Young Practitioner: Recent Experience in My Cultivation of Character
(Minghui.org) I am a young Falun Dafa practitioner from mainland China. I am currently studying for my doctorate at a university overseas.
While I was quite relaxed when I first started my Ph.D. program, the workload increased over time and the intense pressure made me feel suffocated. I knew from studying the Fa that I needed to look within myself. I uncovered many attachments and acquired notions I had and cautioned myself against them, but it all seemed to go out of the window the moment I got into study mode. Fortunately, Master Li (the founder) in his mercy has given me hints all along and from a variety of angles which had enabled me to make improvements in the cultivation of my character.
It’s my understanding that when we do something or create something, including writing an essay or a report, we ought to do it with benevolence and goodwill. I think one of the reasons that Chinese-made goods are of poor quality is that they are often made by people with opportunistic, money-grubbing and other immoral intents. When bad thoughts like those are injected into the goods, their quality is affected as a result.
I grew up excelling in most things. As my confidence grew so did other undesirable traits such as seeking recognition, competitiveness, and jealousy. I could not stand being looked down upon or criticized by others. I loathed thinking that my doctorate supervisor or my peers would think that I was not good enough. Every time I received an email from my supervisor, I would dread opening it in case it contained some negative comments about me or my work. My jealousy and competitiveness intensified whenever any of my peers made good progress with their research, published a new paper or had better grades than me. A jealous thought would occasionally slip in, catching me off-guard and causing me to feel upset and annoyed. But through studying the Fa, I now caution myself against such thoughts by paying extra attention to my every thought.
My initial thought about going overseas was that it would be great, and that life would be much more comfortable and pleasant – I did not want to endure any hardships at all. I did not understand that enduring hardships is part of cultivation and in fact suffering is an indispensable part of being human. I naïvely thought that all was good as long as we practiced cultivation – the sick would be cured, broken family relationships would be repaired, unsatisfactory work situations would be improved and under-performing students would excel.
What I did not realize was that good things do not come easy; they were the result of a lot of pain and hard work on one’s character. I assumed that if I practiced cultivation and kept up with my Fa-study and exercises, I would naturally do well in my university studies. Due to this ulterior motive, I failed to take my studies seriously and when I ended up with poor results, I became disgruntled and less inclined to do well in cultivation. It was such a deplorable state of mind, not unlike the minds of those who go to temples to pray to Buddhas for something in return. Cultivation is not about enjoying life, it involves hardships. Studying is the same; good results do not come about if one doesn’t work hard for it. I was rather cunning in thinking I would get good results without putting in the work.
Was my reason for practicing Dafa to have a comfortable life here on earth? Or was it to have a healthy body, a happy, harmonious family, recognition, and other desirable things? Would I give up cultivation if I got none of those? I would think that to be a sign of lacking faith in Master Li and Dafa.
During that time, I also gained a new understanding of willpower. Our willpower is repeatedly tested in our cultivation. I also see it as a manifestation of our forbearance. Many of our attachments are related to our lack of willpower. For example, our desire for comfort and familiarity, fear, the tendency to shun difficulties, sexual desire, appetite, and fear of pain and hardships, etc. I felt my own lack of willpower at times when I felt tired and sleepy as I hit a snag in my research, and wanted to give up.
When I coveted success but only expended the minimum effort, the result could only be poor because I injected all the wrong thinking into my work – thinking which is very similar to Party culture. As cultivators, we need to take our responsibilities very seriously in everything we do. Everything around us, all lives and species, are created by Dafa, so we ought to be responsible when we have a hand in creating any ideas or physical objects so as to ensure these lives are innately good.
I also had some very strong notions which were not apparent to me. Just to name a few: A lack of sleep could impact my research work during the day, so I had to get enough sleep. I am not particularly clever and my productivity is low, so I am not good at research and I only excelled in my studies before because I worked hard. And, my supervisor is particularly difficult and often comes up with some impossibly hard questions for me. I now work hard to identify these acquired notions. At times when I was uncertain, I would ask myself whether a Buddha or a divine being would think like that. If the answer was no, then it must be an acquired notion.
I grew up under the Communist Party’s education system, which discourages individual thinking. We did not learn how to assess and solve problems. There is only one correct answer to every question and all we needed to do was to memorize the answer. We also needed to understand and guess what answer the examiner wanted; any deviation from that standard answer would be marked incorrect. There was no critical thinking involved.
There was no time or mental space left for us to think about anything. Consequently, when we do have time to think on our own, we can’t figure out how to do something well. I find that students from China are miles behind when compared to overseas students in terms of research and critical thinking skills. That, no doubt, is the ultimate purpose of communism: taking control of your mind. The many online games work the same way. The easy rewards make you feel like you have achieved something, all without involving much thinking or effort.
Under the influence of Party culture, people are driven only by results – everyone wants to strike it rich overnight, adopting all means to achieve the ends. Results only count while the process or the journey to get there is given little weight. As a result, everyone becomes impatient and unable or unwilling to put in the hard work.
Research work by nature requires patience and a steady and unhurried frame of mind, but I was always irritable, rushing over this or brushing over that. I was impatient and wanted to get quick results. At the same time, I was worried about the report I had to submit and whether my submission would be accepted as I have heard rumors about the high non-acceptance rate. The more I worried about it, the bigger the issue became and the smaller I shrank. As such, under the enormous self-induced pressure, negativity and self-doubt started to creep in which had an adverse impact on my work, my daily life and even my cultivation.
I realized I could not go on like that. In all seriousness, results are only secondary. As cultivators, our lives have already been arranged and so has its conclusion. What matters is how well we walk this path. We ought to really cherish this cultivation journey in which we can better ourselves bit by bit.
I can see that there will be many opportunities for me to improve myself. To me, the environment I am in now appears to be most suitable for exposing my weaknesses and flaws.
I will cherish the opportunities given to me and work hard to rid myself of my acquired attachments and notions mentioned above.