The Most Precious Gift
Alejandro Centurion, Connecticut, USA
I would like to thank everybody for giving me the opportunity to share my experiences with you today. My name is Alejandro Centurion, I am 29 years old, and it was just about a year ago, on April 26, that I first heard about Falun Dafa. That was a day I will never forget. I was then doing my medical internship at Tulane University. I had gone into the library looking for an article before starting my afternoon endocrinology clinic. As I was walking outside, back to the clinic, my eyes were drawn towards the cover of the NY times lying on a table. I sat down and started to read the cover story, which talked about a peaceful gathering of 10,000 practitioners of a Qigong group called Falun Dafa at Zhongnanhai in Beijing. The overall tone of the article was fairly negative, as it referred to this group as a cult. This surprised me because I was familiar with Qigong practices, and knew that these ancient health-promoting exercises were very far away from anything that could justify them being labeled as a cult or sect. Also, having grown up in a half Cuban household, I was familiar with Communist media tactics and knew that if a communist regime was making a big effort to label something as evil, it was probably actually something very good. During the clinic that afternoon, I was intrigued by this large Qigong group with over 70 million practitioners. Something inside told me to look more deeply into it, but I was not quite sure how. Then I remembered that the NY times article mentioned this group used the Internet, so after clinic I went back to look for the newspaper to see if I could find the listing of a web site. Since none was listed, I wrote "Falun Dafa" on a piece of paper, went down to the computer room, and punched this name into the search. I still recall how beautiful the three golden Chinese characters--Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance appeared on the first screen I found. I downloaded one of the books, and as I scrolled down the screen through the preface of Zhuan Falun, an "indescribable" rush of warmth came upon me. The words seemed somehow familiar; they rang so true, and were so profound. At that moment I knew, at a subconscious level, that I had stumbled upon something extraordinary. Falun Dafa, however, has turned out to be even more magnificent and wonderful than I could have ever imagined.
As I later realized, the "coincidences" that led to my walking into the library that day had actually started a long time before. At the time, I did believe that many of life's apparent "coincidences" must have some larger purpose. Nonetheless, I still viewed my life as a string of random events, a puzzle that I could not piece together. With Dafa's new precious insights, the past events in my life took on new meaning; they clearly had been preparation for learning the Dafa (Law). Without them I would not have accepted the Dafa as readily as I did, or embrace it as truth. The most notable of these events began during my fourth year of medical school, during which I had quite a lot of elective months to explore the wide variety of alternative medicines available. My previous years of medical education had failed to give me an adequate explanation for the etiology of disease, and I was dissatisfied that the medications I had been trained to use could in most cases, only suppress symptoms. In my search to better understand what truly was the root cause of illness, something drew me towards the abilities and phenomenon that in the West are referred to as "energy medicine." These include Qigong, Psychic healings, Reiki, extrasensory perception, and telepathy among others. At first I was skeptical about many of the phenomenon I read about. However, the wealth of well-documented experiments on extrasensory human abilities (such as reports from declassified American intelligence carried out during the Cold War), and the large number of well-documented cures by these "energy healers," convinced me that there were indeed people who possessed these unexplainable abilities. Some western healers talked about having awoken from sleep one morning with energy, which I now understand as the "Reverse cultivation" and "Energy Borrowing" as explained by Teacher Li. They possessed the ability to heal others, at times even from a distance by knowing only the patient's name. I was also intrigued by numerous and reliable accounts of Near Death Experiences (NDE's), as well as past life regressions attained through hypnosis, all of which pointed towards the existence of an immortal soul. Even though my training in western medicine could not explain and also denied many of these phenomena, I sensed that I was headed in the right direction.
I continued by studying the basics of traditional Chinese medicine, and started learning Taichi and Qigong from a teacher in New Orleans. I made quick progress with my exercises, but was soon discouraged by the large expense of the classes, and the fact the teacher seemed intent on making a big business out of the practice. After awhile, my gut instinct told me to get out. So I went to the bookstore, bought some Qigong books, and decided to learn on my own. I practiced many different exercises and postures over the course of various months. I soon got bored with all except one, Falun Dafa, which I enjoyed the most and felt a lot of energy while doing. When I first learned Falun Standing Stance exercise many months later, it seemed very familiar. Now as I look back, I do not see it as a coincidence that the exercise I had practiced was virtually identical to the first wheel embracing position of Falun Standing Stance! The only difference was that it included a breathing element.
Having read about many health benefits of meditation, I began to read books on Buddhism, and even visited a Zen Buddhist temple in New Orleans. On my first visit, during the silent meditation the head monk raised his voice and told me to sit still. I realized that I probably was distracting the others, but I was having a very hard time dealing with the leg pain. Shortly after, somebody came around for the stick warning (this is supposed to help enhance one's focus and concentration, and maybe spark a brief episode of enlightenment). I declined, figuring that more pain would not help me keep still and avoid another scolding. My first discouraging visit to the temple was also my last.
Then, during the last months prior to beginning the Dafa, I read Lao Zi's Tao De Ching. I read its poems many times, trying to decipher the meaning and wisdom within the clever riddles and paradoxes. Deep in my heart, I wished I could understand more, and truly know how to follow this mystical Tao (Way). Little did I know, somebody had been listening, since only a few weeks later I began to practice Falun Gong.
When I first started reading the Falun Dafa works that had then been translated, I was spellbound. These precious teachings, which had seemingly dropped out of nowhere, contained genuine answers and explanations to the many questions that religion, philosophy and modern science had been unable to provide. It is also a testament to the truth and power of Dafa that many of my accepted beliefs and pre-formed notions were quickly overturned. One of the best examples was my firm belief in the theory of evolution. I was so convinced by the "evidence" presented in my college evolution course that afterwards, I would often ridicule and laugh at my mother's belief in the "creation" story. As I now recall, my evolution text only included a brief paragraph in the introduction that dismissed "creation" as unscientific, never once discussing other interpretations of the fossil record or any of the controversial archeological evidence that I now know exists. After watching a fellow practitioner's copy of the NBC TV special "The Mysterious Origins of Man," I better understood why I was oblivious to so many findings that strongly challenge the validity of the theory of evolution. In this television special, many archeologists from around the world presented the data concerning ancient artifacts, fossils and ruins throughout the world, which convincingly show that humankind has existed on this earth much earlier than could ever be explained with the theory of evolution. As Teacher Li states, "Many bold scientists abroad have already publicly recognized this as prehistoric culture and a civilization prior to this of our humankind." Unfortunately, the bold scientists trying to bring to light this controversial evidence are generally not taken seriously by others in their field, and their data does not make it into college textbooks. One of the scientists interviewed in this special discussed part of the reason why this problem occurs while talking about what he referred to as "A knowledge filter." He added, "This is a feature that is a fundamental part of science, as well as to human nature. People tend to filter out things that do not fit the accepted paradigm or way of thinking. In science, you find that evidence that does not fit the accepted paradigm is eliminated; it is not taught, not discussed, and people who are educated in scientific teachings generally do not even learn about it." Within my own field of medicine, my short career has shown this statement to be quite true. Many of my colleagues, all with strong backgrounds in science, disbelieve much of the evidence presented in the Zhuan Falun. Unfortunately, because of this, they also give up reading after just the first few chapters. One of my friends claimed it was "blind faith" that overturned my belief in evolution, when, in reality, what convinced me was simply genuine scientific evidence.
There are no words to describe how amazingly fortunate I felt after practicing Falun Gong. I now understood the purpose of a human life, and knew that the Great Law of the Universe could genuinely guide and enable a person to cultivate towards enlightenment.
It has taken me a long time to enlighten to some of the ways by which Teacher Li gives guidance and offers hints regarding attachments. While talking with some practitioners in my area, they recommended I pay closer attention to events around me and to what people said to me. Once I started doing this, I improved tremendously. Previously, I had not realized the subtle ways Teacher Li spoke to me through others remarks and pointed out my faults. Part of the reason I had not become enlightened to this was because of my stubborn view that I knew better than others did. Let me list a few examples.
Just the other day, I went to the supermarket to buy some groceries for my mom. When I got to the check out line the man behind me only had one item, so I asked him if he wanted to go ahead of me. He said, "No thank you. I am retired now and have time. You know, in my years I've come to learn that patience is a virtue." I smiled in agreement and searched inside for hidden attachments.
I can't believe the amazing changes that I have made over the past year. In many ways I feel like a new person, and, in my heart, I have a feeling of peace and happiness unlike I've ever had before. The progress I have made seems small compared to how far I know I still have to go. I know, however, that as long as I do my part, Master Li will guide me every step of the way.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to thank Master Li for this most precious of all gifts. I wish that everyone benefits from Falun Dafa practice! Strive forward and awaken to your predestined paths, and continue to overcome all obstacles until you return to your original, and true selves!