(Minghui.org) Master said in the article “Stay Out of Danger:”

“Some people have not truly worked on themselves spiritually, despite being among Dafa disciples. At key moments they always evaluate things with human attachments, human thinking, or human emotions.” 

As I read the article repeatedly, I kept wondering what Master meant by “human attachments, human thinking, or human emotions”? Are they fundamentally different from one another? What exactly are the human attachments that we need to eliminate? Where do attachments come or evolve from? Why do they repeatedly surface? Why is it sometimes easy to tell that there is an attachment and eliminate it, and other times terribly hard to do so?

In the past two decades of cultivation, although I continued to remove various attachments, two decades later, I still had plenty of them that kept emerging. They might be new attachments or old ones that manifested in different ways. Some I thought I got rid of them, yet they came back even stronger. Take the attachment to comfort, for example, I previously found it, took it seriously, and eliminated it. However, it kept coming back as if the desire was endless.

Attachments and desires have never stopped tormenting me, and my cultivation state has mostly been unstable. When I read the Fa, it seemed that there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t let go of. Yet, as soon as I put the books down, I became more ordinary than a non-practitioner, and the tiniest things moved my heart. After thinking about it carefully, I could not figure out what precisely the attachment was.

When I studied Master’s earlier articles and Fa lectures, I suddenly became aware of the concept of notions that Master had repeatedly talked about. Before the persecution started, Master mentioned human notions in almost all of his lectures. In Zhuan Falun, he talked about human notions repeatedly and from different angles:

“The most difficult things for people to abandon are their notions. Some people cannot change, even if they have to give up their lives for fake principles.” (“For Whom do You Exist?” Essentials for Further Advancement)

Most of the time, I firmly believe what I think and do are correct or conform to the Fa, and I continue to think and act accordingly. But are they really correct? Do they come from my true self? 

Master said,

“Do you realize the effect of the mixture of your notions formed after birth, your notions formed over different time periods, and your thought karma that comes into play when you speak?” (Teachings at the Conference in the Eastern U.S.)

The truth is that most of the time, our words and actions are controlled by our notions and not our true selves. In my years of cultivation, I seemed to be finding and eliminating attachments but wasn’t paying attention to my human notions. I believed that eating cold food would cause water to accumulate in my body; standing for too long caused my legs to swell; people easily become sleepy or tired in certain seasons; when people get tired, they need to rest or sleep; and it’s hard for people to calm down after they are shocked or frightened. All of these human notions came from what I learned and experienced, and they gradually became facts and principles to me.

As practitioners, we are supposed to behave better than ordinary people. I was calling myself a practitioner but didn’t know if I was genuinely cultivating or knew what it means to cultivate.

I am not trying to doubt or negate my past by asking these questions. I feel the need to look within and be certain again about the fundamental question of “what is cultivation?” The things that Master called “human attachments” are perhaps the tens of thousands of ideas, concepts, and notions that we formed over a long time in human society, and they are the roots that nurture obsession and karma. 

The meaning of “notion” (guan nian) in Chinese is “observe and think.” It literally means that since a person can see, he thinks about what he sees, and his thoughts form a notion, and a notion, after a while, becomes an attachment. I once heard someone say that one’s ability determines what one can see. However, no matter how high one’s ability and level are, he would still believe that what he sees with his eyes is true.

To see is to believe. Though people may form different understandings of the same thing, no one can escape the human way of thinking. As long as a person is alive, he has a way of thinking that gives him views, concepts, ideologies, beliefs, forms experiences, or even obsessions based on what he sees and hears. He then uses his views, beliefs, and experiences to judge people and things. This is an unavoidable operating model of an ordinary person. As practitioners, we have to learn to avoid forming notions and judging things with notions. At the same time, we need to discover and eliminate the notions we have.

Master said:

“A notion, once formed, will control you for the duration of your life, influencing your thinking and even the full gamut of emotions, such as your happiness, anger, sorrow, and joy. It is formed postnatally. If this thing persists for some time, it will become part of a person’s thinking, melding into the brain of that person’s true self, at which point it will shape his temperament.

“The notions that are developed will obstruct and control a person for the remainder of his life.” (“Buddha Nature,” Zhuan Falun Volume II)

A man lives his life in a way that protects his interests and keeps him from harm, whether knowingly or unknowingly. A man’s attachments and desires are generated to satisfy his needs. Take my attachment to comfort for example. I believe that things should be done with minimal effort and pain, even at work. My coworkers say that I am all about efficiency and good at time management. But I knew that I was lazy, feared trouble, and yearned for comfort. I lived comfortably on the surface, but my true self was asleep and just not there.

When I used that notion in my cultivation, I stopped treating cultivation seriously. One time, while distributing Falun Dafa fliers, I put a pile of them in one place, thinking, “It isn’t easy for me to come this far. I should leave plenty here so I don’t have to come back too soon.” I wasn’t thinking about saving people; I was concerned about my time and effort. How could I take shortcuts in cultivation, validating the Fa, and saving people? Every life saved and every improvement made comes from every solid step we take from the moment we invest in our cultivation.

So when did my attachment to comfort form, and how did my notions evolve into it? 

When I initially learned the Fa, I never thought that it was troublesome to go out several times a day to study the Fa and do the exercises. I didn’t feel impatient or want to leave earlier when I was out for a long time. No matter what happened, I was just happy to see other practitioners and be with them. The attachment to comfort manifested after I moved to Germany. 

I lost the environment to regularly study the Fa that I had in China and was unable to manage time well. With the homework and chores I had and other things that I wanted to learn or do to satisfy my needs, time became tight. Gradually, I became more efficient and goal-oriented. All I could think about was achieving more things in less time. The mentality of being efficient and the perks I got as a result, plus the successful experiences I accumulated, changed me. I developed the habit of taking shortcuts in everything I did, and my attachment to comfort stemmed from this. The time I saved by being efficient was not used to study the Fa, do the exercises, or do Dafa work. The time was spent on meaningless things such as resting, reading a novel, or browsing the internet. At first, I came up with reasons to persuade myself that it was okay to be relaxed. Later, the pursuit of comfort no longer bothered me, and I just indulged it.

Cultivation is serious and, at the same time, stringent. As a practitioner, I shouldn’t constantly look for an excuse to indulge my human side. I bargained with Master with the excuse, “I still live among ordinary people and have a human side.” I tried to lower the standards in cultivation.

Master said:

“Don’t we have to hold ourselves to higher standards during our cultivation? If you argue, “Before I get there I can still use human concepts to think about myself and set requirements for myself,” then you will forever be human.” (Teachings at the Conference in New Zealand)

Master emphasized the importance of eliminating human notions and wanted us to break through the human surface. He told us:

“But it is very hard to vanquish thinking and notions acquired after birth, for that is what cultivation is all about.” (“Buddha Nature,” Zhuan Falun Volume II

We must give up human attachments in order to find our true selves.

The above is my understanding from recent Fa study. Please kindly point out anything that is not in line with the Fa. 

Note: This article only represents the author’s current understanding meant for sharing among practitioners so that we can “Compare with one another in study, in cultivation.” (“Solid Cultivation,” Hong Yin)