PureInsight | October 20, 2003
[PureInsight.org] The three things a Dafa disciple does:
I. Cultivating ourselves,
II. Clarifying the truth, and
III. Sending forth righteous thoughts
Part I–Cultivating Ourselves
(A) Exercises, (B) Studying the Fa and (C) Improving character
How the Exercises directly relate to cultivation of character
Since cultivation of ourselves, in my understanding, seems to be the basis of everything else we are to do, the subject of the exercises seems quite relevant. Master said in The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa, "A person's gong will not increase if he merely does the exercises and fails to cultivate his xinxing. A person who only cultivates his xinxing and does not perform the exercises of the Great Consummation Way will find the growth of his gong potency impeded and his original-body (benti) unchanged."
When I started practicing Falun Dafa, I began to relate doing the exercises to my cultivation and the principles I enlightened to as I improved myself through cultivation. I often felt very bad about myself if I made mistakes while doing the exercises, just as I did when I made mistakes in my cultivation of character. Sometimes I would ruin a whole exercise session just because I had made a mistake and couldn't let it go. Sometimes I would ruin a large block of time in my life just because I had made a mistake there and couldn't let it go. I finally realized that even if I had done poorly on a particular repetition of the exercises, I could just try to do better on the next repetition. Each repetition was just another opportunity for me to improve myself and do well.
I sometimes find myself thinking about other things while I am doing the exercises. I know that I really won't do anything well if I can't concentrate on whatever it is I am doing while I am doing it–whether it's the exercises, studying the Fa, my job in the ordinary society, or a Dafa project. Even if I am just having a conversation with an ordinary person, I need to put my whole, undivided attention on that conversation. If I truly need to think about something, I will find time to think about it later.
Occasionally, I will even feel like rushing through the last bit of the exercises, as if the last is less important or something. I know that I should cherish the last as much as the first – maybe more – as it is an opportunity for me to do even better. Even though I am sometimes tired when it gets close to the end, I should be motivated by the thought that soon I will find that "When you can really do it, just like that worn and weary traveler, you'll see, 'the shade of willows, the blooms of flowers, a place to rest my head'! (From Zhuan Falun, Ninth Talk, "A Person With Great Spiritual Inclination")
Improving ourselves/Improving our movements
As I have been constantly improving myself through cultivation, I have also felt it very necessary to continue to improve my movements, as well. Since they are an integral part of this cultivation system of mind and body, it seems only logical that until we reach perfection, we have room for improvement in all areas–including the exercise movements.
I have found it especially helpful to watch the videotape of Master every once in a while, and when I do, I try very hard to see it as something new. In other words, I never assume that I am as good as I could be – on the contrary, I always assume that I can improve and do better.
When I watch the videotape every now and then, I often find at least one thing that I could do better. Sometimes, it is something pretty small, but other times it is something pretty significant. I don't get down on myself or even feel bad for a minute about it. Instead, I just think, "Oh, so that's really how it should be done; I'm so glad I found out!" As a cultivator, it is my understanding that I should be grateful when my mistakes are pointed out to me – otherwise how could I improve and reach completion? In the past, I always thought, "I should be able to find my own mistakes without someone pointing them out to me." My understanding is that our attachments will always be pointed out to us – it is then up to us to accept it and eliminate it.
Teaching/demonstrating the Exercises
Since beginning the practice, I have had many opportunities to teach others the exercises. I knew from the moment that I found Falun Dafa how sacred it was, so when I was given the chance to teach others, I knew that it was a sacred task, as well. Improving my movements became even more important as a result.
Master said, "The assistants' exercise movements should be as accurate as possible, and he should do his best to make sure they're the same as the ones on the videotape—they should be pretty much the same. It's hard to avoid a few little differences, since it's impossible to make the movements perfectly identical and as if they were made out of the same mold. It's fine as long as they're basically the same. But if they are off by too much that's not okay—this is especially so for assistants — because your instructions will lead others off track." (From "Explaining the Fa for Falun Dafa Assistants in Changchun" in Explaining the Content of Falun Dafa) I found that when I taught others and then practiced with them, I could see the mistakes in my movements that I had missed before. The people that I had taught were reflecting back exactly what I had taught them, and it was easy to see where I had gone wrong.
Through this, I realized that getting rid of my ego was essential if I were going to do a good job of teaching others. If I taught someone poorly, I needed to be able to see it, accept it, and correct it. I also realized that I needed to make sure that I took responsibility for correcting the poor movements of the people I taught – even if it wasn't a result of my movements being less than perfect. Master said, "Assistants need to be responsible. When new students' exercise movements aren't accurate you should correct them." (From "Explaining the Fa for Falun Dafa Assistants in Changchun" in Explaining the Content of Falun Dafa) This was sometimes difficult, as some people are sensitive to being corrected, and sometimes my tone and demeanor were less than compassionate.
Master said, "I have not only taught you Dafa, but also left you my demeanor." (From Essentials for Further Advancement, "Clearheadedness") So, I just used this as a means of improving myself as well. Each time I corrected someone's movements, I got better. I could sometimes sense if a person was sensitive to criticism, so I would take that into consideration when I corrected him/her. If it seemed to go poorly, I would try to find where I had made a mistake and then just do better next time. Of course, each situation was entirely different. So often, what I had learned in the last situation wouldn't necessarily directly relate to the next one. But just being able to think about it more and more, my mind became more and more focused on others - and less on myself.
So, my compassion became stronger and stronger, and it wasn't because I had intentionally tried to make myself more compassionate at all. I became compassionate through cultivating and letting go of my self. No methods, techniques, or amount of thinking made me more compassionate. Only through actually wanting to help others, and really caring about doing a good job - for the sake of their possible salvation - did I truly become compassionate.
To teach the exercises well, I think it is not only important to have good movements. I think you also need to study really well, because this will ensure that you are as compassionate and rational as you can be. Also, when teaching the exercises, it is very important to be able to answer a lot of questions. So, I always made sure that I read The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa, Explaining the Content of Falun Dafa, and Falun Gong frequently. These books especially have a lot about the exercises, and it was my experience that the more I knew, the more likely I could answer questions that beginners might have. I felt that this would give a very good impression of Dafa to ordinary people.
Because most people – especially Westerners - like to know as much as possible about whatever they decide to involve themselves with and feel that this indicates something's importance, etc., catering to this need is beneficial to how Dafa is perceived by ordinary people. For example, if I tell people that men do this movement this way and women do it another way, I need to be able to tell them why. Or if someone wants to know why we put our tongue on the hard palate, keep space between our teeth, and close our lips, I need to have a good explanation for them. If I hadn't studied these books, I wouldn't have been able to answer a lot of questions like that. Master said, "You have to assist new students and patiently answer their questions. All of the students at practice sites have this responsibility: you should save all sentient beings. What's meant by "saving all sentient beings"? To have all sentient beings obtain the Fa is to truly save all sentient beings. How could you not give an answer when others come to you with questions?"(From "Explaining the Fa for Falun Dafa Assistants in Changchun" in Explaining the Content of Falun Dafa)
Specific problems/movement inaccuracies
Heshi–I have noticed that a lot of people are not doing heshi properly. Their fingers are separated, the bases of their palms are not pressed together, and they are not keeping all of the fingers pressed against each other. I think that part of the problem is that some have been taught incorrectly and then teach others the incorrect movement. Another problem may be that there is some confusion as to the "hollow" between the palms. This confusion may be the misunderstanding of the word "palm."
The definition of palm–meaning the palm of the hand–is the inner surface of the hand between the wrist and fingers. So, the area of the palm does not include the fingers–it goes from the base of the palm to the base of the fingers. "When doing Heshi, press both the fingers and the heels of the palms against each other, leaving a hollow space in the center of the palms. Hold the elbows up, with the forearms forming a straight line." (From The Great Consummation Way of Falun Buddha Law) This does not mean to keep a hollow between the fingers–the fingers are all pressed tightly together. The "hollow" forms naturally when your fingers and the bases of your hands are pressed together tightly. You don't need to intentionally form the hollow: unless your palms are completely flat, the hollow will just be there.
Relaxing the legs/bending the knees–The only time your legs should not be relaxed with your knees bent and hips curved, is when you are stretching in the first set. Although many people's movements are quite accurate, they are not bending the knees the entire time they are exercising. Master said, "Whichever part of the body is tense can't be fully transformed. So any part that's not relaxed will end up being excluded and not transformed or evolved." Also, "The knees and hips are relaxed, bending the knees slightly. When the knees are bent slightly, the meridians there are open; when one stands straight up, the meridians there are rigid and blocked. The body is kept upright and relaxed. You need to completely relax from the inside out, but without becoming too loose. The head should remain upright." And, "When relaxing the body, some people relax their hands but not their legs. The legs and hands have to be coordinated to simultaneously relax and stretch." (From The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa)
Master also said, "Some people do not have a good relaxation, so he can never feel it. If you do as what we ask you to, gradually you can feel the existence of mechanisms." (From The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa) Just because you can't feel that the energy is blocked, doesn't mean that it isn't. And, even though it may be more difficult to keep your legs bent, it is the only way to make sure that your body gets transformed. I think these principles are also good for cultivation of character: relaxing but not slacking, and doing what is most difficult to get the optimum results.
Laying hands in lap–I have been told from the time I started practicing that I could lay my hands in my lap during the sitting meditation. I have never seen this written anywhere or heard Master say it. I have been told that he did say it, but that it was not published in English. Whatever the actual situation is, I think it may be incorrect to tell people this when teaching them the exercise. My understanding is that we should go by the books and the video tape when teaching the exercise. In all of the pictures of Master doing the sitting meditation, and in the video tape as well, it doesn't look like he is laying his hands in his lap–whether in Jieyin or when doing the strengthening supernormal powers positions. So, I do not make a practice of laying my hand(s) in my lap during the exercise.
Jieyin–Master said, "When conjoining the hands, the elbows are suspended—they need to be held out. As you may know, the center of dantian is two finger-widths below the navel. This is also the center of our Falun. So the conjoined hands are to be placed a bit lower down to hold the Falun." (From The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa) If we lay our hands in our lap, we may not be in the correct position to hold the Falun in our hands.
On the subject of Jieyin, Master also said, "Take a look at the conjoined hands: it's not to be done casually. The thumbs are raised, forming an oval shape. The fingers are joined together lightly with the fingers of the lower hand positioned against the gaps between the fingers of the upper hand. This is how it should be. " (From The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa) When you put one hand on top of the other, the top fingers lay in the clefts – the places where one finger touches the next – of the lower hand.
Exercising together–When we are exercising as a group, especially a large group, it looks better if we are doing the movements simultaneously. One way that I have found to make it easy to achieve that is to follow Master's instructions on the audiotapes. Even though I have practiced long enough to know what comes next and what Master is going to say next, etc., I think it works best to wait for him to tell me what to do and then do it. This is also a better way to teach the exercises, I think, as it makes it easy for new students to follow the verbal cues even if they don't know what the words mean. Of course, as a principle, I find it best to follow Master in anything I do, so it only makes sense to do so when doing the exercises. If everyone tries to do this, I think group practices and demonstrations will always look much better and more organized.
Holding the wheel–In the beginning especially, this exercise is very difficult, but as you practice more and keep practicing regularly, this exercise seems to become much easier. Because of my wanting to do really well at the exercises, I made sure early on that I did my best to keep my arms in the proper positions throughout the exercise – tired or not. I was told once that it is only natural that your arms should gradually lower or come out of the proper position – due to gravity or something – while doing this exercise. I disagree. Just as I should guard my xinxing well and make sure not to lower my standards while cultivating, I think I have to do my very best to keep my arms in the proper positions – no matter how tired I get. I look at it this way: I am holding the wheel of the Law. I am holding Falun – the most sacred thing in the cosmos! How could I let it fall? How could I not hold it proudly and with dignity, despite tiredness. And as for gravity, well my understanding is that it doesn't even exist! If something is keeping me from holding the Falun properly, then it must be evil and should be eliminated.
Changing our benti
I think that during this time we are all very busy, and if we have to prioritize sometimes the exercises are last on the list of things to do. I think Master has made it clear that we should do the exercises as much as possible, but without setting down some rigid regulation on it. In studying The Great Consummation Way of Falun Dafa, I found that Master addressed this issue then, "Of course, all of our exercises are very flexible. If you don't have much time today and can only do the first exercise, then you may just do the first one. You may even perform the exercises in a different order. Say your schedule is tight today and you just want to do the second exercise, the third exercise, or the fourth exercise — that, too, is all right. If you have more time, you can do more; if you have less time, you can do less — the exercises are quite convenient."
Every time I teach the exercises to someone, I tell them the same thing: you don't have to practice them all at once or all in one day. And, yet, if I don't have time to do the whole thing, I often feel like I can't do them at all. Over time, I have begun to realize that this is just an attachment itself. So, I am trying my best to do at least some of the exercises every day. Even if I can only do one repetition of one set, it is better than not doing any at all.