(Minghui.org) I had the privilege of starting to practice Falun Dafa almost six years ago, and from the very beginning, many times, I've had the opportunity to sense Master's (Li Hongzhi’s) compassion. My cultivation started with great difficulties and severe interference and, without Master’s help, I wouldn’t have made it until this day.

Words can’t express my gratitude for the fact that Master didn’t give up on me and helped me to really want to change my heart, so that I can move forward for the sake of the responsibilities I have in this precious period of time and for the sake of the salvation of sentient beings.

The Start of a Tribulation

As a practitioner, I knew I should not have bad thoughts about other practitioners or resentment—but I did. And because I had them, I blamed myself, putting me in a vicious cycle: I knew that if other practitioners treated me badly I would judge them, then I would feel guilty, and then I’d resent them for putting me in that position of having bad thoughts. I started isolating myself, becoming more and more reserved and trying to interact with those who treated me “badly” as little as possible. Basically, I started to “build” caves, mental caves, to hide myself from conflicts. Somehow, I accepted failure.

But then something happened...

Excruciating Arm Pain

A few months ago, my left arm started to really hurt. The pain was so excruciating that I felt like my arm was in hell. Even my heart was burning in pain and my breathing went crazy.

I tried to send righteous thoughts to eliminate the beings/factors that caused the pain and were torturing me, thinking that what was going on might be persecution. But when I sent forth righteous thoughts toward my arm, the pain exploded and became unbearable. It was like someone was pouring hot metal into my arm. Then I thought that the pain might not be caused by persecution and might be just normal karma elimination, and because instead of enduring it with dignity I was sending righteous thoughts to get rid of the torment, I was facing some kind of immediate retribution for my unrighteous approach.

I stopped sending forth righteous thoughts and the pain kept coming, wave after wave, and along with it, black thoughts. Fear was the first one to come. I started being afraid that if the pain continued to be so intense, I would reach a point when I would no longer be able to endure it and I’d have to take painkillers like ordinary people do, which would have been, to me, like admitting I was a failure. Later on (after the tribulation passed), I wondered how I could have even thought about taking painkillers when, not even for a second, did I look at what was happening to me as sickness (not even sickness karma), but either as karma elimination or a form of persecution.

Determined to Study the Fa

In that crisis, I thought the best thing I could do was to study the Fa. So, I went to watch a video lecture from Guangzhou. Right after I sat down, I had the almost physical sensation that evil beings were gathered behind me, wanting to hinder me. I did not see them, but I felt them standing there, threatening me.

I sent forth righteous thoughts with the clear idea that no one has the right to interfere with a practitioner who wants to study the Fa, and they disappeared. And as I managed to concentrate on what Master was saying in the video lecture, slowly that terrible pain started to decrease and become bearable. The same thing occurred whenever I studied Zhuan Falun.

Effect of Righteous Thoughts

Soon after sending forth righteous thoughts after the unbearable arm pain came back, and asking for support from other practitioners, I reached the understanding that what was happening with my arm was a kind of persecution from one of my creditors who, taking advantage of my loopholes in cultivation, wanted the debt to be repaid in full, the hard way. The second night, just before the pain woke me up from a tormented short sleep, I clearly heard a voice say to me: “There is only a little time left and we’ll use it to make you pay.“

I tried to reach a benevolent solution with the beings that tortured me, but the pain continued, so I kept sending forth righteous thoughts and other practitioners also sent forth righteous thoughts to eliminate this interference. The beings who were torturing my arm felt or knew when someone sent forth righteous thoughts to eliminate them, as at that moment they seemed to fight back by intensifying the pain. For example, at a certain moment, the pain in my hand exploded and I found out, a few minutes later, that in those moments a practitioner was sending forth righteous thoughts for me. Another practitioner told me a few days later that her arm hurt after sending thoughts for me and at a certain point she also saw a poisonous snake in my arm, a snake that tried to attack her.

Looking Within

Knowing that interference for no reason is not allowed, I started looking for my shortcomings and I realized how poorly I had done. Instead of using conflicts to elevate myself, I just endured them, developing a heart of pain, criticism, and resentment.

“Forbearance is the key to improving one’s xinxing. To endure with anger, grievance, or tears is the forbearance of an everyday person who is attached to his concerns. To endure completely without anger or grievance is the forbearance of a cultivator. “ (“What is Forbearance (Ren)?” in Essentials for Further Advancement)

In light of this, a question hit me: What if, because I behaved so poorly, I was no longer considered a cultivator? That thought was devastating. But it was also, I think, a turning point, as I deeply realized that Dafa is more precious to me than life, and nothing would still matter for me if I could not be a practitioner. I realized that all I want to do is to be a cultivator in Dafa and to cultivate in a more upright way.

So I begged Master to give me the chance to continue. I did not think for a second about what the creditors or the Old Forces would do to me, I had no thoughts of protecting myself, I only had the thought that I simply did not want to live without Dafa. And with this thought, I continued studying and digging for the roots of my attachments as practitioners ought to do in such cases.

Yet some fear remained in me, because I faced a new test soon after. Since the second time I went to the practice site, I always felt a strong, hot energy when I overlapped my hands over my abdomen at the end of the exercises. During this tribulation, when I did the exercises, I felt nothing, no energy at all, and I thought, “I no longer have a Falun!”

Instead of stopping or crying, I continued doing the exercises, thinking that I really wanted to cultivate and, if indeed I'd really lost the Falun, maybe if I managed to do well in the future, Master would give me a new one or help me develop one. Right after this thought, the next time I overlapped my hands, the sensation of strong energy and heat returned.

Another mistake I made during that tribulation was to not do the exercises the first two days I was in pain. Initially, it was because the pain was too intense, and afterward because I thought. “Dafa is solemn; it would not be dignified for me to do the exercises with a hand around my body and crying when pain strikes.” Obviously, I was wrong. After I did exercise two, I actually felt the painful claw that held my arm weaken. And, day by day, after the exercises, I felt better and better. The first day I did all 5 exercises, the effect was spectacular—my arm regained much of its mobility.

During this tribulation, both my body and mind were tormented. In the midst of the suffering, I did my best to maintain righteous thoughts, to look inside, and to keep clarifying the truth regardless of how bad I felt. And after about two weeks of study, looking inward, digging for the roots of my attachments, doing the exercises, and sending forth righteous thoughts (some of my fellow practitioners helped, which I greatly appreciated), my arm finally recovered and now feels better than ever. But what was most important is that I understood that I have to “renew” my heart in Dafa, to cultivate a heart of compassion, a heart full of the joy of cultivation, not with bitterness and sorrow.

Master says in Zhuan Falun:

“What we lose is actually something bad. What is it? It is karma, which goes hand in hand with different human attachments. For example, everyday people have all kinds of bad thoughts. For self-interest, they commit various wrong deeds and will acquire this black substance, karma. This directly involves our own minds. In order to eliminate this negative thing, you must first change your mind.”

In my native language “you must first change your mind” is translated as: “You need to change your heart first!”

I had a new understanding of these words after the tribulation passed, a deep understanding, an enlightenment, in fact. I understood that the pain in my arm (karma, persecution, or whatever it was) could be eliminated only after I decided that I wanted to change my heart and give up the stubborn human notion of being treated unfairly and so on. And I felt how my heart was being renewed.

Giving Is Receiving

A few days after this big tribulation passed, I decided to write a sharing about it, my idea being that this might be helpful to other practitioners. But I had to overcome my fear of being criticized and losing face, as I was scared of what other practitioners might think of me when they found out I had cultivated so poorly.

I understood that when you are trying to save face and you do this knowingly, it is somehow as if you embrace the attachment. One can’t be ashamed of something external, of something that’s not him/her. But when you choose to hide things in order to maintain a good image, you are in fact refusing to dissociate yourself from the attachments, and you become one with them.

Regarding the fear of criticism, I enlightened that, in my case, fear was an instrument used by my thought karma and my attachments to hide from being observed – by me, or by fellow practitioners. Being alive, they know that if I speak to other practitioners and they notice the attachments, they will point them out and I will have to take action to eliminate them. So, on various occasions, they sent me fears to make me shut up so that they could go unnoticed. Of course, this is an understanding that applies to certain levels and situations.

Cultivation Is Solemn

To conclude, this intense tribulation made me want to really change my heart, to conduct myself better, to take hardship as joy and elevate. I discarded a lot of resentment and notions in those painful days. I know it’s not enough, I know the container that I am (to use Master’s metaphor in Zhuan Falun) still has a lot of dirt inside that needs to be discarded so that I can “float” and advance in cultivation and, hopefully, succeed!

Also, I was made to remember how solemn and serious cultivation really is and that one can’t fool him/herself with the idea: “I did poorly today, but just wait to see how great I’ll handle things tomorrow!” It won’t work that way. Cultivation is made up of a lot of “Nows” and is done with every thought you accept or reject, and with every deed. A cultivator’s mind is like a garden: If you do not remove the weeds when you see them, they’ll get stronger, the roots will become thicker, and they will keep spreading, invading you. So, after a while, your mind will no longer be a beautiful garden full of colorful flowers that come from Dafa cultivation but a land covered with poisonous and ugly plants. And you’ll wake up one day no longer at a cultivator’s standard. What could be sadder?

I can’t describe the pain I felt at the thought that maybe Master no longer considered me a practitioner and I don’t ever want to have reason to endure that kind of pain again. And this is not out of fear, nor to avoid persecution, but for Dafa. The tribulations I encountered reminded me that Dafa is the reason for my existence. If I lost it, it wouldn't matter what the Old Forces and the creditors did to me. Nothing would matter without Dafa.

I would like to conclude the description of my tribulations with this quote from Zhuan Falun:

“What’s not a righteous mind? It refers to a person’s inability to always treat himself as a practitioner. A practitioner will come across tribulations in cultivation. When a tribulation comes, it may manifest as an interpersonal conflict. There will be mind games and the like involved, which directly affect your xinxing. There will be many cases in this regard. What else will you encounter? Our bodies may suddenly feel uncomfortable. This is because repaying the karma will be manifested in different ways. At a certain point in time, you will be made unable to discern clearly whether something is true or not, whether your gong exists or not, whether or not you can cultivate and make it, or whether or not there are Buddhas and if they are real. In the future, these situations will surface again to give you this false impression and make you feel as though they do not exist and are all false—it is to see whether you are determined. You say that you must be firm and sure-footed. With this determination, if you can indeed be firmly resolute at that point, you will naturally do well because your xinxing will have already improved.”

We need to be firm, we need to do well, as the future of so many sentient beings, of their universes, depend on how well we do in our cultivation. As Master said, we Dafa disciples are “the hope for humankind, the only hope.”

“Dafa disciples are the hope for humankind, and you are the only hope. Saving all beings is our mission, and the responsibility is tremendous. Only by cultivating yourselves well will you be able to do well the things that Dafa disciples must do.” (“A Congratulatory Letter to the European Fa Conference in Paris”)