Western Practitioner: Cultivating Through Music
Greetings, Master! Greetings, fellow cultivators!
Earlier this year, I had the honor of being selected as a member for the orchestra that Dafa disciples recently established. I would like to talk about my experiences of cultivating in the field of music.
In "Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005," our Master said,
"You all know that along with painting, there is music and sculpture. Those things and also modern science and technology are different skills for various facets of human life. It seems as though human beings created those things themselves and did so to enrich human society, but that's actually not the case at all. What's the real reason, then? Let me tell you that those are in fact [parts of] cultivation and unique characteristics of the realms of lives from distant systems. Elevation in that kind of realm involves combining the understanding of those skills with the Fa. It requires elevating one's understanding, a limitless upward climb."
My understanding of this passage and other sections of the Law that discuss music is that music is a cultivation way passed down by beings from distant cosmoses, and this cultivation way also requires the development of certain skills along with morality. Therefore, in order to keep music in the human world of the future, we need to validate this cultivation way and also this form of art.
Before I began practicing cultivation, I played percussion a lot. But after beginning to cultivate, I gradually lost interest in percussion and soon dropped it because I was busy with other things and didn't see any use for it.
A few years later, though, I began thinking more and more: I played music for so long back then. How can I use this skill to validate the Law and save sentient beings? I thought about forming a band to play music and clarify the truth, but that didn't seem practical at the time and I didn't really want to promote modern music anyway. Yet I had some classical percussion training--I just didn't know how to use it.
So when I heard that they might need percussionists in the new orchestra they were forming, I perked up immediately. It just seemed like the perfect opportunity to contribute to the Chinese New Year Spectacular, so I applied immediately and was able to join soon after.
My experience over the last few months of playing music has transformed my life and my understandings in so many ways that I could never imagine.
In "Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005," our Master said,
"In an enormous cosmic body that is quite far away, the elevation of lives there is very different from what is understood by lives in the cosmic system that you are in. They are sustained by their skills and the continual improvement of those skills."
I understand some of these beings are the Gods that created the righteous forms of music, such as Western classical music. Thus, we do have to improve our skills, and that involves dedicated practice. Even though I am proficient in many of my parts, I try to spend at least some time every day practicing the basic techniques of the instruments I play, or at the least to spend some time playing. I find that the more I focus, much like in doing the exercises or studying the Law, the better the effect is.
We spend a lot of time every weekend rehearsing and practicing, and it seems like there is not a lot of time to do direct truth-clarification. This is true, in a sense. But in another sense, major events like our New Year's Spectacular are not things we can put together on short notice and run successfully. So, while we do have the inner content of the Law in our pieces of art, dance and music, if they aren't done professionally, they will have only a limited effect.
Master said in "Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Fine Art,"
"If the skills and techniques of Chinese paintings, drawings and sculptures were as mature and accurate as those of the West, wouldn't they be more moving and more vivid? You can't consider an immature and imperfect work of art all right because of the effect a God is having. A perfect work of art with the presence of a God is what's most sacred."
I think this principle also applies to other projects we are doing. For example, if we don't pay attention to making our media more professional, will it achieve the intended effect, however strong the righteous thoughts are of those who work on it? Can our work in the government meet with success if we don't understand how to gain a professional understanding of the workings of government? My understanding on this is that righteous thoughts are not something you just summon up when the moment of truth draws near, but something you rely on to perfect your work of art or to plan well and execute any Dafa project.
Yet, at the same time, we can't get fixated on surface things or on a project itself. I find that sometimes when I sit down to send righteous thoughts during rehearsal breaks, my mind will be filled with thoughts of the music and of which parts I did well and poorly. I think that to prevent this from happening, we have to always be focused on the three things, no matter how mundane our task may be and no matter how long it takes to complete.
I also try to hand out fliers and clarify the truth directly when I have opportunities to do so in my daily life. In addition to truly saving beings, this forces me to always stay focused on the three things. Otherwise, I find I easily get complacent and my righteous thoughts weaken.
Improving in music is not just an issue of technique, but also involves the improvement of our xinxing. While playing music, I've come across many deeply-hidden attachments that I now have the opportunity to root out.
Before I started cultivation, my music revolved mainly around one thing: fame. I was shy at the time, so playing rock-and-roll style drums was the one way that I could shine on stage, show off and have people admire me. For this reason, I loved to perform music and I held dreams of becoming a famous musician. After beginning my cultivation, these attachments weakened and I lost interest in music, but I never fully faced these attachments.
So when we first started the orchestra, the mentality of showing off was the first and most major attachment I had to face.
Most of the time, I would play my parts really loud because I wanted everyone to hear me. The conductor often had to tell me to "play quieter, play quieter," because my drums would drown out the other instruments. When others came up to me and complimented me or said, "I never knew that you could play music," I would feel so happy in my heart. One time when we performed in front of some other practitioners, my mind was fully on the compliments I might receive if I played really well and the personal glory of performing in front of Dafa disciples.
An orchestra is like a cultivation community. Every member relies on the other members to do well, but no one can force another to do well, much less can they force others to practice and take their parts seriously. If one person plays too loud or too fast, the conductor can tell them to slow down or quiet down, but if they keep playing that way, there's not much the conductor can do.
This is like cultivation: if people fall behind, we can help them, but we can't force them to do well, even though their cultivating well is key to the body of practitioners doing well as a whole. At the same time, we have to listen to one another and gain an appreciation for the other musical instruments being played (which to me is like different projects or understandings of the Law) and harmonize together with them.
I wanted to harmonize with the orchestra, but my attachment of showing off was too great, and I put myself above the body of Dafa disciples. It's the same as one practitioner thinking that his or her understanding is correct and better than those of other practitioners, or a practitioner who is attached to a certain position within Dafa or in one of its projects. I came to see this attachment in myself and became determined to cultivate it away. Bit by bit it weakened, until one understanding came that helped me break through it.
One day we were performing in front of a small group of people. After I played a song, a practitioner came up to me and said, "You're so good!" I said, "No, no, no," but I didn't just do it out of politeness. At that moment, I really didn't want to be recognized for my skills.
But then a thought came to mind: why did you want to be recognized in the first place? It then occurred to me: I was using a sacred Dafa orchestra to promote myself, to gain fame and look better than others.
I became immediately and deeply ashamed upon realizing this, and realized that I absolutely cannot put myself above other practitioners or Dafa projects, and realized that we do all of the things we do for the sake of validating Dafa and saving sentient beings, not for ourselves.
With this thought, I became a normal practitioner again. All of a sudden, I looked around me and began to appreciate the practitioners around me. Some practitioners had special skills, some did not. Some stood out because of their roles, while others worked quietly in the background. Yet all of them were playing their roles and doing their utmost to validate the path. I looked around the room. Every violinist, every member of the brass section, every musician, every Dafa disciple in the audience, it didn't matter what skills or intelligence or charisma they had, because they are walking on the path to godhood, they are the most precious beings and I deeply treasure them. This understanding brought tears to my eyes, as all I could think about were how precious my fellow cultivators were and how lucky I was to be with them and to walk this most sacred path. A few moments later, we began to play, and it was some of the most beautiful music I have ever heard.
This made me realize that only when we let go of fame, gain and self can we truly develop compassion, treasure cultivation, rise to higher realms and gain the understandings and joys of those realms.
This issue also relates to a cultivation issue that I have been dealing with recently. It doesn't directly relate to music, but it's an issue I would like to share with everyone.
For the last couple of months, I have been very up and down in my diligence. Some days I feel like I am doing very well, and then the next few days I am extremely lazy, waste time on the Internet, oversleep and feel depressed. Every time I would pull myself out of this indulgent state, and I would always tell myself, "You have to look inside and see why this is happening, and not let it happen again." Yet it happened over and over again. I became really worried, and wondered, "How come I can't become diligent again? Why can't I break through this?"
One day an understanding began to crystallize in my mind. In "Teaching the Fa in the City of Los Angeles," when talking about the issue of not taking criticism, our Master said,
"Even if you have done well in all other areas and are lousy only in this one regard, you are still not a cultivator."
This line struck me. If we don't listen to criticism, then we aren't cultivators. It doesn't matter how long you've cultivated for, who you are, what your position is in Dafa projects or what your responsibilities are, if you don't listen to criticism, you aren't a cultivator. Just doing poorly in one issue can make you not a cultivator.
It began to dawn on me. Ever since coming to Washington, D.C., I have slowly gained a reputation in the community of cultivators, and I have taken on coordination and leadership roles in Dafa projects that seem to have more responsibility, such as with the newspaper and this orchestra. Other practitioners sometimes saw me as mature and reliable, and so I took that to mean that I was cultivating well.
Thus, whenever I would do poorly in my cultivation, I would always think, "Well I'm just busy with such-and-such project," or, "Well, I'm okay, because I'm working so hard for Dafa." When practitioners who didn't have a reputation or important project would express really deep understandings on the Law, instead of feeling like I had to catch up with them, I would think, "Well, you still aren't doing the kinds of things I'm doing." In short, I was taking doing Dafa work as proof that I was a cultivator.
Actually, Master said very clearly in the article "Fa-Rectification Period Dafa Disciples,"
"If during the evil's persecution a Dafa doesn't do well or slacks off, it's very possible all his previous efforts will have been for nothing."
I have slacked off too much, because I thought that my future Consummation was assured since I did Dafa work. I haven't looked within often and asked myself, "Am I truly acting like a Fa-Rectification Period Dafa disciple would? Am I fulfilling the great mission my Master has bestowed on me? Am I worthy of this honor?" I think it's key that all of us, no matter how "important" our Dafa work seems, look inside often and see whether we really are moving toward divinity or not.
Master also said in the lecture from "Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005:"
"... all of this will pass with the passage of time, and all that is new will swiftly appear. Many students are eagerly awaiting it, but when it really does appear, your cultivation will be at an end. Whatever your level is at that moment, that will be your level, and of course if you are a human, then a human it is."
Cultivation is so precious and so serious. I have let my attachments to fame and reputation hold me down on this path, but I am determined to eliminate these attachments and do better and better.
I have so many experiences in cultivating through music that I would love to share, but in the interest of time, I will just share this much. I hope this paper has been of help to some people in their cultivation, and I look forward to walking with my fellow cultivators on the path toward Divinity.
Thank you, Master! Thank you, fellow practitioners!