(Clearwisdom.net) I once read a story about a man who wanted
to cultivate the Dao. One night, he left his home and went to the
mountains to seek a master of a righteous way in order to
cultivate. After experiencing many hardships while climbing the
mountains, he finally came upon a Daoist monastery, where he found
an old Daoist master and said to him, "Master, I want to cultivate
the Dao." The Master said, "Very well, pick up that axe over there,
and go cut wood along with the other disciples." Every day, the
cultivator cut wood all day until nightfall. When he stopped to
rest, he realized his fellow disciples worked much faster and
diligently than he. Some cut the wood so quickly that it seemed
supernatural, and they didn't pause to rest.
I wondered for quite some time why the Daoist Master asked his disciples to cut wood every day. A couple of days ago, after hearing from a fellow disciple the saying "Sharpening the axe to cut wood is not a waste of time," I finally came to an understanding I would like to share.
Our minds are like an axe, and our attachments are like the wood. If you use a dull axe, you may chop at the wood over and over until your hands bleed and you can no longer hold the axe, and still may be unable to cut through it. Tired and frustrated, you may even feel like giving up, and think it is an impossible feat. If you use a sharp axe, you will quickly cut through the wood without much effort. The sharper the axe, the easier it is.
The only way to sharpen our minds is through daily abundant Fa study. But in order to sharpen our minds properly, this Fa study should be done with a focused and tranquil mind, whether we are reading by ourselves or in a group Fa study. If not, it would just be going through the motions and not truly studying the Fa.
A fellow practitioner once told me that at her practice site, some practitioners would arrive late for group Fa study and leave early before Fa study was over. Didn't Master say that studying the Fa purifies our bodies and lets us obtain so many things? If this is so, then I think we should take it seriously. If we arrive late to study the Fa or leave early, then it is like starting one of the exercises mid-way. For example, in the second exercise, dropping your hands when you feel tired or putting down your legs in the fifth exercise when you feel pain has no benefit, right? If we should not stop or start mid-way through the exercises, a complementary means for reaching consummation, then perhaps we should not do so for Fa study, something essential for our cultivation.
In "Fa Teaching Given at the 2010 New York Fa Conference," venerable Master said,
"Precisely so that you can handle such things well, I have never stopped telling you to sincerely study the Fa and do real cultivation, for once the righteous thoughts are strong, you will truly have the god-like might to split a mountain in half—split it with but one thought. Just see if the old forces dare to meddle then. When your righteous thoughts arise, nothing can block your path. It is thus primarily students who haven’t been very diligent, who don’t study the Fa frequently, or whose minds are elsewhere while studying Fa who have been interfered with the most and persecuted the worst."
I think that Master is describing here how sharp our minds should be.
This is merely my understanding at my current limited level. Please kindly point out anything inappropriate.