. If I criticized him, he would be angry and not take my comments seriously. So we devised the following question:
"As you may know, nearly a million people have publicly resigned from the Chinese Communist Party in the last two months. I think Chinese people are increasingly unhappy with their government's corruption, persecution of Christians and Falun Gong, democracy advocates, and so on. If there is a political collapse in China, do we have mechanisms in place for dealing with that or pulling out if we need to?"
I felt this question was much better, because it told the current state of Fa-rectification by giving evidence for the CCP's impending collapse, mentioned that Falun Gong is being persecuted, and also expressed concern as an employee for the future of the company, so it was compassionate.
The next morning, I ended up with a front row seat in the studio. I was only two yards from the CEO. The whole time, as he was talking about finances, my heart felt like a jackhammer. I was so nervous, I didn't know if I could ask my question properly. I thought: "Why am I nervous? I should be calm, like a Buddha." I realized that it must be interference to prevent me from asking an important question. I sent Righteous Thoughts. I said to myself, "Alright body, go ahead and shake, go ahead and be nervous if you want. Inside, I'm going to be totally calm." And when I asked my question, I was calm, and it came out smoothly.
It turns out that a video of this meeting was broadcast all over the world to the company's 3,000 top managers, including those in China, as well as tens of thousands of employees. No wonder evil beings were trying to make me feel nervous! Although the CEO answered by saying that he didn't think there would be a political collapse in China--the only answer he would dare to say--the question itself was hopefully enough to make people think about the issue.
I feel like Master has given many people an opportunity to learn the truth through my presence in New York.
Another thing is that New York provides an excellent opportunity for self-cultivation.
"Sakyamuni once made this statement, as did Boddhidarma: 'This oriental land of China is a place where people of great virtues are produced,'" says Teacher in Zhuan Falun, "Only by being among the most complex group of people and in the most complex environment can one cultivate the high-level gong."
Sometimes I think to myself that New York is an awful place--it's loud, it's dirty, it's smelly, it's too hot, it's too cold; people on the street seem to go out of their way to avoid making eye contact with you; there are nude pictures hanging in the middle of the street, and once you look up you see them--what a great place to cultivate! It's also a place where sentient beings are quite lost, and need Dafa disciples' help.
I'd like to conclude with a poem. I originally wrote it to encourage a fellow practitioner who was thinking about coming to New York. When I was writing this experience sharing paper, I realized that it might apply not just to her, but to many practitioners. I call it Leaping Forward.
Peering over the ledge at the city below,
Covered in ashes, grime, and black snow,
Though human heart wary
Finds unknown things scary
Thy original self, it doth know.
Steady the heart to break through the next phase
With the Law in thine heart, thou canst see through the haze
In earth dense and hot
A diamond is wrought
Save precious souls from the maze
Thank you, Master. Thank you, everyone!