Waking Up and Learning to Cultivate
(Minghui.org) Master said:
“Everyone sits here to learn this Dafa, so you must here conduct yourselves as true practitioners, and you must give up attachments. If you come to learn the practice and this Dafa with various pursuits, you will not learn anything. To tell you the truth, the entire cultivation process for a practitioner is one of constantly giving up human attachments.” (Lecture One, Zhuan Falun)
These are some of the very first teachings one reads when studying Zhuan Falun. Yet, it has taken me many years to grasp what this means for me, in my own cultivation, and how to genuinely put it into practice.
The persecution in China began back in 1999, just a few months after I began cultivating. We were immediately swept into Fa-rectification. We were busy doing so many things every day, including making materials, contacting media, visiting government officials, and holding public events. It was a non-stop whirlwind of activity.
As the months stretched into years, I began to notice several things about myself that seemed not quite right.
First, even though we had a large group of practitioners here in New York City, and we were constantly together doing things, deep inside, I felt like an outsider…as if something was separating me from the body of practitioners. When something happened and we got together to discuss it, I saw the practitioners around me feeling passionate about clarifying the truth and doing things. I could see it came from their hearts. Whereas with me, to some extent, I felt like I was faking it. I offered my opinions and ideas mostly to demonstrate that I had ideas and was “contributing.” Deep inside, however, it didn’t come from a point of wanting to save people and expose the evil.
Secondly, being a Dafa disciple in the world actively saving people was something I felt like I turned off and on, as if it were a job. For example, I went to Dafa activities, and in those moments worked to do the things practitioners should do. But afterwards, I relaxed on the subway home, sitting down to browse the Internet. When I did this, I was no longer a practitioner in the world to save people, but just acting like an ordinary person. In other words, being a Dafa disciple was not my inherent starting point at all times and in all places. Rather, it was a “mode” I turned off and on depending on what I was doing.
Third, for many years, I’ve constantly fought being drowsy while studying the Fa. I often had to stand up during group Fa study so I didn’t fall asleep, and sometimes even paced the room while reading.
Lastly, over the years, I became acutely aware that I didn't seem to possess the righteous field of a cultivator. I could speak eloquently enough about the persecution and use this and that way to explain what’s happening, but it seemed very difficult to really move people’s hearts and eliminate the evil in their minds with my words.
Why did I have all these problems? To some extent, I realized that cultivation was a process, and that one elevates gradually. Also, Master had lectured on how our cultivated sides get separated.
“A person’s good side can’t be seen anymore, as it has been separated. What you see will always be the side that has not been cultivated yet.” (“What is a Dafa Disciple”)
Yet, I felt that there was something more fundamental to my problems. It was as if I was carrying around fundamental attachments, and refusing to let them go, or even recognize them. Furthermore, I was not consistently alert enough in my mind to seriously look into them and dig them out at the root. Looking back, I see the bottom line was that I really didn’t understand how to cultivate, nor did I have the will to really learn how. I was trying, stumbling, and often faking the process of looking within, but not truly and effectively doing it.
Then, approximately four years ago, something happened that sent me into a long and difficult tribulation. One night, I suddenly developed all kinds of symptoms, from shortness of breath, to nausea, to headaches, to a racing heart beat. Sometimes I couldn’t eat well. Other times, I could not sleep. The tribulation went on and on…Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months, and months into a couple of years. Some days were better than others, but it seemed that every day I was battling some physical ailment, and often terrible thoughts and worries whipped through my mind. It was like my physical body and thoughts were on a rollercoaster ride, being jerked up and down, and side to side by the old forces.
On some occasions, I thought I might die. On other occasions, I thought I was losing the ability to have any righteous thoughts at all.
During the first few months of this tribulation, I spent a lot of time sharing with practitioners who were close to me, but as time wore on, I shared less and less, because I felt that my condition wasn’t improving, and that continually discussing the same issue over and over would cause interference for the group, or at least wear on those around me.
However, there were some things I never gave up on, and remained diligent about. Every night I read articles from the Minghui website, and considered my own cultivation from what those articles shared. Also, no matter how difficult it got, I continued to attend group Fa study sessions. Sometimes during the sharing at group Fa study, I was moved to tears by my fellow practitioners’ sharings, their heart for saving people, and how they cultivate. This really inspired me, and provided more insight into how one actually does cultivation. I truly cherished these Fa study groups, and learned a great deal. Lastly, I continued to attend meetings and do the Fa-validation work I felt I should, regardless of how I felt.
It seemed for a long time that I was stuck in trying to find a solution to the tribulation. But slowly, over time, as I became more diligent with Fa study and sending righteous thoughts, and continued to do Fa-validation work with teams of practitioners, I began looking at myself more clearly, and it became apparent that there were very fundamental flaws in how I was practicing, and in my understanding of Dafa and Master.
One of the first and most shameful problems that I recognized in myself was that I was using Dafa for my own well-being, or to put it more directly, I was using Dafa like a drug. When I studied the Fa, I was pursuing the clarity of mind and peacefulness that one feels after studying the Fa. When exercising, I was pursuing the healthy, light, and energetic feeling one gets after exercising. I was tired and afraid of this world, and I wanted Dafa to elevate me out of it.
This spilled over into all aspects of my life, including my Fa-validation work. I stayed up late, night after late night, for many years, driven not so much by compassion in my heart for sentient beings and a deep wish to help save them, but rather, based on some flawed concept that if I put in the time, Dafa would repay me. That is, to demonstrate that if I participated, I was “due” a return, as if I could bargain with the Fa. It was all done for myself, and what I realized is that, according to my understanding, this is precisely a critical error that the old forces themselves make. They participate in the Fa Rectification in the hopes of saving themselves and doing things in accordance with their warped notions, and not in accordance with what Master wants. I was essentially doing something very similar.
“While encountering persecution there have been many Dafa disciples who have fallen, or who have failed to keep up, and it has largely been due to their not having understood what Master is doing, to using human thinking to evaluate Master’s [wishes].” (“What Does it Mean to 'Help Master Rectify the Fa'?”)
Of course, we have all heard Master speak about the principles of understanding the Fa-rectification, but the real indication of one’s understanding is the true thoughts that drive one’s actions, and the actions themselves. And judging by my actions, I didn’t understand. So there I was, mired in a prolonged physical and mental tribulation, having realized that a lot of what I have done in Fa-rectification was for myself and not in accordance with the Fa. What was I to do now?
I realized the answer at long last. I had to change myself. I had to fundamentally change myself. I had to face the selfishness that I had been carrying around for so long, realize it was not me, and put it down. Furthermore, I had to wipe away all the notions and attachments that were burying my true self, and preventing it from playing the lead role in my life. This was also a long and involved process. I’ll just share just a few stories from this journey.
The Power of One True Thought
I was lying awake one night because like so many nights that year, my physical discomfort was not allowing me to sleep. But then suddenly, a few clear righteous thoughts arose in my mind. “I’m a Fa Rectification Dafa Disciple. I’m here to assist Master. I may not have done well in many regards, but this tribulation is not allowed. Being mired in this tribulation is not what Master wants.” With these clear thoughts, I suddenly felt fine… All the symptoms went away, and soon I drifted off to sleep.
Over the next few weeks, this kind of thing happened a few times, and it made me realize a flaw in my understanding. I had brought into cultivation the notion that change was only possible when actually doing Fa study or the exercises. If I was just walking around or doing daily activities, I was not able to truly make a change.
What I learned from these instances was that Master is always right beside us, and one thought…not words forced in my head, but a true thought arising from the heart, is all it takes to make a huge change, and it can happen in just an instant. When I changed myself to be in line with the Fa, great changes happened to me, and around me. Of course, Fa study and exercises are a foundation that makes cultivation possible, but I was no longer using Fa study and exercises as a tool to feel better… I was truly making changes inside my heart, moment to moment, each and every day.
Study the Fa, Study the Fa, Study the Fa
As I became more clear, I realized that the quality of my Fa study was extremely poor, and had been so for years. Most likely, because I had been treating Dafa as a drug, there had been a lot of interference, and I was having a very hard time focusing, and was constantly drowsy. Furthermore, I had always been a little relieved when Fa study was over. “Ah,” I would think to myself, “I made it through the arduous task of staying awake and got my fill of Dafa, and now I can relax a bit.”
“When your mind wanders all over the place as you read, the countless Buddhas, Daos, and Gods in the book see your laughable and pitiable mind, and see the karma in your thoughts controlling you, which is detestable. And yet you cling to delusion and fail to wake up. Some volunteers go long periods of time without reading or studying the Fa. How could they do Dafa work well? You have unwittingly incurred many losses that are hard to recover. Past lessons should have made you more mature. The only way to prevent the old, evil forces from taking advantage of the gaps in your mind is to make good use of your time to study the Fa.” (“Towards Consummation”)
After becoming clear about this problem, however, I really put my heart into Fa study. I joined more Fa study sessions, which I found helped energize me, inspire me, and keep me alert. I soon found myself disappointed when the study was done, hoping we could read a little more. Furthermore, after correcting my Fa study I felt that I had truly turned a corner. I could feel my “selfishness” falling away, and it seemed I was naturally being more considerate of and more at ease with others. I could finally clarify the truth to people face-to-face, calmly assessing their needs and perspectives, without problems of “self” getting in the way.
Sending Forth Righteous Thoughts
Another big change was with my sending forth righteous thoughts. For a long time, I had treated it as a chore, feeling a bit relieved when the 15 minutes was over, and not being too concerned about missing one of the set times.
I began to realize, however, that sending forth righteous thoughts was truly a magical gift, with far-reaching impact.
“I’ll tell you, for years I have been continually saying that Dafa disciples’ abilities are tremendous, yet many people don’t believe this since those abilities were not allowed to be seen. Under the effect of righteous thoughts, everything around you, as well as you yourself, will undergo changes. Yet you have never thought to give it a try.” (“20th Anniversary Fa Teaching”)
This passage really struck me, especially the last sentence, “Yet you have never thought to give it a try.” When I first read this, I thought to myself, “What does this mean? We’ve been sending righteous thoughts for more than ten years. How can it be that we’ve never thought to give it a try?”
As I thought about this more, and examined closely how I had sent forth righteous thoughts in the past, I came to understand that truly sending righteous thoughts was far more than what I had conceived it to be. I came to realize that righteous thoughts were a powerful force for changing ourselves, changing our environment, and ensuring that Master’s wishes for Fa-rectification are carried out. It is much bigger and more grand than anything I had thought before.
Around this time, I sat down to read carefully the Minghui website editorial “The Essentials to Sending Forth Righteous Thoughts,” through which I discovered that not only had I not fully understood the profundity of sending forth righteous thoughts, but there were several things about the actual process that I was not doing properly, including what exactly to think before sending righteous thoughts, how to approach it, etc. I kept a printout of this Minghui guide with me for a few weeks, revisiting it again and again, until I felt I had corrected all the things I was doing wrong, and fully understood how to properly send forth righteous thoughts.
Very soon, sending forth righteous thoughts became much more powerful. Many times if I sensed something was not right in my field or in my environment, I sat to send forth righteous thoughts. At times, I could feel my divine side rectifying things on many levels. When I got up from righteous thoughts, many things changed, including even my own outlook and perspective. It truly was like Master said, “Under the effect of righteous thoughts, everything around you, as well as you yourself, will undergo changes.” (“20th Anniversary Fa Teaching”)
Working for Shen Yun with Righteous Thoughts
The changes I was going through also manifested in my Shen Yun work. I work with other practitioners to promote Shen Yun shows through media and other PR outlets. The Shen Yun office has very strict and clear requirements regarding the media, and everything we do we discuss first with the Shen Yun office to make sure we have approval.
We were working with one newspaper last year, and for various reasons, we decided under the guidance of the Shen Yun office to meet with one of their reporters. The interview went well, and after some followup questions, the reporter wrote her story. The initial draft was very good. However, when the reporter took the story to her editor, she was instructed to do more research and expand the story, which opened up the possibility that the reporter would include some negative content. After the reporter did her research, she sent us a series of questions that demonstrated that she was, indeed, intending to include some comments from bad articles done in the past.
I and another coordinator discussed the matter, and decided I should craft a response, and help guide this reporter. In the past, my attachment to self would have probably kicked in, and I would most likely have written to this reporter myself, and might have even harbored notions of being the hero to straighten things out, or worried about not being able to fix it and what that would do to my reputation. This time, however, I naturally took a different approach. I wrote a response, but then we pulled the whole team together. I read the response out loud, and we discussed it together. As ideas were presented, I jotted them down. We went back and forth, and made several modifications as a group. After we had finalized it, I sent the response to the reporter, and together our team sent forth righteous thoughts. We also did several follow-ups with the reporter. Two weeks later, the article came out, and it was very positive, even in how it mentioned the persecution and Falun Gong.
I still have much catching up to do. I am still clumsy and lazy, and sometimes fall into old ways. But now, I feel very different than I did a few years ago. Standing here before Master and all of you, I no longer feel like a stranger. I no longer feel like I have to fake anything. My heart is with Master, with the Fa-rectification, and when I do things to save people, that too comes from my heart. Cultivation is magical. Truly changing myself to assimilate with Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is magical. I have regained a deep joy and gratitude for the chance to cultivate, and be a Fa-rectification Dafa Disciple.
I would like to end with a quote from the Jingwen “Further Understanding,”
“Do you realize that as long as you’re a cultivator, in any environment or under any circumstances, I will use any troubles or unpleasant things you come across—even if they involve work for Dafa, or no matter how good or sacred you think they are—to eliminate your attachments and expose your demon-nature so that it can be eliminated, for your improvement is what’s most important.” (“Further Understanding,” from Essentials for Further Advancement)
“If you are able to succeed in improving yourself this way, what you do then, with a pure heart, will be the best and most sacred.” (“Further Understanding,” from Essentials for Further Advancement)
Thank you Master! Thank you fellow Dafa Disciples!
(Presented at the 2015 New York Falun Dafa Cultivation Experience Sharing Conference)