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We Must Not Pursue External Things

October 27, 2016 |   By a practitioner in Germany

(Minghui.org) Master said in Hong Yin:

“Building temples, worshiping deities—things, truly many things,How would one know that with action all comes to naught;Foolish, lost, vainly dreaming of the road to the Western Paradise,Blindly groping, night walking, scooping for the moon in water.”(“With Action” from Hong Yin)

In the classical Chinese tale Journey to the West, the Daoist master asks his disciple Sun Wukong if he should teach him “the way of (intentional) action,” to which Sun Wukong replies, “Can doing things like that make me live forever?” The Master answers, “To try and attain immortality that way is like ‘lifting the moon out of water.’” Sun Wukong doesn't understand and asks, “What does ‘lifting the moon out of water’ mean?” “The moon is in the sky,” the Patriarch replied, “And only its reflection is in the water. Although you can see it there, you will try in vain to lift it out.”

“No, I shan't learn that,” Sun Wukong exclaimed.

My understanding is that all the things that we pursue in society that seem very important to us and to which we are strongly attached, all those things are as illusory as the reflection of the moon in water.

Even though we all understand that, some practitioners still seem to have forgotten about this principle and are strongly attached to pursuing certain goals. A few practitioners still seem to seek after external things in society like money, fame, recognition, friendship, romance, and so on.

For example, I know a practitioner who enjoyed reading the newspaper and watching the news on television. She seemed agitated if anything interfered with her catching certain news programs.

When I mentioned this to her, she immediately countered that it was important to watch the news, since there might be something about Falun Gong or the persecution, and that it was necessary for us to keep up with current political events—especially when we are clarifying the truth to people—and that we can't be like the monks from the past who lived in seclusion without even taking note of anything that was going on in society.

Indeed, we should not seclude ourselves from society like the monks from the past. But the reason we shouldn't do that is not because it is okay for us to seek things in society, but because monks in the past were merely avoiding those things, whereas we have to overcome those things fundamentally.

We are not secluding ourselves from society; we are cultivating amidst modern, everyday society. That means that we will inevitably encounter all the bad things and all the problems that the hermit monk of the past would seek to avoid.

Even if one doesn't have TV or Internet, and even in countries outside of China, society is already saturated with such things, and as long as one lives in everyday people's society, it is absolutely impossible to avoid encountering such things. Thus it becomes even more necessary to truly give them up.

Master writes in Hong Yin:

“Present, but the heart elsewhere—     Perfectly reconciled with the world.Looking, but caring not to see—     Free of delusion and doubt.Listening, but caring not to hear—     A mind so hard to disturb.Eating, but caring not to taste—     The palate’s attachments severed.Doing, but without pursuit—     So constant, abiding in the Dao.Calm, but without strain of thought—     The truly wondrous can be seen.”(“Abiding in the Dao” from Hong Yin)

I recognized all these things at the beginning of my cultivation and was willing to give up pursuing things in ordinary human society. Before I heard about Falun Gong, I had intended to live as a hermit and had even already lived like that for limited periods of time.

However, avoiding something isn't the same thing as truly overcoming it. Only if one manages to not go after such things while surrounded by them has one truly given up this pursuit.

At first I didn't really understand this, and I gave away many of my belongings, intentionally only applied for low-paying jobs, gave away my television, and avoided contact with society.

When the persecution started, it was no longer so easy to avoid contact with society. How can one make people aware of the persecution if one does not have contact with people? I realized that I had made a mistake and I stopped avoiding contact with society.

It was difficult for me to go back out into society. As time passed I managed to adapt, but I also became influenced by society and have even used various excuses to hide the emerging attachments like browsing the Internet for hours on end, watching TV, and pursuing money.

For each thing, I had an excuse to hide the attachment that emerged. I claimed that I was only using the Internet to communicate with other practitioners or clarifying the truth. I watched TV so that I could stay informed about what was happening in China—or so I claimed. I was pursuing money so that I could print flyers to expose the persecution. This is what I told myself.

No matter what the attachment was, I had excuses like that. But that was all they were—excuses to cover up my attachments.

Seeing all this, I started to become pessimistic, thinking that I was cultivating poorly compared to the past. But in reality, that's not exactly how it was. In the past, I had avoided everything. I did not truly overcome my pursuits. It was inevitable that they would come up again as soon as I re-entered society.

Realizing my mistakes and learning from them, that is cultivation. As long as I can overcome them, bad things can be made into good things.

It only becomes a problem if one does not see one’s mistakes or does not want to see them and learn from them. And that is exactly how it was for me for some time. But eventually I realized my mistake. I will not repeat this mistake and will do my best not to pursue external things any longer, and not be influenced by society while not distancing myself from society. This, of course, is very difficult, but it is an important aspect of our cultivation way and is part of how we cultivate.

Aside from the two poems quoted from Hong Yin, this is just my personal understanding. Please point out anything improper.