I am Learning to Let Go of “Self” after Stumbling So Many Times
(Minghui.org) I have written many experience sharing articles during my 18 years of cultivation in Falun Dafa. However, this time I have finally realized that the meaning of life is to become an altruistic being. For a long time I have been too stubborn to let go of the attachment to “self.”
Clearly Recognizing “Self”
I started to practice Falun Dafa when I lived in England. I went from not knowing how to cultivate to eventually being able to “look inward” when encountering tribulations. I used to be ignorant about many things, but was later coordinating projects. I stumbled along the way and made serious mistakes in my cultivation, but always managed to turn myself around.
“This period of time will not last long, but it can forge the mighty virtue of magnificent Enlightened Beings, Buddhas, Daos, and Gods of different levels, and even Lords of different levels. It can also destroy overnight a cultivator who has reached a really high level but who has become less strict with himself.” (“Fa-Rectification Period Dafa Disciples”in Essentials for Further Advancement II)
I reached the lowest point in my cultivation about three or four years ago and experienced how terrifying it might be to be destroyed overnight. That year, it was decided we focus on mainstream society for our Shen Yun promotions. So, for the first time, we established a team to work on contacting large corporations. I was responsible for coordinating the team. I worked full-time as a manager at a large company at the time and was busy all the time. But I thought that as long as it is needed for Dafa I should do it.
It was a new and quite challenging project with no history to draw from, and the workload from my everyday job was also heavy. I had almost no time to do the exercises and Fa-study for several months, and had very little sleep.
I endured the hardship almost every day with perseverance. I was so exhausted that I experienced chest pains for the first time in my life. We had visited about 1000 large to medium sized companies throughout London by the end of the project, but our team didn't sell many tickets for the Shen Yun performances.
Despite our efforts, practitioners complained that we didn't play our role well. I had been a coordinator of different projects for many years and I was usually able to endure the pressure and criticism from others, but this time was different. I had never been criticized this much and my mind was never this weak. I cried a lot, and eventually quit the Shen Yun coordination team.
I decreased my participation in Dafa activities, and no longer met with other practitioners. Later, I couldn't even study the Fa. My cultivation fell to rock bottom within half a year. I was in excruciating pain, and wished that I could bury myself a hole and never come out again. My heart was full of sorrow and I was ashamed to face Master.
I was on the verge of going crazy one night, and forced myself to call a fellow practitioner. I cried out to them over the phone, “I can't cultivate anymore. But if I leave Dafa, what would I live for? I’d rather die!”
With the last fragments of my righteous thoughts, I played the song “Ode to Master's Grace” that evening. Facing Master I felt so ashamed of myself it broke my heart. I listened to the song over and over again, and cried the whole night. In the end, I made up my mind and spoke to Master in my heart, “Master, I must come back. But how can I?”
I was being overpowered by the old forces and couldn't even pick up a Dafa book. My mind was full of extraneous thoughts. I had been separated from Dafa for a long time, and was unable to control all these weird thoughts. I had no strength to expel them.
The only option was to fill my mind with the Fa. My divine side was very weak, but decided to give all of myself to the Fa. I listened to the Fa through my earphones wherever I went the following day, and only stopped to attend to necessary work.
However, my mind was distracted for a lot of the time. But with the Fa gradually entering my mind and body, bit by bit I gained a little strength and more righteous thoughts.
When my mind drifted away from Master's words I would try to consciously drive out the distracting thoughts. My righteous thoughts gradually grew stronger, and I found that I was no longer held captive by the old forces.
My Fa-study was a great battle every day between good and evil in other dimensions. When the old forces distracted my mind, I tried my best to pull it back. I held a single thought every day, “I want to obtain the Fa. I want to fill my whole mind with the Fa.” After one month of determination and a lot of effort, I managed to overcome the tribulation.
During all these years of cultivation, what did I value the most? Was it Master? Was it saving sentient beings? It was none of them, but the elevation of my own realm. Whenever I ran into difficulties, I would “look within”, and thought that I was on the Fa. I misunderstood “Fa-rectification” as doing Fa-rectification work to achieve the goal of self-elevation, i.e. utilizing Fa-rectification to fulfill my own needs. I found my attachment to “self.”
Viewing other practitioners' criticism from a selfish perspective, I only saw that they blamed and resented me. Even if I knew to “look within” and cultivate myself, my breadth of mind was limited. But if I viewed their criticism from the perspective of Fa-rectification cultivation, focusing on how the project did instead of how I did, I would have found that all the comments in fact came from the valuable hearts of my fellow practitioners, who were being responsible to the Fa.
Master said, “I treat all beings with the greatest mercy.” (“Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Atlanta Fa Conference”)
I know that without Master's “greatest mercy,” I wouldn’t be alive today. I told myself, “I am now a new practitioner. I need to start cultivation again solidly.”
I made the best use of my time every day and treated cultivation seriously. Unwittingly, I soon found the state I once had at the beginning of my cultivation. My cultivation journey became more stable after that.
Letting Go of “Self”
I left England after the 2014 New York Fa Conference and came to the US to work as a full-time salesperson for Sound of Hope Radio in the San Francisco Bay Area. Compared to the other sales representatives on the project, I had experience of working for a Western company that they lacked. I worked hard at the project and never slacked off in my cultivation, but I was unable to sign a single contract for 11 months. This was an unfortunate record-breaking moment in the company's history.
During this period of time I started to experience physical discomfort. My limbs became swollen and ached. I even had difficult getting in and out of the car, and getting dressed.
While talking with a client one time, I calmly held my laptop in my arms. The client didn't know that it took my full strength to hold that laptop, and the pain was so great that my hands and arms were almost trembling.
I didn't slack off in my cultivation because of the pain in my body. I went to work every morning after sending forth righteous thoughts at 3 a.m.. Looking up at the dark sky, I reflected on Master's words from Zhuan Falun, “When one's Buddha-nature emerges, it will shake 'the world of ten directions'.” I believe that one layer of meaning to these words is that amidst complete darkness and despair, one's Buddha-nature is still not lost.
I signed four contracts in a row for the first time and found that my mind had fundamentally changed. I had always thought that my success came from my ability and effort I put in. However, during those 11 months, when I exhausted all my abilities, despite all the hard work my efforts ended up in vain.
I finally realized that everything is given to us by our Master. During this 11-month-long ordeal, I learned to let go of self, be humble in the Fa, and above all, be thankful to our Master on all occasions.
This experience also let me understand the bitterness of cultivation from a new perspective.
When I eventually overcame a tribulation in the past, after enduring tremendous pain, I felt relieved and satisfied with myself. But now I understand, it is because I had so many human attachments and didn't cultivate well that I experienced those ordeals.
“Cultivation itself is not painful—the key lies in your inability to let go of ordinary human attachments. Only when you are about to let go of your reputation, interests, and feelings will you feel pain.” (“True Cultivation” in Essentials for Further Advancement)
So the bitterness I felt in cultivation was because I couldn't let go of my human attachments. Only human beings feel suffering; divine beings don't.
Cultivating a Mind That Thinks of Others
After returning from the 2015 New York Fa Conference, I earnestly watched the truth-clarification video series “Now and For the Future – The Story of Falun Dafa.” When I saw scenes from the parades and rallies of Dafa disciples in various European countries, I reflected upon myself.
I participated in all of those activities, but I didn't uphold the Fa from the perspective of saving sentient beings. I didn't put sentient beings first and hadn't developed a selfless mind at that time. Thus, I couldn't fully understand Fa-rectification and the mission of Dafa disciples. In this situation how can one cultivate an altruistic mind?
I planned to go to a room at the office to study the Fa one day. Passing the staff room, I saw a practitioner assembling furniture. A thought flashed through my mind, “Should I go over and help?” I decided to just go inside and study the Fa, but I couldn't calm my mind however much I tried. I thought I was being selfish. I didn't offer to help because I didn't want to lose my time to study the Fa. Eventually, I walked over and helped the practitioner to assemble the furniture. I told them my thoughts, and got the reply, “Why is this “self” so strong?”
I thought about it for several days, but still couldn't figure out where I was wrong. When I looked back at my cultivation over those 11 months where I didn't sign a contract, I realized that behind my diligent, solid cultivation lay a strong attachment of pursuit. I wanted to strive forward vigorously; I wanted to achieve this or that; I wanted to push the project in a certain way. It all came from that “self.”
Although it appeared that I had sacrificed, I was in fact trying to achieve my own goals, and my actions were not for the sake of others. Truly helping others should be simple and without intention.
I now understand that my so-called “diligent cultivation” was still born out of selfishness. A fellow practitioner's words resonated with me. They said that I behaved like a little blade of grass painstakingly putting in effort to grow taller. But, by letting go of all these attachments and cultivating in Dafa, a little blade of grass will naturally grow taller.
When I arrived in the US about one and a half years ago, I often saw a practitioner with good English skills leading several others to read the English version of Zhuan Falun. I thought that it was a waste of time as they read so slowly. In order to read at that pace one needs to sacrifice a lot. It was impossible for me to do it, so I had admiration for that practitioner. However, nothing is coincidental.
A few weeks ago a fellow practitioner asked me to help her read the English version of Zhuan Falun. I agreed without hesitation. She half-jokingly said that it was also to help me get rid of my selfishness. I looked within and found that this time there was no resentment in my heart. On the contrary, I was quite happy and felt that it was such a wonderful thing to help a fellow practitioner. Recalling my state one year ago, I was amazed and wondered when had I removed my attachment to “self.”
More practitioners later joined us. One day, a practitioner who joined us on the first day left after only a brief period of Fa-study. I saw her later and asked if I had done anything improper.
She said she couldn't accept our way of Fa-study. My heart moved a little bit. However, when I thought about her words carefully, I realized that she had a point and it was a good reminder for me. Why did my heart move? I looked inward.
I wanted my efforts to be recognized by others. I immediately realized that Master is teaching me that helping others unconditionally and selflessly is the state that a Dafa practitioner should reach.
Wanting Something in Return for Being “Diligent”
While I was doing my job for Sound of Hope, I often reminded myself to maintain a good cultivation state in order to be successful at sales.
We recently met with a car dealer three times, from the initial presentation to the final price negotiation. The meetings were very successful. Since the car dealer belongs to a larger business group our advertising contract had to be submitted to the headquarters for approval. They were very much interested and agreed on the price.
We submitted the contract, and I kept sending forth righteous thoughts to make sure the contract would be signed successfully.
When Xi Jinping, head of the Chinese Communist Party, visited Seattle in September 2015 many practitioners from the Bay Area went there to help out with the activities organized to draw attention to the persecution of Falun Dafa in China. As it was a large event, I thought that I should participate and decided to go.
We received a message from the car dealers during that time, informing us that they had misread the price on the contract, and thought the fee was about a tenth of what we had originally agreed upon. They said they didn't want to pursue the advertisement.
I couldn't believe this excuse. We had gone through the numbers line by line during our meetings, and they said it was no problem when we presented them with the total cost. Why did they change their mind all of a sudden?
I looked inward but couldn't find any loopholes. I was a little sad, but knew that only Master can decide the outcome of things. My return date from Seattle was the night before the contract was supposed to be signed, and I had originally planned to meet with them on that day.
We studied Zhuan Falun together the day after returning from Seattle. Master said:
“Suppose that someone has a heart disease. When this hand moves toward the heart to grab that being, the hand in another dimension moves inside the body, and it will be caught instantly. As your outside hand grabs it, both hands close in and will grab it.”
I sent forth righteous thoughts before the meeting. It's like, I will perform well during the meeting in this dimension, then the hand in another dimension will enter. Then “both hands close in,” and I will eliminate the old forces interference. I felt a strong energy field while sending righteous thoughts.
On my way to the car dealers that afternoon, I thought I would use the profit from the contract for the Sound of Hope operations. This way, the people at the car dealers will be contributing to Dafa and helping their future. If they could understand what it meant to their lives by signing this contract, they would not miss the chance. A wish rose from my heart, “I am willing to let go of everything for saving sentient beings.”
When I got to the car dealers, the person there refused to see me. It took me by surprise. The person at the front desk was told to tell me that because the figure on the contract was wrong they didn't want to continue. This behavior was completely different from the previous times we had met.
No matter what I said, he wouldn’t see me. I walked out of the car dealers not knowing what to think. Then, one sentence entered my mind, “Do you still believe that Master’s arrangements are the best?” I answered in my mind, “Yes, I believe so. Today’s outcome was not good. It is because I did not cultivate well. Maybe there are reasons I couldn't see.”
On my drive back to work, I remembered Master’s words from the “Fa Teaching Given at the 2015 New York Fa Conference.” Master said,
“And with Dafa disciples, your each and every thought is determining the survival of many beings; how you handle things, and whether you do them well or not, is deciding the future existence of those beings.”
I realized how serious cultivation is. Even though I didn't know what was wrong with me, I knew that my cultivation status determines the lives of other beings. I must change my thoughts!
I vowed to Master in my mind, “Master, from this day forward I will not eliminate attachments for my own elevation. I will get rid of them for the sake of sentient beings!”
I could feel my ego starting to melt. I understood that a heart completely for others is not to be pursued, but comes as a result of cultivation. Without human sentiment, there is compassion. Without self, there is selflessness.
In the days that followed, I kept thinking about why the contract with the car dealers didn't go well. What did Master want me to enlighten to?
I remembered those 11 months without signing a contract. The most painful experience during that time was not the physical pain, nor the fact there was no contract, but that I didn't get a result after I tried my best. I suddenly realized my experience with the car dealers was the same. I thought that I was being diligent when sending righteous thoughts, but I was actually asking for returns from Master.
“'But I know that as long as I cultivate, Teacher will definitely heal me.' Part of their minds still think [about their ailment]. Have they changed fundamentally? No. What appears on the surface to be good is phony. If a person can’t make a fundamental change in himself, he can’t reach the standard.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Singapore”)
This passage seemed to refer to me. During those days without any contracts signed, I kept thinking that as long as I worked hard Master will give me something. In my dealings with the car dealers, I thought that as long as I maintain strong righteous thoughts Master will give me something. Even with the Seattle trip, I thought that as long as I walk on the right path Master will give me something.
My ego did not change—I still wanted what I wanted. I sacrificed only because I wanted to gain. Therefore, when I didn't get the desired returns, I felt pained.
I realized this, and wanted to change. I wanted to get rid of this phony surface level diligence, and bring out my true self - to let a selfless heart emerge.
I joined a group Fa-study one morning and read Lecture Three of Zhuan Falun.
“We will put together your different karma in your future life, and eliminate part of it or half of it. The remaining half is still higher than a mountain, and you cannot overcome it. What should be done?”
“Though there is almost nothing left, it is still quite a lot, and you are still unable to overcome it. Then, what happens? It will be divided into numerous portions for different phases of your cultivation practice. They will be used to upgrade your xinxing, transform your karma, and increase your gong.”
I have read this numerous times, yet only today have I realized that as soon as we started to cultivate in Dafa, Master eliminated a lot of our karma, with the remaining part placed at different levels for us to upgrade our xinxing. If a practitioner didn't pass a test and raise their level, Master would bear extra hardships for him or her. And the more a practitioner slacks off in their cultivation, the more hardship Master will bear for him or her.
Realizing that Master has shouldered the burden for all of my previous mistakes, my voice choked up as I read the Fa. I realized this, and found that every sentence that followed in the lecture is full of great compassion. That morning, I started my day with immense gratitude to Master.
A few days later, we read the same section again during group Fa-study. This time I had a completely new understanding. Master says that he eliminates half of our karma and the remaining half is placed at different levels for us to upgrade our xinxing. I believe that Master is telling us that our cultivation is systematically arranged during the cultivation process. Master always talks about us and never about how he removes the other half of our karma. Master didn't tell us how he suffers for his disciples at each level, and how he has exhausted all he has for saving all sentient beings in the cosmos. Master has let his disciple's understand what a completely selfless realm is like.
During my cultivation process, full of stumbling, I have gradually started to see that my past diligence in cultivation was motivated by a strong attachment of pursuit and selfishness. As a life cultivating in Dafa, if the starting point is selfish, no matter how hard one tries, one will be unable to meet the standard of the new cosmos.
My heart is filled with infinite gratitude to Master and a feeling of happiness that comes from cultivating Dafa. To become an altruistic being is the happiest thing a life can be. Under the guidance of Master, step-by-step, this is also the selfless realm that we as the kings and lords of the future new cosmos must reach in our cultivation.