Some Understanding from Overcoming the Tribulation of Serious Illness
(Clearwisdom.net) About two months ago I began showing the signs of severe illness, which came on quickly and quite strongly. Before that, I thought that I was cultivating pretty well, and I was always very active in clarifying the truth. In the eyes of my fellow practitioners, I belong to those who are more diligent. Plus, I am young and had never had any serious diseases before I began cultivating. Why should this kind of tribulation happen to me? I was actually very puzzled by this and couldn't figure out what the problem really was. I even lost confidence due to this puzzlement and the pain that I had to endure during this tribulation. After I calmed down and looked deeply inside myself, I dug out many of my attachments from so deep within that I had not noticed them. This was how I was able to successfully overcome the tribulation little by little. I noticed that many of my fellow practitioners also experienced severe illness trials, as did other practitioners who wrote about their experiences on the Clearwisdom website. Because of this, they could not do the three things well. I am sharing the lessons that I've learned below, hoping this may be helpful for fellow practitioners.
Two months ago, I began showing the symptoms of heart disease. When the symptoms occurred, my heart beat in an uncontrollably violent and irregular way, which was accompanied by the feeling of impending death. My body shook uncontrollably. In fact, this was exactly why I had entered into cultivation at the very beginning. But I had never had such a serious occurrence since then. I enlightened that it must be due to some attachments that I had been unable to let go of for a very long time, offering the evil an excuse to persecute me. So I began to calmly study the Fa, look inward, and discuss the situation with my fellow practitioners. I subsequently found two attachments that were hidden very deeply inside me, the attachments of showing-off and lust.
Since I had strong attachments to showing-off and fame, I was always in search of recognition and very concerned about how others looked at me. Whether I was capable or not, if a practitioner asked me for help, I always agreed. Sometimes I was so busy that I couldn't even manage my time to study the Fa or exercise. My excuse was that I needed to help other practitioners, thereby concealing my heart that longed for fame. This desire is very dangerous. It made me feel that I was surrounded by voices of praise. I also had the impression that I was better than others and looked down on others. Though I also looked inward for the problem, I did so very superficially. Yet, at the time I thought that I was pretty good at looking inward. Moreover, when I studied the Fa, I didn't listen to Master's teachings with a humble heart. On the contrary, what I had was a wild arrogance, believing that I had mastered the truth. When I look back, I frighteningly realize how close to the edge of danger I came, though I was unaware of it at the time. After I dug deeper, I discovered that the origin of this need for recognition was my over-compensating for low self-esteem. While I was growing up, other children rejected me, and besides low self-esteem, I was also overly self-conscious, so I always tried very hard to do things well in order to avoid criticism.
As for the issue of lust, I've never paid enough attention to it. My husband is also a practitioner, and after we began cultivating, we slept in separate rooms. When I encountered the tribulation of lust in my dreams, I could successfully control myself, and when I had inclinations towards other men or vise versa, I realized that it was not good, and I got over it. So even though fellow practitioners continued talking about this, I never paid attention. Even when I had an illness tribulation, I didn't enlighten until a lust demon held me tightly in a dream. Only then did I begin to seriously look at myself. When I calmed down and looked inside, lust was still a problem, since my prior efforts to eliminate it were partial insofar as a sense of enjoyment still lurked inside me on this issue. Plus this heart was mixed with fame, as I paid a lot of attention to my image around men and my heart was moved when I saw men who I considered attractive. Besides, when men paid attention to me, the level of complacency I had was not strict enough for my further improvement. When I made up my mind to eliminate it, I found it to be very stubborn--as if it were alive. It struggled in my head, then gradually went down along my body, until it finally went out through the bottoms of my feet. I still have not eliminated all of it. I now understand that the Fa has set a higher standard for me, that I must completely get rid of lust in my each and every thought.
When I thought that I had already figured out my problems, I experienced more severe illness tribulations. My whole body suddenly felt very cold, as if each and every cell was under attack. I understood that the old forces wanted to drag me away. When I truly faced the moment of death, the fear that had been hidden deep inside manifested itself completely, which also exposed the fundamental problem that I didn't cultivate myself solidly. I found that my belief in Dafa was not as strong as a rock. All the modern scientific knowledge, medical knowledge, and atheistic ideas reared their heads one after another and interfered with my righteous belief in the Fa. Furthermore, I realized that I basically had not given up human notions insofar as I always wanted to avoid hardship and wished that I could cultivate in a comfortable state until I reached consummation. Only then did another layer of meaning surface for me, as Master states,
"To open up this field, ordinary people have to fundamentally change their way of thinking." ("On Buddha Law" in Zhuan Falun, 2003)
I was doing all that I could to break through shell after shell of notions formed after birth. I studied the Fa very carefully and thought, "The real me believes in cultivation. All those doubts and fears are not me. Nothing and nobody wants to keep me from cultivating Dafa. I'm a disciple of Master Li Hongzhi. Though I still have attachments, I will be rectified in the Fa. I will absolutely not allow any evil to persecute me. Master, please look after me."
At that time I was extremely stressed because this situation seemed to have arisen for no reason. I wondered why the old forces were still allowed to persecute me in this way. Where, indeed, did the problem stem from? My fellow practitioners helped me by pointing out many other attachments that I had, including jealousy, emotions for family members, etc. The more we looked, the more attachments we found. The more we looked, the more I found that I was indeed not cultivating well. I became less and less confident, and I even developed fear of being persecuted. I was afraid that because I didn't do well, I would be persecuted. So I studied the Fa even harder and never let my head rest. Some of my fellow practitioners advised me that instead of rushing to do the things, I should first calm down to study the Fa and to send righteous thoughts. I followed their advice, but it didn't help much. I was really desperate at that point.
One day I suddenly realized that I could no longer stay at home to overcome the test. Was the evil just trying to prevent me from continuing cultivation? What was the purpose of my bearing all that pain? Why had I continued to cultivate? For saving sentient beings! Had I completely forgotten the sentient beings because I only cared about passing the test myself? Wasn't that selfishness exactly what the old forces wanted me to manifest? Wasn't it that the old forces were using the excuse of "testing cultivators" to persecute Dafa practitioners by directing the dark minions? Master wants us to cultivate the "righteous Enlightenment of selflessness and altruism." ("Non-Omission in Buddha-Nature" from Essentials for Further Advancement) Master has also said in "Teaching the Fa at the Western US Fa Conference,"
"If you seem to do everything right on the surface but deep inside you still guard and hold on to the things that you don't want to let go of, that's absolutely unacceptable. As you know, a Buddha or a God can give up his life for living beings and for the interest of the universe; they can give up anything, and even remain unmoved by it."
I realized that the origin of all these attachments mentioned above related to my ego and selfishness. After realizing this, I was determined not to sink into the attachment of only wanting to search for attachments. What I should do most is to let go of myself and save others, and walk the path arranged by Master. Nothing and no one should be able to stop me!
When I truly let go of death and clarified the truth, the illness symptoms began becoming less and less. Though I still feel a little bit uncomfortable now and then, it will pass very soon. I was also enlightened that just discovering the attachments doesn't mean that you will pass the test right away. As a practitioner who once went astray, there will be probably a part which I, myself, need to bear. After the persecution began, I almost gave up cultivation from 2001 to 2006. I even wrote a guarantee statement. After I moved overseas there were two occasions that I accidentally made soup with the live clams. When my husband pointed it out to me, I found excuses to defend myself and didn't truly pay attention to it, until I read an article on the Clearwisdom website that told of a fellow practitioner who was almost persecuted to death because she killed a chicken in order to cook a good meal for the guests who had been invited. Then I realized the seriousness of killing. I then truly understood the seriousness of cultivation.
During the whole process of passing the test, I could feel that Master was right beside me and looking after me. When I was half asleep, I clearly felt that Falun was adjusting my body. Also, when I do well, Master encourages me by showing me scenes. For example, one time when I turned on my computer, I saw a very big, ripe apple rolling towards me from a tree. I sincerely hope that the fellow practitioners who are still in illness tribulations won't lose confidence in themselves and in Dafa, regardless of the situation, and that they overcome their ordeals soon. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the fellow practitioners who have always helped me and encouraged me selflessly.
These are my understandings at my present stage. Please kindly correct any of my mistakes.