Western Practitioner: We Must Not Only Understand the Fa Principles, but Also Apply Them
(Minghui.org) I am a Western practitioner from San Diego, California, USA. I began practicing Falun Dafa after seeing the practitioners participating in the Los Angeles Chinese new year’s parade in 2007. I had never heard of Dafa before or any of the struggles that practitioners in mainland China were facing. I waved at the practitioners curiously and wondered about the signs and banners that they carried. I thought to myself as I scratched my head, “The Chinese government is banning a qigong practice? I want to learn that practice!”
I immediately looked up Dafa online and downloaded all the materials I could find. I printed out copies of all the books and read everything I could get my hands on. I was fascinated. The Minghui website became my homepage. I had never met a practitioner before, but I had read all the major literature on my own.
“The gods set forth something in the early period of my Fa-rectification, namely, that whatever the wicked Party does, regardless of its aim, will end up assisting me and Dafa disciples. So, whenever the wicked CCP wants to do some bad thing, it will turn into a failure and scandal as soon as it's begun.” (“Fa Teaching at the 2008 New York Conference” from Teaching the Fa at the Conference VIII)
In my case, the CCP’s suppression and persecution of Dafa completely backfired. The persecution only made me more interested in practicing.
Several years after obtaining the Fa, things started to go wrong in my life. It began with losing my job. I was a professor at a prestigious university and had always excelled academically. When the university was faced with budget cutbacks, I was one of those whose rice bowl was suddenly taken away. I understood the Fa principles in this regard, that to gain one must lose, and vice versa. I lost my job, and I did not complain. I did my best to carry on in a dignified manner. But this marked the beginning of a protracted time of tribulation for me, one where I would learn the profound difference between knowing the Fa principles and effectively putting them into practice.
Bitterness of Cultivating Alone
After losing my job, I tried to immediately get another, but despite all my efforts, I couldn’t find one. I had to sell excess items that I owned to make ends meet, cut my budget down to the bare minimum, and take as many odd jobs as I could, but this was still not enough. I was forced to move out of my former residence and move back in with my parents in San Diego.
“Surplus staff will be laid off, and this person is one of those whose rice bowls are suddenly taken away. How will he feel? There are no other places to earn an income. How can he make a living? He does not have any other skills, so he sadly goes home.” (Lecture Nine from Zhuan Falun)
As a 30-year-old man having to move back home, I felt like a failure. I had worked so diligently since the time I was a child to make something of myself. I thought I had succeeded, but truly I had nothing to show for my efforts other than a few pieces of seemingly worthless paper that I had once prided myself on, my university degrees. Despite knowing the Fa principles, I felt a growing sense of anger and resentment.
My relationship with women also took a turn for the worse. I had once been engaged, but everything had fallen apart in a terrible way before I obtained the Fa. I had trouble letting go of the past, but I was able to ignore my wounds because I had always had dating opportunities. When I lost my status as a university professor and gained the status of being unemployed, suddenly everyday women had no interest in me. I felt that, as a 30-year-old man, I should already be married and the head of a household. I learned that, for many everyday women, if I didn’t have the status or the resources, I wasn’t an acceptable partner.
I couldn’t find solace in a partner, and I couldn’t ignore my old wounds. I felt tremendous pain and loss.
“Why are there so many problems all of a sudden? This person himself might not get it. Because of his good inborn quality, he has reached a certain level that brings about this situation. Yet how can that be a practitioner’s final criterion for completing cultivation? It is far from the end of cultivation practice! You must continue to upgrade yourself. Because of that little amount of your inborn quality you have reached this state. In order to ascend further, the standard must be raised as well.” (Lecture Four from Zhuan Falun)
Despite knowing the Fa principles surrounding these issues, I felt a growing sense of anger and resentment.
Adjusting to life back in my hometown and with my parents was very difficult. I couldn’t hide from them the fact that I had internal turmoil. My family is Latino, and our culture is very close-knit. There is no such thing as privacy with a Latina mother, even as a grown man. I struggled setting boundaries with her and my father at first. Since they were helping me, I knew I had to be grateful, because they didn’t have to. Their help led to my first job upon returning—hard labor.
Our area of San Diego is a river valley with many farms. I was able to find work doing strenuous labor, digging up tree stumps, chopping wood, moving bricks, mortar and rocks, farm work and gardening, and any other job that required some muscle. I didn’t mind working hard and found it an enjoyable relief from the brain-oriented work that I was used to. However, the situations I found myself in tested me. Our community is also very tight-knit, and many people asked me straight out, “Why are you back? You shouldn’t be here. What happened to you?” I became resentful of having to tell old family friends that I'd lost my job and had to move back home. I felt judged and ashamed reliving my struggles over and over again.
“…we must practice cultivation in this complex environment and be able to endure the toughest hardships of all. Meanwhile, we must have a heart of great forbearance.” (Lecture Nine from Zhuan Falun)
My anger and resentment came to a climax one day when my parents had me work at my grandmother’s house. My Latina grandmother is the matriarch of the family but can be very vain and selfish. My father owns two homes, and since I spent most of my high school years helping build our family homes, I always felt a sense of ownership over them. My grandmother had become the sole occupant of one of the houses. But due to her advanced age, she could not maintain the home. My parents had decided that they would turn the very large backyard into a low maintenance park for her. But since I was the only one physically capable of doing the task, it became my job for several weeks. I moved wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of heavy gravel to the backyard to make large, low maintenance pathways for her. I chopped down beautiful trees for her, I dug the stumps out of the ground, and I turned what I considered some of the most fertile soil for growing food into a private senior citizen park. I was so resentful. Why couldn’t my grandmother live with my parents? She calls them three times a day, every day! I could have used the land to grown food for the entire family. The decisions made no sense to me. I got so fed up with them that I grabbed a tent and decided I’d rather camp out in my grandmother’s backyard than stay another minute under either of their roofs.
Starting to Look Within
I don’t know if it was the rain that began to pour that first night or the fact that the tent leaked, but I suddenly started thinking about Dafa. How far had I slipped off the path since I lost my job? Why was this all happening to me?
“When your self-interest is taken by others, you will not go to compete and fight for it like others. With different xinxing interference, you will suffer losses.” (Lecture Eight from Zhuan Falun)
While I spent a few nights in that tent contemplating life, a significant amount of pain built up inside my chest. With such glaring loopholes, it’s no wonder I was starting to get attacked. The pain and the leaky tent eventually made me capitulate. I went back to my parent’s home and hid from them the fact that I was having terrible chest pain. I couldn’t sleep that night, and many things flashed through my mind. I was sure that I was dying. As I lay there in my bed, I prostrated myself before Master, finally asking for help. That’s when it finally dawned on me to actually apply the Fa principles and look within before it was too late.
“In genuine cultivation practice one must cultivate one’s own heart and inner self. One should search inside oneself rather than outside.” (Lecture Nine from Zhuan Falun)
I discovered that I was the one who was vain, jealous, and selfish. Just like how I believed my grandmother was. She was just my reflection. I was vain about my scholarly accomplishments, and I was selfish and jealous about what I thought I was entitled to. How could I be angry at my family?
“When many of you, my students, have run into conflicts and become angry, did you think about the fact that your anger was directed at everyday people? Think about it: Buddhas and Gods—those magnificent enlightened beings—would they get angry with humans? Absolutely not. That’s because they are not at the level of humans and don’t have emotion (qing) as do everyday people. How could they position themselves among everyday people? When you deal with conflicts the same way as everyday people, you are then at the same level, or in the same realm, as everyday people. That is to say, you are one of the everyday people. Only when you are not like them are you not one of them.” (Teaching the Fa at the Fa Conference in Australia)
I had to let go of my anger. The chest pain I was experiencing made me feel like I was going to die right then and there. But I was resolved about life and death at that point, and I even surprised myself when I said to Master, “If you want me to go, I'll happily go. If you want me to stay, I’ll stay and try harder.” This thought became my mantra for the test of life and death. The moment my mind locked onto that thought, my symptoms subsided, and I was able to sleep. My cry for help had been answered.
The next day I awoke with a determination to make good on my word. I contacted the local Dafa association in San Diego. They were surprised to know how much I already knew. Up to that point I had only ever cultivated on my own, thinking of myself as too different from Chinese practitioners. My first time at group practice I broke past my half-hour limit doing the fifth exercise and achieved the hour, a feat I have been able to consistently repeat ever since. When I sent righteous thoughts for the first time in a group setting it was as if a black shell had cracked inside my chest. Everything was loose. During the second exercise my arms shook and I wept from the sense of relief I was getting as I flushed out tremendous karma. In one day I had made a huge breakthrough by forcing myself into the group setting. Master rewarded me by allowing me to see many beautiful scenes.
Cultivating in My Hometown
My breakthrough in cultivation was profound at that point, but my state was still far from ideal. Residue from my anger and resentment still existed. However, my cultivation state was good, and I embarked on doing the three things wholeheartedly.
My parents noticed a change in my demeanor and became the first two people I clarified the truth to. They wanted to know about this weird Chinese thing that I had been doing. They could tell it was making me happy again. I had to be very careful finding a balance to do Dafa work without my family thinking I was obsessed. Perceiving a danger in the attachment of zealotry became very clear.
I had some issues with my father, who, when he saw the swastikas on the Dafa posters, got very upset. He is Jewish and associates the symbol with Adolf Hitler and the Holocaust, a time in history that scarred our family directly. At one point he said very bad things about Dafa when he was angry with me. But it was my fault. My residual anger had gotten the best of me and my father became my reflection like my grandmother before. I know that he didn’t mean it, because both of my parents had become great supporters of Dafa after seeing a greater change in me. More than any words, actually seeing a significant change in me, their son, was the best form of truth clarification I could ever give them.
I was eventually able to find employment as a substitute teacher for our local high school district. This ended up working very well for truth-clarification, because I could see six different groups of 20-30 high schoolers every day that I worked, and as a mini-lesson, I could teach them about Falun Dafa and the persecution. On an average workday, I could clarify the truth to roughly 100 high school students. Many of them carried the truth clarifications flyers I gave them in the outside sections of their binders, telling their friends and family like a domino effect. Practically no one in my area had heard anything about Falun Dafa or the persecution before. Being bilingual also helped in this case. My particular corner of San Diego County is the closest to the Mexican border. Many of the students are English language learners, so being able to clarify the truth in Spanish and having Spanish flyers as well has proven indispensable.
At roughly the same time, I began a bilingual practice site a quarter mile away from the Mexican border. Since I was born and raised in the area, I already knew the best place for a practice site. In south San Diego we have a park on a hill that faces the ocean and has a spectacular view of Mexico, the Tijuana River valley, and Imperial Beach in my hometown. It is also a very famous historical site. In 1883 John J. Montgomery made the first fixed-wing flight from that exact hill site, and a “silver wing” memorial stands there to this day and reminds me of Master. Ironically the inscription reads, “He opened for all mankind the great highway of the sky.” I thought, "What a perfect place for a practice site!" But probably the greatest achievement at the site, in my opinion, was having my mother and grandmother join and learn the exercises. Though they don’t read the Dafa books and lectures, they practice the exercises with me very consistently, help me clarify the truth, and have seen Shen Yun Performing Arts and promoted the show to their friends.
Throughout this whole experience of returning to my hometown to cultivate, looking back, I can see a very clear arrangement made on my behalf.
Clarifying the Facts at the USS Midway
San Diego is a frequent tourist destination for many mainland Chinese. Fellow Western practitioners and I join very diligent Chinese practitioners at a truth-clarification site at the USS Midway. The Midway is a World War II American Naval vessel that has been decommissioned and converted into a museum. I feel particularly close to this memorial because my grandfather fought in the Navy in World War II and was ironically stationed on the Midway for a brief period of time. It’s my grandfather’s ship.
While Chinese-speaking practitioners clarify the truth in Chinese, Western practitioners do the exercises, demonstrating that Americans also practice Dafa. I once read an experience sharing article by a practitioner that said, “Many of us have witnessed firsthand how successful our truth-clarification efforts are when Chinese people see Westerners embrace Dafa… Our non-Chinese faces have the potential to immediately shatter layer upon layer of the Party propaganda that poisons the minds of so many people.”
Many inspiring stories have come from the Midway, mostly involving shocked Chinese tourists who stare at us Westerners and take close-up pictures.
There have been a few times when I cracked my eyes open in the middle of the fifth exercise only to find a camera inches from my face and a group of Chinese chatting with a practitioner nearby.
On any given Saturday at the Midway there are many American families intermixed with the Chinese tourists, and their children play in the grass next to the truth-clarification booth.
Several times I’ve been hit by a run-away soccer ball or a child running who wasn’t watching where they were going. To which I always offer a laugh and smile. The large number of visitors also attracts vendors and performance artists. Right next to our booth, a man named Gary started to create large complex bubbles for children to chase after and try to pop. Of course, by the end of my exercises, many times I am covered in soapy residue from head to toe from all the bubbles hitting me.
But I don’t mind in the least. Not only has Gary been supportive of us, he has also tried to accommodate and steer his bubbles so as to not strike the booth as much. In fact, Gary’s presence has been very helpful, as he attracts numerous children who want to play near the booth. The parents then congregate around our booth and read Dafa materials, ask questions, and cause Chinese tourists to spend more time looking at everything. It is a powerfully positive situation.