Cultivating and Improving While Participating in the Tian Guo Marching Band
(Minghui.org) I moved to Auckland in 2015 and I joined the Tian Guo Marching Band the following year. The experience has offered me several cultivation opportunities.
I admired the band members’ skills but felt it was far out of my league simply because I wasn’t good enough. I didn’t know how to read music, I didn’t know any music theory, and I didn’t have any sense of rhythm. So when the band coordinator asked me to join, I said I couldn’t do it. She replied, “No problem. We are Dafa disciples. Master is always by our side and we can break through any difficulties as long as our thoughts are righteous.” Her firm tone filled me with confidence.
I was assigned to play the French horn, which is not an easy instrument to play. I couldn’t play a single note well. My pitch varied and I couldn’t seem to improve after continued practice. I paid for private tutoring. The teacher told me that if you want to play an instrument well, you must first learn to inhale and exhale correctly. I began practicing breathing. But every breath I took was wrong; when my stomach was supposed to cave in, it inflated, or the other way around. I just couldn’t grasp the exact breathing method even though I kept practicing.
At that point, my confidence faltered. A small voice kept telling me that I was not made for music. I couldn’t even grasp the most basic breathing! Would I ever be able to play the Dafa songs? Was I really supposed to start from scratch at this crucial time of saving people? Music is an art, and not to be completed in a rush. Could I really commit to it? I was at a crossroads. The difficulty of playing the French horn brought much pressure to my life and cultivation. Having to do the three things and working every day already made me feel that there wasn’t enough time. How could I possibly make time to play this instrument? I wanted to quit.
After some Fa study, I was able to remember why I joined the Tian Guo Marching Band. Was it really a coincidence? Master said, “... nothing on our path of cultivation is coincidental.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Conference in New Zealand”) Maybe I vowed to save people through music. If I quit the band I would fail to accomplish my mission. I strengthened my will with this righteous thought and decided to stay.
The band practice was held every Monday night. I couldn’t keep up with the others. The sounds I played were stiff and unpleasant. Because I was afraid of being criticized or distracting my team members I practiced outside. Inside the hall, the other practitioners played beautiful Dafa music. I sighed, wondering if I would ever be able to match their skills and become a qualified Tian Guo Band member.
The journey ahead seemed long. Becoming proficient with an instrument is a long process filled with technical challenges. It requires dedication and professional guidance to correctly grasp the pitch, timbre, rhythm and so on. I kept asking myself, “Do you actually have time for this commitment?” Getting up at 3:50 a.m. every day, and doing the three things while working a full time job. Every Saturday and Sunday I helped to distribute newspapers and visit tourist spots to clarify the truth. When would I have time to practice? Could I possibly improve? The veteran members had been part of the band for more than 10 years and dared not slack off one day.
What should I do? More negative thoughts surfaced: not playing the French horn meant I would have more time to do the three things or I could participate in other projects to save sentient beings. Why should I take on so much pressure? The other practitioners noticed that I was struggling and they suggested that I let it go. I wasn’t proficient with my instrument and it took time away from doing the three things. I decided to quit the band.
Quitting the band was not the right choice. I felt as if I had lost something. To sort out my confusion I decided to talk to a practitioner who had been playing with the band for more than 10 years. She shared with me the tribulations she experienced over the past 10 years. Even though she dealt with all kinds of pressure, she never thought about giving up. She reminded me that the Tian Guo Marching Band was arranged by Master to save sentient beings, so as a Falun Dafa practitioner, shouldn’t we do well what Master asks?
She pointed out that working under such strict time constraints and aiming to meet high standards might seem impossible for ordinary people, but practitioners can overcome these difficulties. In the process we validate the greatness of Dafa. Playing in the band also gives us opportunities to cultivate and endure hardship. If there were no obstacles anyone could succeed. She added that when we improve our xinxing the melody we play can move people’ hearts. We play extraordinary and impressive music with our instruments to wipe out evil and save sentient beings. Isn't that something that we should do well? Listening to her inspiring sharing, I was touched by her positive thoughts. I felt ashamed of my low enlightenment quality. I made up my mind to rejoin the band and cherish every opportunity to live up to my vows.
My New Instrument
When I first joined the band another practitioner gave me a French horn. As a beginner I wasn’t aware that the sound the instrument makes reflects its quality. When I had to have it repaired I went to the shop with another practitioner. The shop owner agreed to repair my instrument but refused to repair hers. He said that her instrument was made in China and was of poor quality. If he repaired it, the sound produced would still be poor and it would damage the reputation of his shop.
Through this incident, I realized the quality of the instrument is as important as one’s skills. I was told that instruments made in the U.S. were superior but also more expensive. Of course, I wanted a good instrument but the price tag of $6,000 NZD put financial pressure on me. I thought it over. The Tian Guo Marching Band had higher requirements and was becoming more professional. If I didn’t have a good instrument to play it might negatively impact the band’s performance. Although it did cost a bit more, it was not a luxury or a hobby. A high quality instrument was crucial in saving sentient beings and was totally worth it! I decided to upgrade my instrument. To my surprise the music store offered me a $1,000 discount. As a result, I only paid slightly more than $5,000 NZD.
My Instrument Helps Me Save People
When I went on a trip I brought my French horn so I could keep practicing. One night while I was practicing a Dafa song outside, a young man came over and greeted me with a smile. “What music did you play just now? It sounds so pleasant that I had to come over.” I looked at him and thought, “A sentient being came so I could clarify the truth.” I told him it’s called “Buddha Mercy Sacred Music,” one of the songs the Tian Guo Marching Band plays. He introduced himself as a Malaysian Chinese who was studying at the university. He told me about his school life and family. We had a great chat. I told him about the beauty of Falun Dafa, and how it’s being persecuted. He was disgusted by the communist regime’s cruelty. I gave him some truth-clarification flyers and told him to remember, “Falun Dafa is good, Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance is good.” He said he would remember. As he walked away, tears of gratitude welled up in my eyes for a life saved! I thanked Master for bringing him to me. I appreciated my French horn even more; it helped me save people.
Criticism Makes Me Stronger
Along with the rapid progress of the Fa-rectification, the requirements for the Tian Guo Marching Band were getting increasingly higher. There were exams which put great pressure on me. My schedule was already tight, but I had to practice more. What should I do? Master said,
“Pause for a moment of self-reflection,and increase your righteous thoughtsThoroughly analyze your shortcomings,and progress with renewed diligence”(“Rational and Awake,” Hong Yin Vol. II)
I adjusted my schedule so I could practice more. I began bringing my instrument with me to work. Instead of driving home after work I went to a park and practiced inside my car to the point of falling asleep.
After dinner, I would park under a lamp post on a nearby street to practice so I wouldn’t bother the neighbors. After awhile, I felt that I made some improvements and I felt more confident. However, during an event, a band member told me that the sound coming from my horn sounded like someone crying. I felt crushed. I knew that I still wasn’t good enough and hadn’t met the required standard. Although I tried my hardest and used every possible spare moment to practice, I still sounded awful. Wouldn’t I accumulate karma by performing Dafa music badly? If I couldn’t be a positive addition to the band, I thought that I might as well quit. So I found another excuse for myself, and stopped going to band practice.
Before I announced my decision, another band member phoned me. It seemed that he knew what I was going through. He praised the effort I’d put in while kindly pointing out my shortcomings. He told me that I’d come a long way from being someone who didn’t even know how to hold an instrument. He reminded me that it was amazing that I was now able to perform Dafa music. Even though I wasn’t up to standard yet, it didn’t mean I couldn’t do it. He explained that we were similar to a military band. Just like soldiers on the battlefield, we could not run when we’re trying to save people. Every single note we play is sacred. After listening to his heartfelt sharing, I looked inward. I wondered why I was so sensitive. I almost quit the band because of what someone said.
Master said, “...looking within is a magical tool.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2009 Washington DC International Fa Conference,” Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. IX)
Wasn’t this an opportunity for me to improve? Master said,
“They do not let you ascend. Though you want to ascend, you cannot. They just do not let you move up. Why don’t they let you move up? It is because your xinxing has not improved.” (Lecture One, Zhuan Falun)
Master was using a fellow practitioner’s mouth to tell me that I need to improve my xinxing. Not only did I not realize this, I focused on negative thoughts and used them to quit. Why couldn’t I improve myself so I could play better and positively contribute to the band? Master said,
“When it's difficult to endure, you can endure it. When it's impossible to do, you can do it.” ( Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
We can definitely do it. If I improved my xinxing, my intonation, timbre, rhythm – everything, would all improve. I felt ashamed that my cultivation was so shallow. I must take responsibility for my own cultivation and elevate myself in the band through cultivating.
Participating in the Hong Kong Parade
I had long wished to participate in the parades in Hong Kong. The requirements were very strict. We had to play at least 8 pieces of Dafa music. Last year we were allowed 2 mistakes per song, but a single mistake this year would result in failure. I was anxious and stressed out.
The 5 songs I passed last year did not count. I had to pass 8 songs this year to participate in the parade. The band coordinator said that even though every band member was needed, the criteria could not be lowered.
The date of the parade neared. The coordinator asked if I would participate. I wasn’t sure. I’d been taking lessons from another practitioner, but I still couldn’t master certain notes. I didn’t know if I could pass the exam. Hong Kong is a battlefield of good vs. evil. At this critical moment, Dafa disciples were needed there. I would be filled with regret if I couldn’t participate due to my lack of skill. I had a sudden thought. I am a Dafa disciple. When we are needed to validate Dafa’s grandeur, if I’m not there, do I deserve to be called a Dafa Disciple? I immediately signed up for the parade. I asked Master to help me pass the exam so I could be on the front line with my instrument. I intensified my practice. The practitioner who was in charge of technique invited us to practice with him.
One day, I was alone at home so I quickly set up my music stand and started to practice my off beat notes. It was my weakness which I always failed to play accurately. As I practiced that day, I was suddenly able to play them correctly. My eyes teared up. I knew that Master had bestowed me with wisdom. I cannot express my gratitude to Master. Every inch of our improvement is infused with Master’s sacrifice. Master is looking after us all the time. In the end, I passed the exam with the care of Master and practitioners’ selfless help.
I felt the sacredness of being able to participate in the Hong Kong parade this year. I was filled with immense gratitude to Master as I played wonderful Dafa music. I felt extremely fortunate and excited to see the people giving us a thumbs up and shouting “Falun Dafa is good, Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance is Good.” We walked for over 6 hours in the scorching heat, but I felt so happy knowing that people were saved!
“I raise my eyes and gaze at the azure skyMacro- and microcosm, filled with eyesThe focal point of what is above and below—The Great Way spreading in the world”(“The Great Way’s Spreading,” Hong Yin Volume II)
July 20, 1999 was the day a shadow was cast upon Master and Dafa. It was also the beginning of the persecution. As a Dafa disciple, I needed to help expose the evil and validate the beauty of Dafa. So I registered for the July 20th parade in Hong Kong. After attending the parade in Wellington on the 17th, I left for Hong Kong on the 19th. A practitioner who frequently traveled to Hong Kong for parades reminded us to send forth righteous thoughts to clear the negative elements in other dimensions in Hong Kong. We studied the Fa and sent forth righteous thoughts on the plane. After we arrived we had very little time to prepare. We left for the parade at 6:30 a.m. We sent forth righteous thoughts, warmed up, and rehearsed.
Every member of the band had strong righteous thoughts but the evil in other dimensions kept trying to interfere with us. I couldn’t help but remember Master’s teaching. Master said,
“Human history does not exist for [people] to take being human as its final goal, nor is human history a recreation ground created for the evil to display its viciousness. Mankind’s history was established for the Fa-rectification, and only Dafa disciples are worthy of displaying their glory here.” (“To the 2005 European Experience Sharing Conference,” The Essentials of Diligent Progress Vol. III)
The parade started just past noon. We walked the streets of Hong Kong with a great sense of responsibility and purpose. Dafa music resounded throughout the air in Hong Kong, cleansing out the evil. I was so glad to be a part of this magnificent team! I thank Master for choosing me as a Dafa disciple and to be a member of the Tian Guo Marching Band.
I bumped into a senior member of the band after the parade ended and asked him how he kept at his best in such long parades. He simply said that he believed in Master and the Fa 100%. I could feel his strong, unbreakable faith from his words, which is the basis of cultivation practice.
My time in the Tian Guo Marching Band is a part of my cultivation practice and has helped me mature. I am proud and honored to be a part of the band. I must seize the opportunity and utilize my French horn (my magical instrument) to perform the most wonderful music!
Please kindly point out anything inappropriate in my understanding.
Thank you Master. Thank you fellow practitioners.
(Presented at the 2019 New Zealand Fa Conference)