Four Years of Dafa Cultivation Seemed Like Four Lifetimes of Spiritual Tempering
Greetings Master! Greetings fellow practitioners!
I am a 28-year-old Falun Dafa practitioner and have practiced cultivation in Dafa since 2014. I would like to share with you some of my experiences of the past four years.
I obtained the Fa in 2014 while working in San Francisco. At that time in my life I drank heavily and had many bad habits. My mental and physical health was becoming increasingly fragile. Growing up in this modern society was treacherous. I was extremely lost, and knew no other way.
However, looking back I can see clearly that despite my unruly and regrettable behavior, Master was always by my side, looking after me, and keeping me safe until my destiny was mature and I was ready to obtain The Great Law.
One day as I was walking aimlessly and alone through the San Francisco Chinatown a Chinese lady in her early twenties smiled at me and handed me two flyers – one explaining about a meditation practice called ‘Falun Dafa’ and another about organ harvesting atrocities happening in China. I happily took the fliers and continued walking.
In the months leading up to this moment I had developed an acute interest in ancient Daoist and Buddhist teachings. In fact, I was re-reading the Tao Te Ching at the time. When I saw the golden characters of Zhen, Shan, Ren (Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance) and that this practice included both Buddhist and Daoist principles I knew I had found what I had been searching for.
When I returned home that day I began to teach myself the Falun Dafa exercises by watching Master Li’s videos online. I also asked my friend to print the book Falun Gong for me so that I could read it. When he returned home with the print-out I read it through as fast as I could.
I can’t say that I understood what Master was talking about at the time, but I believed every word. I could tell that the author of this book did not have any ulterior motives or ill intentions. I knew that what he said was real and obtainable. The unconscious feeling of excitement was surreal.
After contacting the English-speaking Falun Dafa group in San Francisco, a fellow practitioner and I began meeting at a local park, seven days a week, to practice and share experiences. We also studied the Fa together and helped each other to improve on the basis of the Fa. I gave up all of my bad habits and Master began to purify my body.
For almost one month I felt very unwell, as if my entire body was grinding to a halt. I felt chills, was weak and regularly needed to sleep during the day. However, through studying Zhuan Falun and listening to Master’s audio lectures I knew that my body was being adjusted, so I did not feel worried.
Soon, the initial body purification was over, and I felt like a new person. I was very grateful and excited to join the ranks of Dafa disciples of the Fa rectification period.
Rooting out Jealousy
Due to my limited and superficial understanding of jealousy I never considered myself to be a jealous person. ‘I have everything that I need–what would I have to be jealous about?’ I thought.
However, this notion was tested upon returning to Ireland and helping coordinate a VIP screening of a truth clarification documentary. As the event was organized at short notice the preparations were very intensive. I was also working full-time and trying to balance both responsibilities well. The situation became increasingly difficult and my to-do list seemed to be growing rapidly instead of becoming smaller.
When the pressure increased to the point that I was too tired to get up for morning exercises I began to look inside to see why things had started to go wrong. I realized that I did not want to delegate tasks to others and wanted to do them all myself. On the surface my reasoning was that they would not be done correctly if I didn’t do them myself. I realized that this thought was already quite egotistical and irrational – we had many very capable practitioners on my team, why would I necessarily do a better job than any of them?
Upon looking more deeply I realized that I actually did not want my fellow practitioners to get the credit for doing the task well. I had become very attached to the encouragement and compliments fellow practitioners had given me up to that point and wanted it to continue. I knew I would be jealous if another practitioner were to get the praise for the task. I could tell that this was very impure and could cause serious interference to what we were trying to achieve.
“Getting an earful of other people’s flattery about how capable she was, she would also not respect qigong masters from righteous schools. If someone said something bad about her, she would be upset. This person’s attachments to fame and self-interest were all developed. She considered herself better than others and extraordinary. She mistakenly thought that she was given the energy to become a qigong master and make a big fortune, while in fact it was for her to practice cultivation.”(Zhuan Falun)
I corrected this notion and began to delegate the tasks to other practitioners. The result was very good. I was able to focus on coordination and each of the tasks were completed to a much higher standard than I could have done myself.
However, because we continued to work to a tight deadline I did not take an opportunity to dig this attachment out at the root. I just corrected my behavior on a superficial level so as not to interfere with the project.
After the event, I thought back to a meeting I had recently had with a fellow practitioner to discuss truth clarification plans. The entire time we were together this practitioner complained about other people. Regardless of the person, this practitioner would put them down. I thought this behavior was very inappropriate but knew I had not seen it by chance.
Thinking of this practitioner I realized that their behavior was caused by jealousy. I found it hard to believe that this was related to me. After all, I didn’t even think negative thoughts about other people let alone say them out loud. However, upon looking deeper I realized that although I did not think negative thoughts about others I liked to keep a kind of mental record of their shortcomings. As soon as I would meet somebody for the first time I wouldn’t feel at ease until I had established something negative about them and filed this fault deep in my unconscious mind, lest I feel jealous of their strong points in the future. I realized that I had a jealousy, just as Master describes, that “...is so strong that it has become natural and one does not even feel it.”( Zhuan Falun).
Enlightening to this helped me to understand that jealousy is a broad and pervasive attachment rather than something narrow. It affects our understanding of everything we perceive and has an effect on everything we do, say, and think. It can manifest as degrading others, not being able to take criticism, thinking highly of one’s self, and being rude to or short with others.
Jealousy is rooted in competitiveness. It causes us to compare ourselves with, and always put ourselves above, others – particularly in our own minds. We fuel our own egos, raising ourselves up. Or, we look for shortcomings in others, putting them down.
Looking back, I realized that from this jealousy grew a vicious, unconscious resentment towards anyone who had treated me poorly. I realized that I had even left a fellow practitioner to finish an entire truth clarification project by themselves because we had had a conflict when we were starting it.
When I left the project, I gave this practitioner the excuse that I was too busy with my regular job and couldn’t travel to help. I also rationalized the situation as being this way in my mind. The truth was I wanted to get even with them, even if it was going to impact our saving sentient beings. I doubt many fellow practitioners would have noticed these attachments in me. Indeed, the most worrying part for me was that they were so hidden and subconscious that I did not even notice them myself.
To counter jealousy, as practitioners, I feel we should be modest about our abilities and humble about our achievements. At the same time, we should focus on others’ strong points instead of their shortcomings. We shouldn’t let the excuse of ‘helping others find their attachments’ be our alibi for harboring negative impressions of others. This will blind us from our fundamental attachments.
Joining the English Epoch Times in New York
In January 2018 I was very honored to begin working as a sales executive with the English Epoch Times in New York. Upon arriving I felt this was really a place for true cultivation. After one month I was moved into a more demanding role--one in which I had little experience.
I was required to reach out to new, potential business partners to introduce our company and try to negotiate business deals. At the beginning I was able to ride on my manager’s coattails while he organized and ran the meetings. Soon, however, he was stationed on the West Coast and another team member also had to move on. I was left alone to try to navigate my new role.
The first number of weeks were very trying. I was aware that this was an important role and not doing well would mean a major inconvenience for other teams who were busy working hard on their respective tasks. I began arranging and running meetings. However, I felt the effect of my truth clarification was not good and that I also came across as inexperienced and amateurish.
I also began to suffer interference in my dreams and in other dimensions and the pressure began to increase. I realized that I needed to make a major breakthrough in my cultivation to succeed. Master said,
“If xinxing is upgraded, everything else will follow up.” (Zhuan Falun)
Upon looking inside, I found that I harbored several human pursuits when coming to the media. I wondered whether I would find a girlfriend or a wife. I wondered if I would make new friends to spend time with. I also looked forward learning more about myself by listening to what other people thought of me. ‘Would they think I was diligent? What skills would they think I possessed? Would they think I was capable?’
I also held a strong desire to validate myself. No matter what the situation big or small I would always have a thought of how it would affect me and how it would affect others’ perception of me. The more I thought in this way the more of this type of thought karma I created. This continued until even minor thoughts were laden with self-validation.
Around this time, while reading the Fa, Master said,
“As a matter of fact, I can tell you that at the final moment of the Fa's rectification of the human world, in a flash everything will be disintegrated. What money? There won't even be a piece of paper left.” (Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Lantern Festival)
This line really awakened me to the seriousness and realness of what we are doing. Before this moment I regarded ‘saving sentient beings’ as a metaphor for doing the three things well. A kind of summary title for the things we do on the path of cultivation. After reading this Fa I gained a deeper realization that real people’s lives and existences are at stake, and if we don’t enlighten to this and address it with all due seriousness they may be lost forever.
I resolved to rectify and remove my human thoughts and pursuits. I began to take a more traditional and conservative approach to my friendship with females. I also set higher standards for my personal cultivation, reading two lectures of Fa and practicing two hours of exercise each day. I now find that the more I study the Fa the more time I have to study the Fa.
I also realized that a lot of my impure thoughts such as those about lust, qing, living a good life, and validating myself were actually caused by thought karma. When I began to extend the amount of time I spent clearing the thought karma from my mind, such as on the subway or as I walked, these thoughts began to interfere less and less.
Cultivating an Empty Mind
I am lucky to have the opportunity to study one lecture of Zhuan Falun in Chinese every morning at the Epoch Times office. This has helped my spoken Chinese improve rapidly. I use this ability to talk to Chinese people about the persecution of Falun Gong whenever I can. Oftentimes I feel very nervous when the opportunity appears. This has led to many missed opportunities. However, I have learned some things through these failings.
In the past when I was just about to clarify the truth to a Chinese person everything I planned to say would swirl around anxiously in my head. Now, when I begin to become anxious I try to calm down and have no thoughts. My only thought is to break the ice. I find this way is a more natural way to start up a conversation. I will say something like ‘ni hao, ni shi zhongguo ren ma?’(Hi, are you Chinese?). From there I will let the conversation unfold naturally and get to know the person. When I can do this with a pure mind I feel Master helps me a lot.
“When you lack wisdom it's usually caused by your being anxious, being anxious in your mind to do something, giving it too much importance, and thereby developing a different type of attachment. Actually, with a lot of things if you calmly and gently talk to people and handle those things rationally, you'll find that your wisdom will flow forth like a spring, and every sentence of yours will get right to the point, and every sentence will speak the truth. As soon as you become attached or anxious, though, or have some strong intention, your wisdom is gone, and that's because at that time you've come over to the human side again, right?” (“Teaching and Explaining the Fa at the Metropolitan New York Fa Conference” from Teaching the Fa at the Conference III)
I have also applied this understanding to my work. When I first arrived at the media I used all kinds of thoughts to motivate myself to work harder. I would tell myself that I needed to be more focused, I needed to be more diligent, I needed to save the people that I was supposed to save. However, after sharing with some fellow practitioners they suggested that maybe we shouldn’t think about anything when we are working; that perhaps it is best to think about nothing and just complete the work without pursuit and human notions. One practitioner shared that they enlightened to this from Master’s Fa: “...if you do not think about good things, at least you should not think about bad things. It is best if you do not think about anything.” (Zhuan Falun)
By following this principle, I can now go about things with a light heart and without pursuit. The effect of my truth clarification in meetings has also improved greatly. I feel empty when I do things and I notice that the business people I speak with now also feel more relaxed.
By working at The Epoch Times I have quickly reached levels in my cultivation that I thought would have taken me years. I would recommend the experience to any practitioner, even if it is only for a short period of time.
Looking back on my journey of cultivation it has been surreal. Four years seems like four lifetimes. I find it impossible to express my gratitude to Master in words. All I can say is that I am extremely grateful. I will continue to remove my human attachments, fulfill the vows I made to Master in antiquity, and save all sentient beings.
This is my limited understanding. Please kindly point out any misunderstandings.
Thank you Master! Thank you fellow practitioners!
(Presented at the 2018 Washington DC Fa Conference)