Coordinating the Making of the Falun Dafa Lantern Float for Taiwan Lantern Festival
(Minghui.org) Greetings respected Master, and fellow practitioners!
My cousin received Zhuan Falun, the main book of Falun Dafa from a friend, around 2002 or 2003. He read Zhuan Falun once, and then put this bookaside, while I read it three times. Then, my inner voice told me with certainty: “This is what I have been looking for. This is what I have sought for so long!”
Participating in the Lantern Festival
The Taiwan Lantern Festival is a grand and important celebration in Taiwan. Every year, around the time of the Lantern Festival, multiple counties have hosted the event. Official statistics show that in recent years, more than 10 million visitors a year have partaken in the event. This is truly a great opportunity to show the wonderfulness of Dafa, and it reaches out to a large number of sentient beings.
Yet, Taiwan has been plagued by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) infiltration. Over the past few years, the situation in Taiwan has worsened to the point that the island is self-censoring, and the local media refrains from reporting news that displeases the Party. Many Taiwanese that have business ties with China keep their distance from us, even though they know that Dafa is good, and some have even refused to watch the Shen Yun Performing Arts show. Interestingly enough though, the Lantern Festival is one event that doesn’t trigger the same level of sensitivity in people. Many VIPs that usually refuse our invitations to other events happily accept our invitation to the festival to light the lanterns.
For the 2013 Hsinchu Lantern Festival, local practitioners spent seven months to build an impressive lantern float: It was a huge lantern boat which allowed visitors to come on the deck. The lantern float was named the “Fa Boat.”
“You can’t consider an immature and imperfect work of art all right because of the effect a God is having. A perfect work of art with the presence of a God is what’s most sacred.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Creating Fine Art,” Teaching the Fa at the Discussion on Writing Music and Creating Fine Art)
Before local practitioners began building the lantern float, a practitioner who was also the contact person shared a dream he had had in which Master Li (the founder) told him, slowly and deliberately: “What does not meet the standard must not get on the Fa Boat.” Master had repeated this phrase three times.
When building the float, practitioners indeed felt that parts that were not made very well could not be installed, no matter how they tried. On the contrary, when practitioners worked with a pure heart, the Fa would bless them with wisdom, and allow them to excel beyond the limits of ordinary people’s techniques. Upon completion, sentient beings were amazed by the “Fa Boat.” Even professional lantern makers among ordinary people were praising it.
Evaluating Location Problems
Since the Hsinchu Lantern Festival, the Fa Boat has been a sturdy and safe boat, touring the different counties in Taiwan every year during the annual Lantern Festival season. The results of spreading Dafa to the general public by using the Fa boat has been good. On the other hand, however, building such a boat takes up considerable human, material and financial resources. Especially, as the Lantern Festival is celebrated shortly before Shen Yun’s annual Taiwan tour, practitioners had doubts about making the float. On the one hand, we were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough manpower for promoting Shen Yun, while on the other hand, there was always the issue of financing the production of the boat. Thus, local practitioners have had some heated debates every year before the lantern festival.
For years, I have been involved in making videos that inform the public about the facts of Dafa. During the seven months, I shot plenty of videos documenting the making of the lantern float. A fellow practitioner who worked as a director told me this was an excellent topic for making a documentary. So, we decided to produce the documentary. I have been going to the lantern festival every year since 2013 to shoot more footage for the documentary.
Two counties applied for hosting the 2018 Taiwan Lantern Festival in 2017, and we believed that the most likely host would be Pingtung County. At first, the Dafa coordinator based in Pingtung gladly agreed to coordinate the making of the Fa Boat. I was happy for the blessings Pingtung people were about to receive. Over the years, the Taiwan Lantern Festival had enjoyed increasing popularity, with more and more visitors attending every year. As long as we could successfully bring large numbers of people to the festival, we could reach a number of people for learning the truth about Dafa that is unimaginable.
However, the Pingtung coordinator changed his mind about coordinating the making of the lantern boat for the 2018 festival. I couldn’t figure out why he had changed his mind. Did something happen? Why the sudden change?
During the 2017 Lantern Festival in Yunlin County I paid a visit. We had a prime spot, even though it wasn’t very big. Our float was packed with people, and there was a long line of visitors waiting to get onto the deck of the Fa Boat. As I sat to one side taking everything in, I thought that there is no coincidence during the Fa-rectification. The lantern festival happens only once a year. With such a large crowd gathering at every lantern festival, isn’t this an opportunity given to us to clarify the truth about Dafa to many sentient beings? I wondered, “Do we really want to turn down this opportunity?”
“Make your own contributions based on your individual abilities and specific talents in different areas. For example, in clarifying the facts, some of you produce TV programs, and some publish newspapers, a lot of different methods are used, and some distribute truth-clarifying material directly on the streets, some go to the Chinese consulates, and some work with the government. Not a single one of all these different approaches should be neglected.” (Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Lantern Festival)
My understanding is that during the Fa-rectification, every project is an opportunity for sentient beings in a particular place to be saved. But I wasn't sure what I could do, and neither did I think I was able to change what the coordinator and other practitioners had decided. But I just couldn’t let it go. I knew that the coordinator had made up his mind, but regardless, I wanted to give it a try.
Because I had been making the documentary, I had traveled across every county in Taiwan that ever hosted the lantern festival. Thus, I was knowledgeable about the event. To clear up their doubts, I shared with fellow practitioners about the special skills involved in making such a float. What was needed are ironsmiths, electricians, carpenters, and so on.
I told them that Pingtung county was in the countryside, and most practitioners were elderly, and not skilled at promoting Shen Yun. It would be too tough for them. But making the lantern float was something they would love to take part in. So, we shouldn’t have a problem where practitioners would be stretched thin between promoting Shen Yun and refurbishing the float. But, as I had expected, I was unable to change their mind no matter what I said. There was only one thing left to do. I had already made up my mind. I told everyone: “let me be in charge of the lantern event.”
Making Preparations Before Taking on the Lantern Float Task
Every year, at the closing ceremony of the lantern festival, they would announce the county that would host the festival the next year. But at the closing ceremony of the 2017 Yun Lin Lantern Festival, the sponsor, for the first time ever, announced the hosting counties for the upcoming two consecutive years: Chiayi for 2018, and Pingtung for 2019. Faced with this outcome, I knew that this task was meant to take place.
My employer needed me to work on a project in America for six months. I was concerned that if I left Taiwan, how would I prepare for the lantern festival? I wasn’t sure what was the righteous thing to do. After my feelings were conflicted for a while, I decided to not fret over it anymore. Although I didn’t understand why at the time, I knew Master was making all the arrangements, so I just had to trust Master and the Fa and follow the arrangement!
After coming to New York and having spent some time there, I slowly came to understand why Master had made this arrangement. Because we had a collective lifestyle, we studied the Fa and did the exercises every morning as part of our routine, and I felt like I was back in the days when I just started cultivating.
Our cultivation lays the foundation for doing well the tasks meant to save people. This lifestyle where we routinely studied the Fa, did the exercises, and kept regular hours, was meant to solidify my cultivation. On top of that, I had to temper myself through many xinxing tests. Especially during the last three months, I ran into conflicts of all shapes and sizes, one after the other. I knew Master wanted me to improve quickly, because what awaited me in the upcoming months would be a tough battle. But sometimes, xinxing tests were so painful to endure, like stabbing knives through one’s heart and bones. However, it felt wonderful every time I was able to overcome a test.
One memorable incident was when I was talking to another practitioner, and all of a sudden, he lost his temper and began yelling at me. Instead of yelling back at him and calling out his nasty attitude, which was what I would have done in the past, I actually felt calm. I wondered why he had lost his temper, and it dawned on me that I had misunderstood something about him. And being misunderstood by others was the one thing he could not stand. So, I realized I was at fault and I decided to just endure his rage. Every sentence he hurled at me felt like being stabbed by a sharp sword. But it was incredible that as soon as the sword entered my personal field, something in my body dissolved. As he continued lashing at me, more things in my body dissolved. In my heart, I felt more and more comfortable and pleasant. It was unbelievable. With a calm state of mind, I achieved one of the basic things the Fa asks of all practitioners: “You did not hit back or swear back.” (Lecture in Sydney)
Re-initiating Discussions on the Lantern Float Task
After half a year working in America, I finally had to face up to the task. The hardest part was getting it started. Everything seemed to have gone back to point zero. Everyone seemed to have forgotten about this. No one had discussed the lantern festival during their sharing sessions. I had no idea how to go about doing this task. During those days, the only thing I could rely on was “trusting in Master and the Fa”. Every time I felt I didn’t want to face up to the task or when I wanted to back away from it, I felt as if my world was going to crumble. As soon as my thoughts drifted away from the Fa, the evil immediately took advantage of it. I would be filled with a kind of fear so intense that my whole body would start to tremble, and the pressure was so great that I could hardly breathe. I knew that saving people was no joking matter. I had to carry it through to the end, or it would be the same as breaching my contract.
I tried to learn from past lantern festivals, and what I found was that practitioners had to reach a mutual understanding about this task, and agree to take it on. The other key was that we had to apply and secure our spot at the event with the county government. If these could be worked out, then the lantern exhibit would surely be a success. Every year, in this particular county, local practitioners were always split about whether to take part in the festival or not. In the end, practitioners would be in a state of impasse on the matter.
“Dafa disciples often have some arguments with each other over things related to spreading the Fa (hong-fa) and rectifying the Fa. I think this is normal. But if you argue endlessly, refusing to give ground, then there's a problem. Why is that? It's guaranteed that you haven't examined yourself.” (“Fa-Lecture at the Conference in Florida, U.S.A.,” Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. II)
The elements of cultivation are embedded in everything we do to save people. If we could succeed on a cultivation path, it is because it had reached the standard of the Fa at that particular level. My understanding is that no matter what situation I’m faced with, I should keep a calm mind, understand others, and clarify matters with kindness.
When coordinators and practitioners expressed their concerns and showed a lack of understanding, I must be patient with them. I had to give them time to understand and accept whatever was necessary. I couldn’t rush things, hold grudges, much less harbor negative thoughts about their feedback. I told Master in my mind: For the lantern festival in Pingtung, the situation where practitioners are divided and consumed by petty differences must not happen again; only when we are as one body can we be more effective in saving people.
What I remember the most was at a meeting where practitioners debated about whether to take part in the festival or not, I felt I had run out of things to say. My mind was a complete blank. I looked up at Master’s portrait and spoke to Master in my mind: “Master, could you please help me? I really don’t know what to do.” Shortly after, a few practitioners who had not said a word that day began to speak, and everything they said was exactly what I had wanted to say but could not quite verbalize. They turned the situation around. At that moment, I could truly feel that Master’s Fashen was by our side at all times.
Dealing with Interference
I reminded myself repeatedly that this was no trivial matter. Although, I could not see or hear the truth of what’s happening in other dimensions, I always knew this project was a big deal to those in other dimensions. So I kept telling myself to expand my inner capacity, and allowing practitioners in Pingtung to recognize the importance of making the float.
But, what I had overlooked, was maintaining a channel of communication with practitioner Chen [alias], who was the main person in charge of the project. As a result, he thought we had not been making any progress. We never invited him to come to Pingtung, and brief him about our progress. He told me that he wanted to hold a meeting with the Pingtung coordinator about the project. This was back in September 2018 when everyone in Pingtung was busy promoting the Shen Yun Symphony, which was the first time it came to Pingtung.
I had not been planning on making a new float from scratch, but rather refurbish the old lantern float from past years. So, I thought we could wait until after the Shen Yun Symphony to get started. And I knew that Chen had a rather hot temper and I was concerned that he might not get along with the local coordinator, which would make it harder for us to complete the project. So I disapproved his request for a meeting with the Pingtung coordinator. This led to a misunderstanding between us. He thought that I was not paying enough attention to the lantern project. As for me, I was not very kind when I talked with him, and I didn’t take into consideration the fact that he was getting anxious about our lack of progress. So I didn’t really clarify my point of view to him patiently. I wasn’t really thinking about things from his perspective.
After we finished promoting the Symphony, we had three months before kicking off the promotion of the Shen Yun performance. So this was the ideal time for getting our lantern float refurbished. My fellow practitioners seemed to feel the same way. So I contacted Chen and told him that we were ready to start on the float. But Chen told us to wait until we had confirmation that our spot for the lantern festival had been approved. I sensed that he still didn’t forgive me for what happened before. But, I didn’t know how to resolve our differences. So I decided to focus on getting my part of the task done.
Applying for our spot at the lantern festival was essential. Aside from us, all other participants of the festival had already had their spots confirmed. We had visited the county mayor when promoting the Shen Yun Symphony. At the time, the county mayor assured us that our spot had been approved and the sponsor would put us together with other religious lantern floats. But how come we hadn't received anything in writing yet confirming our spot? So practitioners visited the event sponsor. They confirmed what the county mayor had told us, but they said that because this year's venue wasn’t as spacious, the space assigned to us was only 100 pyeong (about 3,558 sq ft).
The good news was knowing for sure we had a spot at the festival--it was like we had secured our entrance ticket. The bad news was the spot assigned to us was so small that we could only fit one piece of the float in there, namely, the Fa Boat. As I was hesitating about what to do with the limited space, a practitioner said: “Let us take the offer! Having a spot at the event is more important than anything else.” I felt this was a hint from Master. So I decided to just let Master make all the arrangements. As to how far we could go with this project, it all depended on how much we could improve our xinxing. I felt the size of our spot symbolized our overall capacity as practitioners.
More and more practitioners in Pingtung began to see the importance of this project. The local coordinator announced that I would be the contact person, and we had confirmation of our spot at the event venue. Things seemed to be moving smoothly in the right direction. But in fact, this wasn’t the case. I had thought that Chen and I should make a good team since we had known each other for many years and we both understood the importance of this project. But, we had a hard time getting along. We disagreed on many things and as our differences stacked up, I began to hold some serious grudges against him, to the point that I started doubting whether we should do the event at all.
Experiencing Sickness Karma
Then, I started experiencing sickness karma. I used to have bronchitis, and the symptoms came back, with my experiencing chest pain. The pain worsened to the point that one day after work, I couldn’t drive home. I didn’t want my family to know, because they might not understand what was happening.
I spent the night at my office. In the past, when I had experienced sickness karma, it would go away as soon as I did the exercises. But that didn’t work this time. I would not have gone through the one-hour sitting meditation if it weren’t for sheer willpower. I drifted in and out of sleep that evening, while experiencing bouts of sharp pain in my chest. In my very weak and barely conscious state, I uttered the words: “Help me, Master; help me, Master.”
The next morning, as I was doing the exercises, I thought back to the acute chest pain I had experienced the night before. It reminded me of the practitioners who had fallen victim to organ harvesting, It was when the evil took their organs without using anesthetic, and cut open their blood vessels with scalpels. At that moment, it dawned on me that the evil not only never relented on what it had been doing, it had been acting even more savagely. I, on the other hand, was mired in my petty differences with fellow practitioners, to the point that I started having doubts about completing my task. I really shouldn’t have been acting this way. The moment I came to this realization, all the negative thoughts and negative substance I had built up against Chen vanished completely and instantaneously.
The first day we began refurbishing the lantern float, on my way back home in the afternoon, as I was driving on the highway, I noticed the sunlight was simply wonderful. I felt that on the many layers of cloud in the sky, it was as if numerous Buddhas, Taos and Gods were sitting there, as depicted in the oil paintings at the Zhen-Shan-Ren Art Exhibition. Although I had obtained the Fa more than 10 years ago, and had been enlightened to many things, I was never allowed to see things in the other dimensions. This was the first time I sensed such a magnificent scene. It truly astonished me. All the Buddhas, Taos and Gods wore a joyful expression. I felt as if the many gods in the universe were joyful because our project could proceed smoothly.
As the project was underway, as expected, practitioners with special skills began coming on board. Even practitioners who hadn’t actively participated in our events in the past came to take part. They told me that it felt great to be a part of this.
Nothing Comes Easy
By December, we were approaching the end of refurbishing the lantern float. It was about two months before the festival. Around this time, the county notified us of a new rule for the lantern floats, which was that the height must not exceed 8 meters. This took us by complete surprise. Our Fa Boat, together with its masts, were 18 meters tall, as was stated in our project proposal when we had submitted it. We were running out of time. We tried to negotiate with the county government, but it didn’t work.
During one of our visits to the county government office, we were fortunate enough to meet with the director of the lantern festival. It was he who had set the rule for the maximum height of lantern floats. We tried to talk with him and he agreed to let our boat reach a maximum height of 10 meters. His secretary chimed in and said: Now that the director had made an exception for us, we should take what was offered.
Practitioner Bai [alias], who had been sitting next to me, said that it must have been stressful for the director to be in charge of such an event. And who would have known that soothing words could do wonders. The director, who had been on the offense with us just a moment ago, assumed a much more gentle and easygoing tone. As cultivators, when our field is righteous, we can transform ordinary people in dramatic ways. What I had just seen really amazed me. I felt that the director was probably a sentient being waiting to be saved.
The next time when Bai made an appointment to see him, he agreed to it right away. But once they sat down and began to talk, it was like he changed into a different person again, like a fine day darkened by a sudden hurricane. The director began listing the things we didn’t do well. He said that politically we had given him a lot of stress.
Deflecting Accusations and Making Amends
He told us he had visited the Fa Boat during the Chiayi lantern festival, and it was a great piece of work; he had learned about Dafa’s facts at our truth clarification sites; he had read our book and liked what was taught in it. But he told us that our actions recently did not reflect what was taught in the book at all. On the contrary, government officials in other counties had been telling him about the questionable way with which practitioners go about doing things, and he said our actions seemed to verify their words. Basically, he said, all we cared about was meeting our goal, and to that end, we solicited persistently with assemblymen, influential locals, legislators and even the media.
I started wondering about what exactly were we doing? How could we let a sentient being harbor such a serious misunderstanding about Dafa?
“You are cultivators, whose conduct is [supposed to be] pure and righteous. There are so many people who think you're great just by having seen how you act. If we don't pay attention to our own behavior in our daily lives, everyday people will see our actions and, since they can't get to know you at a deep level such as by studying the Fa, they will just look at how you act. And it's possible that one sentence or one action of yours will make them unsavable or create a bad impression of Dafa.” (“Teaching the Fa at the 2002 Fa Conference in Boston,” Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. II)
“Clarifying the truth”--what exactly does it mean when we say “truth”? I realized that our every word and action is part of the truth of Dafa. Over the many years, Dafa disciples have been able to overcome trials and tribulations, validate the Fa, and save sentient beings, thanks to the righteous field manifested as a result of our individual cultivation, so that sentient beings truly sense our kindness and as a result, they are willing to support and help us.
When I woke up the next morning, I decided that we could no longer go about doing things using ordinary people’s means, because it didn’t meet the standard of the Fa. We had to let that director know our compassion, and have him feel the kindness of cultivators. Just as I was thinking about this, I received a text from a practitioner, saying that he remembered that the actual height of the Fa Boat, if measured correctly, should be 14 meters instead of 18 meters.
After we made another round of more accurate measurements, we found that the correct height was indeed 14.5 meters. This made it a lot easier for us to re-design the height of our float to meet the new rule. After discussion, Pingtung-based practitioners agreed that we should not insist on making the float taller while risking offending the local government. There were many sentient beings working in the government waiting to be saved. We would just re-design the height of the float, and the matter would be resolved smoothly.
Customarily for the Taiwan lantern festival, the main lanterns officially get lit on the day of the Lantern Festival. There is a four-day testing phase prior to that day. Since we had to readjust the mast height of the Fa Boat and reroute the wirings, our float kept having issues when we tried to light it. At this point, all the other lantern floats were ready except for ours. A lot rested on the practitioners' responsible for the technical aspect of the float. We were all sending forth righteous thoughts and I kept asking for Master to help us.
On the third day of the testing phase, thanks to everyone’s great effort, we finally resolved the technical difficulty and successfully lit the Fa Boat. As expected, sentient beings swarmed to our venue like tides, and waited in long lines to get onto the Fa Boat. There weren’t just visitors from Taiwan, but many from other countries.
As I stood there, I saw people gazing at the words on our lanterns, or read out loud “Falun Dafa is good”. Some people gave us feedback that when they climbed up the steps to get onto the boat, their bodies felt very tired, but as they were getting off the boat, their bodies felt a lot lighter.
We met an elderly man who told us that he had been coming to see the Fa Boat every day; the more times he climbed onto the boat, the better his body felt. So he had decided to pay a daily visit, and his body felt better and better. One of my neighbors told me, the line waiting to go on the Fa Boat was simply too long, so as he waited, he was enjoying the waist drum performance done by practitioners. He said the performance was excellent.
Gaining Cultivation Insights
A lot has happened in two years’ time. Especially during the months when the Fa Boat was refurbished, and my mother had spine surgery. It was tough dividing my time among work, the festival, and family. But I could not shirk away from my mission and letting sentimentality for family get in the way – maybe this too was a test for me. So, I decided to do what I should and leave the rest to Master. My mother’s recovery was so successful that it surprised all our neighbors. She even traveled to the lantern festival and climbed onto the deck of the Fa Boat.
The lantern festival in Taiwan lasted for more than 10 days. We were able to reach a great number of sentient beings, which was extraordinary. I am very grateful to Master for the strength he has given us and for his protection. Only then could I have overcome the many tests and taken a big step forward in my cultivation. Only then could my cultivation be restored to the way it was when I had just started cultivating, and I have had a deeper understanding of “trusting Master and the Fa” and of “cultivation” itself.