(Clearwisdom.net) From the time I began to practice Falun Dafa on April 25, 1999, the expression "Dafa disciple" has held a special meaning for me. It felt strange when practitioners said "Dafa disciple" in front of non-practitioners. It felt like a slogan. I would not have these thoughts when anyone spoke of "Falun Gong practitioners." While studying the Fa and reading Clearwisdom articles, I came to understand the difference between the words "practitioner" and "disciple." I believe that when choosing to use the word "disciple" versus "practitioner" one is refering to a separation or partitioning based on the cultivation achievement of the individual. Sometimes I even wonder if I am truly a "Dafa disciple." Teacher gave me a hint recently to help me break through this stumbling block. Therefore, I would like to share my enlightenment of a Fa principle with everyone.

The difference between "practitioner" and "disciple"

In my understanding, the fundamental difference between "practitioner" and "disciple" is whether the individual is still concerned with himself/herself or has become selfless. Actually, it is if one still holds human sentiments or has reached a higher level in cultivation.

Teacher told us that in the past many people practiced Buddhism or Daoism. But, in the Tao school, only one student can obtain the true teachings, while the others are taught lower level principles. Metaphorically speaking, they chop wood and sweep the floor. They only gain some techniques; they cannot obtain the true Dao. Shakyamuni also made a distinction between what we call "disciple" and "practitioner." Some are true monks and others lay Buddhists. Huike, the second patriarch in Zen Buddhism, only became a disciple of Zen Buddhism by breaking his arm in front of Patriarch Boddhidarma in Shaolin Temple. In the past, even if one wanted to cultivate the Dao, one might not have had the opportunity to become a disciple. Alas, it is impossible for those who are not true disciples to obtain a true teaching.

Merciful Teacher treats all practitioners as disciples, and gives everything to everyone who wants to cultivate the universal Great Law. Teacher is giving us the most precious thing by giving us the teachings of Falun Dafa. Teacher scooped us up from hell and treats every practitioner like a true disciple, regardless of the person's diligence. Teacher does not look at how much karma and notions one has accumulated, he only looks at our hearts. If we ourselves want to cultivate, we can advance.

Does that mean we become Dafa disciples when Teacher treats us like this? I think whether we are Dafa disciples or not depends on how diligent one is and if one lives by the Fa principles.

The fundamental issue is that the practitioner incorporates cultivation into his/her life. Cultivators in the past were required to make a choice. "I" want to cultivate and achieve enlightenment, and "I" want to break away from the endless cycle of suffering. When one makes cultivation a priority, thoughts like "How do I improve," "What Dafa work 'I' want to do," "How is my cultivation state?" "Can I complete cultivation?" and so on, will emerge. These thoughts come still from selfishness--the practitioner has not broken away from self. At such times, strong righteous thoughts are still lacking.

In this stage, one still wants/demands something from Dafa. One's cultivation is driven by the desire to achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha, and to escape from tribulations and find a way out of the cycle of reincarnation. Regardless of how a "practitioner" does the three things and cultivates, one can only change what one is willing to give up. If one is in the state described above, it would be very difficult to completely assimilate to the Fa.

After the persecution began in 1999, disciples went to Beijing to validate the Fa. Practitioners also went to Beijing, but they went for the wrong reasons. They held the fear of falling behind, and the fear that they would not consummate if they did not go. There are even today such practitioners who still study the Fa and practice the exercises at home. They still fear being arrested and tortured. In my understanding, they cannot keep up because they fear losing their personal interests, and think one can also obtain things by cultivating at home. After the Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party was published, disciples regarded it as a great opportunity to end the persecution and clarify the truth. However, practitioners may think that we are becoming involved in politics and fear that non-practitioners cannot understand us. Actually, these practitioners are holding on to fear.

"Practitioners" is like human beings cultivating. When confronted with the truth they could not take the step towards godhood and remained human. They hold on to their notions and attachments and neglect to protect and validate the Fa.

As a "Dafa disciple" one regards oneself as a particle of Dafa. What one does comes from within the Fa and one regards the Fa as the most important. Teacher said:

"No matter what you do for Dafa and no matter what it is you're doing, you are placing yourselves in Dafa instead of thinking about 'I want to do something for Dafa' or 'I want to improve myself in this way or that way' as you did before. No matter what you do, you aren't thinking that you're doing something for Dafa, about how you should do things for Dafa, or 'how can I do things well for this Fa.' Instead, you are placing yourselves in Dafa. Like a particle of Dafa, [you feel that] no matter what it is, you should just do it." "Teaching the Fa at the Great Lakes Fa Conference in North America"

Here is an analogy: all employees in a company look similar. However, the boss and the workers have a completely different mindset. The boss regards the company as a part of him, while workers often regard the job as a task. It is similar to people that pay great attention to the cleanliness and decor of their homes, but don't take the same care when they are in public places.

What are the differences between "disciples" and "practitioners?" Teacher said:

"This mentality appears to be fair, with everyone being treated equally. In actuality, how can people be the same? The jobs they do are different, and so is the extent to which they carry out their responsibilities. There is a principle in this universe called, 'no loss, no gain.' To gain, one must lose." (Zhuan Falun)

When doing Dafa work, the mindsets of "practitioners" and "disciples" aren't the same. Perhaps on the surface, "practitioners" may be very diligent, and always active doing things to accumulate mighty virtue. A practitioner will get involved in projects that one likes, or take on projects that one thinks will bring mighty virtue, or that one deems as "important." These thoughts are not from within the Fa. One is still holding on to the human mindset.

"Disciples'" cultivation may not be visible, but their mindset is different. They truly regard Dafa as the priority over anything else they do. They do things that Dafa disciples should do with a peaceful and steadfast mind. They take the general situation into consideration and quietly make things better without basing their actions on notions. They walk on the path towards godhood and have the mindset of a god.

What is the difference in outcome for those who hold the mindset of "disciple" or "practitioner?" I think that Teacher has set very high requirements for disciples, because what disciples accomplish is the best. Our protests against the persecution, and our righteous thoughts and righteous acts during our cultivation will be kept as a reference for the future cosmos. Our collective cultivation paths, moving from human to godhood, will leave a harmonized and indestructible mechanism for the future cosmos. Nobody in the past has been able to cultivate to godhood in ordinary society. This form will be left for the future. When we do the exercises our physical bodies are cleansed, starting from the most microcosmic state. What disciples enlighten to will become the Fa of their systems. The process of abandoning attachments through cultivation and returning to one's true self will become the reference for future lives. We are a part of the future cosmos and future Fa, and we are responsible for the sentient beings and positive elements in the new cosmos.

However, to consummate all of this, we must melt into the Fa wholeheartedly, instead of putting our factors first. Teacher said:

"If someone considers his individual Consummation the most important thing, I'd say that he's not worthy of being a Dafa disciple of the Fa-rectification period." ("Touring North America to Teach the Fa")

After obtaining the Fa, the part that assimilates to the Fa is indeed good. However, this is only a small part of our coming here and of Teacher's requirements for His disciples. When pursuing consummation with the mindset of a "practitioner," it becomes most difficult to get rid of the selfish elements that come from the old cosmos. It still does not carry the essence of life in the new cosmos. The question remains open as to whether one can enter into the new cosmos.

  1. Dafa Disciples' Righteous Thoughts

Teacher has mentioned righteous thoughts many times. He also asked disciples to keep righteous thoughts at all times. What are righteous thoughts? What should Dafa disciple's righteous thoughts be? Teacher once mentioned:

"The 'xin' mentioned here of course refer to all the righteous thoughts during your cultivation practice. Righteous thoughts in fact are also the same as righteous understandings." ("Lecture at the US East Coast Conference")

Teacher also said:

"Today I read a report on the Minghui website. A student was beaten so badly that her legs were smashed and broken into pieces, and they didn't set her bones before applying a cast. It never even occurred to the student that she would become handicapped because of this. She didn't pay any attention to it at all. She just studied the Fa every day, and her righteous thoughts were very strong. When she was able to sit up a little bit, she started to do the exercises. The doctors told her that her bones had been smashed and fractured in several places, and that the cast had been applied before the bones were set. It was all done by those people in the prison hospital. She didn't pay any attention to it and just told herself, 'I want to cross my legs and do the exercises.' She pushed herself and did it even though it was extremely painful to do. As time went by, she no longer felt any pain when she crossed her legs. The end result is that she has recovered. She can now jump up and down without any problem, and she's just like a completely normal person. (Applause) If any of you can conduct yourself like that, the old forces will absolutely not dare to touch you. Whoever can be like that will be able to make it through when encountering tests. What are 'righteous thoughts' about? That is what righteous thoughts are about. ("Teaching the Fa in San Francisco, 2005")

Life on every level of the cosmos has righteous thoughts. Righteous thoughts are evaluated according to the standards at different levels. For instance, the current righteous thoughts at the human level are for supporting Falun Dafa and opposing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and function according to the morality and righteous actions of China's 5,000-years of divine culture. However, Dafa disciples' righteous thoughts are definitely not based on these standards. Disciples are lacking righteous thoughts when they cannot let go of life or death, or losses and gains in the human world.

My understanding is that the righteous thoughts of Dafa disciples conform to Teacher's requirements and are rooted in the Fa.

Righteous thoughts can only be rooted in the Fa. Anything based on human understandings, notions, any other doctrines or theories, or other cultivation ways do not conform to the standards for Dafa disciples and are far away from true righteous thoughts. For an exam, a possible unrighteous way would be to study the Fa for the sake of "studying the Fa," while not truly assimilating into the Fa. Teacher said,

"In the past, whether people practiced qigong in parks or at home, they did it with much effort and dedication, and they practiced quite well. Once they stepped out the door, they would act differently and go their own way, competing and fighting with others for fame and profit among everyday people."(Zhuan Falun)

Teacher is telling us that if you take Fa study as something separate from your ordinary life and fail to judge every thought and every word according to the Fa, then one is not within the Fa.

In daily life, we sometimes base our work and study on notions and understandings formed in the human world. At such moments we do not have sufficient righteous thoughts, and forget that we are Dafa disciples.

Furthermore, when studying the Fa, everyone enlightens and understands from the Fa. This is how it should be. In life and everyday society, we sometimes forget that "compliance is cultivation," which is a true Fa principle.

There is another thought I hold. Understanding or enlightening does not mean that one has reached that realm through cultivation. Cultivation that lacks solidity will prevent one from melting into the Fa and from having strong righteous thoughts. If we achieve "compliance is cultivation," then we are guided by the Fa principles and that in itself is also a process of reinforcing righteous thoughts.

Everyone's cultivation level and cultivation state is different. As a result there will be variances in righteous thoughts. The Fa has different requirements for disciples at every level. There are no role models for disciples. Whether others do well or not so well can only be taken as a reference. Others may not have achieved your level and therefore you may have higher requirements. You should not put yourself above others. When you feel that others are better than you, maybe you are supposed to learn from them. This also could mean that you are not cultivating well and it's time for a breakthrough. When it comes to righteous thoughts, we must unconditionally do as Teacher has requested.

During this persecution, Teacher tells us:

"By remaining unmoved you could handle all situations." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2005 Canada Fa Conference")

"No matter what the situation, do not cooperate with the evil's demands, orders, or what it instigates. If everyone does this the environment won't be this way." ("Dafa Disciples' Righteous Thoughts are Powerful")

From what Teachers says, we know the requirements for righteous thoughts. If we do not assimilate into the Fa, we will use human excuses to conceal human ideas, such as: "I will endure the present and clarify the truth after I am released," "I will suffer torture and punishment if I do not cooperate," "I am afraid of being seized after stepping forward," "Will lose my job if I do not write a "guarantee statement"," and so on. All these are based on human notions and do not come from righteous thoughts.

The persecution of practitioners' physical bodies is not what Teacher allows; it is an element of the old forces' dark minions and rotten ghosts. Teacher said:

"From my perspective, as your master, during the Fa-rectification I absolutely don't accept the using of this evil persecution to test Dafa disciples, and Dafa disciples shouldn't have the wrong idea that they can cultivate higher by enduring persecution."("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 Western U.S. Fa Conference")

Teacher clearly gives us his requirements for righteous thoughts when being persecuted:

"We're fundamentally negating all of their things, and all of, and only, the things you do while negating and getting rid of them is mighty-virtue. It's not that you're cultivating amidst the ordeals they created. Rather, you are to walk your own path well while not acknowledging them, not even acknowledging the elimination of their ordeals' manifestations. (Applause) So looking at it from this angle, what we need to do is completely negate the old forces. Dafa disciples and I don't even acknowledge the manifestations of their last-ditch efforts." ("Teaching the Fa at the 2004 Chicago Conference")

Based on the above, when suffering interference and persecution, thoughts such as "I have an attachment, so it persecutes me!" "Is this eliminating karma?" "I will cultivate higher by enduring the persecution!" "When enduring the persecution, doing well means cultivating well!" and "This ordeal helped me to abandon such and such attachment!" are not disciples' righteous thoughts. Such thoughts even aggravate the ordeal.

Teacher says in Zhuan Falun: "a good or bad outcome comes from one thought." Whether one deals with an issue with Dafa disciples' righteous thoughts will decide the outcome of everything. Cultivators clearly understand that the origin of human thoughts is very complicated. If we look at an issue with Dafa disciples' righteous thoughts, in other dimensions, our thought complies with the Fa. Of course, the Fa's factors communicate with us, and we will have the power of Fa behind us. In other dimensions, our solid and indestructible righteous thoughts and our power, which is rooted in the universal Great Law, shall eliminate all negative things, all interferences and the persecution. As long as our righteous thoughts are strong, we are not restricted by elements of the old cosmos.

Righteous thoughts originating from the universal law are all-powerful. When we feel our abilities are insufficient to deal with matters, our righteous thoughts are lacking. Everything in human society is restricted by the Fa principles of this level. Everything is based on the Fa principles of this level. However, we cannot forget that all comes from the universal law. As long as righteous thoughts are strong, the Fa and gods will give us wisdom.

If the thoughts are not righteous, it does not matter how this thought appears to be reasonable or aligns with one's personal interests. In this environment and at this time they come from the old cosmos. Human notions are formed in ordinary society. Such thoughts have no root and only provide the old forces an opportunity to disturb and persecute us.

"If you, as a student [of Dafa], do not follow Master's requirements, it is definitely no simple thing. The old forces have arranged for all Dafa disciples a set of their things, so if a Dafa disciple doesn't follow Master's requirements, he must be following the old forces' arrangements." ("Be Clearheaded")

Teacher tells us:

"You know what? Just on the one issue of cultivation alone it's so complex at the cosmos's lower levels. But it becomes simple at higher levels, where there's no longer any concept of cultivation but only the concept of karma elimination. At levels higher up, all troubles are to pave the way for ascending to Heaven. And at even higher levels, concepts like eliminating karma, enduring hardships, and cultivation no longer exist, and it's just a choice!" ("Fa-Lecture During the 2003 Lantern Festival at the U.S. West Fa Conference")

In our cultivation, actually every step is a choice. Whether to get up early in the morning to practice the exercises, give up attachments and pass every test with righteous thoughts--these are all choices we have to make. Making the right choice with righteous thoughts is walking correctly on our cultivation path.

Teacher does not tell us what to do many times. At such times, whether we deal with the issue with righteous thoughts becomes especially important. Issues such as the Nine Commentaries, whether its okay to marry everyday people, practitioners publishing novels, and so on we need to judge with righteous thoughts, although all sorts of different opinions emerge around us to influence our choice. Many times we've formed an opinion for judging things, and often regard them as a part of us and forget that we are Dafa disciples.

For example, when it comes to marrying a non-practitioner, Teacher does not state clearly in the Fa what a practitioner should do. Based on human standards, it is acceptable. However, when it comes to the Fa, saving sentient beings is urgent and a non-practitioner cannot understand our thinking. Of course, the Fa is great and boundless and has ways to let disciples cultivate. But, from every disciple's perspective, in Fa-rectification, forgetting that one is a Dafa disciple will bring huge losses.