How I Perceive Group Study and Experience Sharing
(Clearwisdom.net) Greetings Esteemed Teacher and fellow practitioners.
I am honored to have the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on participating in group study and experience sharing.
1. Letting go of attachments before sharing and getting rid of attachments after sharing
I began to practice Falun Gong in 1997. At the beginning, my understanding was very limited. Veteran practitioners encouraged me to come to group study more often. However, I was reluctant to be candid, because I was afraid to to expose my shortcomings. I was still affected by ordinary human notions, as I had lived in an ordinary environment for a long time. My first thought was always to be competitive and to protect myself. I remember when the coordinator invited me to speak I could only say three sentences. I knew that I was not being honest. At that time, I was at the beginning of my cultivation path. I could not act from within the Fa and let go of my attachments.
"It is necessary for disciples to share with one another what they have experienced and learned in their cultivation. There is no problem with them helping one another make progress together, so long as they don't have any intention of showing themselves off." (Essentials for Further Advancement)
Teacher's words have made a deep impression on me, and I'm now willing to share with other practitioners.
I held on to too many attachments and notions during the first two years of my cultivation. Once I really wanted to share in a group of 60-70 people, but became too nervous. I asked myself, "Why are you so nervous?" I realized that I held the attachment to personal reputation and gain. I always thought about how other people would react to my words. Therefore, I told myself that I should be responsible to myself, to the Fa and to fellow practitioners. As long as it's beneficial to one practitioner, I should speak my mind. I should not care about how other people see me. Teacher Li said in Essentials for Further Advancement,
"There is no fame, self-interest, or official titles in Dafa, but only cultivation practice."
I tried to share again my thoughts during group study, but just could not make myself do it. I asked myself, "How come I couldn't open my mouth?"
I realized that I held on to an attachment of comparing myself to others. I thought that I had enlightened to a higher level and that I would like to lead others. It was contrary to what was being discussed at that time. I said to myself, "I should just say it for others' reference in a non-judgmental manner." Whenever I had difficulties expressing my point of view, I looked inward to get rid of the attachments. It was only after I purified my heart that I could speak up.
Teacher said in Zhuan Falun,
"As a matter of fact, this is because the same Fa has different transformations and forms of manifestation at different levels."
I realized that when I share experiences, I should not be self-conscious that my level is not high. No matter what level you are at, it might still be helpful to other practitioners, to start them thinking. I just keep reminding myself how I should say it so it will be helpful to others. If my attachments are exposed, I use the opportunity to improve.
At the beginning, I had strong attachments to human mentalities and notions when I was trying to safeguard Dafa. At times, when I felt that practitioners were not thinking in accordance with the Fa and may mislead other practitioners, I had the urge to correct them. Although I tried to remain calm, I usually got agitated. I felt bad afterwards. Master Li said,
"You are all still cultivating--it's humans cultivating, after all, not gods--so you will cause misunderstandings [when you get mad] and cause disruption. You can have differences of opinion or feel upset all you want, but you still need to talk things out in a calm way." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 International Fa Conference in New York")
Practitioners need to think about other people, even though they are practitioners. As I mature in my cultivation, I more and more consider other's feelings and express myself in a calm manner.
2. Working together with fellow practitioners to safeguard the cultivation environment
In May 1999, I established a practice site at a nearby middle school. Teacher said in Teaching the Fa at the Assistants' Fa Conference in Changchun:
Your most important task is to create for our students a stable cultivation environment that's free of disturbances. This is your greatest responsibility."
If we only do the exercises without improving xinxing, our gong won't increase. In order to improve as one body, I offered my house for group study.
Our study group met on Saturday afternoons. Because I was busy with work, my house was not tidy. On Saturday morning, I tidied up a bit, mopped the floor and photocopied articles from Minghui. I also thought about things for us to discuss and share. I thought about what happened from Monday to Friday that stuck in my mind that we could share, and how we passed a test and what we had enlightened to, etc. Sometimes, I would read some of the Fa principles as well. Gradually, my understanding of the Fa principles improved, as did my ability to help the group.
At a meeting to share experiences about using the Internet to clarify the truth, one practitioner said, "We may not look very skilled with the mouse, but why not? We have done this a hundred times." I felt the same. Practitioners who speak at the group study have been diligent.
If new practitioners do not get their questions answered, they may not come anymore. Or if the sharing does not help with their cultivation, they may not want to come either. At that time, I hadn't heard Teacher's directions about saving sentient beings. I just thought that it was important that I led a good group, so all of us could improve together and reach Consummation. I studied the Fa diligently, hoping that I could improve with the rest of us on the Fa. I felt that studying the Fa is not for my own Consummation. I felt Teacher was encouraging me because when I studied, I saw that each character was covered with purple Falun and radiated golden rays of light.
As more people began to practice, my house got to be too small. In February 2002, we moved to a larger space provided by another practitioner. At some point, I was busy clarifying the truth and did not go to group study, help the group advance, or share experiences. I realized that it was not a positive cultivation state. More and more practitioners were also busy with truth clarification work. With fewer people and the exchanges not as interesting, fewer and fewer practitioners came.
Then we had some sharing. We came to the understanding that we should do what we can to protect the cultivation environment. As we practice in ordinary society, our group study can mitigate the bad influence of society to ensure improvement of practitioners' xinxing and cultivation efforts. Teacher Li said in Teaching the Fa at the Eastern U.S. Fa Conference:
"That is why I've said all students should go to practice sites to exercise and attend group study regardless of whether you're beginners or veterans. That environment will cleanse you, and constantly cleanse your language, conduct, and notions that have been contaminated by everyday people."
Once everyone realized the preciousness of the cultivation environment, suddenly our group became 30-40 people. They all realized that group study is the form Teacher gave us to cultivate.
3. Combining individual study and group study
Since I started practicing, I found that if I study on my own at home, I can take my time to understand the meaning, or I can even memorize them. I thought it was much better than reading with others. But because I paused to think about things, I did not get to read a lot. Teacher said in Lecture at the First Conference in North America:
"When it's time for you to advance, all of the Buddhas, Daos, and Gods behind a word can see this. As you reach a new level and are entitled to know the principles at that level, they will reveal to you the real meaning behind that word or that row of words; you will suddenly become aware."
I understood that once I had improved, and if the Buddha, Daos and Gods wanted to point out the inner meaning of the Fa principles at a higher level, if I wasn't diligent, they would not have the opportunity to show them to me. Without the foundation of higher-level understanding, how can I improve? To ensure that I was diligent in my Fa study, I tried to participate in all of the group study sessions.
Since I had this thought that it was better to study on my own, every time I participated in group study, I could not concentrate. I even looked up to see who was late. In 2003, I did not participate regularly because I was busy with truth clarification work and ordinary work. However, before I went to the North District group study in November, I thought, "I had not been studying with other practitioners for a long time, so I should grab this opportunity." As soon as I had this thought, I could understand every single word of the Fa. With a different thought, it brought about a different result.
4. Listening with a pure heart
Dafa's door is wide open. People from all walks of life with different xinxing may enter. Listening to other practitioners can reinforce our own righteous thoughts and it's also a cultivation process.
I heard from a practitioner who is an assistant. He said that he was judgmental when he listened to others and corrected others when he felt that they were not acting in accordance with the Fa. As a result, he could not learn anything. All he heard were problems and shortcomings. Later on, he changed his attitude and listened with a humble mind, and as a result he was able to learn many good things from other practitioners. This touched me a great deal. I remember what Teacher Li said,
"Dafa disciples should handle everything positively. Don't look at the negative side of other people. You should always look at their positive side." He also said, "Look more at the positives in others and less at the bad things"
(Explaining the Fa during the 2003 Lantern Festival at the US West Fa Conference)
In the past, I found it hard to listen to practitioners who barely touched on the subject of their xinxing, but went on and on about little details. I listened politely but was not attentive. Recently, this happened again. I changed my attitude and listened to her with an open mind. She talked about her trip to Manhattan to clarify the truth. She found that some practitioners from Taiwan were diligent in studying the Fa and clarifying the truth, but were lacking in consideration to others in day-to-day living. She wondered whether these people studied the Fa or not. As I was listening, I saw myself. Don't I have this problem, too?
A practitioner who has been practicing for 12 years shared her experience at a group study. Someone commented afterwards, "How come you still have such attachments after you have cultivated so long?" The practitioner was very embarrassed and now shows up less frequently at the group study.
I used to have the same problem. When I was listening to others, I would say to myself, "I thought he was okay, but how come he has such attachments?" If a practitioner exposed certain attachments, we became biased against them. Teacher said in Teaching the Fa at the 2004 International Fa Conference in New York,
"Some students have in fact gotten rid of many other attachments, and a lot of attachments are gone and won't show themselves, but those attachments that they haven't cultivated away still show up."
Now when fellow practitioners can openly share their attachments, I am happy for them because they realize where they are lacking and are actually making progress. Gradually, my show-off mentality, competitiveness and zealotry are disappearing, as well. Falun Dafa focuses on people's hearts and it will expose one's attachments. When one focuses on one's heart, one breaks through very quickly in levels. When I saw the attachments and the practitioner had also realized them, he had already improved.
Sharing, thinking before sharing, listening to others, and listening to others' response after sharing - the whole process is a test for each and every one of our thoughts.
In February this year, I went to the United States for the Western US International Experience Sharing Conference in San Francisco. I was the only one from my area in Taiwan. However, after I returned to Taiwan, due to jetlag and unwillingness to expose my cultivation state, I didn't feel like sharing with others. After a week, my memories were fading and I was very passive and my mind went blank. Then I realized that this was not right. I was the only one that went. I should give a report so others can be part of the one body. As soon as I had this righteous thought, I gradually became energized and was able to remember what touched me during the conference.
I realized that group study during Fa-rectification and personal cultivation have different meanings. If what we said could bring about a fellow practitioner's righteous thoughts and made them do better, more and more sentient beings in the celestial body corresponding to the practitioner will be saved. If the practitioners can become more diligent and do a good job clarifying the truth, more and more poisoned sentient beings will be saved. Teacher hopes that we can save more sentient beings, and we should selflessly immerse ourselves in group study and advance with fellow practitioners. If we can do that, we are walking the path as required by the Fa-rectification.
My thanks for listening to my thoughts, Teacher. Thank you, everyone.
(Article presented at 2005 Taiwan Falun Dafa Cultivation Experience Sharing Conference)
December 27, 2005