Cultivation Stories in Manhattan: "The Closer to the End, the More Diligent You Should Be"

A Chinese Falun Gong Practitio

PureInsight | December 19, 2005


I. "The Closer to the End, the More Diligent You Should Be"

After Teacher published "The Closer to the End, the More Diligent You Should Be," I could no longer sit still in Canada. After departing from Manhattan for several months, I have finally returned to Manhattan. This time while I stood in the streets of Manhattan clarifying the truth to people about Falun Gong, I also keenly observed those fellow Falun Gong practitioners who have never left Manhattan and have been persevering in clarifying the truth here. While clarifying the truth to the many passersby in the busy streets of Manhattan, they often forget to drink or eat. They usually have their lunches at around 4 PM. When they do get a chance for lunch, they stand in a quiet corner and quickly finish their meals in a few bites. They swallow their food along with biting wind and chilly air, and then return to their volunteer work to clarify the truth right away. Their only break during the day is a trip to the public restroom. I cannot help but develop utmost admiration towards them. I asked myself, "Why do I feel an enormous disparity between them and me although I am standing among them?" I continued to feel this way for about a week…

I truly wanted to take some time to reflect upon my cultivation practice, but it was very difficult to do so. Although I have a poor facility in English, at least I have "some" facility in English compared to elderly practitioners. Therefore, I was much needed at the truth-clarification site. Although I am no longer a young woman, I am more capable of moving the torture enactment equipment than elderly practitioners. Our shared computer was broken. Our residence phone line and mobile phone were both cut off. The microwave oven was broken. The water faucet in the kitchen couldn't be turned off completely. The steel brace cover up a hole on the water pipes under the kitchen sink became loose, so we ran the risk of flood at any time. The roof was leaking. There was a leak in the heater. The drain in the shower was clogged. Cockroaches (some measuring two inches) and rats a foot long (not counting the tail) roamed the apartment. The rats even had the temerity to walk over our feet. I felt a lot of pressure because of these problems. I knew there must be something wrong with our cultivation that caused these problems. Because of the anxiety, I experienced a sore throat right away. I came up with two solutions: First, adjust our group schedule. Second, thoroughly clean our living environment. The following is our daily schedule:

4:45A.M. – Get up.
4:45A.M. – Send righteous thoughts.
5:30 – 7:30A.M.: Practice Falun Gong exercises.
7:30 – 9:00A.M.: Study the Fa.
9:00 – 9:30A.M.: Breakfast.
10:00A.M.: Leave for Manhattan because we must arrive at the truth-clarification site before 10:55A.M. to send righteous thoughts. Then we spend the day clarifying the truth.
8:30 – 10:30P.M.: Study one lecture of Zhuan Falun and Teacher's new articles.

Every Monday and Thursday morning we need to distribute newspapers, so we practice only the sitting meditation on Monday and Thursday morning with the evening schedules on those two days unchanged.

The group schedule guarantees the form of our basic cultivation and prevents everyone from wasting time chatting. If any practitioner wishes to have more sleep or do something else, she would not be able to keep up with others and would run the risk of not being able to do the Three Things well. Setting up a group schedule helps everyone grasp her time and prompt everyone to become diligent.

It turned out that when we keep up studying the Fa and sending righteous thoughts, we clarify the truth better. An elderly practitioner in her 70's repeatedly told others to look after her when she moved in because she is frail and has to take breaks when walking. But she has been feeling great since she moved in. In fact, she has even contributed more than the rest of us. During the day she clarified the truth with me. She also cooked breakfast and dinner for us and cleaned up after us. She has never even missed distributing newspapers on Monday and Thursday mornings even once. She has been busy from morning to evening. She has gained weight and developed a rosy complexion. Everyone experienced similar transformations. A local practitioner in New York has even come to experience our "professional cultivation" lifestyle. When it was time for her to go back to her home, she was reluctant to leave and told us, "I must find time to come back and live here again."

A cultivator is supposed to keep her living environment clean and spotless, but we had to clean our kitchen four times to make it spic and span. We had accumulated so much garbage that we had to use a shovel to shove it out. While I was trying to get rid of all the disgusting garbage from the kitchen, a fellow practitioner complained that I hadn't gone out to clarify the truth that day. When I was busy finding someone to repair our computer, another fellow practitioner told me that this is not cultivation and that I should go out to clarify the truth. When I was trying to find out why our phones were cut off, yet another fellow practitioner told me that this is not cultivation and that I should go out to clarify the truth. Whatever I did, I was told not to do this or not to do that. Whatever everyone told me, I knew they said those things out of their concern for the sentient beings.

I felt it was necessary for us to identify these problems, so we had a discussion on these issues at the evening Fa study. After the sharing, we agreed that these problems in the household may not be cultivation, but they reflect problems in our cultivation state. Since we are still cultivating in the Three Realms with our human bodies and human minds, when our realms are not good enough to repel dark, negative creatures such as household pests naturally, it is necessary to maintain a clean living environment physically. Teacher has also taught us to be "full of great aspirations while minding minor details." (From "Sage" in Essentials for Further Advancement.) Computers and telephones are necessary equipments to assist us in our cultivation practice and Fa-rectification work. Although some fellow practitioners still didn't approve of my ideas, I finished cleaning up our apartment thoroughly and had our computer, telephone line and microwave oven repaired so that we would have a clean living environment and a venue to communicate with and connect to the one-body of Falun Gong practitioners around the world.

As Falun Gong practitioners, we all know that Beijing is the center of China and that Manhattan is the center of the rest of the world. As soon as we started to clarify the truth about Falun Gong in Manhattan, the entire old universe's garbage has been swept to Manhattan. Because the entire old universe's garbage is now in Manhattan, the truth-clarification work here became all the more significant. As a result, here in Manhattan, the bars for our personal cultivation practice have been raised significantly. The Fa also has higher requirements for us. The evil will exploit upon our loopholes the moment we neglect our cultivation practice just slightly. In the past, I would never allow myself to replace "doing Dafa projects" with cultivation practice. But here in Manhattan, the moment that I don't pay attention to my cultivation and let my guard down when it comes to the Fa, I would be merely "doing Dafa projects" and call it cultivation practice. Whether I am willing to acknowledge the fact or not, it is a problem I must face. How do I respond to this problem? How do I eliminate the problem in my cultivation practice? Can we prevail over our human notions, including those notions that we didn't know we had? This is an ultimate test on whether a cultivator is able to transcend his humanness and attain godhood. The conflicts may be severe, but we cannot and we must not avoid facing them. How did we overcome these conflicts and problems? Next I will share our group cultivation experiences.

II. Respecting Teacher and the Fa

One day an elderly couple who had recently arrived from Mainland China moved in with us. The wife brought a photograph of Teacher to the apartment. After she lit up incense sticks and offered them to Teacher, she went down on all fours and kowtowed to Teacher's photograph several times. The process happened very quickly and caught me by surprise. It was not at all that I didn't approve of her kowtowing to Teacher's photograph. It was that I felt there was something that's not right about it. Then suddenly I realized that it was because she had used a used plastic tofu container as a makeshift incense burner whereas she should have used an incense burner to show proper respect. Besides, she placed a lot of random personal items next to the tofu container. I wanted to remind her to have proper respect towards Teacher's photograph, but I feared I might hurt her feelings. Hence, I removed the random personal items off the table without saying anything. However, I found other random personal items next to the incense burner on the table after a while.

I immediately dropped everything I was doing and hurried to buy an incense burner, incense sticks and fruits to offer to Teacher's photograph. Then I cleaned up the offering table and set up everything properly. At the next group Fa study, we exchanged our understandings about respecting Teacher and the Fa. We realized that showing proper respect towards Teacher and the Fa is a very solemn issue. This is something that everyone should do well. If we wish to set up an offering table to pay respect to Teacher, we should not use any makeshift incense burner.

A fellow practitioner said, "It is fine as long as we know in our heart that we respect Teacher and the Fa. We do not need any external form to show that." After the group sharing, we have agreed to the following: If we feel that we do not need any form to show our respect towards Teacher and the Fa, then we do not need to offer incense sticks or kowtow to Teacher's photograph. If we decide to show our respect by offering incense sticks and kowtow to Teacher's photograph, we should do it properly to maintain the sacredness and solemnity of the offering table. We also agreed that we should not place any other object on the offering table, except our offerings and Falun Gong books. In addition, we should not wear shorts in front of Teacher's photograph. We shouldn't hang clothes or lay out our underwear to dry in the same room where Teacher's photograph is located.

When we study the Fa every day, we would share our understandings on the problems occurring that day. This way we would be able to rectify ourselves from the Fa in time. Over time, our "home" has become increasingly harmonious. In the past we were very prone to have conflicts. Nowadays, conflicts often get quickly resolved in our laugher.

III. The "Fried Tofu Pouch" Incident

One day after the public parade in Flushing to celebrate the fact that 5 million people have withdrawn from the Chinese Community Party (CCP), we bought a few packages of fried tofu pouches and cooked them as a dish for dinner. All of us enjoyed the dish. The price of fried tofu pouches is also very affordable. On the following morning, an elderly female practitioner told us that the three of them were going to travel to Flushing to buy more fried tofu pouches. (At the time there were only seven Falun Gong practitioners living in our apartment.) It would be more than three hours of a subway ride from our apartment to Flushing, not counting the time spent waiting for the subway train and the transfer to another subway train. With a little contingency, the trip would cost them five to six hours. I told them right away, "Don't go to buy the fried tofu pouches. We must hurry to Manhattan to send forth righteous thoughts and to pick up the equipment for the torture re-enactment exhibit." The elderly female practitioner replied, "It is not as though I am buying the fried tofu pouches for myself. I am buying them for us." I explained, "Of course I know you are buying them for all of us, but we must think of our truth-clarification work first. It is perfectly all right to buy affordable food that everyone likes if the store is on our way, but it is too much to take a special long trip just to buy a specific type of food. As cultivators, we should not be so attached to food." After I said those words, we left for Manhattan right away because we were running late. Once we arrived in Manhattan, I noticed that the elderly female practitioner had arrived late and brooded all day long.

I asked myself, "Why did the aunt refuse to listen to such a simple suggestion? Why did she even find it offensive? What have I done wrong?"

Teacher said, "When a person talks to someone else, if he points out that person's shortcomings or tells him something without attaching any of his own notions, the other person will be moved to tears." (From "Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Singapore")

I realized that I was excited when I said those words. In other words, I had "told her off." Although it was not that obvious, she could feel the negativity from my energy field because cultivators' fields are open to each other. This is why the elderly female practitioner was unable to accept my advice wholeheartedly.

At the group Fa study that evening, I told everyone, "I am cultivating in a human body and with human thoughts like everyone else. Hence, there are times when I make mistakes. Please point out my flaws when you spot them. This morning I failed to take into consideration of another practitioner's feelings when I told her not to go buy fried tofu pouches. I would like to ask for her forgiveness. I would also like to take this opportunity to exchange our understandings on food."

I brought up the issue whether Falun Gong practitioners should have slow-cooked chicken soup to "increase our physical well-being." I said, "In the past when everyone made chicken soup, I would drink the soup, too. Not long ago, I had to stay at home to take care of things. An elderly female practitioner told me to watch the pot with simmering chicken soup. That was when I realized that it takes a very long time to make a pot of traditional Chinese chicken soup. It consumes a lot of time as well as energy.

Through our group Fa study, we agreed that we should apply strict standards to ourselves. We have come to validate the Fa in Manhattan, not to have a comfortable life here. Besides, this involves an issue whether we think we need an everyday person's way to increase our well-being. As long as we cultivate on the Fa, the Fa will keep enhancing our well being. In addition, our principle for meals should be simplicity. As long as we do not starve, we should not mind what's on our food menu. Since then, we no longer make Chinese chicken soup. We are spending less time on cooking these days.

The "fried tofu pouch" incident gave me a lot to think about. It is not wrong to insist that we keep up the truth-clarification work at the torture re-enactment site, but we should treat everything we encounter during the process as part of our cultivation practice to upgrade our xinxing. This incident also revealed that my heart was not big enough to tolerate differences, that my notions have gotten the better of me, and that I have the habit of "disciplining" my fellow practitioners and myself in an everyday person's way (e.g. telling them off.) I would think, "As a cultivator, you should act this way and you should not act that way." When a fellow practitioner fails to meet my expectations for a cultivator, I become upset with her.

It is not wrong to point out each other's problems, but we cause additional conflicts if we do it emotionally instead of pointing out the problems using the Fa. If we approach things emotionally, we compromise our truth-clarification work and, thus, sentient beings' chance of salvation. Only when we cultivate ourselves and regard every issue from the Fa, will we be able to improve our cultivation environment and upgrade our cultivation levels. Our realms will directly determine the result of our attempts to save sentient beings.

During our cultivation practice, after we understand a certain level of the Fa, it might take us a while before we can conduct ourselves according to our understanding of the Fa. The closer we are to the end, the more the Fa requires of us. We not only need to maintain our form of cultivation practice as required by Teacher, but also regard each problem we encounter from the basis of the Fa. Whether we are willing to transcend our human notions determines whether we are willing to attain godhood from humanness.

I had never thought of the difference between the test of life and death that a cultivator faces and that of an everyday person. As I progress further in my cultivation practice, I realized that each attachment or notion that I am unwilling to part with is a test of life and death. For an everyday person, to survive physically is a test of life and death. For me, my human notions are my tests of life and death in my cultivation practice. When I see some fellow practitioners' behavior is even worse than that of an everyday person, I feel excruciating pain in my heart. I will be battling between my emotions (notions) and the Fa. As I was struggling and fighting to meet the requirements of the Fa and let go of my notions, I felt more pain than those fellow practitioners who have done worse than everyday people.

I often come across the following scenario during my struggle: when I enhance my tolerance level, fellow practitioners would escalate their bad behavior. The more I enhance my tolerance level, the worse they behave in front of me. Although I knew these were xinxing tests, I had a hard time letting go of my feelings. While I was studying the Fa, I had to resort to some techniques to repel these emotions. I would ask myself, "Do you really want these things from the particle level? When you are irritated by behavior that disgust you, aren't you at the same level of those practitioners? Can a life forged by the Great Fa become irritated by coarse particles at low levels?"

Each time I was challenged by these xinxing tests, I had to study the Fa more diligently and prompt myself to fight off my sentimentality. Now that I look back at my past struggles, they look like just a walk in the park although I felt the agony of peeling off my skin on top of fire during the process. I felt it was truly difficult to be more diligent towards the end. The hardship during the process, as well as the wonder and magnificence after we upgrade our xinxing, are testimonials to our mysterious and intricate cultivation practice.

There is no shortcut or technique in cultivation practice. Studying the Fa solidly is the only guarantee of our cultivation practice. However, reading the Fa is not the same as studying the Fa or cultivation practice. To truly cultivate is to assimilate to the Fa and cultivate our xinxing. I will share more in the subsequent articles.

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