All cultivators of Falun Gong must make cultivation of character (xin-xing) their top priority and regard character as the key to developing gong. This is the principle for cultivating at high levels. Strictly speaking, the gong potency that determines your level isn’t developed through doing exercises but through character cultivation. Improving character is easier said than done. Cultivators must be able to put forth great effort, improve their awakening capacity, bear hardships upon hardships, and endure almost unendurable things, to name a few. Why hasn’t some people’s gong grown despite practicing for years? The fundamental reasons are: first, they disregard character; and second, they do not know of a high-level upright cultivation way. This point must be brought to light. Many masters who teach a practice system talk about character—they are teaching real things. Those who only teach movements and techniques without ever discussing character are actually teaching crooked cultivation. So practitioners have to exert great effort in improving their character before they can start cultivating at higher levels.
The “character” referred to in Falun Gong can’t be fully encompassed by the word “virtue” alone. It contains much more than virtue. It contains many different facets of things, including those of virtue. Virtue is only one manifestation of a person’s character, so using only virtue to understand the meaning of character isn’t enough. Character encompasses how to deal with gain and loss. “Gain” is to gain conformity to the nature of the universe. The nature that constitutes the universe is Zhen, Shan, Ren. A cultivator’s degree of conformity to the nature of the universe is reflected in the amount of his or her virtue. “Loss” is to abandon negative thoughts and behavior, such as greed, the pursuit of wealth, lust, desire, killing, fighting, theft, robbery, deception, jealousy, etc. If a person is to cultivate to high levels, he or she needs to break free from the pursuit of wants, something inherent in human beings. In other words, you should let go of all attachments and take lightly all matters of fame and gain.
A complete human being is composed of his flesh and his temperament. Similarly, with the universe, along with the existence of its matter, there also exists its nature—Zhen, Shan, Ren. Every particle of air contains this nature. This nature is made manifest in human society in the fact that good actions bring recognition and bad ones bring punishment. At a high level this nature manifests as supernatural abilities. People who align themselves with this nature are good people; those who depart from it are bad. People who comply with it and assimilate to it are those who attain the Dao. In order to conform to this nature, practitioners need to have extremely high character. Only that way can a person cultivate to high levels.
It is easy to be a good person, but it’s not easy to cultivate character—a cultivator must ready his mind. Sincerity is a prerequisite if you are to rectify your mind. People live in a world where society has become complicated. Though you might want to do good things, there might be some people who don’t want you to; you might not want to harm others, but others might harm you for various reasons. Some of these things happen for unapparent reasons. Will you be able to enlighten to the reasons? Then what should you do? The challenges in this world test your character at every moment. When experiencing indescribable humiliation, when losing out, when tempted by money and lust, when in a power struggle, when rage and jealousy emerge in conflicts, when discord in society and in the family take place, and when experiencing all kinds of hardships, can you always follow closely the character criteria? Of course, if you could handle everything then you would already be an enlightened being. Most practitioners start as everyday people after all, and the cultivation of their character occurs gradually; it moves upward little by little. Determined cultivators will eventually gain a Noble Attainment (zheng-guo) if they are prepared to endure great hardships and face ordeals with an unwavering mind. I hope that each of you cultivators will maintain your character well and raise your gong potency rapidly!
Both qigong and religious circles talk about loss and gain. Some people take “loss” to mean being charitable, doing some good deeds, or giving a hand to people in need, and “gain” to mean gaining gong. Temple monks say that one should be charitable. That understanding narrows the meaning of loss. The loss we talk about is much broader—it’s something of a larger scale. The things we require you to lose are the attachments of everyday people and the mindset that doesn’t let go of those attachments. If you can let go of the things you consider important and part with the things you think you can’t part with, that is loss in the truest sense. Offering help and displays of charity are only a part of loss.
An everyday person wants to enjoy prestige, prosperity, a better standard of living, more comfort, and more money. Those are everyday people’s goals. As practitioners, we are different, for what we gain is gong, not those things. We need to care less about personal gain and take it lightly, but we aren’t really asked to lose any material things; we cultivate in society and need to live as everyday people do. The key is for you to break your attachments—you aren’t really required to lose anything. You won’t lose anything that belongs to you, and you won’t gain anything that does not belong to you. If you do get such things, they will have to be returned. To gain, you must lose. Of course, it’s not possible to immediately handle everything well, just as it’s not possible to become an enlightened being overnight. Yet by cultivating little by little and improving step by step, it is achievable. You will gain however much you lose. You should always take matters of personal gain lightly and prefer to have peace of mind over gaining more. When it comes to material things you might suffer some losses, but you will gain in terms of virtue and gong. This is a truth. You aren’t to intentionally gain virtue and gong by exchanging your prestige, money, or personal gain for it. You will understand these matters further through your as your awakening capacity grows.
Someone who cultivated in a high-level Daoist practice once said: “I don’t want the things others want, and I don’t have the things others have; but I have things others don’t, and I want things others don’t.” An everyday person hardly has a moment when he or she feels content. These people want everything except the rocks lying on the ground that nobody wants to pick up. Yet that Daoist cultivator said, “Then I’ll pick up those rocks.” A proverb goes like this: “Rarity makes something precious, scarcity makes something unique.” Rocks are worthless here but could be very valuable in other dimensions. This is a principle that an everyday person can’t understand. Many enlightened, high-level masters with great virtue have no material possessions. For them there is nothing that can’t be given up.
The path of cultivation is the most correct one, and practitioners are actually the smartest people. The things that everyday people struggle for and the minute benefits they gain are fleeting. Even if you get things by fighting for them, find something for free, or profit a little, so what? There is a saying among everyday people: “You can’t bring anything with you when you are born, and you can’t take anything away with you when you die.” You enter the world having nothing, and you take away nothing when you leave—even your bones will be burned to ashes. It doesn’t matter if you have tons of money or are a dignitary—nothing can be taken with you when you leave. Yet since gong grows on the body of your main consciousness, it can be taken forth. What I am saying is that gong is hard to get. It is so precious and so hard to acquire that it can’t be exchanged for any amount of money. Once your gong reaches an advanced level, if one day you decided not to cultivate anymore, then as long as you didn’t do anything bad, your gong could be converted into any material thing you wanted—you would be able to have them all. But you would no longer have the things that cultivators have. You would instead have only the things that a person can gain in this world.
Self-interest leads some people to use improper means to take things that belong to others. These people think that they’ve gotten a good deal. The truth is that they came to benefit by exchanging their virtue with others, only they don’t know it. For a practitioner, that would have to be deducted from his or her gong. For a non-practitioner, it would have to be deducted from his or her life expectancy or from something else. In short, the books will be balanced. This is a law in the universe. There are some people who always mistreat others, harm others with abusive words, and so on. When doing those things they throw a corresponding portion of their virtue to the other party, exchanging their virtue for the act of hurting or insulting others.
Some people think it’s disadvantageous to be a good person. From an everyday person’s viewpoint a good person is at a disadvantage. But what they acquire is something that everyday people cannot: virtue, a form of white matter that is extremely precious. Without virtue a person cannot have gong—this is an absolute truth. Why is it that many people cultivate but their gong fails to develop? Exactly because they don’t cultivate virtue. Many people emphasize virtue and require cultivation of virtue, yet they fail to disclose the real principles of how virtue is evolved into gong. It’s left for you to figure out. Those nearly ten-thousand volumes of the Tripitaka and the principles that Shakyamuni taught for forty-some years all boiled down to one thing: virtue. The ancient Chinese books of Daoist cultivation all discuss virtue. The five-thousand-word book by Lao-zi,20 Dao De Jing, also contemplates virtue. Some people still fail to grasp this.
Let’s now address “loss.” When you gain, you must lose. You will encounter some trials when you genuinely want to cultivate. When they come up in your life, you might experience a little bodily suffering or feel discomfort here or there. But it’s not sickness. The hardships can also come up in society, in the family, or in the workplace—anything is possible. Discord will suddenly arise over personal gain or emotional tensions. The goal is to enable you to improve your character. These things usually happen suddenly and seem very intense. If you encounter something that is annoying or troublesome, embarrassing for you, that makes you lose face, or puts you in an awkward position, how are you going to handle it at that point? If you stay calm and unruffled—if you’re able to do that—your character will be improved through the trial and your gong will develop proportionately. If you can achieve a little, you will gain a little. How much you put in is how much you get out. Typically when we’re in the middle of some ordeal we might not be able to realize that, yet we have to try. We shouldn’t treat ourselves like everyday people. We should hold ourselves to higher standards when discord arises. Our character will be tempered among everyday people since we cultivate amidst them. We are bound to make some mistakes and to learn something from them. Your gong can’t develop when you are comfortable and don’t meet with any problems.
In our discipline we work on practicing Zhen, Shan, and Ren all together. “Zhen” is about telling the truth, doing things truly, returning to one’s original, true self, and ultimately becoming a true being. “Shan” is about developing great compassion, doing good things, and saving people. We emphasize Ren in particular. Only with Ren can a person cultivate into somebody with great virtue. Ren is a powerful thing, and it surpasses Zhen and Shan. Throughout the entire cultivation process you are asked to exercise self-restraint, to mind your character, and to not take rash actions.
It’s not easy to exercise self-restraint (ren) when you run into problems. Some people say, “If you don’t fight back when someone attacks you, or if you tolerate it even when you lose face in front of your family, relatives, and close friends, haven’t you turned into an Ah-Q??”21 I’d say that if you act normal in all regards, if your intelligence is no less than that of others, and if it’s only that you have taken personal gain lightly, nobody is going to say you are foolish. Holding back (ren) is not a sign of weakness, nor is it being like Ah-Q. It is a display of strong will and self-control. There was a person in Chinese history named Han Xin who once subjected himself to the humiliation of crawling on his hands and knees between a man’s legs. That was tremendous Ren. There’s an ancient saying: “When the common man is disgraced, he draws his sword to fight.” It means that when a typical person is humiliated, he will draw his sword to retaliate, will yell at others, or will throw punches their way. An opportunity to become human and live a life here doesn’t come easily. Some people live for their ego, which really isn’t worth it and is just exhausting. There is a saying in China: “Cede a little ground, and you will discover a boundless sea and sky.” Give some ground when you are in a challenging situation, and you will find it a whole different scenario.
A practitioner should not only exercise self-control when he is in a conflict and is insulted to his face, but should also have a generous attitude and even be grateful to the other party. How could you improve your character if you didn’t have that incident with the other person? How could the black matter be transformed into the white matter? How could you develop your gong? It’s hard when you are in the midst of an ordeal, but you must exercise self-restraint. Tribulations will constantly get more intense as your gong potency increases, and it’s to see whether you can improve your character. A tribulation might be upsetting to you at first and make you unbearably angry—to the point that you become flushed with anger and you feel it all the way down to the gut. But if you don’t erupt and you manage to contain your anger, then that’s good, and you have started to exercise self-control, to proactively practice Ren. You will gradually and continually improve your character, truly taking those things lightly. And that is an even greater improvement. Everyday people tend to think of little tensions and minor problems that come up as big things, they try to prove they are right and just can’t hold back. They are capable of doing anything when they are angered to an unbearable point. Yet as a practitioner you will find the things that people take seriously to be very, very trivial—even too trivial—because your goal is extremely long-term and far-reaching. You will live as long as this universe. Then think about those things again: It doesn’t matter if you have them or not. You can put them all aside when you think from a broader perspective.
Jealousy is a huge obstacle in cultivation and one that has a large impact on practitioners. It directly impacts a practitioner’s gong potency, harms fellow cultivators, and seriously interferes with our ascension in cultivation. As a practitioner, you have to eliminate it one hundred percent. Some people have yet to forgo jealousy even though they’ve cultivated to a certain level. Moreover, the harder it is to abandon, the easier it is for jealousy to grow stronger. The negative effects of this attachment make the improved parts of one’s character fragile. Why is jealousy being singled out for discussion? Because jealousy is the strongest, most prominent thing that manifests among Chinese people; it weighs most heavily in people’s thinking. Yet many people aren’t aware of it. Called Oriental jealousy, or Asian jealousy, it is characteristic of the East. The Chinese people are quite introverted, reserved, and don’t express themselves openly. All of this easily leads to jealousy. Everything has two sides. Thus, an introverted personality has its pros and cons. Westerners are relatively extroverted. For example, a child who scored a one hundred in school might happily call out on his way home, “I got a hundred!” Neighbors would open their doors and windows to congratulate him, “Congratulations, Tom!” All of them would be happy for him. If this happened in China—think about it—people would be disgusted once they heard it: “He scored a hundred. So what? What’s there to show off about?” The reaction is completely different when a person is prone to jealousy.
Jealous types look down upon others and don’t allow others to surpass them. When they see someone more capable than they, their minds lose all perspective, they find it unbearable, and they deny the fact. They want to get pay raises when others do, get equal bonuses, and see everyone share in the consequences when things go terribly wrong. They get green-eyed and jealous when they see others making more money. At any rate, they can’t take it if others do better than they. Some people are afraid of accepting a bonus when they have achieved certain things in their scientific research; they’re afraid of others becoming jealous. Some people who have been awarded certain honors don’t dare reveal them for fear of jealousy and sarcasm. Some qigong masters can’t stand to see other qigong masters teach, so they go make trouble for them. That is a character problem. Suppose that in a group that does qigong exercises together, some people who started later are nonetheless the first persons to develop supernatural abilities. There are people who would then say: “What’s he got to brag about? I’ve practiced for so many years and have a huge pile of certificates. How could he develop abilities before me?” His jealousy would then emerge. Cultivation focuses inward, and a cultivator should cultivate him or herself and look within to find the source of problems. You should work hard on yourself and try to improve in the areas you haven’t done enough with. If you look hard at others to find the source of friction, others will succeed in cultivation and ascend, while you will be the only one left here. Won’t you have wasted all of your time? Cultivation is for cultivating yourself!
Jealousy also harms fellow cultivators, such as when a person’s badmouthing makes it hard for others to enter into a state of quiet mind. When that type of person has abilities, he or she might use them out of jealousy to harm fellow cultivators. For example, a person sits there meditating, and he has been cultivating fairly well. He sits there like a mountain since he has gong. Then two beings float by, one of whom used to be a monk but who, due to jealousy, didn’t achieve Enlightenment; even though he has a certain gong potency, he has not reached Spiritual Perfection. When they arrive at where the person is meditating, one says, “So-and-so is meditating here. Let’s go around him.” Yet the other brags, “In the past, I chopped off a corner of Mount Tai.” He then tries to strike the practitioner. But when he raises his hand he can’t bring it down. That being is unable to strike the practitioner because he is cultivating in an upright practice and has a protective shield. He wants to harm someone who cultivates in an upright way, so it becomes a serious matter and he will be punished. People who are jealous harm themselves as well as others.
“Having attachments” refers to the relentless, excessive pursuit of a particular object or goal by those practitioners who aren’t able to liberate themselves or are too stubborn to heed any advice. Some people pursue supernatural abilities in this world, and that will certainly impact their cultivating to high levels. The stronger the feelings, the more difficult to abandon. Their minds will become ever more unsettled and frustrated. Later on these people will think that they’ve gained nothing, and they will even start to doubt the things that they have been learning. Attachments stem from human desires. The characteristics of attachments are that their targets or goals are obviously limited, fairly clear and particular, and often the person might be unaware of the attachments. An everyday person has many attachments. He might use any means necessary in order to pursue something and get it. A cultivator’s attachments manifest differently, such as in his pursuing a particular ability, his indulging a certain vision, his obsessing over a certain phenomenon, and so on. No matter what you, a practitioner, pursue, it is not right—pursuit has to be abandoned. The Daoist system teaches nothingness, while the Buddhist system teaches emptiness and how to enter the gate of emptiness. We ultimately want to achieve the state of nothingness and emptiness, and be rid of every attachment. Anything that you can’t let go must be let go. The pursuit of supernatural abilities is an example: If you pursue them it means you want to use them. In reality, that is going against the nature of our universe. It’s actually still an issue of character. You want to have them, and you want to flaunt them and show them off in front of others. But those abilities aren’t something to showcase for others. Even if the goal of your using them were innocent and you just wanted to use them to do some good deeds, the good deeds that you did could turn out to be not so good. It’s not necessarily a good idea to handle ordinary affairs using supernormal means. After some people hear me remark that seventy percent of the class has had the Third Eye opened, they start to wonder, “Why can’t I sense anything?” Their attention focuses on the Third Eye when they return home and do the exercises—even to the point of getting a headache. They still can’t see anything in the end. That is an attachment. Individuals differ in physical state of being and underlying base. It’s not possible that all of them come to see through the Third Eye at the same time, and neither can each person’s Third Eye be at the same level. Some people might be able to see and some might not. Whatever the case, it’s normal.
Attachments can cause the development of a cultivator’s gong potency to come to a standstill or to fluctuate. In more serious cases they might even result in practitioners taking a crooked path. To be specific, certain supernatural abilities could be used by people with poor character to do bad things. There have been cases in which a person’s unsteady character has resulted in their supernatural abilities being used to commit bad deeds. Somewhere there was a male college student who developed the ability of mind control. With it he could use his own thoughts to manipulate the thoughts and conduct of others, and he used his ability to do bad things. Some people might witness visions appearing when they do the exercises. They always want to have a clear look and full understanding. That’s also a form of attachment. A certain hobby might become an addiction for some, and they aren’t able to shake it. That, too, is a form of attachment. Because of differences in underlying base and intentions, some people cultivate in order to reach the highest level while some cultivate just to gain certain things. The latter mentality surely limits the goal of one’s cultivation. If a person doesn’t eliminate that kind of attachment, his or her gong won’t develop even through practicing. So practitioners should take all material gain lightly, pursue nothing, and let everything unfold naturally, thus avoiding the emergence of new attachments. Whether that can be done depends on a practitioner’s character. You can’t succeed in cultivation if your character is not fundamentally changed or if any attachments remain.
(1) The Origin of Karma
Karma is a type of black matter that is the opposite of virtue. In Buddhism it is called sinful karma, while here we call it karma. So, we call doing bad things “producing karma.” Karma is produced by a person’s doing wrong in this life or in past lives. For instance, killing, taking advantage of others, infringing upon others’ interests, gossiping about someone behind his or her back, being unfriendly to someone, and so on can all create karma. In addition, some karma is passed on from ancestors, family and relatives, or close friends. When somebody throws punches at someone else, he also throws his white matter over to the other person, and the vacated area in his body is then filled with the black matter. Killing is the worst evildoing—it is wrong and will generate heavy karma. Karma is the primary factor that causes sickness in people. Of course, it doesn’t always manifest in the form of sickness—it can also manifest as running into problems and the like. All of these things are karma at work. So practitioners must not do anything bad. Any misconduct will result in negative influences that will seriously impact your cultivation.
Some people encourage collecting the qi of plants. When they teach their exercises they teach how to collect qi from plants; they discuss with intense interest which trees have better qi and the colors of different trees’ qi. There were some people in a park in our northeastern region who practiced a kind of so-called qigong in which they would roll all over the ground. After getting up, they would circle around the pine trees to collect their qi. Within half a year the grove of pine trees had withered and turned yellow. That kind of action generates karma! That too is killing! Collecting qi from plants is not right, whether it’s viewed in light of our country’s reforestation effort, maintaining the ecological balance, or from a high-level perspective. The universe is vast and boundless, with qi available everywhere for you to collect. Knock yourself out and go collect it—why abuse plants? If you’re a practitioner, where is your heart of mercy and compassion?
Everything has intelligence. Modern science has recognized that plants have not only life, but also intelligence, thoughts, feelings, and even super-sensory functions. When your Third Eye reaches the level of Law Eyesight, you will discover that the world is a totally different place. When you go outside, rocks, walls, and even trees will talk to you. All objects have life. As soon as an object is formed, a life enters it. It is the people living on Earth who categorize matter as organic and inorganic. People who live in monasteries get upset when they break a bowl, for the moment it is destroyed, its living entity is released. It hasn’t finished its life journey, so it will have nowhere to go, and thus harbor extreme hate toward the person who ended its life. The angrier it gets, the more karma the person accrues. Some “qigong masters” even go hunting. Where did their kindness and compassion go? A Buddhist or a Daoist doesn’t do things that violate the laws of heaven. When a person does these things, it is an act of killing.
Some people say that in the past they produced a lot of karma, for example, by killing fish or chickens, by fishing, etc. Does it mean that they can no longer cultivate? No, it doesn’t. Back then you did that without knowing the consequences, so it wouldn’t have created extra karma. Just don’t do it anymore in the future, and that should be fine. If you do it again you will be knowingly violating the principles, and that’s not allowed. Some of our practitioners do have that kind of karma. Your attendance at our seminar means that you are predestined, and that you can cultivate upward. Should we swat flies or mosquitoes when they come inside? As to your handling of this at your present level, it isn’t considered wrong if you swat and kill them. If you can’t drive them out, then killing them is not a problem. When the time has come for something to die, naturally it will die. Once, when Shakyamuni was still alive, he wanted to take a bath and asked his disciple to clean the bathtub. The disciple found a lot of bugs in the bathtub, so he returned and asked what he should do. Shakyamuni said it again, “It is the bathtub that I want you to clean.” The disciple understood, and he went back and cleaned the bathtub. You shouldn’t take certain things too seriously. We don’t intend to make you an overly cautious person. In a complicated environment it is not right, I think, if you’re nervous at every moment and afraid of doing something wrong. It would be a form of attachment—fear itself is an attachment.
We should have a compassionate and merciful heart. When we handle things with a compassionate and merciful heart we are less likely to cause problems. Take self-interest lightly and be kindhearted, and your compassionate heart will keep you from doing wrong. Believe it or not, you will discover that if you always have a spiteful attitude and always want to fight and contend, you will even turn good things into bad ones. I often see some people who, when right, won’t let others be; when this type of person is right he has finally found grounds for mistreating others. Similarly, we shouldn’t stir up conflict if we disagree with certain things. The things you dislike might at times not necessarily be wrong. As you keep on raising your level as a practitioner, every sentence you say will carry energy. You shouldn’t speak as you please, since your words will be able to restrain everyday people. It’s especially easy for you to do wrong and create karma when you can’t see the truth of problems and their karmic causes.
(2) Eliminating Karma
The principles in this world are the same as those in heaven: Eventually you have to pay what you owe others. Even everyday people have to pay what they owe others. All the hardships and problems you encounter in your life result from karma. You have to pay. The path of life for our true cultivators will be altered. A new path that suits your cultivation will be arranged. Your shifu will reduce some of your karma, and what remains will be used to improve your character. You exchange and pay for your karma through performing the exercises and through cultivating your character. From now on the problems you confront won’t happen by chance. So please be mentally prepared. By enduring some hardships, you will come to let go of all the things an everyday person can’t. You will run into many troubles. Problems will arise in the family, socially, and from other sources, or you might suddenly meet with disaster, and it could even be that you will get blamed for what is actually someone else’s fault, to name just a few. Practitioners aren’t supposed to get sick, yet you might suddenly come down with a serious sickness. The sickness could come on with intense force, causing you to suffer to the point where you can no longer bear it. Even hospital exams might yield no diagnosis. Yet for an unknown reason the sickness may disappear later without any treatment. In fact, it’s that your debts are paid in this manner. Perhaps one day your spouse will lose his or her temper and start a fight with you for no reason at all; even trivial things might set off big arguments. Afterwards your spouse will be confused over his or her loss of temper. As you are a practitioner, you should be clear as to why that kind of incident takes place: It’s because that thing came—you are being asked to pay for your karma. To resolve such incidents, you have to keep yourself under control during those moments and mind your character. Be appreciative and thankful that your spouse has helped you pay for your karma.
The legs will start to ache after you sit in meditation for a long while, and sometimes the pain is excruciating. People with a high-level Third Eye can see the following: When a person is in great pain, there is a large chunk of the black matter—both inside and outside of the body—coming down and being eliminated. The pain you experience while sitting in meditation is intermittent and excruciating. Some people see it for what it is and are determined not to take their legs down. The black matter will then be eliminated and transformed into the white matter, and it will in turn be evolved into gong. Practitioners can’t possibly pay for all of their karma through sitting in meditation and doing the exercises. They also need to improve their character and their awakening capacity, and go through some ordeals. What’s important is that we be compassionate. Your compassion emerges quickly in our Falun Gong. Many people find that tears start to fall for no reason while they meditate. Whatever they think of, they feel grief. Whoever they look at, they see suffering. That is actually the heart of great compassion emerging. Your nature, your true self, will start to connect with the nature of the universe: Zhen, Shan, Ren. When your compassionate nature emerges, you will do things with much kindness (shan). From your inner heart to your outer appearance, everyone will be able to see that you are really kind. At that point no one will mistreat you anymore. If someone were to treat you unfairly then, your heart of great compassion would take effect and you wouldn’t do the same to him in return. That is a type of power, a power that makes you different from everyday people.
When you encounter a tribulation, that great compassion will help you overcome it. At the same time, my Law Bodies will look after you and protect your life, but you will still have to go through the ordeal. For example, when I was giving a class in Taiyuan City there was an older couple that came to attend my class. They were hurrying when they crossed the street, and when they got to the middle of the road a car came speeding along. It knocked the woman right down and dragged her along for more than ten meters before she finally fell in the middle of the street. The car couldn’t stop for another twenty meters. The driver got out of the car and said some rude things, and the passengers sitting in the car said some bad things too. At that moment the woman remembered what I had said, and she didn’t say a word. After she got up, she said, “It’s fine. I’m not hurt.” She then went into the auditorium with her husband. Had she said at that moment, “Oh, it hurts here, it hurts there… You’d better take me to the hospital,” things would have turned out really badly. But she didn’t say that. The woman said to me: “Shifu, I know what that was all about. It was helping me pay for my karma!” A huge disaster was averted and a big chunk of karma removed. As you can imagine, she had really high character and her awakening capacity was excellent. She was of that age, the car was traveling that fast, and she was dragged that far before finally hitting the ground hard—and yet she got up having a right mind.
Sometimes when calamity befalls us it seems just huge—it’s so overwhelming there seems to be no way out. And perhaps it stays around for quite a few days. But then a path suddenly appears, and things start to take a big turn. In fact, that is because we improved our character and the problem naturally disappeared.
In order to improve your realm of mind, you have to be tested by tribulations in this world. If your character has really improved and become solid, karma will be eliminated during the process, the tribulation will pass, and your gong will develop. Don’t be discouraged if during tests of character you fail to guard your character and you did something wrong. Take the initiative to find what you learned from that lesson, to discover where you fell short, and to put effort into cultivating Zhen, Shan, Ren. The next problem that will test your character might come shortly thereafter. As your gong potency develops, the tribulations that test your character might come on even stronger. Your gong potency will grow a bit higher with every test you pass. The development of your gong will come to a standstill if you aren’t able to pass a test. Small tests lead to small improvements; big tests lead to big improvements. I hope that every practitioner is ready to endure great hardship, and will have the determination and willpower to embrace the hardship. You won’t acquire real gong without expending effort. No principle exists that will let you gain gong comfortably without any hardship or effort. You will never cultivate to become an enlightened being if your character doesn’t become fundamentally better and you still harbor personal attachments!
“Provoking demons” refers to the manifestations or visions that appear during the cultivation process and that interfere with a person’s practice. Their goal is to prevent practitioners from cultivating to high levels. In other words, demons come to collect debts.
The problem of provoking demons is sure to arise when a person is cultivating to high levels. There is no chance a person hasn’t done wrong in his lifetime, just as his ancestors must have done wrong in their lives, and those bad acts are called karma. Whether a person’s underlying base is good or not reflects how much karma the person carries on him or her. Even if he or she is a rather good person it’s still impossible to be free of karma. A person can’t sense it if he or she does not cultivate. Demons won’t care if your practice is only for healing and improving health. But they will bother you once you begin cultivating to high levels. They can disturb you by using many different methods, the goal of which is to prevent you from cultivating to high levels and to make you fail in your practice. Demons manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Some manifest themselves as daily life happenings, while others take the form of phenomena from other dimensions. They command things to interfere with you every time you sit down to meditate, and they make it impossible for you to still your mind or, as a result, cultivate to high levels. Sometimes the moment you sit down to meditate you begin to doze off or have all kinds of thoughts going through your mind, and it makes it so that you can’t enter into a cultivation state. At other times, the moment you start to perform the exercises, your once-quiet surroundings suddenly are filled with the noise of footsteps, doors slamming, cars honking, telephones ringing, and a variety of other forms of disturbance, making it impossible for you to enter into a state of mental calm.
Lust is another kind of demon. A beautiful woman or handsome man might appear in front of a practitioner during his or her meditation or dreams. That person will entice you and seduce you by making stimulating gestures that trigger your lust for an attractive mate. If you can’t overcome it the first time, it will gradually escalate and continue to seduce you until you abandon the idea of cultivating to a high level. It’s a hard test to pass, and a fair number of practitioners have failed because of it. I hope you are mentally prepared for it. If someone doesn’t guard his or her character well enough and fails the first time, he or she should truly learn a lesson from it. It will come again and interfere with you many times until you can truly guard your character and completely break that attachment. This is a big hurdle that you must overcome, or you won’t be able to attain the Dao and cultivate to success.
There is another form of demon that also presents itself as you do the exercises or in your dreams. Some people suddenly see some horrifying faces that are ugly and real, or figures that are holding knives and threatening to kill. But all they can do is scare people. If they really were to stab, they couldn’t touch the practitioner since the master has installed a protective shield around the practitioner’s body to prevent harm. They try to scare the person off so that he or she will stop cultivating. These only appear at a certain level or during a certain period of time and will pass quickly, like in a few days, a week, or a few weeks. It all depends on how high your character is and how you treat this matter.
“Underlying base” refers to the white matter a person brings along at birth. It is, in fact, virtue—a tangible form of matter. The more of this matter you bring with you, the better your underlying base. People with a good underlying base more easily return to their true selves and become enlightened, as their thinking is unimpeded. Once they hear about learning qigong or about things related to cultivation, they immediately get interested and want to learn. They can connect with the universe. It’s exactly as Lao-zi said: “When the highest type of men hear the Dao, with diligence they will practice it. When average men hear the Dao, it seems some is kept and some is lost. When the lowest type of men hear the Dao, they laugh at it heartily. If they didn’t laugh at it, it wouldn’t be the Dao.” Those people who can easily return to their true selves and become enlightened are wise people. In contrast, a person with a lot of the black matter and an inferior underlying base has a barrier formed outside of his body that makes it impossible for him to accept good things. The black matter will make him doubt good things when he encounters them. In fact, that is one of the roles karma plays.
Any talk of underlying base has to include the topic of awakening capacity. When we talk about awakening, or enlightening, some people think that being awakened or enlightened is equivalent to being smart. A “smart” or “cunning” person, as everyday people think of it, is actually far away from the cultivation we are talking about. Those types of “smart” people usually have a hard time achieving Enlightenment. They’re only concerned with the practical, material world, so as to avoid being taken advantage of and or losing out on something. Most notably, a few individuals out there who regard themselves as knowledgeable, educated, and smart, think that cultivation is the stuff of fairy tales. They can’t imagine a person cultivating himself and improving his character. They think practitioners are foolish and backward. The awakening or enlightenment that we speak of doesn’t refer to being smart but to the return of human nature to its true nature, to being a good person, and to conforming to the nature of the universe. A person’s underlying base determines his or her awakening capacity. If someone’s underlying base is good, his or her awakening capacity tends to be good as well. Underlying base does determine awakening capacity, but, awakening capacity isn’t entirely dictated by underlying base. No matter how good your underlying base is, if your understanding is poor and you fail to enlighten to things, it still won’t do. The underlying base of some individuals isn’t so good, but they are able to enlighten to things, and so they can cultivate to a high level. Since we offer salvation to all sentient beings, we look at people’s awakening capacity, not their underlying base. Even though you may have many negative things, as long as you are determined to go up in cultivation, that thought of yours is an upright one. With that thought you only need to forgo a little more than others and your cultivation will ultimately meet with success.
The bodies of practitioners are purified. They won’t contract illness after gong develops, for the presence of that high-energy matter in the body prevents black matter from being present. Yet some people just refuse to believe it and always think they’re sick. They complain, “Why am I feeling so bad?” We say that what you have gained is gong. How could you not have discomfort when you have gained such a good thing? In cultivation you have to give things up in exchange. In fact, all of the discomfort is on the surface and has no impact whatsoever on your body. It appears to be sickness but it’s definitely not. It all depends on whether you can see it in an enlightened way. Practitioners must not only manage to bear the worst suffering, but also have great awakening capacity. Some people don’t even try to comprehend things when they are confronted with troubles. They still treat themselves as everyday people despite my teaching them at a high level and showing them how to measure themselves with higher criteria. They can’t even bring themselves to cultivate as true practitioners. Nor can they believe that they will reach a high level.
The enlightenment discussed at high levels refers to becoming enlightened, and it is categorized into Sudden Enlightenment and Gradual Enlightenment. Sudden Enlightenment refers to having the entire process of cultivation take place in a locked mode. At the last moment after you have completed the entire cultivation process and your character has reached a high level, all of your supernatural abilities will be unlocked at once, your Third Eye will instantly open to its highest level, and your mind will be able to communicate with high-level beings in other dimensions. You will instantly be able to see the reality of the entire universe and its different dimensions and unitary paradises, and you will then be able to communicate with them. And you will be able to use your great supernatural powers. The path of Sudden Enlightenment is the hardest to take. Throughout history only people with a superb underlying base have been selected to become its disciples; it has been passed on privately and individually. Average people would find it unbearable! The path I took was that of Sudden Enlightenment.
The things I’m imparting to you belong to the path of Gradual Enlightenment. Your abilities will develop in due time during your cultivation process. But the abilities that emerge will not necessarily be available for you to use, as it’s easy for you to commit wrongdoing when you haven’t raised your character to a certain level and still cannot handle yourself properly. You won’t be able to use these abilities for the time being, though they will eventually be made available to you. By cultivating you will gradually raise your level and come to understand the truth of this universe. Just as with Sudden Enlightenment, you will eventually reach Spiritual Perfection. The path of Gradual Enlightenment is a little easier and takes no risks. What’s tough about it is that you can see the entire cultivation process, so the demands you place upon yourself should be even stricter.
Some people can’t quiet their minds when they do qigong exercises, and so they search for a method. Some have asked me: “Shifu, why can’t I quiet my mind when I perform qigong exercises? Can you teach me a method or technique so that I can quiet my mind down when I meditate?” I’d ask, how could you quiet your mind?? You still couldn’t even if a deity were to come teach you a method. Why? The reason is that your own mind isn’t clear and still. Because you live amid this society, things such as emotions and desires, self-interest, personal things, and even the affairs of your friends and family come to occupy your mind too much and assume a high priority. How could you have a state of mental calm when meditating? Even if you intentionally suppress them they will still surface on their own.
Buddhism’s cultivation teaches “precept, concentration, wisdom.” Precepts are for letting go of the things that you are attached to. Some Buddhists adopt the approach of chanting a Buddha’s name, which requires concentrated chanting in order to achieve the state of “one thought replacing thousands of others.” Yet it’s not simply an approach, but a type of skill. You can try chanting if you don’t believe it. I can promise you that other things will arise in your mind when you use your mouth to chant a Buddha’s name. It was Tibetan Tantrism that first taught people how to chant a Buddha’s name; one had to chant a Buddha’s name hundreds of thousands of times each day for a week. They would chant until they got dizzy, and finally at some point nothing would be left in their minds. That one thought had replaced all others. It’s a type of skill that you might not be able to perform. There are some other methods that teach you how to focus your mind on your elixir field, how to do counting, how to fixate your eyes on objects, and so on. In actuality, none of those methods can quiet your mind. Practitioners have to attain a clear and still mind, discard their preoccupation with self-interest, and let go of the greed in their hearts.
Whether you can enter into a state of calm mind, into deep stillness (ding), is in fact a reflection of the abilities and level you have attained in cultivation. Being able to still your mind the moment you sit down is a sign of a high level. It’s all right if for the time being you can’t enter into stillness—you can slowly accomplish that through cultivation. Your character rises gradually, as does your gong. But your gong cannot develop unless you care little about self-interest and your own desires.
Practitioners should hold themselves to higher standards at all times. Practitioners are bothered regularly by all kinds of complicated social phenomena, lots of vulgar and unhealthy things, and a range of emotions and desires. The things that are encouraged on television, in the movies, and in literature teach you to become a stronger and more practical person among everyday people. But if you can’t transcend these things you will be far from a cultivator’s character and state of mind, and you will acquire less gong. Practitioners should have little or no involvement with vulgar and unhealthy things. They should turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to them, and be unaffected by people and things. I often say that the thoughts of everyday people cannot affect me. I won’t become happy when someone praises me, nor will I get upset when someone insults me. Even the things that occur among everyday people that might disturb one’s character most severely cannot affect me. Practitioners should take all personal gain lightly and not even care about it. Only then can your intention to become enlightened be considered mature. If you can be without strong pursuit of renown and personal gain, and even regard them as something trivial, then you won’t get frustrated or upset and your mind will always stay calm. Once you can let go of everything, your mind will naturally become clear and still.
I have taught you Dafa and all five exercises. I have adjusted your bodies and placed Law Wheels and energy mechanisms in them. My Law Bodies will protect you. All of what should be given to you has been given. During the class it’s all up to me. From this point on, it’s all up to you. As the saying goes, “A master leads you through the door, but it’s up to you to cultivate.” As long as you learn Dafa thoroughly, be attentive to and learn from what you experience, mind your character at every moment, cultivate diligently, endure the toughest hardships of all, and tolerate the insufferable, I believe you will surely succeed at cultivation.
The mind is the path to cultivating gong
Hardship is the ferry across the boundless sea of Dafa
20 (“laow-dzz”) An ancient figure popularly regarded as the founder of Daoism.
21 (“ah-cue”) A character in a well-known Chinese novel who is known for his weakness and foolishness.