Attaining the Fa and My Cultivation Experiences
I first heard of Falun Dafa in 2000 through reading newspaper reports on the Internet about the persecution. The propaganda articles by the Chinese government I read did not ring true to me. And each time I read an article I was left wondering what the real reason was behind this persecution.
Then, in July 2000, the Fa came to my door. I live on the 18th floor of an apartment building in downtown Toronto. I opened my door to leave my apartment one day and lying on the floor before me was one of the Toronto Dafa newspapers. I picked it up and saw "Truthfulness, Compassion, Forbearance" in large letters. Seeing these three words all together immediately struck me and I thought to myself, "Who's saying all this?" I took the paper back into my apartment to have a closer look. When I saw it was about Falun Dafa, I immediately thought of the persecution which now made even less sense after seeing that Falun Dafa practiced these three principles.
I read through the newspaper and was fascinated. A quote from a practitioner describing his wild years before practicing Dafa struck a chord with me. I had been prone to overwhelming emotional extremes and indulging in self-destructive habits before becoming a practitioner. Alcohol had been a part of the culture where I grew up in Northern Ontario and had been a way of life for me since my early teens. When the alcohol was mixed with emotional extremes, the outcome was very unpredictable.
After I finished looking through the newspaper, I put it on top of a box where it stayed for the next eight months. Every now and then I would pick it up and have a look, then put it back on the box. One time I noticed it was not on its box and I felt an immediate panic until I saw that it had fallen behind, between the box and the wall. I picked it up and put it back on the box where it stayed for another two months.
I finally decided to look at the Canadian Dafa web site. I read the book, Falun Gong and learned the exercises from the pictures and descriptions. A question I had about the lotus palm eventually lead me to watch the nine day lecture series at a practitioner's home and to begin the glorious path of Falun Dafa cultivation practice.
Master says in Lecture 1 of Zhuan Falun, "Let me tell everyone that since we are of a great cultivation way in the Buddha School, we of course cultivate Buddhahood." Even though it is stated so clearly, it took me about three months before I actually understood and realized what cultivation practice was for. When I did realize, I was a little shaken up. I went over to the home of the practitioner who had showed me the nine-day video lecture series and who had also been a great support during my cultivation. He listened patiently as I said, somewhat distressed, "I didn't start doing this because I wanted to get something from it. I just want to be a better person. Cultivating to become a Buddha has never even crossed my mind. I just want to follow the teachings and improve my xinxing and to assimilate to Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance. I don't want to think about other stuff." After waiting to make sure I was finished he calmly replied, "Good." I did not fully understand his reply at that time. Being somewhat of a loner most of my life, it was about four months after I started practicing before I joined the large group in Toronto and started to learn more about the Fa-rectification. At that point everything changed.
In Lecture 2 of Zhuan Falun, Master says, "When you really want to practice cultivation, it is going to be quite an ordeal. What will you do about it?" I feel that my path of cultivation took a huge leap forward once I started getting involved in Fa-rectification. At first it was a little overwhelming because I was a new practitioner and I was astonished by the immensity of the teachings and my perception of everything was changing so much and at the same time I was embarking on the privileged journey of Fa-rectification and trying to understand everything at the same time. I remember speaking with several veteran practitioners about my frazzled state of mind at that time. I rambled on as they kindly listened, as I said something like, "The teaching itself goes on forever. It's endless. There is just so much there. And now there's also clarifying the truth. I mean, there's sand in the sand in the sand and worlds inside of worlds inside of worlds and at the same time there's clarify the truth, clarify the truth, clarify the truth." Once I began to understand the connection between the two sides I was able to calm down and trust in the Fa. I felt a clear responsibility and began to do whatever was necessary. There were times I had to relinquish the attachment of pride and the notion of ego, both of which still sneak back from time to time. I was able to find a way to do what was necessary for Fa-rectification.
I started doing Dafa work by writing letters and writing and polishing various documents. I then had the opportunity to host and do organizing work for a festival we were holding in Toronto called "Peace and Compassion Day." I had never been involved in organizing anything like that and had never hosted anything before. The uncertainty and uneasiness I felt were manifestations of my pride and ego. I realized that because I was feeling this way it was a good cultivation opportunity. I knew I would go ahead with it because it was for Fa-rectification and it was a good opportunity to release whatever attachments were making me feel uncertain and uneasy.
Much of the organizing for the festival required being at the computer in my apartment, which is next to a balcony window on the 18th floor. Within 15 minutes of the first day I sat down to begin organizing for the festival, a dark shadow slowly descended outside above my balcony window. I looked out and saw construction scaffolding moving down past my balcony carrying two men who were both holding jackhammers. It stopped a couple of floors below my apartment and within minutes the interference began: jackhammers pounding against the concrete and metal balconies. The noise was deafening. My apartment is at the corner of the building and shortly after the jackhammers started on one side, additional drilling work began on the other side. I was surrounded by pounding, rattling and screeching noises. I felt like I was in the middle of a war zone 18 floors above ground. The noise continued throughout the entire organizing of the festival, which lasted about three weeks. The jackhammer guys kept moving up and down past my window, working in close proximity to my actual balcony. Whenever someone called on the phone, I would have to shut myself in the bathroom and yell loudly to be heard and ask the other person to do the same. When practitioners called and I yelled to them to explain what was going on they often had a good laugh, seeing my opportunity for cultivation. I also realized that this was a good opportunity to raise my xinxing and did my very best to stay calm while my head and body were being shaken by the vibrations and noise as I sat at my computer. When the workmen would pass by my balcony I would give them a sincere wave hello.
My cultivation path since beginning to do Fa -rectification work has felt like rushing down a fast flowing river, as things have happened so rapidly and the standards have continually been raised for disciples. The path has been very challenging with many opportunities to upgrade xinxing. On numerous occasions I have felt as though I have been pushed to the absolute limit of my endurance, either from feeling overwhelmed and exhausted because I have wanted to contribute to numerous Dafa projects at the same time, or from the extreme and violent reactions I experienced up until recently while doing the sitting meditation. Each time I have been pushed to a new level, it has been because of Master's compassion.
I have not responded well to some of the opportunities I have been given to improve. Sometimes I would have an idea when working on a Dafa project and I would set a very high standard for myself. Problems arise when my determination to complete a project and do it well prevents me from taking others into consideration and from trying to understand other practitioners' situations and perspectives. These opportunities to improve both as an individual cultivator and as a whole body are then lost. I end up missing an opportunity to cultivate because I am attached to achieving the completion of my own idea. I feel that the quality of ideas is irrelevant if the opportunities to cultivate are lost.
As I continue to study Dafa and understand more, I keep finding the actual tests and trials in cultivation practice that allow us to improve and upgrade our levels rely upon our understanding of the Fa. When I encounter these tests and trials, it is how I react to them that determines my improvement and whether or not I contribute to the improvement of the overall body of disciples as a whole. There are boundless wonders in Dafa, with different dimensions and structures of the universe in the microcosm and the macrocosm. But no matter how much clearer these higher concepts of Dafa become, I feel that the actual cultivation and improvement comes down to the simple tests that I face as a practitioner. When I come across these unexpected tests, how do I react? Do I look at myself from a higher level and react with Truth-Compassion-Forbearance? Do I think of others first in every situation? Do I exercise compassion by trying to understand the other parties in difficult situations? One of my shortcomings that was benevolently pointed out to me by other practitioners is that I often fail to look inside while a difficult situation is occurring. After the situation has calmed down I would look at myself and sometimes see my own problems and attachments, but because I did not look inside when the situation was occurring, I lost a precious opportunity to improve myself and therefore do better for the Fa-rectification.
In Lecture 4 of Zhuan Falun, Master says, "You will be made to stumble, whereby you will become enlightened to the Tao. This is how one goes through cultivation practice." I have certainly stumbled, but the Fa has also allowed me to make improvements in numerous ways. I get angry far less than before and have let go of many things from my past that had eaten away at me for much of my life. These things have dropped away naturally and on their own as I have continued to study the Great Law that has been taught by Master.
I have come to more clearly realize how important it is to maintain righteousness and righteous thoughts. All that we do is very clear to beings in other dimensions. The righteousness of my thoughts and how and where I focus my energy is effecting countless other dimensions. I realize that everything I do in Fa-rectification, both large and small tasks, are extremely important and that everything we are doing has great significance. My understanding is that righteousness is our natural state and the closer I can move toward that state, the better I will be able to contribute to the whole body. As a whole body we will be able to keep up with the Fa-rectification and save more sentient beings. Everything I think and do is significant.
When Master taught us to send forth righteous thoughts, it immediately struck me as an immense responsibility. I felt that allowing us to eliminate our own karma and to cleanse ourselves and eliminate evil elements at different levels was an extremely significant step in Fa-rectification. Being given this responsibility and allowing us to use these abilities has given me further understanding of the immensity of my responsibility in the Fa-rectification.
Practicing cultivation entirely during Fa-rectification has provided specific challenges. I have sometimes felt that because I have been so busy doing Dafa work and because I have not been cultivating for very long, that I have not had enough time to cultivate thoroughly and since things are moving so fast, how should I balance it all? Underneath all of this, I was wondering where I stood as a practitioner in the larger scope of everything. In what capacity did I come to this world? I did not dwell on this matter, but it was in the back of my mind. I felt that it was an irrelevant question, but it was still there. I have come to realize that the question itself is selfish. In my personal cultivation I have found that selfishness is one of my deepest attachments. Over the countless years in this dimension it has become a notion that I have come to wrongly accept as part of who I am. To serve only myself is to serve nothing. My selfishness comes in many different forms and most of them are very subtle and hide themselves well. There are many layers of selfishness that I continue to peel away. In my present understanding, my selfishness is at the root of many, if not all, of my other attachments. The selfish question that had lingered in my mind about what category I stood in as a practitioner was recently answered by Master in "Touring North America to Teach the Fa." He said, "Those of you who obtained the Fa recently, I haven't told you which category you belong to. You shouldn't think about this, either. Just do what you're supposed to do."
Just do what I am supposed to do. No matter how brutally we are persecuted or how difficult things can seem, as Master has said, "Coercion Cannot Change People's Hearts." I would like to conclude with a quote from Zhuan Falun, "When it is difficult to endure, try to endure it. When it looks impossible and is said to be impossible, give it a try and see if it is possible. If you can actually do it, you will indeed find: 'After passing the shady willow trees, there will be bright flowers and another village ahead!'"
Any clarification of my understandings will be greatly appreciated.