(Minghui.org) I am a Falun Gong practitioner in China. The cultivation practice form of group Fa study and group exercise practice that Teacher left for us was initially destroyed when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) began to suppress Falun Gong in 1999. I also failed to see the importance of studying the Fa with fellow practitioners in a group format, and I fell miserably in my cultivation as a result.

I had only practiced for one short year before the CCP began suppressing Falun Gong in July 1999. I traveled up to Beijing twice during the early stages of the persecution, to exercise my constitutional right as a Chinese citizen to appeal on behalf of Falun Gong. I ended up being arrested and sentenced to two years in a forced labor camp. In May 2000, the forced labor camps nationwide started using people who had succumbed to the persecution and renounced Falun Gong to brainwash other incarcerated Falun Gong practitioners. I didn't care what the situation was like. I decided to be impervious. I focused on studying the Fa and cultivating myself based on the Fa.

I then looked for Falun Gong books and memorized the Fa, and I searched inward and identified my attachments based on the Fa. When compassionate and magnificent Teacher taught us the formula for sending forth righteous thoughts, it was as though I was given a pair of wings. I was once incarcerated for practicing Falun Gong in one of the most notorious forced labor camps in China. Shortly after I was released, they escalated the violence and torture. Many practitioners were rendered disabled by the mistreatment. Yet while I was there, I sent forth righteous thoughts whenever they tried to beat a fellow practitioner, and the torturers often stopped the violence quickly.

I spent a few years finishing my education after I was released. I was the only Falun Gong practitioner at school. I studied the Fa, practiced Falun Gong exercises, and sent forth righteous thoughts alone. Sometimes I traveled alone to pick up materials containing important facts about Falun Gong. I spent all my free time on my cultivation. I felt wonderful and never became tired. I used to be able to see with my Celestial Eye the formation of a Buddha paradise every evening for a period of time. I felt cultivation was not difficult at all.

I moved to a different area after I graduated. I started working and got married. I got in touch with the local practitioners, but I didn't attend a local group study or group exercise practice. I remained devoted to my cultivation and to doing the three things, but I always felt exhausted. I tried to study the Fa more, and I practiced the Falun Gong exercises more often, but it made little difference. I wanted to take a break after a period of such "intensive" cultivation. The longer break I took, the less I wanted to pick up a Falun Gong book again. I ended up taking a full break from practicing Falun Gong altogether. I repeated the cycle of intensive cultivation and no cultivation many times. I was in agony.

I stopped practicing Falun Gong for nearly a year in 2012, and had stopped for six months before that. Not long ago, fellow practitioners called on me and advised me to be diligent in my cultivation again. They suggested that I try to identify my fundamental attachment that had obstructed my cultivation. I thought it might have to do with an attachment to my family life. I told them that I had to go to work tomorrow, but I would attend the group Fa study the day after tomorrow. They were pleased when they left.

The first evening I attended the group Fa study, I read the Fa wholeheartedly. I remained focused when fellow practitioners were reading, and I focused very well. I suddenly realized that the root cause of my difficulties was that I failed to see the importance of attending group Fa study and group exercise practice!

When I first started practicing Falun Gong, I could only afford to attend the group Fa study once a week. I thought I focused better alone. I studied three to five lectures of Zhuan Falun each day by myself. I never thought it was a problem.

Studying the Fa and practicing Falun Gong exercises in a group is a form of cultivation that Teacher has left for us. It ensures that we upgrade our cultivation levels, and it is the quickest way to forge a cultivator. After I started attending the group Fa study, I was able to quickly overcome thought karma and enter tranquility. It might take me two hours to overcome thought karma alone, but it took only twenty minutes when I was studying the Fa with fellow practitioners. When I began treating group Fa study seriously, I once again felt that cultivation was not difficult. I identified my attachment to comfort, the mentality of showing off, zealotry, and lust. I began to conduct myself like a cultivator at all times. Now that I have reaped the benefits of attending group Fa study, I have started attending group exercise practice.

When I first started practicing Falun Gong, several fellow students and I used our lunch break to practice the Falun Gong exercises together. I felt enveloped with compassionate and peaceful energy each time. I felt as though I had returned to my true home. Each time I finished the group exercise practice, I felt like studying the Fa more and being more diligent in my cultivation, so that I could return to my true home in the sacred paradise. I felt fully recharged each time. Studying the Fa and practicing Falun Gong exercises as a group is like building a foundation for my cultivation. When I stopped doing it, I missed the energy from the group. That was how the evil elements from other dimensions had taken advantage of my loopholes.

I suddenly realized after I finished writing this article, that the evil from other dimensions is not capable of damaging the Fa, but it is has damaged the group cultivation environment that Teacher left for us. This is the ultimate sin it has committed against the Fa.

When we appealed to the State Appeals Office in 1999, the first thing we asked for was to end the persecution and give us back the freedom to practice Falun Gong as a group. But as the persecution continues, our focus has shifted to the arrest, incarceration, and torture of Falun Gong practitioners. We have forgotten our fundamental appeal of restoring our cultivation environment. I think this is how they distracted us.

Come to think of it. The evil has been trying to damage the Fa. But what exactly can they damage in the human realm?

Teacher said,

"I can tell you that watching the videos, group study, group practice, and conferences like the one we’re holding today are the only forms of Dafa cultivation that I have left you." ("Teaching the Fa at the Western U.S. Fa Conference")

With this in mind, I suggest that we pinpoint the evil that has damaged our group cultivation environment. The old forces might claim Falun Gong practitioners have attachments remaining, and use this excuse to justify the sin of torturing Falun Gong practitioners. But there is no way to justify their sin of damaging our group cultivation environment.

Teacher said,

"The cultivation practice form that I have left for Dafa disciples ensures that disciples can truly improve themselves. For example, I ask you to do the exercises as a group in parks in order to form an environment. This environment is the best way to change the surface of a person. The lofty conduct that Dafa disciples have established in this environment--including every word and every deed--can make people recognize their own weaknesses and identify their shortcomings; it can move their hearts, refine their conduct, and enable them to make progress more rapidly. Therefore, new students or self-taught disciples have to go to the practice sites to do the exercises." ("Environment" from Essentials for Further Advancement)

Teacher said,

"I’ll address a few minor things in passing. For one, from now on, veteran students, as long as you haven’t reached Consummation, you have to come out and practice. I am mentioning this once again. Why do I say this? It’s because our cultivation environment, our Fa-study environment, and what the students discuss and say when they are together are noble and form a rare and most pure environment. This is very hard to find in human society, and is the most benevolent and most wonderful piece of pure land, so you mustn’t lose this environment. That’s because human society is continuing to decline, and it’s getting worse and worse. You all have jobs in this ordinary human society, and you have social activities—all of you have contact with everyday people and ordinary human society. Consequently, what you see and hear, whether you intend it or not, all has to do with everyday people’s things, which will interfere with your cultivation. So it’s beneficial for you to often study the Fa together and use this basin of fresh water to cleanse yourselves." ("Teaching the Fa at the Eastern U.S. Fa Conference")

Teacher said,

"No matter how busy you may get, you still must study the Fa. This is why I am recommending that the Dafa disciples who are immersed in our various projects find time to participate in the local Fa-study. The reason is, in the preceding time, many a project asked me whether it would be alright for them to find time to study the Fa on their own, and so I have been observing, looking to see whether they could have a good handle on their own cultivation and meet the standard while not participating in the large group Fa-studies. The outcome, I found, was that they couldn’t. And not only didn’t they meet that standard, I found that they were stagnating; they were handling many things terribly; and many people were using human thinking to consider, view, and handle things, and falling behind in cultivation. I have seen the severity of this problem, and that is why I’m telling you that you had best still partake in the local Fa-study." ("Dafa Disciples Must Study the Fa - Fa Teaching Given at the 2011 Washington DC Metro Area Fa Conference")