Exposing and Eliminating the Attachment to Ego
(Minghui.org) I am a young practitioner who started to practice Falun Dafa in 2017. I thought everything in my cultivation was going smoothly by 2019. I improved very fast and felt like I was immersed in the light of Dafa every day. But in the last two months, several conflicts arose at work and in my life, and I failed to maintain my xinxing. Then, when I looked inward, I found what egotism really is. Although the conflicts look like everyday trivia, they have been significant in my cultivation.
Ignoring Improvement of Xinxing During Conflicts
The first conflict occurred at work. The managers assigned me a seemingly impossible task. I asked the leader to find a co-worker who could help me, but neither the leader nor the co-worker was interested in helping me. Although I didn’t say anything, I was angry. They then said something, which really hurt me. Another manager, whom I get along with, didn’t help me either. He also made fun of me. I got really angry and yelled at them, “I can’t do it! Call me when you guys figure out how to do it!” I was tense and twitchy, and I must have been quite a sight.
I was actually pretty close to that co-worker. He is capable and easygoing. Why did I have to fight with him? I understood clearly that I was jealous. He had been hired after me, but he was in charge of this project. Before this particular conflict, I'd experienced a similar conflict with him. So, I did have a problem with him, but on the surface I didn’t admit it.
The conflicts and complaints in my heart made me very uncomfortable. I tried to send forth righteous thoughts to eliminate the heart of jealousy and competitiveness. I repeatedly recited Master’s words: “He's right, and I am wrong. What's to dispute?” (“Who is Right, Who is Wrong,” Hong Yin Vol. III), but I could not calm down. When I stopped sending righteous thoughts, another thought came to mind: “What did I do wrong? I did nothing wrong. I was right, and he was wrong. I should talk to the team leader, and the job should be done by him.”
Later, the team leader helped me finish the job.
That conflict was barely resolved when I faced another conflict.
In my rented apartment I shared the bathroom with a couple. The husband does not pay attention to hygiene, and always leaves a mess after using the bathroom. I talked to him many times about it, but he didn’t change. At the beginning, I reminded myself that it was a test and a chance for me to upgrade my xinxing. I cleaned the bathroom after him but wasn't happy about it. Later, I tried to talk to the husband and set up rules for cleaning the bathroom. He asked his wife to do the job for him. One day, his wife and I had an argument about it. I told her to make the new rules. She said she would ask the building manager to solve the problem.
The next day, I told the manager to talk to the wife. “It's all up to you guys. I'll do whatever you guys decide,” I said, and then I waited outside the conference room. I told myself to behave like a practitioner, and not to fight with the wife. However, the wife complained about me to the manager, claiming that I was overly picky.
“But normally when a problem arises, if it does not irritate a person psychologically, it does not count or is useless and cannot make him or her improve. Accordingly, his mind cannot get over it and is still bothered by it. It could be that his mind is hooked on it. He always wants to turn around to look at the faces of those two people. Upon looking back, he sees the two wicked-looking faces in a heated conversation. He can no longer take it and becomes very upset. He may even pick a fight with them right away.” (Lecture Four, Zhuan Falun)
I got really angry and exclaimed, “It was all your husband’s fault, but now you are complaining about me? Shameless!” I entered the conference room and talked to the manager. The wife had a mean expression on her face, which made me even more angry, so I poured out all my complaints to the manager.
The manager was more calm than us. I felt ashamed after I had vented, feeling that I was not even as calm as a non-practitioner, and I didn’t conform to the Fa when facing a conflict. After the meeting, I listened to the Minghui broadcast, which made me feel better. But, after sending forth righteous thoughts that night, all kinds of bad thoughts arose again, and I was upset again.
The next day I kept repelling the bad thoughts, but my neighbor's expression and words haunted me and really bothered me. After work, I read the Fa for a while and decided to apologize to her. Although I was reluctant, I apologized to the couple. I trembled and my voice shook as I spoke to them. After the apology I was relaxed and I felt that I was courageous.
Although at the surface level, these conflicts seemed resolved, I found that my cultivation state was not good, and I had very little righteous thoughts. I started to look inward for the reason why I couldn't take other people’s criticism or any unfair treatment. At first I thought it was because of my attachment to losing face, jealousy, and being fastidious and intolerant. I tried to eliminate these attachments and notions. But I soon found that the effects were not good, because I hadn't found the fundamental problem. The fundamental root of these conflicts was the same, but I only looked at the surface level.
Minghui Article Helped Me Find the Fundamental Problem
A few days ago, I read an article published on the Minghui website, which cited a quote by Master. This Fa-teaching made me see my problem.
“Some people are always stressing that they’re right, but even if you are right, even if you’re not wrong, so what? Have you improved on the basis of the Fa? The very act of using human thinking to stress who’s right and who’s wrong is in itself wrong. That’s because you are then using the logic of ordinary people to evaluate yourself, and using that logic to make demands on others. As gods see it, for a cultivator to be right or wrong in the human world is not important in the least, whereas eliminating the attachments that come from human thinking is important, and it is precisely your managing to eliminate those attachments rooted in your human thinking as you cultivate that counts as important.” (“Fa Teaching Given in Manhattan,” Collected Fa Teaching, Vol. X)
I had read this teaching many times, and thought that I understood it. But, I found that there were two points in the teaching that I misunderstood.
The first point is my old understanding of “The very act of using human thinking to stress who’s right and who’s wrong is in itself wrong.” I thought that the words after this sentence were just the explanation of this sentence. Since I thought I understood this sentence, I didn’t pay much attention to the words after it. I didn’t know that each Fa sentence is very important and offers guidance in cultivation.
Master said: “That’s because you are then using the logic of ordinary people to evaluate yourself, and using that logic to make demands on others.” (“Fa Teaching Given in Manhattan,” Collected Fa Teaching, Vol. X)
Based on Master’s Fa, I was using ordinary people’s logic to evaluate myself and make demands on others. Ordinary things have nothing to do with Dafa or cultivation. I awakened. I thought I was using the Fa principle to evaluate myself and make demands on others. Since I and others cannot always reach Dafa’s criteria and nobody in cultivation is perfect, we have conflicts. Actually, my way of treating conflicts already deviates from the Fa's requirement for a cultivator. I had been using ordinary people’s logic to do ordinary people’s things. So the conflicts kept coming. Although I had some righteous thoughts in the midst of the conflict, they were not strong enough to suppress my human notions. Only when studying the Fa after the conflicts was I able to tell what I did wrong, but by then I had already hurt others.
The second point is that Master said: “...for a cultivator to be right or wrong in the human world is not important in the least, whereas eliminating the attachments that come from human thinking is important.” (“Fa Teaching Given in Manhattan,” Collected Fa Teaching, Vol. X)
I had the wrong understanding of an attachment: I focused on finding what I did wrong, and I thought the reason for the wrongdoing would be my attachment.
But when I read, “...whereas eliminating the attachments that come from human thinking is important,” (“Fa Teaching Given in Manhattan,” Collected Fa Teaching, Vol. X) I was enlightened and found my fundamental problem—attachment to ego. Master gave me the hint, and I enlightened.
Looking inward is powerful, but I didn’t know how to do it. My current understanding is that the goal of looking inward is to eliminate the human notions. But, for a long time, I looked inward with the wrong goal. The goal of looking inward is not to find what I did wrong and figure out how to correct it—this is just something at the surface level. The real goal is to find the hidden human thinking and attachments via the conflicts, and to get rid of the attachments.
The Pit Latrine: An Analogy to Ego
I grew up in the countryside, where residents pour sewage into an open pit latrine. The waste solidifies after a while and forms a hard shell on the top, which pretty much covers the smell. Kids sometimes throw rocks to smash the shell. A small rock can only make a dent and attract a few houseflies, but the shell will not break. A big rock can break through the crust, and you will see a lot of houseflies and filthy sewage, which has a terrible stench.
Ego is just like this pit latrine: the inside is very dirty. Conflicts are like smashing the shell with rocks. If it is a small rock (a minor conflict), it does not break the shell and only attracts a few flies. The flies are like my human notions and incorrect responses to the conflicts at the surface level. Sending forth righteous thoughts for a while can eliminate the flies.
But throwing a large rock breaks the shell. The shell is like the protections that we have developed in the human world, such as politeness and tolerance at the surface level, a fake smile when angry, and so on. The shell also includes my looking inward for “what I did wrong” and “how to fix it.” Once the shell is broken, a lot of flies will gather, and the foul material will also be exposed. It pollutes my heart, so I might curse others, or even think of revenge. I would no longer be pure or calm.
Manifestations of Ego
After I understood the fundamentals of ego, I found that people with strong egos are usually quite jealous, and it is difficult for them to understand others, be compassionate to others, or forgive others. They often make enemies, and often look to the third party as supporters. So intent on protecting the ego – the pit latrine – these kind of people smell bad, cannot take criticism, and often get jealous. In an article published by the Minghui website, the author said that people are usually jealous of others who are at the same level as they are, but for those who are far away or at much higher levels, people are usually not jealous; they envy those. But behind “envy” hides “jealousy.”
I used to think that being jealous is evil, but envy is good. Now, I found that they are actually the same, but of different manifestation. The origin of both comes from the ego, which is impacted. And when one may find others better than oneself, one finds it unfair or uncomfortable. The most harmful manifestation of the ego is jealousy. This is because jealousy has the power of attacking—it hurts others and also oneself. Even if one shows nothing at the surface level, he may have jealousy and competitiveness inside, which turns into torment.
Another important manifestation of ego is “showing off.” The attachment to showing off can make one do something or say something that is not supposed to be done or said. For example, one would expect to be paid back after doing others a small favor; one would take the lead in a project and micromanage it. One would like to control others and refuse to cooperate with others; or, one may lie or deceive others. The goal of showing off is to make oneself outstanding. When I did something wrong, and I knew that I did wrong, I still didn’t allow others to point it out. When they did, I would find excuses to defend myself.
“Then there are some students who shift the blame, trying to attribute whatever problem comes up to this or that reason. And if there really isn’t any reason, they will make one up (everyone laughs), saying things like, “You don’t realize what the situation was at the time.” And then they carry on with some nonsense or other. (Everyone laughs) And that’s the lighter of the problems, no less. In the more severe cases, the person won’t have any part of it whatsoever.” (“Fa Teaching Given in Manhattan,” Collected Fa Teaching, Vol. X)
I feel like that Master was talking about me. When I am in a good mood, I find excuses to defend myself, and when I am in a bad mood, I give others a hard time and become competitive. Even if others’ critiques are the same as my own thoughts, I will still fight back. When conflicts arise, I often tend to force others to accept my opinion, and if they don't, I get angry. If others do not do things as well as I do, I scold them. If they do better than I do, I get jealous. Overall, when the ego is impacted, I can't relax until others also feel uncomfortable. Although I always regret this and am able to look inward afterward, I do the same thing the next time conflicts arise.
Of course, there are other manifestations of ego, but these two are the most severe ones for me.
“If you, as a cultivator, only part with things superficially while deep down inside you still stick to something or cling to your own vital interests that you don’t allow to be undermined, I’d say to you that your cultivation is fake! If your own thinking doesn’t change, you cannot advance even one step and are deceiving yourself. Only when you truly improve from within can you make real progress.” (“Lecture at the First Conference in North America”)
“If a person’s heart and mind don’t change, it’s all meaningless. If, say, on the surface you have nothing and yet deep down inside you can’t let go of things and are antsy when it comes to these [human] things, it’s useless.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Switzerland”)
Thus, I need to read the Fa, maintain stronger righteous thoughts, and not treat the “pit latrine” as my true self. I must be alert and watch all my thoughts. Also, through conflicts, I should be able to find my ego and eliminate it. When I feel that others are impacting my ego, I should know that the sewage in the pit latrine is now exposed and that this is the opportunity for me to eliminate it.
After the ego – the pit latrine – is completely cleaned out, when a rock is thrown into it, nothing foul will splash out and no houseflies will be stirred up.