(Minghui.org) I am an American who began practicing Falun Dafa in the spring of 2018. I know that I am among the most fortunate of beings, and am most grateful for this rare and precious opportunity.
Things are rapidly changing in the world, and more and more people are interested in learning about Falun Dafa. In honor of Master Li Hongzhi introducing Falun Dafa to the public on May 13, 1992, to commemorate this 30 year anniversary, I would like to share a little of my cultivation story. Perhaps it will help others a bit as they come to learn about the wonders of Falun Dafa.
Discovering a Treasure
The first time I read Zhuan Falun, Falun Dafa’s main book, I thought to myself, “This is something I will always follow.”
Although I had studied different religions and philosophies during my lengthy college career, and I even investigated some first-hand, nothing ever clicked or fully made sense. Buddhism resonated the most, but it left me with many unanswered questions. But after reading Zhuan Falun, I knew that behind its simple and unassuming cover, was the treasure of treasures, containing the answers I had been looking for.
Of course, I had a very superficial understanding in the beginning. I was unable to see my many attachments and I thought, “Thank goodness I don’t have to worry about this attachment, because I don’t get jealous,” or “ I’ve got this one down, because I’ve never been competitive.”
Looking back, I smile at my former self. Back then I thought, “Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance won’t be hard to follow, because I already do some of these things anyway.” I couldn’t understand why Master made several comments about cultivation not being easy. Little did I know that it’s one thing to understand the concepts in the book, and quite another to put them into practice.
Learning to Look Within
Early on, I read all of the lectures Master gave at conferences in chronological order, from start to finish. This helped my understanding a lot.
Even so, in the beginning, I had a hard time seeing my own attachments. I knew that I had them, but I couldn’t figure out how to identify them. When I heard other practitioners talk about their own attachments, I was surprised at how easily they shared these things about themselves. I thought, “If I had those bad attachments, I don’t think I could admit them to other people.”
Although I couldn’t see my own attachments, I could see other’s quite clearly. I even sometimes wondered why a person couldn’t see their own attachment or notion, when it was so obvious what it was. Then one day, it hit me! The attachments I saw in others were, in fact, a reflection of the attachments I had. It was a “lightbulb moment” that helped me learn how to look within.
The other hurdle was not wanting to admit that I had attachments, even to myself, especially if I viewed them as really bad or embarrassing. If I admitted them, it would mean letting go of the notions I had formed about myself being a certain type of person, of wanting to appear good in the eyes of others. It would be looking at the dark parts of myself that I really didn’t want to examine and usually overlooked. It took months before I realized that I had this strong attachment to fame and reputation.
Once I realized this, I was able to look more deeply within. I was able to admit my shortcomings to others when apologizing, or when I talked with other practitioners about my cultivation experiences.
Thanks to studying the Falun Dafa teachings, my desire to become a better person grew stronger than my desire to hold onto these bad things. I was not only willing to let them go, but after experiencing how light I felt mentally and physically, and how things improved around me, I saw how fool-hardy it was to hold on to them.
Recognizing My Attachments
I find it rather amusing that the first attachment I discovered was the one I was most certain I did not have - the attachment of competitiveness. I had conversations with friends over the years about how people in medical school were so competitive, but I was not. I even prided myself on this “fact”. In fact, this attachment was so deeply rooted, so buried beneath other attachments and the false beliefs that I held about myself, that it was hidden from my awareness.
I remember the day I discovered this attachment and just how surprised I was. I realized that I had to watch my thoughts and actions to see if it showed up in other areas - and did it ever! I was shocked to discover just how many times a day I had thoughts of trying to outdo another person, even in some small, petty way. I saw that I wanted to be better than others, and even looked down on others for their perceived shortcomings. Digging further, I learned that I had another attachment that I had believed I did not have - jealousy. I realized that the attachments of competitiveness and jealousy go hand-in-hand, just as Master describes.
These attachments were revealed to me time and time again, as I work to get rid of their many layers. I’ve also come to see many other attachments, such as showing off, laziness, comfort, having nice things, wanting to avoid hardship, resentment, sentimentality (especially for my son), and argumentativeness, to name a few.
Another big attachment I have is something I’d always prided myself on - being practical.
“Because he is smart and knows how to please others, he will gain more benefits while others will suffer more losses. Because he is smart, he will not suffer any losses, and neither will he easily lose anything. Consequently, others must suffer losses. The more he cares for this tiny bit of practical gain, the more narrow-minded he becomes, and the more he feels that the material gains of everyday people are something he cannot let go of. So he will then deem himself very practical, and he will not suffer any losses.” (Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
I now realize that “being practical” is a way to avoid suffering any losses or having to endure hardship. It keeps one’s mindset stuck in personal gain and pettiness, instead of looking at things in a broad and selfless way, and is a manifestation of being attached to comfort and wanting to have things go smoothly and easily.
I’ve also discovered that thoughts for wanting an easy and comfortable life can easily pass as my own thoughts, even though they are my notions and attachments talking. They often seem harmless enough, and sometimes even go unrecognized or are brushed aside. In fact, it is for these reasons that these attachments are some of the most dangerous, and they can easily lead one down the path to ruin.
Tests come in many shapes and sizes, but whether big or small, they are all a part of our cultivation process. One of my first xinxing (moral character) tests left an indelible and lasting impression on me.
While conducting an in-home wellness visit for a couple, the elderly husband said he could not hear me. I tried to talk louder, but he became very annoyed and said that I was a professional and needed to act like one. I grew increasingly hoarse as I tried to talk louder, and he grew increasingly irritated at not being able to hear me. Exasperated, I finally said that perhaps we should cancel the visit and let someone else come because I could not speak any louder. When he angrily replied, “No, I want to do the visit now,” I took a deep breath, and then reminded myself of Dafa’s principles.
“As a practitioner, the first thing you should be able to do is to not fight back when you are beaten or sworn at—you must be tolerant. Otherwise, what kind of practitioner will you be? Someone says, “It’s really hard to be tolerant, and I’ve got a bad temper.” If your temper is not good, you should change, for a practitioner must be tolerant.” (Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
As he went on berating me about everything under the sun, from my being unprofessional, to thinking I knew everything but did not, to my being a bad mother and a poor example for my son, I had an experience that was just like Master described in a Fa conference - the man’s words passed right through me, just like a breeze. I thought, “He could yell at me all day and it wouldn’t bother me.” As he went on for nearly five minutes, I just listened patiently with a smile, and when he finished, I simply said, “Okay.”
And then, something amazing happened. Because I remained unmoved, and let go of my attachments to fame, hearing nice things, not being disrespected, argumentative, reputation, and ego, the situation around me changed almost instantaneously. The man was suddenly able to hear me and I no longer had to yell for the rest of the visit.
He also completely changed his attitude toward me and began speaking very kindly. He even kept me after the medical visit to share stories and pictures of his family. I experienced first-hand the amazing power of Dafa, how changing myself created a change in what was around me.
Another test came when I suddenly and unexpectedly had no job. Being the primary breadwinner, as the situation dragged out over many months, it was a big financial strain, and caused my husband a lot of stress. My husband and I usually get along very well, but he became increasingly short-tempered and irritable with me, and put a lot of pressure on me to find a job. Finally, it got to the point that we were going to possibly lose our home and have to split up our family to go live with relatives.
It was around this time that my car was due to be inspected. Because of a minor issue with a light, it failed inspection, leaving me with no car to drive. To fix it would be very expensive. Someone we know said they could help us get around the issue, saving us a lot of money and stress. But I knew it had to be handled in an upright and honest way, and I remained firm.
This was a very difficult test because we did not know where we would get the money to pay for it. In the end, we found someone to fix it for a fraction of what the dealership was going to charge, and it passed inspection. Because I chose to do the right thing, the right doors opened up to resolve the situation in the end.
I have had many other tests, such as my father leaving his estate of several million dollars to my cousin, while he left nothing to me. Everyone around me said that it was rightfully mine, and that I should hire a lawyer to fight for it. I recognized this test, and remembered what Master said,
“We therefore believe in following the course of nature. Sometimes, you think that something should be yours, and others also tell you that it is yours. Actually, it is not. You may believe that it is yours, but in the end it is not yours. Through this process, it can be seen whether you can give it up or not. If you cannot let it go, it is an attachment. This method must be used to get rid of your attachment to self-interest. This is the issue.” (Lecture Seven, Zhuan Falun)
Cultivation is not easy, but really, it’s only that we do not want to let go of our attachments - that’s what we find difficult.
“As a truly determined cultivator, one is able to endure everything and give up or care less for any attachment in the face of various self-interests. As long as one can do this, it will not be difficult. People who say it’s difficult are those who cannot let go of these things. Cultivation itself is not difficult, and neither is raising one’s level itself difficult. It is because they cannot give up human desires that they call it difficult. This is because it is very difficult to relinquish something in the face of practical gain.” (Lecture Nine, Zhuan Falun)
When I encounter something that moves my heart, or that I feel I cannot let go, I try to take a step back and remember these words. I also try to remember to ask myself what my motivation is, and to approach things with a pure heart, rather than correcting one attachment by using another.
Sometimes I do better, but I always pick myself back up and keep trying. That’s cultivation.
I know that as more people come to learn Dafa, they too, will experience its magnificence. They are the fortunate ones, for it’s a path to returning to one’s true self, and returning to one’s true home.
Thanks to benevolent Master, all beings in the universe are being given this unprecedented opportunity. Let’s be sure not to waste it.
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