Studying As One Body
My name is John Nania. I live in Minneapolis, Minnesota now, but I'm really from "all over." In less than two years as a practitioner, I've had the great fortune to get to know practitioners of all ages, all backgrounds, and all nationalities. It seems a lot of the typical getting-to-know-you small talk of ordinary society is unnecessary and beside the point among practitioners, and I've come to understand why this is so.
It's true that we all do the same exercises, and we all respond physically and instantly the same way when we hear the exercise music switch on. That's highly visible and obvious, but more important than the exercises we share is the firm, deep, and personal commitment we share to living according to Zhen-Shan-Ren, Truthfulness-Benevolence-Forbearance. A non-practitioner sees these as three nice, noble, good words, but we practitioners hold these words, and all that is contained in them, as a foundation and a standard for everything in the universe.
How can all of us practitioners see three words as so central, so vital, so crucial? We all read the same book, Zhuan Falun, as well as the other lectures and articles of our teacher, not just once or twice, but over and over, continually. We read, listen to and study the books, lectures, and articles until our minds and hearts are saturated and brimming with them. These works make up the Fa--the principles, the law, the way.
We are here today at this Fa conference so that we can all share experiences and learn more from each other, to improve our understanding of the Fa and so improve ourselves on our path towards Consummation. We can't have a conference every day or every week, but we can get together in groups to study the Fa and discuss our understanding and share our experiences so we can improve. I find myself that I need some time alone to read by myself and think, but I also need the time in a group. I would never have learned a fraction of what I know now if I had spent all my time in my room reading the book and asking myself questions, and I sincerely thank all the experienced AND inexperienced practitioners who have shared with me and helped me enlighten to things.
In America we believe that diversity builds a strong nation, it's accepted wisdom, although it's not always put into practice. As a Falun Dafa practitioner, I can tell everyone that, without a doubt, I would be stuck at a much lower level if I had not been studying next to and exchanging experiences with the practitioners of all, and I mean all, the diverse perspectives, experiences, and mentalities that I have met.
Our teacher said quite clearly in the article "Serious Teachings," and again at the lecture at the Great Lakes Conference, that the "students both inside and outside of China are one body." Now, I want to point out something that he did not say here, or ever. He did not say anything like this: "The Chinese-speaking students inside and outside China are one body here, and the English-speaking students all over the world are one body there, and the Spanish-speaking students are yet another body over there." No, my understanding is that he said that we all, no matter what language we speak or where we were born, all of us Falun Dafa students are one body.
I have had two recent Fa study experiences away from home that reinforced to me how positive it can be to study as one multi-lingual body. At one practice site, after about a dozen of us finished the exercises, we sat and read several sections of Zhuan Falun together. Two groups of us took turns, reading one paragraph each in unison. Chinese-speaking practitioners read a paragraph out loud as a group, while the English-speaking practitioners silently followed along in their books, then vice versa. It was the first time I had ever read Zhuan Falun aloud in unison, but I found it helped me concentrate better and also feel like more a part of the group, several of whom had been strangers before.
In another place, prior to a meeting to discuss a project, about a dozen of us pulled out copies of the Great Lakes lecture and the most recent article. Two of us there could speak no Chinese, but it was no problem as we went around the table and each practitioner read a paragraph out loud in his or her first language while the others followed along in their own languages.
In both situations, the language of discussion after reading was English, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the exclusive language of discussion. There always seem to be enough bilingual practitioners around to help translate, if the situation requires it. But what's crucial is that everyone in that circle is reading the same Fa, and everyone is sharing the same concepts and observations that spring from the diverse experiences and mentalities of every practitioner present.
I have some questions I'd like to ask Chinese-speaking practitioners in the U.S., and then a few others for English-speaking practitioners.
Teacher writes in the article "Cultivation and Work," from the book Essentials for Further Advances, "I have repeatedly pointed it out that those who practice cultivation in ordinary human society must conform to the state of ordinary human society."
He also tells us in the Great Lakes lecture that the reason that many students are here now--and not in China--is so that we can clarify the truth, expose what's happening in China, and share Dafa with more people--this is my own understanding and not Teacher's exact words.
I think fewer than 1% of the people living in the U.S. speak Mandarin. It's also an unfortunate reality of ordinary society here that most English-speaking Americans feel unwelcome and uncomfortable in a setting in which any language other than English is spoken.
So my questions for Chinese-speaking practitioners: Can you say that you are conforming maximally to everyday society in the United States if you speak Chinese most of the time? How can you tell the truth about Dafa and current situations if you are not constantly improving your ability to speak and understand the language of 90% or more of the people living in your city? And when will you have a better environment for practicing English than when you are with other practitioners?
For English-speaking practitioners: Can you increase your tolerance for hearing languages other than English being spoken around you? Can you have compassion for the difficulty Chinese-speaking practitioners face in trying to express their thoughts and experiences in English, which has by far the largest vocabulary and one of the strangest spelling systems of all the languages in the world? Can you reduce the funky idioms, slang words, and non-standard expressions in your speech? Can you pronounce each word distinctly and clearly? Can you slow ... down .... a little? How about extending yourself and learning how to say the verses for each exercise, or how to count to ten in Chinese, or how to say "hello" (ni hao) and "see ya later" (zai jian)?
The memories of my first study group remain a valuable experience for me. In our small group we had a few older people, a few younger people, both men and women, a bilingual Chinese practitioner, and a bilingual American practitioner who'd lived in China. The diversity of experiences and viewpoints enriched our discussions and helped us all understand more, more quickly from the one Fa we read together, and I soaked it all up.
My understanding is that this is an extraordinary historical period, and that time is precious. Teacher said at the Great Lake conference, "Everything that's been done--whether it's your going to Tiananmen, your clarifying the truth to people in other environments, or your spreading the Fa and exposing the truth of the evil outside of China--it's all extraordinary, because you are one body."
No matter whether it's written in Chinese, or English, or Spanish, or Indonesian, or Russian, there is just one Fa, which goes above and beyond language and cultural boundaries. Let's all of us practitioners--regardless of what human language we speak best--let's all of us share with each other, learn from each other, and study this boundless Fa together as one body.
Category: Journeys of Cultivation