Some Thoughts on What It Means to Cultivate

A Practitioner from Calgary

PureInsight | August 6, 2006

[] (Washington, D.C. Fa Conference, 2006)
This is the first time I've stood up before so many of my fellow
practitioners to give a Fahui speech.  It's not because I haven't
tried writing speeches before.  In fact, I've been trying to write
this since the 2005 Canada Fa conference.  At its peak, it was 26
pages long in a size ten font.  I eventually scrapped that one and
started over, and within a week or two, I was back to nearly 20 pages
of experiences and understandings that I wanted to incorporate into a
speech. But I was never successful. This time, I am not writing about
my work in Fa rectification, about my achievements and shortcomings in
cultivation, and so on. Instead, today I hope to share on letting go of
my attachments to all of that.  

Ever since I was a new practitioner, I made Fa study the single biggest
priority in my life.  I thought I needed to catch up with the pace
of Fa-rectification, and was selfishly worried about whether there
would be enough time for me to reach the standard for
consummation.  Every day, I read a lecture of Zhuan Falun,
a new lecture, and a pre-1999 lecture.  By the time I'd been
practising Falun Gong for a year, I was reading three or four lectures
of Zhuan Falun
per day.  I felt that I had a very clear understanding of the
principles at my level, and often thought that my understanding was
more on the Fa than that of many other practitioners.  At that
time, I often used to ask a practitioner I was close to, "have you read
a lecture yet today?"  To which he would always respond "Yes. Have
you clarified the truth today?" trying to imply that I put too much
emphasis on my own cultivation.  I knew that deep down, I was
always worried about how well I was cultivating.  I often worried
that I didn't meet the standard.  I strained to think of how I
could do better, of how I wanted to let go of this or that attachment,
of how I could do things for Dafa, of what roles I could take in
clarifying the truth, and so on.  A practitioner once told me in
no uncertain terms that she understood that this was actually like an
old force mentality.  That is, the old forces want to use this
Fa-rectification to save themselves and reach their aims. And I was
also in a state of wanting to use the Fa to save myself and reach
consummation - this was even at the root of much of my truth
clarification work.  

That was over three years ago.  I spent a long time trying to root
out this attachment wherever I saw it, and for the couple years or so,
I actually thought that I'd beaten it. But some recent experiences made
me realize that I had not.  After all, this is a fundamental
attachment, and something formed deep in my bones for millennia. 
In "Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Switzerland" in 1998, Master
says the following:

"Actually, you don't yet know that this selfishness reaches all the way
up to very high levels. As a matter of fact, for cultivators in the
past to say, ‘I'm doing such and such,' ‘I want to do such and such,'
‘I want to obtain such and such,' ‘I'm cultivating,' ‘I want to become
a Buddha,' or "I wish to attain such and such,' none of that was
outside of selfishness. But what I want you to do is to truly, purely,
and unselfishly Consummate with the real righteous Fa and righteous
Enlightenment - only then can you achieve eternal non-extinction."

In Washington DC, about three months ago, I had a few weeks off school
beginning at the time of Hu Jintao's visit to the U.S., so I came to
the east coast for my summer vacation.  I live in a city that
doesn't have many practitioners, let alone English-speaking
practitioners, so I've always really enjoyed coming to bigger cities
and spending time in the cultivation environment of those places. 
The first time I attended Washington's Monday night group Fa study, it
was immediately after Hu Jintao's visit and the incident with Wang
Wenyi.  When the discussion started, several practitioners started
talking about their understandings of the incident.  Yet in my
mind, I was thinking "I have a better understanding of all these things
than the people who are talking." Or "I have nothing to gain from
listening to these practitioners share.  I should say something;
my understanding would be more beneficial to others."  On seeing
these thoughts reflected in my mind, I was horrified and
repulsed.  But it wasn't a new thing; as I mentioned above, for a
long time I've thought that I had better understandings than most
practitioners, and this notion has often prevented me from actually
learning anything during group discussions.  I knew this, and
tried hard to suppress these thoughts, and ask Master for help in doing
so.  Just when my mind started to calm down, a practitioner stood
up and said something to the effect of "Why are we talking so much
about how we understand this incident?  Why aren't we talking
about how to use it to clarify the truth?"  This simple question
shook me to my core.  For all my arrogance and thinking that I had
a good understanding, I hadn't done anything to use the Wang Wenyi
incident to clarify the truth.  My priorities in cultivation were,
just as they had been three years earlier, still completely mixed up. I
was still thinking of myself, and not of saving beings.  And, just
to make sure I got the point, a couple days later, one of my fellow
Canadian practitioners in New York told me point blank that I was
unbelievably self-centered.

This was the easy part.  I resolved at that time that I would stop
being so selfish about my cultivation, and would really make a priority
of saving sentient beings.  One pattern I've noticed in my
cultivation path is that, after enlightening to something significant
and making a resolve to do better, in almost all cases I will
immediately meet with a very difficult test to see if my resolve is
actually firm.  That's exactly what seemed to happen this time.

As I mentioned before, I live in a city without many practitioners and
in a fairly remote area in Western Canada.  Although it's a large
city with a substantial Chinese population and a consulate, in terms of
activities in Fa rectification, the relative isolation and apparent
"unimportance" of my city leaves me feeling like I've dropped off the
face of the earth. And I often feel a little detached from significant
events or movements in the course of Fa rectification.  Worse yet,
as I realized only a couple months ago, my poor enlightenment quality
and inadequate understanding of an issue led me to feel detached even
from Master. In spite of the countless miraculous things I'd
experienced in cultivation, I had the kind of poor understanding Master
described in Essentials for Further Advancement,
where some people think that they need to actually see Master in person
in order to be counted as true disciples.  Now, I had seen Master
in person many times at Fahui's, but never in more personal or private
settings.  For the most part, this never really bothered me. 
Nor did it bother me when practitioners from out East here would
excitedly talk to me about their experiences at the mountain,
etc.  About a year ago, I remember one of the practitioners I work
with asking me "Have you been to the mountain?"  "No," I
said.  "Don't you want to go?" he asked.  I laughed to
myself, wondering why Falun Gong disciples would be so attached to a
mountain or to seeing Master.  It reminded me of the type of
people described in Zhuan Falun who shake Master's hand and don't let go, thinking they can get some messages.  

But on my last trip to the Eastern U.S., and especially after I
resolved let go of the attachment to self described above, it finally
started to bother me in a big way.  Most of the practitioners I
spent time with both in New York and in DC liked talking about going to
the mountain, or talking about seeing Master there, or about what
Master told them, and so on.  Perhaps they talk about these things
because they think that, if they see Master in person, it reaffirms
that they are cultivating well and are true disciples, or that they are
better or more special than others.  I had the exact same
attachment, only it manifested in the opposite way.  On hearing
the practitioners around me discuss such experiences, I started to
think that I wasn't a true disciple, or that perhaps my predestined
relationship with the Fa was not strong, because I hadn't seen Master
in a private setting.  

I knew that this way of thinking was groundless. I had previously come
to the understanding that there simply needs to be practitioners who
never see Master, because that's something the Fa needs, and that kind
of path needs to be blazed; it has absolutely nothing to do with one's
level in cultivation. But at the time, I just couldn't bring my mind
under control, and I thought that all these practitioners in New York
and DC were better than me, were more special than me, and had stronger
predestined relationships than me. This state lasted for about three or
four days.  My attachment to my own personal cultivation was so
strong that, when external circumstances led me to believe I was a bad
practitioner, I was so depressed that I almost completely forgot about
saving sentient beings and validating the Fa. It got even more
extreme:  I even started thinking about trying to get closer to
Master, or moving to the east coast.  It's exactly like what
Master describes in Zhuan Falun, in the section on showing off:

"The sensational hearsay that you have invented may even lead to
conflicts or stir up a practitioner's attachment to getting closer to
Teacher in order to hear more things and so on." ("The Mentality of
Showing Off" in Lecture Six of Zhuan Falun)

One morning, when I was back in Washington after a brief stint in New
York, I woke up with an especially heavy mental burden over this
issue.  I continued struggling with this attachment.  Seeing
my state, one of the practitioners whose home I was staying at came to
talk with me.  I painfully recounted how lost, directionless, and
unimportant I felt now in my path, and mentioned that I'd been
considering moving again to get away from my city and into a "better",
more "important" environment.  This practitioner patiently
listened, and then said encouragingly that I should think about what
kind of environment I could best thrive in, and move there.  I
broke down in tears and told him that that wasn't the point - that my
cultivation wasn't the point. I told him that the thing that was
bothering me most was simply that I could be so selfish. I said, after
so many years of cultivation, it's utterly shameful that I would even
be thinking about what kind of environment I want to live in, or what
kind of conditions I would cultivate best in.  After so many years
of cultivation, why isn't my only thought about how to save sentient
beings and harmonize Master's arrangements?  

This attachment to seeking reassurance in one's own cultivation also
manifests in doing Dafa projects.  For example, some practitioners
seem to believe, whether consciously or not, that doing Dafa work
equates to cultivating themselves, and that as long as they're doing
the work, it means they're on the right track.  For the last year
and a half, I've been involved in the work of the Epoch Times. It's very involved and time-consuming work, usually occupying over 30 hours a week.  Ever since I started working on the Epoch Times,
I found that cultivation became more difficult.  The time I spent
studying the Fa each day dropped from an average of five hours a day to
an average of one or two hours a day.  I also found it more
difficult to concentrate, and many ordinary attachments, such as to
following politics and international news, reappeared. I never
understood why this was the case.  Then, a few weeks ago, I
realized that I had been using my Epoch Times
work to reassure myself that I was cultivating and clarifying the
truth.  In fact, there were some weeks when I would do virtually
nothing to clarify the truth, but I would tell myself it was ok because
I was doing Epoch Times
work.  This kind of attachment of wanting to use something as
precious as Dafa work to try to advance one's own cultivation is an
extremely selfish and rotten one, and one that Master wouldn't allow me
to get away with keeping.  I realized that that was one of the
main reasons why my cultivation had become worse and more difficult
after taking on Epoch Times
work: it was to have me recognize that attachment. The poor cultivation
state I often found myself in is also reflected in the quality of the
paper, and diminishes the paper's effect in saving people.  
Ever since I realized this, I have actually found The Epoch Times production to go more smoothly and painlessly, and I've retained a better cultivation state through it.

The whole process of cultivation is one of letting go; that improvement
comes from giving up, not from gaining.  In the last few months, I
realized that, on a certain level, I actually lacked faith in this
principle, as though I thought there were some exceptions to this rule,
like seeing Master, to give one example.  But actually, this
principle of ‘no loss, no gain' is an absolute one in the cosmos.  

In "Teaching the Fa at the Conference in Switzerland", Master says: "I
can give up to the greatest extent possible everything of mine, and
that is why I can resolve all of it."  Master also says in lecture
8 of Zhuan Falun:
"Why is it called the Pure-White Body? It is because this body has
already reached the absolute purity of the highest degree. When it is
seen with the Celestial Eye, the entire body is transparent - just like
transparent glass. When you look at it there is nothing, as it will
exhibit this state." This section always reminds me of the standard I
have to reach.  I am still often quite far from this state of
being transparent, from having nothing. In fact, to draw an analogy, I
sometimes catch myself clinging to my abilities and accomplishments in
Fa rectification, unwilling to let go of the joys and fame they bring
me, and thus making myself unable to break through to higher levels.

In the most recent article, "Teaching the Fa in the City of Los
Angeles," Master talked about the importance of taking criticism, and
said, "From this point on, whoever can't take criticism is not being
diligent, whoever can't take criticism is not displaying the state of a
cultivator, or at least on this issue." "Even if you have done well in
all other areas and are lousy only in this one regard, you are still
not a cultivator."   Master also said, "Be mentally prepared,
you might run into these things as soon as you return home." After I
walked out of the lecture hall in LA, I was anxiously hoping to be
criticised.  All the practitioners I was spending time with shared
experiences about how they were tested in this regard after the Fahui,
and I felt left out.  "Why isn't anyone criticising me?  I
want to be tested too," I thought.  Actually, it took about two
weeks before the next time I was criticised. But I did come across an
unusual number of compliments after the Fahui.  I later realized
that this was a test too; it was testing the exact same attachments
that are hit upon when one is criticized, only it's reversed. 
This is to say that in my understanding, becoming happy, elated, or
self-gratified when one enjoys good things is just as serious as not
being able to take criticism. Both reflect that on a fundamental level,
a person has not let go of their ordinary human pursuits and desire to
obtain good things.  

I hope that, from today on, you will all keep a close eye on me, point
out my attachments, and not go easy on me when I fail to seize every
opportunity to clarify the truth and harmonize Master's wishes.

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