Leaving the Mountains to Cultivate Maximally in Society
Al Whitted, North Carolina, USA
First and foremost: I am very thankful for this teaching, Falun Dafa. My heart has been deeply moved by this Law. How can I possibly express the totality of my experiences in words? Nevertheless, I am happy to share a few experiences that I have had along the way.
My name is Al and I am 29 years old. I grew up in Durham, N.C . I think my upbringing was fairly normal for a southeastern American: Competition, science, television, materialism, and dogmatic Christian religion were all pressing forces that made their impact throughout the early part of my life.
After being left empty, tired, confused, and isolated by these influences, I now rejoice in the opportunity to brush off the dirt from these teachings, and move towards the pure land of Falun Dafa. Throughout my childhood and teenage years I had a reoccurring dream that we humans were doing something extremely dreadful – something very dark. I always woke up from this dream thanking God that it was not real. After all it was only a dream. As my consciousness grew I was astonished to find my dream was partially true. I realized we are indeed on a very dangerous path of destroying the human heart and the physical earth. In fact, I think my dream was an under estimation of all the human destruction.
In college I was drawn to courses in eastern philosophy and environmental ethics. I began to search deeply for ways we could heal ourselves and heal this planet. For the next 8 years after college I explored these two fields: eastern philosophy and environmental ethics. I went on many journeys, listened to many different teachings, I taught environmental education, and practiced Taichi and meditation. After a while I grew weary and frustrated...I still did not know what teaching was true and pure. I still had very little understanding, and I still did not know how we humans could uplift ourselves. I just knew we humans were doing everything backwards and I did not know what to do about this wave of destruction.
In May 1998 I was living in the mountains of Topanga California. There I taught nature to children and practiced Taichi. Upon reflection, In general, I found ways to escape society by living in the mountains and country. I just did not like all the pollution, traffic, competition etc. But, to my good fortune, I was bit by a tick and suffered from the sickening Lyme disease. It made me give up my living situation, my job, and I stopped my spiritual practice. Almost everything in my life was cleared away, I was forced to go home. I did not realize this opened me up to the possibility of finding a path that would guide me to my true home.
My last thoughts in California were about Buddha...I thought I would like to know more about Buddha. To my surprise, I found a small glass Buddha on the windowsill in my new apartment in Durham, North Carolina. I was tired of reading from different teachings. I was tired of mixing practices from different systems. I yearned for one cultivation system that was simple, pure and true. I was very ripe and ready to give fully to one path. Where could I find a true path? Did one even exist?
In December 1998 I met a mother and a daughter who taught the movements of a cultivation system called Falun Dafa. They taught for free, and were very dedicated and sincere in what they were doing. I was drawn to them. They told me to read Falun Gong. I read it. They told me to read Zhuan Falun. I read it. They told me about the nine-day seminar. I did not miss a class. Something was drawing me to this teaching. It took me a while to gain some understanding of Falun Dafa. Even with my background in Eastern Philosophy, many principles were difficult for me to understand. But I listened to the advice of Master Li and other practitioner's, "keep reading the book" So I kept reading the book and asking questions.
After a couple of months something provoked me to go deeper into this teaching. I had one full week of tribulation upon tribulation. During this week I was charged a sum of money for a driving violation, my girlfriend and I broke up after a sudden situation, I was pulled and charged for speeding, had another confrontation with my ex girlfriend, got a flat tire in the middle of the city, and my chickens were killed by a opossum. At the end of the week I felt very beat up, but at the same time, I felt a little bit cleansed and awakened. Many different attachments were pushed forward in my consciousness: jealousy, dishonesty, competitive mentality, attachment of death, and attachment to money. Especially during the last few days I felt these tribulations had been arranged for me. I began to react more and more like a practitioner. I told the veteran practitioners about my tribulations and this response was revolutionary to my western thought pattern. They said "these things are good... this means that master is taking care of you. You have been given an opportunity to cultivate". Realizing that hardships could be a good thing fundamentally changed my relationship with the world. This realization has been a major gift Before I always tried to find freedom by living in the mountains and escaping society. Now this teaching has given me the strength and wisdom to confront society with a righteous heart. By taking hardship as joy I have found a new freedom.
I would like to take a step back and emphasize one more point about the week of tribulations. One of the tribulations pushed me to look at truth like I have never looked at truth before. I felt the pain of my lack of truth and others dishonesty. One night I had an understanding that dishonesty is very damaging to the universe. I realized when we humans deviate from truth we are deviating from our true selves and the laws of the universe. I vowed to be truthful, even with the smallest of issues.
During cultivation I had a few experiences relating to compassion. One day I was at the train station and I observed an African American woman verbally abusing her son. Even threatening to beat him. I did not stop her. But I did not walk away from the situation either. I just wanted to stand by the boy with a silent and compassionate heart. After a while the lady calmed down. This incident struck my heart. Suddenly I felt like crying...I have not cried much since my childhood...But I went behind a building and wept for a very long time... I wept for all the damage we are doing to our children. Our children are precious, I wondered how it was possible that we could be so violent and destructive to them. I was surprised by my intense reaction. I had seen this type of behavior my whole life. What reopened my heart to compassion now?
One day we were in sitting tranquillity in the park with about 20 practitioners. It was very quiet and still until two young African American boys about 5 and 7 years old appeared. They had sticks and they were walking in between the practitioner's. I thought," what are these boys up to? What do they want? They should not be bothering us. I should have tuned them out but I was too curious, so I watched them for a little while. Suddenly the older boy exclaims, "we shall sit now" So they immediately dropped their sticks and plopped down on the earth and folded their legs up to full lotus position. My heart felt a deep compassion, I wished this moment could last forever, I wished all children would come to cultivate their young pure hearts. I thought about the passage in Zhuan Falun, " when one's Buddha nature comes out it will shake the world in ten directions." In that moment I understood the truth that enlightened beings do help us when our Buddha nature comes out. After the moving practice the young boys wanted to listen to the reading. They climbed a tree and sat on a branch above us. The first few sentences we read were" When one's Buddha nature comes out it will shake the world in ten directions" whoever sees it will come to give a hand and help this person out unconditionally." This synchronicity moved many of us. The person reading this passage began to cry...many of us felt thankful for the compassion and the unconditional help we are receiving.
After 6 months of cultivation I had a series of visual experiences that inspired me. In the state of half awake and half asleep I saw wax coated candle. The wax represented our attachments...little by little I saw our attachments or wax melt away leaving only the cotton wick at the core of the candle. This wick was still an attachment. Then suddenly the wick burst into flames and then there was nothing. Everything was now in a different dimension.
Lastly I would like to share a few understandings pertaining to tolerance. Like some Americans, I was not raised with a lot of discipline. I had the freedom to make my own choices, to get out of situations I didn't want to be in, and to seek comforts in any situation. I was talking to a practitioner who said that if you put a frog in boiling water, it will jump out immediately, but if you put the frog in comfortable water and gradually increase the heat the frog sometimes gets lazy and just sits there as if everything were fine due to the extreme heat, the frog sometimes dies. In my mind, the problems for the practitioners in China are clear, apparent, and extreme, and many practitioners are able to continue their cultivation at a high level. I think that here in the United States we need to recognize that cultivation is just as vital even if the world around us allows us to be comfortable and complacent. Although everything appears to be fine, I think we are indeed in hot water. I know it to be true when Master talks about the degradation of human morality, so cultivation here in the United States is just as important.
The teachings of discipline and tolerance were difficult for me to apply at the beginning of my practice. Before Falun Dafa, I fell into the trap of constantly seeking exterior means to happiness. If my job was not satisfying, I would simply move on to something better. I also carried a notion that my girlfriend would bring me happiness. In addition, my living environment and daily routine greatly affected my personal satisfaction. A great deal of my life energy went into seeking an ideal situation.
The teachings of Falun Dafa helped me develop an inner strength, which has fundamentally changed my life. Before, I felt that work was something that constricted me and stole my energy and freedom. Now, I see work as an opportunity to cultivate and endure. I can work longer hours with a calmer mind. As a teacher, I had avoided the public schools, fearing the constraints of the system and the wild behavior of the children, but now I feel confident that I could enter these same schools with a kind and gentle heart.
Secondly, Falun Dafa has given me the understanding and the strength to genuinely commit to one person. Before, I never took commitment seriously enough to consider marriage. Because of this newly-found inner strength, I was able to dedicate myself in marriage on June 24th of this year.
Lastly, upon beginning cultivation, it was difficult to be consistent in doing the practice and very painful to sit in the half-lotus position. However, over a period of time, I learned to tolerate the intense pain of the sitting meditation and learned to discipline myself to follow consistent practice. In the beginning, I thought that it would be impossible for these stiff, Western legs to ever fold into the full lotus position, but to my astonishment, I recently was able to sit in the full lotus position for forty minutes.
In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude for the ever-deepening understandings I have been given through Falun Dafa. The explanations given on the expansiveness of the cosmos and of the microscopic world have broadened my mind and eradicated my disbelief in Buddhas, Taos, and Gods. Modern day science damaged my belief in God, Falun Dafa healed it. More and more, I no longer care about pursuing verification of Falun Dafa through hearing practitioners' experiences. Little by little, my focus is on applying the principles of Dafa in real-life situations. This gradual shift of focus has strengthened and reinforced my belief in Dafa, because rather than looking to the exterior, I am finding the truth within. Thanks to Falun Dafa, my mind is cleaner than I ever have been and I am kinder and more disciplined. Finally, I am thankful for the opportunity and for the guidance, to genuinely attune myself to truth, compassion, and tolerance.