Nurturing Predestined Connections and Genuinely Cultivating
Greetings, Master! Greetings, Fellow Practitioners!
Last year I thought about writing a paper, but many things blocked me, thinking that there were so many areas that I had yet to break through in my cultivation. During the conference, I felt bad that I did not at least make an effort to contribute to this important regional event. I thought surely I would write a paper next time. This time I still felt blocked and unsure of what, out of all the aspects of cultivation, to write about. Though I feel the same sense that I haven't made a solid breakthrough in many areas of my cultivation, I hope my sharing will be of some benefit to others.
After hearing a speech at last year's conference about screening the documentary Free China: The Courage to Believe, I decided to get involved with this effort when possible. Besides helping with several screenings at the State Capitol, my husband and I also hosted a screening for professors and local government leaders at the university where he works. Beforehand, we talked a lot about how to go about inviting people to the event, which we planned for December 10, International Human Rights Day. We wondered whether to go the fast route and have an invitation e-blasted to the professors through each department's email list serve, but felt that if we did that it would be overlooked by most people. So we decided to email each of them personally instead.
When drafting the email invitation, I didn't know how to introduce ourselves at first. They would not be familiar with NTDTV or our Falun Gong group, so I chose not to approach them as a representative of either. I decided to simply have it be a more personal invitation from my husband and myself. I explained that, as a fellow professor at the university and his wife who volunteers for human rights efforts, we invited a representative of NTDTV to present this film. Not wanting to miss a chance to clarify the truth to those who wouldn't be able to make it, I included a quote by a US Congressman that promoted the film and supported Falun Gong.
We both spent quite a bit of time sending the emails to the professors, one by one. My husband shared with me that, to save time, he sent the invitation to his department's email list instead of individually. However, not one faculty member responded. Conversely, we got a good response to the personal emails, with several replying right away to accept the invitation and others who couldn't make it writing back to show their support. The Chair of my husband's department and his wife also agreed to come, as we had developed a good relationship already. This showed us that, while a personal approach can take more time and effort, in the end, it is often more effective.
Besides emailing the faculty, I also used this opportunity to visit several local organizations and the city council and invited them to the screening. At the city council, I spent less time talking about the film and focused on Falun Gong and the persecution, knowing that many listeners would not be able to attend the film. A reporter for the local newspaper recorded my speech and wrote a very good article about the screening that did a great job exposing the persecution. Since it was a private screening, rather than include the time and location, the article included my phone number in case readers were interested in attending. The day of the screening I got a call from a woman who had read the article and wanted to attend. She said that she and her husband were Jewish and were particularly concerned with human rights. Another couple and the president of a local political organization came after I gave presentations at their meetings. At those meetings, I also focused on introducing Falun Gong and the persecution, while inviting them to see the film.
Based on the RSVPs, we estimated that around 40 people would be attending the screening. As a group, we maintained righteous thoughts and took care of all the preparations. As the people began arriving, I suddenly had the feeling that these were all my close friends, and we greeted each other with warm smiles and handshakes.
During the discussion and Q&A afterward, it seemed like many misconceptions were cleared up in people's minds after watching the film. Then, when it seemed time to wrap things up, I mentioned my arrest in China years ago and how I sang a song that moved a Chinese guard to tears. A woman in the audience suddenly called out, “Will you sing it now?” It took me by surprise a little, but the atmosphere was so benevolent that it was not hard for me to sing a verse of the song “Dedu” for them. Everyone seemed to feel that it was a good way to end the night and we thanked them all for coming and people began to leave. They seemed so happy.
As I was saying goodbye to the guests, the woman who had asked me to sing approached me and said, “Is your mother's name Dianna?” It turned out that she was a friend of my mother's from long ago when they both used to live in another state and they had lost contact over the years. She had not seen me since I was a very young child, nor did I recognize her. We hugged each other, and I told her it was “yuanfen,” predestined relationship, that she and her husband came to this event. She agreed and said she would remember the Chinese word. We've kept in touch since then and she also attended the art exhibition we held later in the year and brought her art students to see it. During the art exhibit, we also saw some remarkable predestined connections of many of the attendees.
Master taught us,
“People with predestined relationships and those who can be saved can be made to--made to by Master's Law Bodies, righteous gods, or the immense field that Dafa has formed in the world--appear right before you in any of a range of settings, providing them with a chance to learn the truth. But you have to carry it out, and it doesn't work if you're not out there doing things.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Fa Conference at the U.S. Capital”)
What's amazing to me is how no matter what we are doing, whether efforts to clarify the truth, or handling our daily affairs, we always have opportunities to cultivate and improve.
“So everything that you do, be it your balancing well your family relationships while you live among ordinary people, balancing well your relationships in society, how you perform at your workplace, how you conduct yourself in society, etc., none of these are things you can just go through the motions on. All of these are part of your cultivation format, and are serious matters.” (“Teaching the Fa in Canada, 2006”)
I'd like to share a story about a trivial matter, but one that illustrates a serious issue in my personal cultivation. A couple years ago I planned to order an electric teapot online. I spent a little too much time reading reviews and was trying to get the best deal for my money. When the teapot arrived, it was a cold day. I was anxious to try out the teapot so I opened it right away, filled it with water, and turned it on. Once it boiled I noticed a puddle of water near the teapot. “Oh, no,” I thought, “I remember reading a review about this happening. I must have gotten a bad one. Maybe I should return it.” When I examined the teapot I noticed a large crack on the plastic part at the bottom. I suddenly realized that it was possible I caused it to crack by heating up the teapot while it was still cold from being outside. However, I couldn't bear the loss. I thought that I should at least check with the company about their return policy. I got online with the company and was honest with the customer service agent that the crack might have been my fault. The agent said I could return it regardless, but I didn't feel right. I knew that just because that was the company's policy didn't make it OK. I was torn, though, as I still didn't want to lose the money. I called my husband and explained the situation. Because he is also a practitioner, he said right away, “Don't return it. You caused the problem, so just order a new one.” His immediate right stance and willingness to pay for a new one made me feel ashamed of my selfishness. I also felt bad that my attachment would cost him more money. I finally decided to keep the broken teapot instead of ordering another one and put down any concern that it might not be safe to do so. When I went back to take a look at the teapot, the plastic had expanded and the crack was virtually non-existent. The teapot worked fine and still works today.
Though I learned a good lesson, it was not enough to uproot my strong attachment. Around the same time, I ordered some brand name winter boots, but instead of ordering them at full price from the company or a department store, I got them a little cheaper through another website. When they arrived, I saw right away that they were cheaply-made knock offs, and they hurt my feet. I had been deceived due to my attachment to gain. Again, I felt so bad for wasting my husband's money that I felt I should take the time to dispute the charge with the credit card company and mail the boots back to the fraudulent company. I felt wronged, though I knew it was my fault.
Then, suddenly, a deep sadness came over me that had nothing to do with the sense of loss, regret, and guilt I was experiencing. It was as if I felt my true self's sadness over the attachment to gain that I still would not let go. In the past I had always thought that seeing my attachments was sufficient for making progress toward letting them go. But this experience made me realize that I need to truly see the seriousness of the attachment and earnestly want to let it go more than anything else. I then felt at peace, and, although I continue to come across situations that reveal another piece of this attachment, I see it more clearly and have the heart to truly change.
I came into the practice thinking that I was pretty good because I had always been seeking a righteous path. I thought I was especially good for having found Falun Dafa. Though I knew to look inside and give up attachments, I often didn't recognize the need to truly change my heart. Not only did I think I was pretty good already, but even while facing tests in cultivation, as soon as I saw a little improvement, I would stop there and feel satisfied that I was making good progress. I was stopping at the surface, while beyond that is a true change of heart, which means truly putting the principles into practice, while even better would be to do so without the inner struggle.
No matter how long we've cultivated, it seems that we always need to ask ourselves whether we are truly putting the Fa principles into practice and genuinely cultivating.
“Often, people say to me things like, 'In the past, when I read the Fa my level rose so quickly. And as I read the book, things that would improve my understanding were constantly revealed to me. How come I don’t experience that anymore?' Then think about this: are you 'cultivating with the heart you once had?” (“Fa Teaching at the 2013 Greater New York Fa Conference”)
A few years ago I discovered my fundamental attachment, my original motivation for practicing Dafa. My husband and I were under a lot of stress and one day we got into a pretty bad fight. Neither of us behaved like a cultivator. I felt really low at that point, and that I was unfit to clarify the truth to people, as I was such a poor representative of the practice. At that point, I realized that my fundamental attachment was to having a happy and comfortable life, and I believed there would be a direct cause and effect—if one practiced Dafa, good things would happen. I realized that, because of this pursuit, I had begun to doubt the Fa. I made up my mind at that moment to cultivate Dafa without any precondition and to clarify the truth no matter what.
Again, realizing my problem and putting it into practice daily are two different things. Just earlier this week I happened to get up earlier than usual in the morning. I decided to use the time to read the Fa. I was going to be busy that day on the computer for a Dafa project, and I thought if I was able to read more first, things would go smoother. But I had trouble concentrating as I read, and from there everything I did that day just became more and more difficult. I barely finished my work before going to our local group Fa study in the evening. I mentioned how rough my day was to a fellow practitioner and that it might be because I wasn't used to waking up so early. But I knew that wasn't right. I realized that I had read the Fa with a pursuit and thus the Fa truths were not revealed to me and I felt sleepy. During our group study that night I was able to concentrate more than usual, whereas all too often in the past my mind would tend to wander and I would have a hard time keeping up with Chinese readers. In the lecture we read, Master warning's of how pursuit blocks genuine cultivation continuously jumped out at me.
Talking about supernormal abilities, Master said,
“Thus, the more you pursue them, the less you get. It is because you are pursuing something. Pursuit itself is an attachment. In cultivation practice, attachments are what need to be eliminated.” (Lecture Three, Zhuan Falun)
Actually I had the same kind of mindset when doing the exercises. Due to my pursuit of comfort and good health, I developed a notion that if I just did the exercises consistently I'd be in a state of perfect health and full of energy. Early in my cultivation, Chinese practitioners would often correct my movements. I thought that by accepting their advice and by noticing my attachment of not wanting to be criticized, that I was cultivating myself well.
However, just a few months ago, I was practicing the third exercise with a Chinese practitioner from another area and she stopped me to correct my movements. This time it suddenly occurred to me what the source of my incorrect movement was. I had been doing the movements like aerobics, not meditation. When I did the third exercise, my shoulders would make a popping sound. The practitioner pointed out that the popping indicated a problem. Since it had felt good to me, I had not thought it was a problem before. As soon as I adjusted my mindset and transitioned into a more meditative state, the popping began to go a way and I felt truly relaxed and engaged in the meditation.
I still haven't reached a point of naturally getting into the meditative state, but making a point to do so makes a huge difference. I also feel that this is extending into my daily activities and has made me less restless. For example, for the past couple years I had become attached to visiting a social network site due to a sense of restlessness and boredom, even in times when I was busy with Dafa projects. Wanting to escape from daily stress, I also sought out entertainment or exciting food. Now, having experienced a true sense of calm through meditation, I have less of these desires and a sincere wish to remain in a more simple and pure state of mind.
At the beginning of this sharing, I mentioned that there are many areas of my cultivation that I have yet to break through. Seeing only very gradual progress on some major issues for me, I began to wonder if I was wrong to think that a breakthrough was possible, and that these tribulations were something I had to overcome gradually. However, when looking for a specific Fa passage for this article, I happened to come across the following Fa teaching,
“Breakthroughs will occur if you keep up your Fa-study. Only by studying the Fa well can you validate the Fa, and only by studying the Fa well can you do better.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2007 New York Fa Conference”)
Due to insufficient Fa study and oftentimes approaching it with a pursuit to solve my problems, my progress has been slow. Thankful that I still have opportunities, while knowing that time is short, I promise to do better to study well and practice without pursuit, genuinely cultivate myself in all things, and hurry to save more sentient beings.
Thank you, Master! Thank you, fellow practitioners!
(Presented at the 2013 US Midwest Falun Dafa Sharing Conference)