Untying the Knots in My Heart: Breaking Free of the Net
(Minghui.org) Greetings, Master. Greetings, fellow practitioners.
“When a cultivator can’t handle himself well it’s hard to save him, and there’s a good chance he’ll ruin himself.”
I sensed I had this issue and that my xinxing was unstable. I worked hard in personal cultivation to let go of attachments and resolve my issues. In part, I was concerned about myself, but I could also see that being unstable made it impossible for me to fulfill my mission.
“The Fa has been taught, and Master has told you that as long as you are steadfast in cultivating by this Fa, everything will be yours.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2009 Greater New York International Fa Conference” from Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. IX)
I said to Master in my heart, “Whatever it is that those rock solid practitioners have, I want that! I want that thing!!”
At the 2017 New York Fa Conference, a deeper layer of my attachments began to be exposed. Several times fellow practitioners' words hit my heart directly, focusing right on my attachment.
I was chatting with some other practitioners, and when it was time to leave, one practitioner said, “Okay, bye bye!” But I felt like he was saying, “Okay, go away! We don’t want you!” Suddenly there was this heavy psychological pressure: nobody wants me.
I looked deep inside to work out why this was so painful. It seemed to be caused by my fear that I was worthless and that others didn’t want me, a sort of yearning to be valued and important in other people’s eyes. It was targeting my concept of self.
A few days later, I joined a small group study session away from home. When a practitioner found out I could speak Chinese, she asked why I didn’t join Shen Yun as a host for the show. I replied, “I don’t have the openness and poise a performer should have, so I wasn't chosen.”
She said, “Don’t emphasize and focus on yourself. It is all given to you by Master.” I thought I had heard others say this all the time but didn't know what it really meant. I knew what she was saying was correct, but I couldn't seem to find how it applied to my cultivation.
The next day, while studying the Heavenly Circuit section in Lecture Eight of Zhuan Falun, I enlightened to it. Master wrote:
“...through the method of the heavenly circuit one aims at opening hundreds of energy channels via one energy channel, and one can thereby open all the body’s energy channels. We have already started to do this.”
I placed my abilities and personality as part of a rigid concept of who I am. That was how I defined myself. But actually, as a Dafa disciple, I am just a channel, a channel through which the Fa can manifest in the human realm. The more that this channel assimilates to the Fa, the more its energy grows, and the better I can complete my mission. It was just that my concept of self had been blocking my path all along.
And what dominated my concept of self? A day or so later, it jumped out at me in the Fa. Master said:
“One day his celestial eye is opened, and he can see things quite clearly. He thinks, “At this exercise site, only my celestial eye is opened very well. Am I perhaps an unusual person? I was able to learn Teacher Li’s Falun Dafa and have studied it so well, better than all the others. Perhaps I’m also not an ordinary person.” This thought is already not right.” (Zhuan Falun)
Since a young age, I felt I was not an ordinary person. I was special. Spiritual and religious matters seemed easier for me to understand than for others. I felt that the illusions of ordinary society didn’t affect me as much as others. While some had trouble believing in God, for me it was automatic. But I let this get to my head. I became convinced that “I am special, and God especially looks after me.”
I carried this notion when I obtained the Fa. Because I had this notion, my mind easily became delighted. A mentality of self-importance could quickly creep into my thinking. If I were to accomplish some matter in validating the Fa and do it well, I would see this as evidence that I was not like others. The attachment of delight would emerge, and it was easy for me to fall into the mentality of validating self–validating that I was greater than others, that I was more special than others, and that I was different.
Having recognized this attachment, I searched my heart to find the root. Why could I not let go of this thinking since my youth? If I am just like others, if I am not extraordinary, then why am I valuable? Am I not worthless? And if I feel that I am worthless, how am I to move forward? Actually, Master has touched on the value of life many times. But over the long term I have been interfered with by this notion that I formed amid ordinary society: If I am not special, if I am just an average person, then I felt that I was not precious.
“I sometimes think that while an individual being might seem quite trivial, each has its own life story. Some are solemn and stirring, some are complex and full of twists and turns, some are joyous, some are painful, and some are compassionate or kind, each having the different traits of that being. I really cherish them.” (“20th Anniversary Fa Teaching” from Teaching the Fa at the Conference XI)
I told myself it was time to be average and to be content being just one among trillions of lives. But I could not break free from this mentality of wanting to feel special.
If in the future I am truly able to achieve consummation, if I am truly able to become a guardian of the universe, at that time I will still be just like others, an ordinary life in the universe. At that time I would just be one small being in a vast universe full of countless, innumerable sentient beings. The universe is just so huge. From the universe’s perspective, sentient beings are equal.
I tried to convince myself I was not special, but I couldn’t. In fact, this thinking had already become automatic; it was already a strong conviction in my mind. If back then one had tried to point out that maybe I was not special and was just average, one would have failed. But actually, one would never have had the chance, because I never revealed these thoughts to anyone. I simply quietly and confidently told myself I was better than others.
Last fall, I was still struggling to break free from the belief that I was special. Around this time I was considering applying for a graduate program in East Asian Studies. The program looked very interesting and was at a prestigious school, but admissions appeared to be surprisingly uncompetitive.
The program of study seemed a great match for me. I had already been through a summer study program at this school, and it had been a really incredible cultivation experience. In that time, I had several strong experiences of deja vu. I convinced myself this was what I needed to do, that this was my next step.
On the one hand, I was seeking prestige, and I knew it. But I told myself the tempering experience would be valuable. I came to think that this experience should be mine, that it was in my path.
I frequently reminded myself of what Master says about jealousy:
“Sometimes, you think that something should be yours, and others also tell you that it is yours. Actually, it is not. You may believe that it is yours, but in the end it is not yours. Through this process, it can be seen whether you can give it up or not. If you cannot let it go, it is an attachment. This method must be used to get rid of your attachment to self-interest.” (Zhuan Falun)
I told myself: Yes, of course, I know, but I can let go; besides, what I genuinely want is the incredible cultivation experience and personal development.
Time passed, and I waited for the result. When the rejection letter came, at first I was unmoved. A couple days later, it hit me like a landslide. The pain of rejection overwhelmed me. I felt totally worthless.
I frequently repeated to myself what Master said:
“But true improvements come from letting go, not from gaining.” (“Teaching the Fa at the 2002 Fa Conference in Philadelphia, U.S.A.” from Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. II)
I had not recognized how deeply my mind was set on going when the rejection came. Suddenly, the next step of my life seemed unclear, and I no longer cared. I lost interest in finishing graduate school. I stopped caring about anything. I stopped going to class and even stopped shaving. Nothing seemed important. I just didn’t care.
Facing rejection, I had to let go of the idea that somehow this academic experience and prestige were mine. And in letting go, I finally let go of the jealousy and uneasiness in my heart.
Nobody owes me anything. The universe owes me nothing. It was I who had caused all of my hardship.
For years, I had a chip on my shoulder. I felt that the old forces had destroyed Master’s arrangements for my early years and that this had caused me extra difficulty in cultivation. In facing this rejection, I finally let go of the feeling of unfairness. I could see that all of my hardship was caused by my inflated ego and obsession with the idea that I was different and special. For years, I had been breeding demons in my own mind. I never believed I was more than human, but such thinking had led me far astray.
But graduate school was ending, and I had to finish. Stuck in a bad state, I asked Master for help. It came immediately.
A relative called and said, “Oh, did you hear such and such neighbor passed away?” Someone had told me to go and visit this neighbor, but I put it off, self-absorbed with my own life, thinking, “I hardly know her.”
Then came the psychological pain of failure. “Once again, someone I know died, and I wasn’t really sure if I had done an adequate job of clarifying the truth. Why am I such a failure at these things!” The pressure weighed on me.
“You must remember this: 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” from Essentials for Further Advancement)
So what was it that was causing me this intense pain? I cared about the neighbor’s future, but ultimately I was upset because I felt like a failure. Lives were depending on me, but I could not do well. I was upset because I was failing in my mission. It was really all about me.
No, enough! This being–me–is just a channel for the Fa in the human realm. If that channel had not been opened well in the past, then I should hurry up and open it up so the Fa’s power can manifest in this dimension. Enough with the guilt! I was done worrying about my failure or my success. This being is just a channel, one among millions of channels, for the Fa in the human realm.
My righteous thoughts emerged, and I pulled myself out of a bad state. I went back to school to sort things out. I had to talk with my adviser about extensions for papers and exams since I had done no schoolwork in three weeks. Then I had to go talk to my professor, but I could not do it. I just couldn’t go. The same adviser then passed me again in the stairwell, but I could not lift my head to make eye contact. I couldn’t do it.
Then it hit me. I was utterly embarrassed and humiliated. I had been a very irresponsible student. My adviser knew it, and soon my classmates would too.
Facing this humiliation, I had to face reality and let go of the idea that I was a good student, that I was responsible, that I was capable, that I was smart. Fundamentally, I had to let go of the image of myself to which I had clung for so long.
A fellow practitioner recently shared with me the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus. The beautiful youth, after rejecting the attention of a nymph, becomes obsessed with the image of himself he sees reflected in the water. He reaches for it, but that disturbs the image. It is gone, forever unobtainable.
This was an accurate depiction of the state in which my mind was trapped. I had become obsessed with the concept of myself as a capable, responsible, generous, noble and intelligent young man. I had become obsessed with this concept of self, this image of how I saw myself, and I ached to recover and become that being. This was in fact my fundamental motivation in cultivation.
I deeply yearned to recover what I felt I had lost–my righteousness, my ability, my wisdom. And I was motivated because I felt humiliated by the state in which I found myself. As I reflected on my life, I could see that this fear of humiliation had long dominated my decisions and choices; it shaped the character of my personality.
Fundamentally, my motive for applying to a second grad school was to end my embarrassment among practitioners and my family. Tied up in it, I told myself it was about validating Dafa.
For so long, I believed my motives in cultivation to be pure. I wanted to recover my true self! But what I really wanted to was to end my humiliation and recover the image of self I had created in my mind.
How far this is from unconditionally assimilating to the Fa! It was not my innate innocence and purity that I strove to recover in my cultivation. I wanted to end the pain of humiliation. Of course, my motives were mixed, and I have long felt the seriousness of my mission.
But at a fundamental level, all of it still revolved around my concept of self. Now, I proactively reject this concept. I reject the perspective of self as correct in matters of Fa-rectification and validating Dafa.
I no longer care if I am precious or not. Perhaps in the past, I was a king. Perhaps I was a cockroach. Who cares? All lives are equal.
Dafa disciples are one body, and I am just one cell of that body. The true “I” is the one body.
“Actually Western society is not simple either. The means those demons and ghosts who are harming mankind used started with culture, and they have an effect from another angle. The enlarged notion of freedom, the enlarged egocentrism, and that so-called … I don't want to go on, and nowadays simply too many things are being promoted. That is, they are damaging traditional culture from another angle, ...” (“Teaching the Fa in Washington D.C. in 2018”)
For years, I felt how grateful I was not to have grown up under Communist Party culture. And I was doubly fortunate for growing up in a family that embraced the path of tradition. But what I failed to recognize was how deeply I had already been corrupted by Western egocentrism and American individualism. It has been very hard to recognize, for so long I simply regarded it as natural.
In breaking free of the concept of self, I find my cultivation has entered a state of stability I never knew in the past. My heart is tranquil, and cultivation has become far simpler: assimilate and ascend.
Thank you, Master. Thank you, fellow practitioners.
Above are my personal understandings. Please point out anything you find inappropriate.
(Presented at the 2018 New York English Experience Sharing Conference)