Learning to Stand on My Own in Cultivation
(Minghui.org) After my father (who was a fellow practitioner) passed away in the winter of 2017, my mother (also a practitioner) and I became each other’s greatest support. Back then, in the middle of my senior year of college, I decided to graduate early and stay home with her. I’ve been here ever since.
As someone who was born into a family of practitioners, I know that, compared to many other people, I am already incomparably fortunate. But it also meant that I never really had to start as an ordinary person who had to enlighten and “choose” Dafa. From the time I was young, all I had to do was follow what my parents did without having to think too much about it.
Because of this and some other reasons, for most of my life, I’m sad to say that although I never fell completely away from Dafa, it still felt like I was just going through the motions of cultivation. I feel like I didn’t really know how to truly cultivate myself until after my father passed away, and it feels even more recent when I finally began to understand the meaning of the term “cultivating solidly.” Over the past three years, my mother has played a great role in this process.
She was always there to point out my shortcomings and share her experiences with me, along with the understandings she enlightened to. She gradually became the one person whom I could share everything with, and to some extent, I think she even became a crutch for me in cultivation that I unconditionally relied on to point me in the right direction.
But as Master says, “One walks one’s own path,’” (Lecture Three, Zhuan Falun) I couldn’t rely on her forever.
This year, an arrangement was made for my mother to go help out with a project in another state. She would be gone for July and August, leaving me behind to take care of my brother until he started school, after which I would be alone looking after the house. This has made the past two months a unique time in my own cultivation, where I felt like I had to take full responsibility and initiative for my improvement in cultivation for the first time in my life. I’d like to share some of my experiences over these past two months now in the hope that they may help other practitioners who may come from a similar background.
Realizing the Effects of Memorizing the Fa
A month ago, I attended a local group sharing where some practitioners talked about their own experiences in memorizing the Fa. My mother has also been pushing me to give it a try for years. She has been memorizing Zhuan Falun over and over again for nearly a decade now. Spurred on by these practitioners’ experiences, and the positive changes they’ve experienced in their cultivation, I finally decided to pick things up again.
I had previously memorized the Fa on and off, telling myself that because my job kept me busy, I didn’t have time. I advanced at the slow pace of one paragraph a week, and sometimes I’d skip weeks. It seemed more like something I did so that I could tell everyone, “Yeah, I memorize the Fa,” as proof of my own diligence, rather than something I actually did to absorb the Fa and better assimilate myself to the Fa.
This time, I told nobody else about my plan. I resolved to memorize Zhuan Falun after sending righteous thoughts at 6:30 a.m. every day so that I could guarantee that I always had time for it, and I’d get however far I could before I ate breakfast at around 7:20. It didn’t matter if I couldn’t get through an entire paragraph each time, as long as I could fluently recite what I did memorize without a single mistake.
The process was (and still is) very difficult. Sometimes I’d go straight back to bed after sending righteous thoughts; other times I’d oversleep entirely or lay in bed doing nothing for a while before rolling out, which cut into my memorization time. I would typically memorize anywhere from 30-45 minutes each day. Sometimes my mind would wander in the middle of reciting a sentence, and I’d have to start over. Other times I’d think I had a sentence down pat and fluent, only to compare myself with the actual book and find out I’d been habitually reciting a word wrong the entire time. Long sentences with no commas frustrated me; it often took ages of reading them over and over again before the words stopped slipping in one ear and out the other.
But I told myself that no matter what happened, I had to keep going. Even if I missed a day or didn’t do it perfectly, I told myself that the one thing I couldn’t do this time was give up. I was doing this to take in more of the Fa and assimilate myself even more to the Fa, and I knew what good looked like; if I could continue to strive in that direction, things would get better.
Though I’m still not as fast or as consistent as I’d like to be about memorizing the Fa yet, I have noticed a few marked changes in my overall cultivation state for the better, even with the amount I have been able to do.
First of all, I’ve noticed that whenever I study the Fa now, it’s a lot easier to pay attention and easier to notice when my mind has been wandering, and snap it back to attention. Before when my mind would wander, it could easily be away for pages at a time, even when my lips were reading the Fa. But I now seem to be able to notice that I’m not paying attention even if it’s just for one or two paragraphs, and my mind rarely wanders when it’s my turn to read.
I’m also now able to maintain the full lotus position whenever I study the Fa, which before was a goal that I thought would be nice to achieve, but I usually ended up putting my legs down halfway during Fa-study. Sitting in the full lotus position also helps my concentration when studying the Fa––I now often feel currents of warm energy gently flowing within me when I study. As I read the Fa, I feel jolts of energy at the nape of my neck and down my spine as I come to new realizations.
I feel like I’m starting to understand what other practitioners mean now when they say that Fa-study is a truly magical experience and something pleasant to do. I’m starting to see the meaning behind what used to be a perfunctory chore for me in my teenage years and in college, and I feel truly grateful to Master for having waited for me to realize this all this time.
Secondly, I’ve found myself able to give up popular music after I began memorizing the Fa. It used to be a pain point for me since there was always part of me that didn’t think there was anything inherently that bad about ordinary people’s contemporary music, but deep down inside, I knew that it was not something a cultivator should partake in. I went through cycles of good and bad, often falling back into a bad phase once an artist I liked had a new release. I eventually forced myself into giving up all love songs, but that was as far as I went.
The ancient Chinese believed that ceremony and music were the twin pillars of a good society, and that if either were corrupt, society would fall. They also believed that music was medicine. Pure music had salubrious qualities, while corrupt music would damage the five organs in the long run––all things that my mother has told me and that I ignored to some extent.
Moreover, Master has said in “Teaching the Fa at the Meeting on Writing Music,”
“Good and evil both exist in a person, so when a person is especially worked up, or when his actions even overstep the bounds of what is rational, that mostly comes from the stuff of contemporary music.”
And also, from that same lecture:
“The popular way of singing is just the common people’s song, and it doesn’t need to have the manner of formal vocal performance. The folk songs of each country have been passed down through the years like that, and it’s true of all ethnic groups. These days, however, people have standardized them into contemporary music’s system, and they have added in modernist coloring, turning it into something of poor taste, a venting of demonic nature--even to the point that you have obscene stuff that’s a mess. Many young people seek out this stuff.” (“Teaching the Fa at the Meeting on Writing Music”)
For years, I was part of the “young people” that Master referred to. I listened to a variety of genres that only stoked my demon nature, with lyrics that amplified my human desires, and I thought that I was “cool” and “cultured” for doing so. But now, after starting to memorize the Fa, I’ve felt less of a desire to go back to the contemporary music that I used to listen to, day in and day out. Even when I do feel the occasional urge, it’s easy to reject. A majority of the time now, I listen to Shen Yun albums. If it’s not Shen Yun albums, it’s classical music or instrumentals. It feels as if my true self is more alert.
Third, and most importantly, sections of the Fa have started popping into my mind when I meet with certain situations or have certain thoughts that trouble me. Especially in this time when the person I usually turned to for guidance is gone, it’s helped me greatly in deciding what to do (and is really what I should have been using to guide me all this time). It truly feels like Master is there compassionately watching over me and supporting me as I make every move.
In “Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Atlanta Fa Conference,” Master told us,
“Being able to study the Fa well is the fundamental guarantee that you can head towards Consummation, it’s the fundamental guarantee that you can emerge from here. All beings were forged by this Fa, as are your futures.”
This is now a piece of the Fa that I can say has a heavier weight and more concrete meaning to me. When I truly study the Fa well, it feels like I can see the next correct step to take on my path. I am extremely happy that I took up the task of memorizing the Fa during this time, and I hope to continue. Although I am only halfway through Lecture Two, I want to finish all of Zhuan Falun at least once and get faster and steadier as I go.
I’ve recently been reading A Journey to the West. In one episode, the gods of the Jade Emperor’s court seek Buddha Shakyamuni for help in subduing the Monkey King, only to find the Buddha busy explicating the Buddha Law to the beings of his paradise. At that moment, I realized that after Consummation to our respective paradises, as rulers, we would also hold the sacred responsibility of ensuring that all our beings knew about the Fa at the level of their existence, and that they would look to us for guidance, because as the rulers of our paradises we would be the beings in our respective paradises that know the Fa the best.
This gives me even more motivation to study the Fa well and take in as much of the Fa as I can, and I thank Master for the many hints given to me, time and time again, over many years to (finally) steer me in this direction.
Realizing the Importance of Doing the Exercises
For the longest time, I hadn’t understood the purpose of doing the exercises. I understood that we needed to study the Fa to know how to improve our own xinxing, but the meaning of the exercises wasn’t immediately clear to me. I wasn’t a person who came into the practice because of bodily ailments, and as a young child, I didn’t really like to sit still. So, over the majority of my 24 years of life, I had done the exercises out of enforced routine more than anything else. My parents said I had to do it, and being an obedient kid, I did.
It wasn’t until a few months back, when my mother pointed out to me a specific passage in Lecture Six of Zhuan Falun (2014), when I began to even think about scrutinizing the issue a little more deeply:
“He will have to return to the origin by cultivating from scratch. But that is easier said than done. Being old, it would be too late for him to cultivate. Where could he find a cultivation practice of mind and body?”
This passage is from the section where Master speaks of cultivators who have been subjected to true insanity. At first, I didn’t understand what my mother was trying to say.
“Think about it,” she said. “Why would the master be concerned about his disciple being able to find a cultivation practice of mind and body? It means that you’d need a true practice of mind and body in order to really go back to where you came from, that it’s the only way!”
Hearing her understanding of the issue made me realize that there was indeed something else important behind doing the exercises, aside from just maintaining a healthy body and transforming our bodies into high-energy matter. I just needed to figure out what that something else was.
It wouldn’t be until I happened upon this passage of Master’s “Fa Teaching at the 2019 New York Fa Conference” that the other shoe ultimately dropped.
“Humans … I’ve been thinking … are easily controlled by other beings. The human flesh body is only a container passed down by the parents and it is provided for by various grains and food. It grows from eating various grains and food. How fragile that is. It can be controlled by anything. Things formed in other dimensions all have intelligence. Although they are low-level beings, they can control it because the human body is weak.” (Team Blue Translation)
After reading this part of the Fa, it suddenly hit me: human bodies alone can be swayed by all these interfering factors and various attachments––it simply is what happens when we live in these containers. In order to make ourselves truly unflappable in the face of these forces, we have to somehow escape this container and the restraints that come with it. Thus, Master has given us this set of exercises and mechanisms to transform our bodies into higher material; the more of our bodies we transform, the less control these low-level things will be able to exert over us.
I experienced this for myself a few weeks ago when I was dealing with a strong bout of thought karma. It was really stubborn, and I felt myself in great pain trying to strengthen my main consciousness so that I could reject it. But each time I attempted to eliminate it, it only seemed to come back up again––I knew that this thought karma wasn’t me, and I refused to let my actions be controlled by it, but the thought karma just didn’t seem to subside no matter what I tried.
In the midst of this, I happened to glance at the clock and saw it was close to 7:00 p.m. I thought, “Ah, it’s time to do the exercises.” Without thinking too much about it, I went and did the fifth exercise for an hour.
It was something truly remarkable… As I sat down and quieted my thoughts, suddenly the thought karma that had been plaguing me died down instantly, as if it was never even a part of me. I felt a profound sense of tranquility. As I held the position with both hands outstretched on the sides of my body, a thought appeared in my head, “It’s okay now. You didn’t let it control your actions.” My mind, which had been heavily disturbed just moments before, was now peaceful and steady.
When I finished the exercise, it was 8:00 p.m. Only then did I realize that according to my usual schedule, I’d usually start my hour of exercises at 8:00. I knew then that Master had led me to do the exercises in the middle of my struggle, and resolved the situation for me.
Thank you, Master, for showing me the value of doing the exercises. Your disciple is ashamed of having taken so long to truly see the preciousness of what you’ve given us.
Realizing the Many Layers of My Attachment to Self
Growing up, you could say that I was used to getting my way. Before I joined my parents in the United States, my grandparents (whom I stayed with) and all of my family in China doted on me and thought I could do no wrong. After I came to America and began school, I always did really well and stayed at the top of my class. I was Miss “Always Right.” But this came with its fair share of problems, the biggest one being that I developed quite an attachment to self. This ego was what hid at the root of many of my other attachments––I would even go as far to say that this is my fundamental attachment.
Some of the more obvious manifestations of this ego were easier to catch, like my competitiveness, stubbornness, showing off, and jealousy. These even manifested as antisocial behaviors when seen from an ordinary person’s perspective. Then there were the more common attachments that many of us are probably familiar with, including lust, greed, sentimentality, zealotry, not wanting to hear bad things about yourself, and being attached to results when doing things. These attachments, as I discovered over the years, could also be traced back to my attachment to self.
Lately, I’ve found that there is yet another layer to my very complex attachment to self, and one that I feel is even more difficult to recognize and more difficult to identify as wrong. To find it, I really had to focus on the origins of every one of my thoughts and actions, because I’ve found that many times, this layer of the attachment would even make me do things that looked right on the surface, but for the wrong reasons. It’s quite sneaky.
I have a recent example of this discreet attachment to self.
Every Sunday since my mother left, I helped deliver the Epoch Times newspapers to our local Korean grocery store in her stead. I pick up the papers from a practitioner’s house, who always leaves them out for me in the same place each time. Last Sunday, I went out with the intention of not just delivering the newspapers, but also to make a quick trip to the bookstore to buy a book for myself.
I drove up to the practitioner’s house, only to see that the usual cardboard pallet that she leaves the papers in was empty. Without even stopping, I thought, “Well, I guess someone else must have delivered the papers this week”––which wasn’t a completely unreasonable assumption since I had to get someone else to help me out the week before, when I was out of town––as I drove off to the bookstore.
I did have in my mind to call the practitioner who would have left out the newspapers though, because there have been incidents of newspaper-stealing in our area. I didn’t have her phone number, however, so I thought to call another practitioner who might have it, but the other practitioner didn’t pick up. So I shrugged it off, bought my book, and drove home.
As I turned into the last intersection before my house, a thought appeared in my head, “Why didn’t you go and check the newsstand at the grocery store? Then you’d know for sure if the papers had been delivered by someone else.” I actually rolled my eyes as I thought of this, but since I was already so close to my house, I decided not to go.
Later that night, after I had already read my book for a few hours, I finally decided to call up another practitioner who could help me get in touch with the newspaper practitioner. The newspaper practitioner said that since she saw that there might be rain in the afternoon that day, she put the newspapers on her front porch instead of out in the pallet—she was afraid that the newspapers would get wet. But it was no matter, she added, she could make a quick trip Monday morning to drop the papers off.
Though I was relieved to hear that the papers were still fine, in that moment I realized just how selfish my actions were. If I had parked the car, or even taken a second look at the house, I would have seen the papers. But I didn’t, and not only did I not do that, I remember even feeling a little relieved to see the cardboard pallet empty, as it was one less chore I had to do. My evaluation of the entire situation was completely based around my own benefit and end goals, not on other people. What’s more, I was almost reluctant to figure out where the missing papers went. It was as if I was doing the bare minimum so that I could say to people that I tried; I wasn’t truly trying to get to the bottom of the situation.
And even now, as I write this, I’ve realized more places where I was lacking: Epoch Times papers are valuable tools for saving people in this critical time, and Sunday afternoon was one of the times when the grocery store was the busiest. Due to my carelessness, many people missed out on the opportunity to get their copy. Especially given that ad revenue is slowing down because of the CCP virus, and the local Epoch Times has been funded almost exclusively out of practitioners’ own pockets, my mistake was all the more egregious. This practitioner also has to make an extra trip, all because I wanted to buy a book.
I could now see how in every step of the situation, all I could think about was me: my leisure time, my book, and my discomfort in calling practitioners I didn’t know that well. What’s striking to me is that it’s not so much that I actively chose to do the wrong things, but that I passively refused to do the right things. It has shown me the importance of cultivating my every thought and every action and making sure that they are in accordance with the Fa; I really can’t afford to let down my guard.
Master has told us before that selfishness is a defining trait of the beings of the old universe. In Zhuan Falun, selfishness is called out as a factor that gets beings to drop in level:
“Yet as the number of lives increases, a collective form of social relations develops in which some people may develop selfishness and gradually their level will drop.”
I really cannot let any trace of ego or selfishness go unchecked.
Another manifestation of this more discreet selfishness I have is my seeking to use Master’s words to bolster my own viewpoints––not completely because I want to share what Master told us for the benefit of whoever I’m speaking to, but more to show that I know certain quotes from the Fa and that I must be right because I know these quotes. This type of behavior appears to validate the Fa, but it very stealthily seeks to validate myself because my intentions are not pure. In fact, it’s manipulating the Fa for my own ends, and is no different from what the old forces are doing. It is something I have to watch out for, especially when sharing, and even throughout the process of writing this experience sharing article I’ve been fighting with it many times.
Just today, while I was writing this section, my Fa-study group happened upon this passage in “Teaching the Fa at the 2003 Atlanta Fa Conference:”
“Question: When we were validating Dafa before, although things were done to validate Dafa, looking at them today they were done on a selfish, self-validating basis. Our question is: why did we become aware of this so late?
Teacher: Validating the Fa is also cultivation. The cultivation process is one of continually recognizing your own shortcomings and then disposing of them. It’s only that the earlier a lot of fundamental attachments are recognized the better. Recognizing them is, in itself, improvement. Being able to eliminate them, or overcome them, weaken them, and in the end completely eliminate them--that process is one of continually improving yourself, and it’s the fundamental transformation of a being.”
To be honest, I had been a little stuck on how to word (and close) this section, but I think that passage sums up how I feel about my current state. Even though I came to a lot of these important realizations rather late, the only thing I can do now is to continue to correct myself as I validate the Fa in the remaining time that Master has provided us. There is no other option.
A Sadness Beyond Words
On Sunday mornings, I attend Fa-study with one of my other project teams. A couple of weeks ago, after we finished our hour of Fa-study, I got the sudden urge to go read “A Dialogue With Time” from Essentials for Further Advancement.
I read until I got to this set of exchanges:
“Master: Some of them have not changed yet.
Divine Being: Yet it has been too long a time.
Divine Being: In my opinion, there is no need to wait for those who cannot become gods. In fact, they can only be humans.
Master: (talking to himself) In the human world, they are indeed too thoroughly lost. They might have to end up like this. I’m afraid they won’t even be qualified to be humans in the end!”
When I got there, I suddenly began to cry like I haven’t cried in a long time. It felt like a deep sorrow that was at once profoundly spiritual but also painfully visceral.
Master wrote this in 1997––23 years ago, the year I turned one. Even then, it had already “been too long a time.” Even at that point, time already thought that a group of us were not cut out for cultivation, but Master had waited for us anyway, extending our time with His own suffering.
I cried for a variety of reasons, one of which was that I knew that if Master hadn’t slowed down the clock for me, I don’t think I would have been able to get my act together in time. At that time, I really was able to feel Master’s all-encompassing compassion and patience, and a part of me was overwhelmed with gratitude.
But another part of me cried because I knew that I didn’t do as well as I could have in all the time that I was allotted, and perhaps lost some sentient beings that I was predestined to save. I cried for all the beings who fell through the holes in our net, who would never be coming back.
With the CCP Virus now having subsided a little bit, I have been letting myself slack off a bit more in ordinary people’s things. This incident, however, was like a sharp crack of the whip for me. I was crying, and screaming from the depths of my soul. My sobs shook me uncontrollably, and I don’t think I’ve ever felt a grief so agonizing before in my life. I feel like this was a small taste of what it would be like to truly run out of time, not having done all that I promised for the beings of this cosmos.
We really are in the endgame now. In the 2019 lecture, Master said that the original plan was to have everything wrapped up by last year. And with the rapid developments in the world today, it’s apparent that all the loose ends are being tied up and directed to a conclusion. In this final moment of the final stage, I really hope that all of us together can free ourselves from our very last attachments so that our power in validating the Fa and clarifying the truth is as amplified as it can possibly be. It truly feels like our timer could be up at any minute, and I feel that it would be a serious crime to take anything we have for granted, or allow ourselves to be sidetracked by ordinary people’s distractions.
I want to end with Master’s closing paragraph from the 2019 lecture in New York:
“In other words, this is something unprecedented. Never since the dawn of time have massive and magnificent changes in the cosmos taken place as they are now with the Fa rectification, and nor were there ever Dafa disciples. Master created this glorious opportunity and has led you to this historical epoch. Strive to spiritually perfect yourselves, do your utmost to show what you are made of as you strive to save all lives, and try to do even better!” (“Fa Teaching at the 2019 New York Fa Conference,” Team Yellow Translation)
Thank you, Master, for everything. Thank you, fellow practitioners.
Category: Improving Oneself