How I Let Go of Self
(Minghui.org) I am fortunate that I’ve practiced Falun Dafa since I was very young since both of my parents were practitioners. Over the last twenty years or so, I had gone from having a vague understanding of Dafa and cultivation to gaining the clarity and maturity I have today. I went from cultivating passively to taking charge of my own cultivation. The 20-year-long persecution of Dafa has brought terror to my life; our home has been ransacked on several occasions and I have been continually harassed and kidnapped. Despite all that, I was fortunate to be able to hold on to my faith and survive the persecution because of Master’s protection.
The EnlightenedThe ordinary people know me notAmidst the mystery is where I sitAmidst the profit and desire, I am notA century gone by, just I remain(Hong Yin, Translation Version C)
For many years I had been puzzled by this poem from Master. What are the “me” and “I” references talking about? It is a question that has bugged me throughout my cultivation journey.
Letting Go of My Opinionated Self
Being the only child in my family, I was pampered and headstrong as a child. I felt superior and confident because I excelled academically. As I grew up, my arrogance became more apparent. I considered myself more computer and technology savvy than many of my fellow practitioners and would not tolerate any criticism in this regard.
However, setbacks and tribulations over the years have taught me the importance of practicing forbearance. As I became aware that I was trying to protect myself, I started to consciously watch how I reacted to any unpleasant encounters I came across. I swallowed my supposed grievances and refrained from talking back even though my facial expressions sometimes betrayed me. For a long time, that was my artificial reaction when my forbearance was tested. Yet I still feel defeated because it has not become any easier for me to endure over time.
I aspired to cultivate the forbearance Master talked about, but had no idea how to get there.
“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)?” Essentials for Further Advancement)
The turning point came last year when I was locked up in a brainwashing center for ten days. I emerged unscathed, but the experience seemed to have changed me for good – my big attachment to self seemed to have taken a back seat.
One instance stood out. I went to see a fellow practitioner and was blamed by him for some misunderstanding. In the past, I would’ve rushed to explain myself while feeling aggrieved. I’d then put an end to the matter by exercising self-restraint. This time, however, I was watching the incident unfold before my eyes as if it was totally unrelated to me. I felt no urge to explain anything; it was like it wasn’t even happening to me. It was a wonderful feeling that I had never experienced before. There were no hard feelings or anger. What would have felt like a test of my forbearance before was nothing worth being bothered about now.
Letting Go of Financial Insecurity
I do not have a regular source of income because I work as a freelancer. My parents’ financial situation is not great, having endured over 20 years of persecution; they were illegally detained several times. My own savings fell short. My income from work had dried up. I had no more money to continue paying for their legal aid.
The first time I found myself desperately short of funds was four years ago. One of my parents was kidnapped and in urgent need of a lawyer. I was frantic and couldn’t see a way out because my financial security net was gone. Initially, I was overwhelmed with anxiety and couldn’t even concentrate while studying the Fa. In the end, I had no choice; I had to look within myself and change my mindset. It took me two weeks to break through this mental challenge. After I made a breakthrough, my financial situation completely turned around. The torment I went through in those two weeks made me realize the attachment I had to my parents and to my personal financial security. I was under the false impression that money and material possessions were an indispensable part of my life.
In the old days, cultivators gave up their material possessions and status and took to begging while wandering around or disappearing into the mountains. Material possessions were the very first thing they had to give up. However, I considered my desire and need for them to be an integral part of myself and struggled to let it go. It sounded really absurd.
I found myself again in almost the same financial despair in early 2019. This time around, I was quick to recover from the initial panic. By mentally disassociating myself from the situation and having the right mindset, I was able to spare myself the mental anguish and remain calm. Even in the thick of it, I did not feel it had anything to do with me. The situation naturally resolved itself in the end.
Mastering the Ability to Speak Mindfully by Letting Go of Self
A cultivator needs to be mindful of what he or she says – this habit did not come easily to me. I have an aggressive personality. I liked to speak out, mostly out of jealousy or wanting to show off. My words were sometimes sarcastic or downright unkind. Oftentimes, I only realized this after I spoke improperly.
Gradually I could stop myself from saying something I shouldn’t. But it didn’t feel right or natural because I was forcing myself to hold my tongue. I didn’t realize at the time that the urge to speak out indiscriminately did not come from me. Rather, it was a result of my brain being taken hold of by many acquired human notions and attachments.
I felt I had to speak out to warn fellow practitioners when they failed to act in accordance with the Fa, such as when someone suffered from sickness karma and ended up going to a hospital, or when a male and female practitioner were in an inappropriate relationship. There did not appear to be anything wrong with my actions in principle, but my words of warning were never well received. It was hard for me to understand or accept the rejection. It took me a while to realize that what’s right and wrong in Dafa is not determined by our normal human way of reasoning.
The more I insisted on my own so-called correct point of view, the worse the situations became. I was not speaking out for others’ benefit, rather, I was doing it to gain others’ approval. In other words, I was trying to validate myself rather than the Fa. It was no wonder that I never experienced anything like what Master said about speaking without any selfish intentions.
“I often say that if a person is free of any personal notions, isn’t motivated by self-interest, and is truly looking to benefit others, then when he points out another person’s shortcoming or tells the other person what’s right, that person will be moved to tears.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Singapore”)
That was until I changed my way of thinking recently. I found myself voluntarily refraining from speaking out a lot of the time because what I was about to say seemed meaningless. The ability to speak mindfully has since become a simple thing for me to master. With the change in mindset, I have come to the understanding that I cannot judge others based on superficial reasons. Every Dafa cultivator has his or her own path of cultivation which has been meticulously arranged by Master and is watched over by Master. Whatever their individual circumstances may be, they nevertheless are still persevering with their pre-arranged cultivation paths.
Coming to that understanding dissolved the part of me that wanted others to accept my point of view. Relief washed over me then and there. Since then, I listen more than I speak in discussions, and when I meet with fellow practitioners. I seldom express my own opinion but on the rare occasion when I did, it helped the listener enlighten to something. I was puzzled as to why my words were so impactful. One thing I know for sure is that when I have the right mindset, whatever I say immediately clicked with the listener and was something that came from Master and had nothing to do with me.
Letting Go of My Ulterior Motives
In principle, we know in cultivation we have to be diligent and strive to raise our level, but if practiced over-zealously, we might be taking these principles to the extreme. Initially, I tried hard to adhere to the Fa and not do anything wrong. I realized this had caused oddities in my behavior.
I was always afraid to do the wrong thing. For instance, I was given more money than I deserved, but I couldn’t return it. Even though it was only a very small amount, I was anxious and scared that it would give me more karma and lower my cultivation level. Another instance was when I made a mistake in printing a Dafa book, I was too scared to destroy it myself because I did not want to sin against Dafa. Instead, I had another practitioner to do it. There were many similar instances where my first reaction had been self-preservation rather than treating the mistakes as lessons I could learn from in the future.
My motivation for serving Dafa had solely been to advance in my cultivation. When I first started clarifying the truth face-to-face, I didn’t understand why it was necessary. It felt like I was opposing the government. But I didn’t want to be left behind. Master said it was an opportunity to improve our cultivation level. I hesitantly did as I was told, which of course could only bring about poor results. I had the same issue when practitioners were suing Jiang Zemin (the former communist party leader). I did not understand the campaign’s significance and only did it because fellow practitioners around me were. I was worried that I would be left behind when Dafa disciples consummate. It took me a long time to enlighten to what it meant to be a Dafa disciple in the Fa-rectification period. Master said:
“Dafa disciples have a tremendous responsibility: more than just one’s own Consummation, each must shoulder the mission of saving the world’s people, the sentient beings. Never in history has that been the case.” (“Fa Teaching Given at the Fa Conference Marking the Tenth Anniversary of Minghui’s Founding,” Collected Fa Teachings, Vol. X)
I thought I was diligent in my cultivation, but I wasn’t. My own selfishness beat out the real me for control. I found my cultivation stagnating. This bad habit festered. I found myself becoming more eager to do things for Dafa so as to advance my own cultivation level. This pursuit of personal gain led to me being very ineffective in clarifying the truth and saving people.
Now, rather than consistently pondering over what I should or shouldn’t do, I simply adhere to Dafa’s requirements and do the three things to the best of my ability. As to the question of whether I can consummate, I think it’s best not to put too much thought into it. Master said:
“However much you sacrifice is the amount you will gain—this is the principle.” (Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
I wanted to put my cultivation journey into words. This is only a small part of it because Dafa has already improved every facet of my life. I don’t think much about anything these days. I concentrate on keeping a calm mind and carrying on fulfilling my own historic mission. I believe that by being unwavering in our faith in Dafa, everything will turn out for the best.