Cultivating and Improving While Participating in Shen Yun Promotion
(Minghui.org) Greetings Master! Greetings fellow practitioners!
I began practicing Falun Dafa in 2014, and in 2016, I moved from China to the U.S. for graduate school. Although my city is small, we are fortunate that Shen Yun comes to our state every year. Moving here gave me the opportunity to participate in Shen Yun promotion and participate in the tasks involved with hosting the performances. I learned to encourage my fellow practitioners, work hard to eliminate my attachments, and elevate to higher cultivation levels. I could feel Master’s compassionate care at every moment, and I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to save sentient beings and cultivate with my fellow practitioners. Through these arrangements, I also realized the meaning behind, “Study the Fa well.” I would like to share some of my cultivation experiences.
My Golden Cultivation Opportunity
Soon after I arrived in the U.S. in late 2016, I heard that Shen Yun would be performing in my city for the first time. Coordinators from nearby cities contacted me and brought me along to put up posters. I remember how excited I was, even though I had only been practicing for a short time. At that time, I didn’t realize that Shen Yun was a project directly led by Master to save sentient beings, nor did I fully understand Shen Yun’s ability to save people. I thought, “Being able to introduce this stunning show to sentient beings can show the world the beauty of Dafa.” It felt great that I didn’t have to be afraid when I clarified the truth – unlike how things are in China.
During those months, regardless of whether it was snowing or freezing to the point that my hands were frostbitten; when my bicycle tire popped off or I encountered people with negative attitudes; or when I was so busy and tired with my studies to the point that my back was endlessly sore; I just wanted to put up one more poster, or just a few more brochures. I knew this would benefit people. I felt that I improved rapidly during this period of time. When I read the Fa, I always had a new level of understanding. I was happy whenever I realized I had removed another attachment and I could feel that Master was raising my cultivation level every day.
I often dreamed that I was flying. Once, I dreamed I was sitting on a rocket and going higher until I reached the middle of the universe and I transformed into a golden Buddha. This dream encouraged me to continuously make breakthroughs in enduring hardships and letting go of my attachments. In hindsight, I realize that at the time I was easily excitable and had an attachment to validating myself. Also, because I didn’t fully comprehend how Shen Yun saved people from the perspective of the Fa, sometimes I lacked confidence when introducing Shen Yun to people of high social status. Even when I saw our ticket sales struggling, I never thought to send forth righteous thoughts to eliminate interference.
“When disciples have ample righteous thoughts Master has the power to turn back the tide” (“The Master-Disciple Bond,” Hong Yin Volume II)
I hadn’t realized the deeper meaning of this statement and I wasn’t strict with myself so I could improve faster. Despite my shortcomings, on the day of the performance, Master let me witness something amazing. The weather forecast that evening was for severe thunderstorms. On the morning of the performance, the sky was dark with heavy clouds. By noon, it felt like torrential rain would start pouring at any moment. Around four in the afternoon, I’d finished my last class for the day and went home to change into a formal suit. As I walked to the theater, I noticed that the sky began to change. The gray clouds above the theater started to dissipate in all four directions, as if a Falun was rotating and the energy was pushing the clouds away from the theater. By five o’clock, all that was left was a beautiful sunset, without a single trace of clouds in the sky. Seeing this extraordinary scene made me grateful to Master, and I also felt that I was really fortunate to be a Falun Dafa practitioner.
The second year I was in the U.S., I read Master’s Collected Fa Teachings, which furthered my understanding of cultivation and the responsibility of Dafa disciples to save people. It also made the meaning of Shen Yun clearer to me. But that year my city wasn’t successful in applying for Shen Yun performances, so my only opportunity to volunteer was in a neighboring state during their performances. Although my time there was short, I had a special experience.
A Deeper Appreciation for Shen Yun
On the first night, I was assigned to watch the buses with a practitioner who'd traveled from New York. The entire night we discussed our cultivation experiences. The thing that left the deepest impression on me was when she told me about the first few years of Shen Yun promotion. Because Shen Yun needed to establish itself, many elderly practitioners over 70 participated in hanging brochures on doorknobs. They persisted all day, every day, even through blizzards. At night when they got back home, they were too tired to walk. Even so, the elderly practitioners went out to hang brochures on doorknobs the following day. I was deeply moved by the pure devotion of elderly practitioners to Shen Yun, and I truly felt that Falun Dafa practitioners were extraordinary. Elderly practitioners were able to reach this level because they believed in Master and the Fa. As a young man, I felt ashamed to be satisfied with the small amount of progress I'd made. I became determined to improve and learn from other practitioners. Master said, “Focus on how you study and cultivate,...” (“Solid Cultivation,” Hong Yin)
The third evening was the second Shen Yun performance and it was my turn to watch the show. I was deeply moved by the first dance, as if a long-lost memory was slowly surfacing. Before I could recall it fully, the second dance, “Tang Dynasty Training Ground” began. The dancers wore the costumes of Tang army soldiers and their movements were majestic. When they pushed the drums out on stage and started drumming, the sound reverberated in my heart. I instantly burst into tears. I suddenly recalled that I was a soldier in the Tang army and I beat the drums on the battlefield. My heart and body seemed to fuse with the stage and connect with the Shen Yun dancers. Even though the backdrop was a battlefield, I truly felt Master’s presence. Master’s compassionate eyes watched everyone as we fought for Emperor Tang Taizong. It was all performed under Master’s careful consideration, and their boundless magnificence and glory deeply moved me and filled my entire body with energy.
I understood this was all Master’s compassionate reminder. Master has been watching over us for all of our lifetimes, and what Shen Yun performs is the ages and ages of history we created under Master’s lead.
“So all of the culture that's been passed down from history was made by Dafa disciples; and of course there was also Master, who was leading you.” (Touring North America to Teach the Fa)
Experiencing the predestined relationship we have with Master made me realize once more that I need to do well in cultivation and saving people. Master reminded us, “Then, if you don't do everything well, you're really letting yourself down!” ("Teaching the Fa at the 2002 Fa Conference in Boston,” Collected Fa Teachings Volume II)
Maturing in Cultivation
In the second half of 2018, we finally received good news. The biggest city in our state had successfully invited Shen Yun to perform at their venue. At first, the coordinator instructed me to hang brochures on doorknobs. I assumed that doing it on the weekends twice a week would be fine, but I never expected that I would be limping on one leg by the end of my first day. Although my limping did not affect my ability to hang brochures, I realized that my cultivation needed solid improvement, as I did not diligently do the exercises. Master said, “The five sets of exercises will be taught to you all at once, and you will learn them all.” (Lecture Three, Zhuan Falun)
I realized that my body was not purified enough, as only diligent practitioners could achieve this, which made me admire veteran practitioners even more. For the first few weekends, I walked around easily on the first day but was dragging my legs with a smile on the second. I knew it was more important to improve my cultivation from within. More practitioners from neighboring states came to help with the promotion. Since I was going to graduate with my Master’s degree, I needed to complete my graduate thesis by November. Originally, I was only required to expand and rewrite a published paper. After starting, I realized that I needed to consult a lot of materials and my English was limited. It took me seven to eight hours to rewrite only one or two paragraphs.
I saw other practitioners working hard at promotions, and I wanted to help. Yet, I couldn’t set my thesis aside either. Under the pressure, I hoped that studying the Fa would improve my wisdom so that I could do both well simultaneously. But despite my wishes, I did not gain any new insights, and I became even more anxious. This persisted for a while without any improvement. I knew my experience and wisdom were not enough, but I sincerely wanted to save sentient beings so I asked Master for help.
Perhaps Master saw that I sincerely wanted to improve, so He appeared in my dream that night. In my dream, I was sitting in a classroom. Master stepped down from the podium and when He reached me, I bowed my head in shame and thought, “I haven’t done well as a disciple.” Mercifully, Master did not blame me, and simply said one sentence in a language from another dimension. The entire classroom became a Buddhist temple. All the Buddhas were solemnly reciting Master’s sentence. I woke up immediately and found that my face was wet with tears.
Although that sentence was not spoken in a human-level language and I could not remember the words, deep down, I realized that Master was telling me that the process of improvement comes from undergoing hardships. I instantly understood that whether it was promoting Shen Yun or my graduate thesis, there was no shortcut to the hardships I had to suffer, and I had to do things well. No matter how little or how much time I had after studying, I had to do everything I could. My anxiousness did not simply stem from wanting to promote Shen Yun. Hidden underneath were the attachments to selfishness and a desire to seek merit and a reputation of being diligent. I realized that the status of our ticket sales for Shen Yun was closely related to our own cultivation. Everything is arranged by Master and carried out by divine beings. I should truly believe in Master and the Fa to improve my mentality, get rid of my attachments, and meet the standard. Only that way, would I be able to walk the path arranged by Master well.
I made up my mind. Other than traveling to the cities with performances on Saturdays to put up posters, I also put up posters every day after my studies, which was around five or six in the afternoon. I would eat dinner around eight or nine. Sometimes, I would drive to the theater at ten at night to distribute flyers to the dispersing audience. One day, I got home around half past six and my ordinary thoughts urged me to take a day off and rest. But I rejected these thoughts and went out to deliver posters as usual.
When the Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra soundtrack started playing “The Great Khan,” the sound of thundering horse hooves burst forth and compassionate Master once again helped me recall a long-lost memory: I was also a Mongol warrior under the command of the Great Khan. I started crying. It felt as if I was riding a horse on an open grassland. Even though I was tired before, my body was suddenly full of energy. That night, I delivered posters without any issues. After letting go of my ordinary thoughts, my writing speed steadily increased, and I finally was able to complete my graduation thesis and dissertation.
Realizing Mall Promotion Is a Cultivation Opportunity
Around mid-December, the ticket sales at the malls started up right as my semester wrapped up, and I was able to help out with ticket sales over winter break. At first, many people were indifferent, and very few people took a flyer or were willing to stop and listen. Most people passed by quickly as if they couldn’t see our booth. On top of this, my body hurt after standing for a few hours. It felt as if thousands of needles pierced the sole of my foot, and the pain increased until the end of each day.
When I encountered people with bad attitudes, I found it difficult to genuinely smile at them. One day, I suddenly realized that when people refused me, and I smiled and thanked them out of politeness, I was not being Truthful. My inability to concentrate because of the pain was because I didn’t have enough Forbearance. Every sentient being was brave enough to be reincarnate in this world, and many came because of the Fa. Master arranged for them to come to the mall, so if I don’t cherish each one of them, I wasn’t truly displaying Compassion. Everything is arranged by Master. I just need to let go of my attachments. It’s like Master said, “Cultivation depends on one’s own efforts, while the transformation of gong is done by one’s master.” (Lecture One, Zhuan Falun)
Those who are destined to watch the show will be blessed. As soon as I realized this, the situation changed. More people were interested and stopped to listen. As I spoke, I felt Master’s energy surge through my body. I didn’t think of the spiking pain in my feet, and the pain wasn’t able to interfere with my genuine smiles anymore. When I said “Thank you,” I said it sincerely. Each time I spoke to a person, I started tearing up. Perhaps my knowing side saw Master’s arrangements; it was clear to me that Master led other Gods to the mall, and He was watching us with compassion. Now I have a deeper understanding of Master’s Fa. Master said,
“But it becomes simple at higher levels, where there's no longer any concept of cultivation but only the concept of karma elimination. At levels higher up, all troubles are to pave the way for ascending to Heaven. And at even higher levels, concepts like eliminating karma, enduring hardships, and cultivation no longer exist, and it's just a choice! This is the principle at high levels of the cosmos: you think someone is good enough, so you choose him--that's the principle.” (“Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Lantern Festival”)
In fact, Master has already paved the way for us and passed on the Dafa that will guide us on the right path. When we can follow Master's arrangements, everything will come naturally. Whenever things go well, it does not reflect the height of my cultivation level or that I did something great. It’s because I assimilated to Dafa, abandoned my attachments, and did not give in to the urge to do bad things. This way, Master’s arrangements will naturally lead me in the right direction. Master said,
“Neither heaven nor earth can block my road of Fa-rectification, But disciples’ human hearts can” (“Troubles,” Hong Yin Volume III)
When our attachments are exposed and we remove them, Master’s arrangements will work. When their cultivation level reaches a certain level, practitioners will naturally be able to display their wisdom and ability. Every task will feel natural and it won’t feel like we are suffering or sacrificing.
Finally, through the hard work of all the practitioners, the Shen Yun performances in our state were all sold out. The month before the performances started, I read Zhuan Falun every day and I also finished memorizing it. Whenever I had conflicts, I could remember the Fa, and I could quickly remove my attachments and resolve any problems.
My Glaring Attachment
But there was one attachment that had not been removed even after the performances were over. Every time I felt like I overcame an obstacle, I would relax. My ordinary thoughts would resurface; I felt like I sacrificed a lot, so it would be okay to watch some news or videos. After the last performance, I lost any motivation to urgently save people. This attachment quickly became a habit, just like Master said,
“When that substance is inhaled, inside of your body it forms a very thin and light version of you...Of course, it may not do anything other than crave drugs. It can’t bear to be without them.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2019 New York Fa Conference”)
This habit had caused me tribulations for a long time and it was a repeating cycle until I realized it often suppressed my main consciousness. I made up my mind to study the Fa and do the exercises more in order to get rid of it. This experience was also a big lesson for me. Master said, “If the postnatally acquired notions are not removed, you indeed won’t be able to cultivate with diligence.” (Teaching the Fa at the Conference in the Midwest-U.S.) Even my smallest loophole should not allow interference, or else it may cause even bigger difficulties.
When I was planning to write this experience sharing, I had another layer of understanding about the “Choice” that Master mentioned. I used to think Master was saying that it was us disciples who chose to practice. Everything after followed Master’s arrangements, and the disciples only needed to diligently cultivate until Consummation. Now, I realize that we didn’t make any choices, because it was Master who chose us and arranged each of our lifetimes to be able to obtain the Fa. Master chose to bear the karma we accumulated lifetime after lifetime. Master chose not to give up on us when we weren’t diligent and even went astray. Even when our attachments interfered with us, as long as we had righteous thoughts, Master endured all of our faults.
Because Master chose us, He has taken on our burdens. Master never mentions it, but even after Consummation, I’m sure I won’t be able to understand even a fraction of His hardships. Such an immense and compassionate choice was made to forge a path for us, allowing us to cultivate. I am grateful for Master's infinite compassion. It is difficult to repay Master’s grace, but this disciple will do his best to improve further.
Thank you Master! Thank you fellow practitioners!
(Presented at the 2020 International Falun Dafa Young Practitioners’ Online Fa Conference)