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The Eighth Talk
 

Inedia*

I have been asked about the topic of inedia, or “living without food and drink.” There is such a thing, and it’s not unique to those leading the religious life or devotees of chi-gong. A good number of people throughout the world have experienced it, with some going years or even decades without food or drink, and have been just fine. Much has been said about the phenomenon, from it being an indicator of spiritual progress or purification to it being a part of advanced practice.

But it’s none of the above. Inedia is simply a special method of practice that’s adopted under certain circumstances. This takes some explaining. Many who renounced the world in ancient China did spiritual practice in secrecy or isolation; this was in the days before religious institutions had come about. They might have gone deep into the woods or have found a cave in which to practice, and would separate themselves from the world. And so having a source of food naturally posed a problem. Without inedia they wouldn’t have been able to carry out their practice, and would have faced death from starvation or dehydration. I still recall seeing caves used for these purposes when I was traveling eastward down the Yangtze River, heading from Chongqing to Wuhan to give a teaching; the caves were situated midway up the cliffs in the Three Gorges area. Many of China’s most famed mountains have similar caves. People would lower themselves into caves like these with a rope and then sever it, committing themselves to practicing inside. Death awaited them if they didn’t succeed at it. So it was only in the exceptional circumstance of having no food or water that the special approach of inedia was used.

There are many practices that have been passed down from those times and that contain an element of inedia, but there are many that don’t. The latter is the case for most practices that are now taught publicly. We believe that you should commit to one practice and not just do whatever suits your fancy. If you’re someone who thinks highly of inedia and are hoping to experience it, then you would do well to examine your motives. There could be a range of motives at work, from admiring it to being tempted by curiosity, to wanting it because it would give you a sense of achievement as well as a way to show off. Even if it were to be used in your practice, you would still have to consume your own energy to sustain yourself, which wouldn’t be worth it. And of course it’s not even necessary now in this era of organized religion; now there are people who will furnish you with food and drink if you are on a spiritual retreat or practicing in a monastery or convent. And nourishment is even less of a concern for those of us who practice in the regular world. There is simply no need for inedia then. And besides, people shouldn’t freely add it into their practice if it’s not part of it. But if you really want to experience it, then you might as well go ahead and look for a practice that includes it. To my knowledge, a person typically experiences inedia when he is being authentically guided by a teacher to a higher stage of practice and it is part of that practice’s heritage. But it would not be something shared with the public. Inedia usually happens when a disciple is somewhere secluded and being guided in secrecy.

With spiritual figures now teaching inedia to members of the general public, you might wonder whether anyone has succeeded at it. No one has in the end—none. But many have ended up in the hospital and at risk, from what I’ve seen. Hearing this might be confusing, as I just explained that inedia is for real. But you have to bear in mind that the human condition mustn’t be undermined or tampered with. Imagine if all of the health enthusiasts nationwide, or even just those in the city where you are from, no longer needed to eat or drink thanks to inedia. It would definitely make life easier! Nobody would need to go through the hassle of preparing meals anymore, and no one would have to labor in the fields; people would be able to just go about their business with no need for eating. But that would be wrong, as it would be changing the face of the world. It would never be allowed to happen. Nothing that upsets the world so dramatically is allowed.

Many people are put at risk when certain individuals teach inedia. Problems come up when they are set on experiencing it but still attached to food and many other things. Once they start inedia it’s going to be tough when they see tasty food that stirs up their appetite, but which they can’t eat. They will get anxious and want to eat. And they will feel starved if they don’t. Yet if they do try to eat, they will throw up, and find that nothing stays down. So it’s both frightening and unsettling. Many people have ended up hospitalized this way and really been at risk. I have had people come to me hoping that I would clean up these messes for them, but I am hesitant to get involved. Nobody would want to clean up the messes that certain teachers have recklessly made.

Another thing people should know is that the problems they run into with inedia are in fact of their own making. We do believe there is such a thing as inedia, but it’s by no means some kind of higher spiritual state that comes about at advanced stages of practice, or a marker of progress. It is merely a special method of practice that’s adopted under special circumstances, and it’s not something to be popularized. Yet many seek to experience it, and it’s even believed that there are different types of it, with it being classified into things like “full-on” versus “partial” inedia. And so you have people who will tell you that they consume fluids or fruit as part of it. But that doesn’t amount to true inedia, and over time those approaches surely won’t prove sustainable. Instances of true inedia have occurred when people who were deeply committed in their faith or practice settled into an isolated spot, like a mountain cave, and went without food and drink altogether.

 

Stealing Energy

Many people find the hearsay that surrounds energy practices so unsettling that they want nothing to do with them; they are scared away by the possibility of someone stealing their energy or of even losing their sanity. We might expect that more people would be practicing if it weren’t for all of the hearsay. Part of what has made things so confusing and murky is that there are teachers of energy practices who have poor character and who teach things like stealing people’s energy. But this shouldn’t be as frightening as it may sound. As we see it, the kind of energy they take, called chi, doesn’t amount to much, even if people call it fancy names like “primal energy.” Anyone who still has chi in his or her body is merely at the stage of practicing for health, and has yet to make real spiritual progress. The presence of chi indicates that the person has not reached a high degree of bodily purity, and he or she is sure to have sick energy. Those who steal chi from people are at the low level of chi in their practice, and anyone who really knows what they’re doing would never want to take impure energy from another person. The chi of people who don’t practice is cloudy and impure, as it turns out, and the only way for them to make their energy brighter and clearer and remedy things is by doing an energy practice like chi-gong. Once the energy becomes clearer, it will be evident that there are large, dense masses of dark energy in their bodies wherever they have a disease or ailment. Practicing on a regular basis will gradually turn one’s chi to a subtle shade of yellow as the body becomes genuinely healthy and strong. And with further practice, there will no longer be chi in the body and one will become truly free of disease, and experience what’s referred to as a “milk-white” body.

What this suggests is that you won’t be free from disease if you still have chi. Chi serves no purpose for us since we do true spiritual practice and need to purify our bodies. It would make no sense to try and take impure chi from people. Whoever wants chi is at the level of chi, and wouldn’t have the capacity to tell good energy from bad. Nor would they have the power to remove the true primal energy that is present in your body’s energy center, as only someone with exceptional powers could remove that. So if someone wants to steal any impure chi that’s in your body, you might as well let them. There’s nothing great about it. I used to find, back when I was practicing, that chi really wasn’t anything special, as I could fill my abdomen with it at just the thought of it.

Daoist practice often incorporates things like holding special stances, while Buddhist ones often use the hands to channel chi into the head. There’s enough chi in the universe for someone to spend all day channeling it in, and that’s possible to do once the acupoints known as the Palace of Toil and Hundred Convergences have been opened. A person can use his hands to channel chi if he focuses his mind on the body’s energy center, and in no time he will be filled with it. But that still doesn’t accomplish anything, no matter how much is stored up. Nor do I see anything impressive about accounts of people who harness so much chi that they can feel their fingertips or bodies swelling with it—even if others might be wowed when they sense chi emanating from them, since it’s thought to be a sign of achievement. But these people don’t have any higher energy. Their practice is still on the order of ordinary energy, and no amount of that is a substitute for the higher kind known as gong. The goal of practicing with chi is to purify the body by replacing the chi inside of it with better chi from outside of it. So simply storing it up doesn’t achieve much. At the chi level of practice a person has yet to undergo fundamental changes, so no higher energy is involved. A person can steal as much chi as he’d like and still amount to nothing more than a big bag of energy. So it’s meaningless. The chi isn’t being changed into high-energy matter, after all. This means that you can set your fears aside and not worry about energy being stolen from you.

Bear in mind that as long as your body has chi in it there will be sickness present. So if someone steals chi from you, he will be taking sick energy from you in the process. He has no way to tell the two apart, since whoever wants chi is operating at the level of ordinary energy and isn’t all that powerful; he surely wouldn’t be interested in chi if he had higher energy. A simple experiment would bear this out, if there’s any doubt. What you would do, would be to simply allow whoever really wants to steal your chi to do so. You could have him stand behind you and steal your chi, while you visualize your body being filled with chi from the universe. This would turn out to be great for you, as the other person would only accelerate your body’s purification and save you the trouble of having to move your arms up and down to flush the chi through your body. And since it would be bad intentions that drove him to take your chi, and he would be stealing from you—even if he was stealing something bad—it would cost him virtue, which would go to you. Nobody would think of doing that if they knew what was going on: that they were giving you virtue in another dimension while taking your chi, and forming an exchange loop between the two of you, as it were.

The faces of those who steal chi tend to look unwell. This is only to be expected, given the poor physical health of their targets, who are typically out in public doing practices like chi-gong or tai-chi to try to get healthy. Those who steal chi don’t understand that sick energy needs to be expelled from the body for the body to become healthy. What they are doing is filling their bodies with all manner of unhealthy chi that they’ve stolen, and it turns even the insides of their bodies terribly dark. And if they squander their virtue enough, they will also look dark on the outside. Their karmic field expands while their virtue shrinks, turning their bodies dark, inside and out. People wouldn’t steal chi if they realized what they were doing to their bodies or that they were foolishly giving away their virtue.

Some of the claims that are made about chi come across as a bit incredible. For example, it’s been claimed that chi can travel through walls and be projected from here all the way to America. But even if certain individuals, who are sensitive, can tell that energy did travel to them from afar, it doesn’t mean much. The energy would have traveled in another dimension, not this one, and there may have been no barriers along the way for it to go through. And by the same token, this explains why sometimes people don’t sense anything when chi is sent to them across an open expanse: it’s because a barrier was present in another dimension, in that case. So this suggests that the penetrative power of regular energy isn’t as great as people sometimes claim.

Higher energy is what’s really powerful. Those who can project higher energy no longer have chi; what they emit is a type of high-energy matter. When seen through the inner eye it appears as light. It gives a sensation of heat when projected onto the body and can keep a regular person’s illnesses at bay. It can’t fully heal people, however, in the absence of higher powers, as every ailment requires a specific power to heal it; higher energy by itself can only suppress illness. But each particle of it assumes the image of its host on a deeper, micro level. It is alive, has its own intelligence, and can tell one person from another since it is a form of higher energy. So if someone wanted to steal it from you, that would never work out; the energy belongs to you and so it wouldn’t cooperate. And besides, a true student of spiritual practice who has higher energy will have a teacher looking after him, and no teacher would ever let anyone take energy like that.

 

Amassing Chi

Stealing chi and amassing chi aren’t topics I would normally go into when teaching an advanced practice. I’m discussing them because I want to help restore the reputation of energy practices and do something good by calling out these unhealthy things, which nobody has done. My hope is that by exposing them, people will stop doing these awful things and those who are uninformed won’t be scared away by it all.

Chi is abundant in the universe, be it the “positive (yang) chi” of the heavens, as it’s called, or the “negative (yin) chi” of the earth. People are every bit a part of this universe and are welcome to take in its chi as they please. Yet some people don’t do that, and instead are always teaching people to take chi from plants, and sharing their supposed findings, like how the poplar tree’s chi is white and the pine tree’s is yellow, or how and when to take it from them. Someone once even boasted that the tree in front of his house died after he drew chi from it. But how is that something to brag about? Wasn’t that something bad that he did? As we’ve established, in true practice you want positive things, and to become one with the universe’s qualities. Then it follows logically that you should try to be kind and compassionate (shan). You have to make a practice of this if you want to become one with the universe’s qualities of zhen, shan, ren. And this is why people who often do wrongful things never develop higher energy or get their health back. So what that person did is the exact opposite of what a practitioner should do. It amounts to taking life and doing wrong, after all. It might seem that I’m stretching credibility to say that felling trees or taking a creature’s life counts as killing, but that is the truth. Just consider the Buddhist teachings on reincarnation, which hold that a plant could well be the reincarnation of a human being. While we won’t go into such things here, we can say that trees are alive and even endowed with advanced cognitive abilities.

A telling case is the work of an American polygraph researcher who instructs people in the use of lie detectors. One day he was struck by an impulse to connect the two electrodes of a polygraph to a dracaena plant. He did so and proceeded to water the plant. Afterwards he witnessed the lie detector’s needle rapidly drawing a curve—exactly the type of curve seen when the human brain is momentarily excited or happy. He was amazed, thinking, “Could it be that plants have feelings?” He practically wanted to shout in the streets, “Plants have feelings!” The episode inspired him to do a lot of research in this area and many experiments.

On one occasion he placed two plants next to each other and had a student of his stomp on one of them and destroy it, right in front of the other one. He then removed the surviving plant to another room and connected a lie detector to it. Next he had five students enter the room in succession. There was no reaction from the plant as the first four students entered the room. But when the fifth student—the one who had crushed the plant—entered, before he even got close to the surviving plant, the needle of the lie detector immediately and rapidly drew a line that in humans is specifically associated with fright. It was a great surprise to the researcher and raised profound questions, since it had always been held that only advanced life forms like human beings are capable of identifying things and making distinctions, due to their sensory organs, and are capable of analysis on account of their brains. People at one time were even accused of pseudoscience for claiming that plants have senses, thoughts and feelings, or can identify people. And yet here was a plant recognizing people and telling them apart, which would suggest that plants do have senses. And there have been other discoveries, still more incredible, that imply that plants even surpass modern man in some ways.

One day this same researcher connected a lie detector to a plant and wondered to himself, “What kind of experiment should I do? I know, I’ll burn its leaves and see what its reaction is.” With just that thought, before doing any actual burning, the needle of the lie detector started to rapidly draw a curve—the kind of curve seen in human beings when they are in distress and crying for help. This type of supersensory ability, known as “telepathy,” is a latent human function and innate ability, only it has been lost with humanity’s decline. It’s now something that can only be had when a person recovers his or her original purity through spiritual practice. And yet here was a plant with these powers. While it might sound far-fetched, findings like this have been borne out by real and actual scientific experiments. The person I was describing carried out a range of experiments, including some that involved telekinesis. When his findings were published they caused quite a stir internationally.

Botanists around the world as well as in our country have since taken up research in this area, and such ideas are no longer dismissed as pseudoscience. As I’ve indicated, the things that man has discovered, observed, and invented are grounds enough to warrant rewriting the established scientific literature. But old beliefs die hard, and so there is reluctance about acknowledging such things, and nobody has attempted to systematically piece them all together.

I once saw a grove of dead pine trees in a park in northeastern China. A group of people had been practicing some kind of chi-gong there, where they would roll about on the ground and then use their hands and feet to take in chi, and in a short span of time the grove of pines had withered and died. It could hardly be said that they were doing something good. A real practitioner would consider that to be killing. If you are a practitioner, you have to change your bad traits and become a good person who strives to live by the qualities of the universe. Even in the eyes of a non-practitioner what those people were doing in the park wouldn’t be considered good. It was damaging to public property, undermining the city’s greening efforts, and ecologically harmful. It wasn’t good by any measure. They could have just helped themselves to the universe’s abundant supply of chi instead. When some people reach a certain stage in their practice, they may have the power to take in the chi of a large swath of shrubs and trees with just a swipe of the hand. But all they are getting is chi, and no amount of it will do them much good. Some people go to parks for the sole purpose of amassing chi, and figure that they don’t need to do any systematic energy exercises, since they can get chi by waving their arms about as they stroll around. They are content to just get chi since they mistake it for something it’s not, i.e., higher energy. You might sense cold emanating from the body of someone who does that, if you go near him or her, since the chi of plants that they’ve stored up is negatively charged (yin) by nature. Those who do energy practices normally seek to balance negative (yin) and positive (yang) energies in the body, whereas the people I’ve been describing feel good about what they are doing even when [all of that tree energy] makes them smell like pine oil.

 

The One Who Practices Achieves

There is an extremely important feature of spiritual practice that I want to reveal: that the one who actually does the practice is the one who gains the achievement. And this is another regard in which Falun Dafa is unique, among several. One, as I’ve mentioned, is that our practice has managed to reduce the time that you need to do exercises for, and alleviated any possible time shortage; this is done by having energy mechanisms work upon you. Another is that our physical bodies undergo dramatic changes, since ours is an authentic practice of mind and body. Then there is Falun Dafa’s greatest feature, which only now, for the first time ever, am I disclosing. I hadn’t revealed it before because it involves something major and that goes far back in history, and has significant bearing on those engaged in the religious life or a spiritual discipline. Nobody has ever disclosed it, nor were they allowed to. Yet I have no alternative but to tell you.

Some of my students feel that with almost every sentence I am revealing the great mysteries of life for them. However, it’s not that I am freely divulging things. What we are doing is saving people from this world by guiding them to greater spiritual heights, and that entails taking responsibility for them, which I can do. Haphazardly disclosing life’s mysteries would, of course, amount to divulging them. What I want to make clear today is this: the spiritual achievement goes to the one who practices. Yet in my observation, all methods of practice now known to us, whatever tradition or lineage they may be, have historically been working on the secondary soul (the subconscious mind), and the fruits of spiritual labor have always gone to it alone. By contrast, what we call the “true” soul refers to your conscious mind—the mind through which you are aware of what you are thinking or doing. And it is this mind that truly represents you. But what a secondary soul does is always unknown to you. And although it was born at the same time as you, has the same name, presides over the same body, and looks like you, it is not you in a strict sense.

It is a law of the universe that whoever bears the costs of effort should reap the rewards, and this holds true in spiritual practice. For centuries it has been taught that during meditation or spiritual contemplation one should set aside all awareness of one’s surroundings, blunting all thought, and becoming altogether lost in a state of trance or rapture. Three hours pass for some people in what seems like no time as they meditate or engage in contemplation, and they might be admired for their focus. But nobody, themselves included, has ever realized that they were not the ones in fact practicing. A telling example is that of Daoist disciplines, where it has been taught that the “knowing soul” is to die and the “original soul” be born. But what they refer to as the “knowing soul” is what we call the “true soul,” and what they mean by “original soul” we call the “secondary soul.” Were your knowing soul really to die you would in fact perish, for your true soul would be dead. Someone from another practice once told me that when he practices he lets his mind go, to the extent that even the family members at hand aren’t familiar to him. Another person told me that he doesn’t have to practice hard like others do, at dawn or late into the night, since all he has to do is recline on the couch when he gets home and go out of his body to practice, and he can just watch himself practicing as he lies there. I felt sorry for him to some extent.

But why would others save the secondary soul? The Daoist saint Lü Dongbin once stated, “I’d rather save an animal’s soul than a human being’s.” And it really is hard to get people to spiritually awaken, for the average person is under the spell of ignorance here and finds it hard not to be selfish. Believe it or not, some people will lapse into worldly ways as soon as this class is over and they are back out in the world, and they might not put up with it if someone provokes them or pushes their buttons. And with time they will no longer regard themselves as practitioners. Many spiritual figures in the past realized that man is hard to save, for his true soul is terribly lost. Some people do have good discernment, though, and will recognize the wisdom in what someone may say. And yet others, no matter how you explain spiritual things to them, still disbelieve and think you are making things up. People like that lapse into their old ways once they are back in an ordinary setting after these classes, despite our best efforts to get them to work on their character. Worldly things seem very much real, tangible, and attainable to them, and they can’t pass them up. So they have a hard time following my teachings, even though they find them agreeable. The true soul is really so hard to save as compared to the secondary soul, which can perceive other dimensions. This has led people to conclude that there is little point in trying to save a person’s true soul when, after all, the secondary soul shares in the person’s identity and so the outcome would appear to be the same. It wouldn’t seem to matter which one the spiritual achievement goes to, as long as one of the souls gets it, since that would mean you are getting it.

Let me describe more specifically how past approaches to practice work. Someone with clairvoyant powers might see something like the following. When he meditates and enters into a state of rapture or trance, he may see an identical version of himself leave his body at that moment. If he tries to make out which of the two is really him, he will sense that it’s the one who remains seated in place. After exiting the body, the other version of him is guided to practice in a dimension conjured up by his master. That dimension may take the form of a bygone society, contemporary society, or the society of a parallel world. There, in what amounts to an hour or two a day here, he is guided in practice and endures a great deal of hardship. The person here then comes out of trance when the other version of him finishes and comes back. This is as much as those with visionary powers have been allowed to know.

It is even sadder for those who can’t perceive what is happening. When they regain awareness after perhaps two hours lost in trance or rapture, they will know nothing of what happened. There are also some who sleep for two or three hours as a means of practice, turning everything over to another. These are approaches that involve incremental practice, with meditation or contemplation being done for a certain length of time each day. There are also approaches where everything is completed in one stretch. For instance, there is the case of Bodhidharma, who meditated facing a wall for nine years, as you may know. And there have been many monks who sat for decades on end, with the longest span recorded being over ninety years; others have sat even longer. They would remain there, seated and still, even as dust formed into a thick layer on their eyelids or grass grew upon their bodies. Certain Daoist practices utilize these methods, as well. Some Mystical Way practices are notable for practicing via sleep, with meditation sessions that last for decades without the person waking even once. But who is it that practiced in these cases, then? The person’s secondary soul. Those with the power to see things observe that [during the person’s long-term meditation] a master is guiding his secondary soul to practice. The master instructs it to practice in earnest and to wait for his return, and then departs and remains away until it works off the large karmic debts that it may have incurred and that the master can’t fully absolve it of.

This sort of master has to go about things in the following way, even though he is well aware of what will happen upon his departure. He leaves, and then fiends come along and try to scare the secondary soul, or morph into attractive women who try to seduce it, among other things. But they find that it really doesn’t respond to their advances since spiritual practice comes rather easily to a secondary soul, as it can see through such ruses. The fiends then grow enraged and vengefully seek to kill it. And they may do just that—end its life. But once it dies, its karmic debts are paid off. So the soul is released and emerges like a wisp of smoke, and wafts about. It then reincarnates, perhaps into a poverty-stricken household, where it has a hard life. Then, when it comes of age and is old enough to understand things, its master comes again, though he likely isn’t recognizable at first. The master then uses his powers to unblock the part of the secondary soul’s memory that has been sealed off. This allows the soul to recall the past and recognize the master. The master then lets it know that the time is ripe for practice. And so finally, after many years, the master teaches the secondary soul.

Afterwards, the master might inform the secondary soul that it still has many attachments to remove and that it should set off on a period of roaming. There is a lot of hardship involved in roaming about, since it means that one must wander about the world and beg for food, and one might experience ridicule, verbal abuse, or mistreatment from all sorts of people. Anything can happen. But the secondary soul will conduct itself as a practitioner at all times, and handle its interactions with others well, being mindful of and perfecting its character, and never falling for the many worldly temptations it encounters. Only after many years of wandering about does it then return home. Its master may say that it has gained enlightenment and been spiritually perfected, and that now is a good time to go back [to the physical body it began from] and prepare for its final departure, since its practice has been completed; he will tell it to settle any remaining affairs it may have back in the human world. And so the secondary soul returns after years of being away. Once it does, the true soul of the person in this world comes out of its hypnotic state or rouses from its slumber.

Yet the person seated there is not the one who engaged in practice, but rather, it is his secondary soul that did; and so the achievement, the higher energy, goes to the secondary soul. The true soul did go through a lot, however. He spent what would have been his prime of life just sitting there, after all, and much of his life in this world had passed him by. And so the person is compensated accordingly. After he comes out of his hypnotic state he will detect that he now has higher energy and paranormal powers, and he will find that he can do healings or whatever else he may attempt. But it’s because his secondary soul is granting his wishes—in deference to his true soul, which is in charge of the body and has the say. The reason it grants his wishes is because this person sat there for so many years that his life has passed by. But when this person eventually dies, each goes their own way; the secondary soul leaves him. What Buddhist teachings would say is that someone in this scenario is still subject to reincarnation. Yet in cases like this one, the person’s body did give rise to a higher being, which is a most meritorious act. And so the person might enjoy great wealth or a position of power and influence in his next life. And this is the only way it can be handled. So the person’s spiritual efforts are ultimately in vain.

We had to go through a great deal to get consent to disclose this. I have revealed a secret that stood for ages, what was regarded as the secret of secrets and never to be divulged under any circumstances; I have laid bare the basis of countless spiritual practices throughout the ages. Now you know why I said that the matter reaches far back into the past. You would be hard pressed to name one school or discipline that hasn’t taken that approach. And yet it’s tragic, isn’t it?—after all of that effort practicing, the person has no higher energy, or real achievement, to show for it. And yet there is no one to blame. The human condition is one of ignorance and there is much that people fail to discern, even if hints are given. Higher teachings will seem like a stretch to people, yet more basic and accessible ones won’t take them very far. There are even those who still hope for me to treat their ailments, in spite of all I have said. I am really at a loss for what to say to them. We are teaching spiritual practice and can only watch over those who seek to transcend this human world.

With our practice the achievement belongs to your true soul, and it is this soul that will gain higher energy for it. But this isn’t something that comes about simply by deciding so. Certain conditions have to be met. Remember that our practice doesn’t try to avoid the secular world, nor should you try to avoid or escape from its challenges. Rather, you are to practice while part of this world and stay alert to all of its pitfalls around you; to knowingly get shortchanged and be indifferent to it; to not fight with people when they try to take what’s yours; to keep your composure when people do things that are trying; and to, in this adverse setting, strengthen your will, perfect your character, and rise above all of the bad and worldly tendencies of thought that you are exposed to.

Then it is surely you, the true soul, that is consciously enduring unpleasant things, making sacrifices, and letting go of worldly things. So the spiritual achievement should go to you, as whoever pays the costs should reap the rewards. And that is why our practice doesn’t involve secluding oneself from this complicated, secular world. We want to practice amidst it and all of its problems, for we want to be the ones who gain spiritually. Even when one day there are monastics counted among us, they will still need to go out and roam about the secular world.

I have been asked why other energy practices that are done in the world don’t also result in the true soul gaining spiritual achievement. The reason is, those practices are just about health or wellness. Authentic energy practices that lead to higher realms have traditionally been taught to only a single disciple, and not the general public. They will have taken their students elsewhere to practice, and will teach them in seclusion. In all these years nobody has taught something like this to the broader public. We do so because this is exactly the way of our practice and how we develop higher energy, our spiritual achievement. We take the additional step of planting numerous things onto your true soul so that it will be you who is really gaining the spiritual fruits. I would venture to say I’ve done something unprecedented by making this practice as accessible as we have. And I am not exaggerating, as you might have realized. While some of my words might, understandably, sound grandiose, the truth is that I generally reveal just a fraction of what I know. What I’ve disclosed is just a small part of all that could be said. I can’t reveal to you any higher or profounder facets of Dafa at this time, as they would be far too advanced.

By taking this approach to practice, our discipline enables the real you to have spiritual achievement, which comes in the form of higher energy. This is truly a first. You wouldn’t find anything like it in all of history. So while this has the advantage of the fruits of spiritual labor going to you, it also comes with its challenges. It is terribly hard to rise above a complicated, worldly setting like this that tests your character with interpersonal things. The challenging part is that you have to remain unmoved when you knowingly get taken advantage of by people, when things that mean a lot to you are on the line, when people around you are contending over things, or when those you love suffer. You have to learn to see these things in the proper light. Being a practitioner is by no means easy. Someone once said to me, “Mr. Li, doesn’t it suffice to just be a good person in the usual sense? It’s hard to imagine going much further than that with the practice.” I was really saddened to hear that, and didn’t reply. Character varies widely from person to person, and each will go as far as his ability to believe takes him. But what faith you do have will be rewarded.

The Daoist sage Lao-tzu once wrote that, “The Way may be spoken of, but it is not a common way.” The Way wouldn’t be precious if it were something so readily available it could be found in the streets, and anyone could take it up and succeed at it. In our discipline you are the one who gains spiritually by working through challenges, and it follows that we should fit in with ordinary people as best we can. So you needn’t be poor or impoverished. Your task, rather, is to develop your character while being part of the material world. In this sense the practice is convenient—the most accommodating of any, in fact—in the sense that you can fully do the practice among regular people and needn’t become a monastic. But this is also what’s most difficult about it, in that our practice is done in the terribly complicated secular world. Yet at the same time this is our practice’s greatest virtue, for this approach enables the true you to gain the achievement. And that is the most crucial aspect of our practice, as I disclosed today. When your true soul gains this spiritual achievement, this higher energy, so too will your secondary soul, naturally enough. It only follows that it, too, will get higher energy when all of the other aspects of your body, as well as its intelligent beings and cells, are developing it. However, at no point will the secondary soul’s energy be as high as yours, for you are the principal being while it is but a guardian being.

Having said this much, there is something I should share. There are a number of people engaged in spiritual practice who have always longed to progress to higher stages. They have traveled far and wide and spent a great deal, hoping that a renowned teacher might show them the way, but to no avail; a person’s reputation is no guarantee of true insight, after all. So their journeys were for naught, despite all the effort and costs entailed. Here we have a wonderful practice to offer, and we have made it available to all, virtually handing it to you, right at your door. The only question now is whether you can make good on it. Those who can will have spiritual progress in store for them, while those who cannot would do well to set aside the thought of doing spiritual practice; only deceptive entities would teach you hereafter, and so I would discourage you from trying. If I can’t save you, no one can. The truth is that it’s now exceedingly hard to find an authentic teacher of a true practice who will instruct you, for no one is doing that anymore. Even higher realms are now in the latter days, or “end time,” and the beings there can hardly concern themselves with regular people. Ours is not only the most accessible practice, but is also attuned precisely to the qualities that underlie all of existence. It allows you to make the fastest and most efficient progress, since the practice is all about your heart and mind.

 

The Cosmic Orbit

I would like to explain what in Daoist practice is known as “the cosmic orbit,” both its “greater” and “lesser” forms. Normally the term is used by people to refer to the linking up of two of the body’s energy channels—the front side’s Conception Vessel and the back side’s Governing Vessel. This kind of cosmic orbit is quite shallow, however, and doesn’t amount to much; it only serves to bring health benefits. It is what’s called a “lesser” cosmic orbit. There is another form of cosmic orbit that’s considered neither lesser nor greater, which occurs when one practices meditation. It begins from inside the body by going through the Niwan Palace and then proceeds downwards, traveling internally to the energy center, where it passes through and then proceeds upwards again. It is an interior circuit and a true cosmic orbit that forms through focused meditation. Once formed, this circuit becomes a powerful energy current that drives into motion all of the body’s energy channels. Daoist practices utilize cosmic orbits, while Buddhist ones normally don’t. You might be curious what approach Buddhist ones use, then. The Buddha didn’t mention a higher energy like gong during his teachings, but Buddhist practices do have their ways of transforming the body through spiritual practice. In these practices there is an energy conduit that runs from the fully opened Hundred Convergences acupoint, at the crown of the head, downwards in a spiral-like pattern and that ultimately activates all of the body’s channels.

Esoteric Buddhism achieves this through what is called a “central conduit.” Some may question how it’s possible for them to have this conduit, since it is not something normally found in a person’s body. So let’s take a look at how they develop one. The body’s energy channels number over ten thousand when all are taken into account, and they crisscross just like blood vessels and even exceed their number. While blood vessels don’t run between internal organs, energy channels do. A web of channels stretches throughout the body from the crown of the head on down, crisscrossing horizontally and vertically. When the channels first begin to merge [in these Buddhist practices], they won’t have formed a straight conduit yet, and so it might take work to push energy through them. With time they gradually widen and merge to form a straight vertical conduit. This conduit then serves as an axis upon which the chakras of the body rotate, with the multiple horizontal chakras that run through one’s body being driven by the mind. And the purpose of this is to fully open up all of the body’s channels.

Falun Dafa doesn’t opt for the approach of using one conduit to drive open all of the body’s channels. Our practice dictates that right from the outset all the channels be connected and circulate simultaneously. We begin our practice from an advanced stage and bypass more rudimentary ones. With others’ approach of using one conduit to drive open all of the body’s channels, even an entire lifetime might not be enough to fully open them up; it could take decades of difficult practice to achieve. A number of practices thus hold that one lifetime isn’t enough to finish the spiritual journey. And this is why many of the more advanced and demanding of practices try to extend one’s life, and many followers experience this; the person’s life is extended so that he may continue his practice for a great length of time.

“Lesser” cosmic orbits are basically for health, while “greater” ones are for true spiritual practice. The greater cosmic orbit discussed in Daoist practice doesn’t resemble ours, which comes on with vigor and connects all of the body’s channels so that they circulate together. Theirs involves the cycling of energy through several channels, such as the three yin and three yang ones, which loop around the body by running along the hands and down to the soles of the feet, and then pass from the legs up to the hair atop the head. For them, that counts as cycling energy through the greater cosmic orbit. Some chi-gong masters don’t offer instruction in the greater cosmic orbit, since higher practice ensues once it has been formed; they limit their instruction to the realm of health. Then there are some who do try to teach it, but don’t bestow followers with any of what’s needed for it. These students have no chance of success since they aren’t given what they need; they might try to use their own powers of mind to form it, but it’s not possible. That’s no more likely to make it happen than, say, going to the gym would. Remember that you only need to do your part practicing, and your teacher will handle the rest. The greater cosmic orbit can only start to form after all of the necessary internal mechanisms for it have been planted in you.

Daoists have always regarded the human body as a microcosm, and hold that this inner universe is as large as the outer one and faithfully reflects it. The idea might seem a bit of a stretch and hard to fathom; there doesn’t seem to be grounds for likening the human body to the universe, given the latter’s size. But there is a logic to it that can be explained. Contemporary physics is engaged in research on the composition of matter, and it has progressed from molecules to atoms, electrons, protons, and quarks, reaching all the way to neutrinos. At these levels microscopy doesn’t have the power to see what exists or know what sizes of particles lie yet further below; researchers don’t know what exists at even more micro of planes. Physics today is still nowhere near reaching the tiniest particles of the universe. Nevertheless, the invisible, miniature realms of those particles might be perceptible to someone who has gone beyond normal physical form, for he would see, with magnified vision, subatomic worlds that are still greater, in keeping with his level of spiritual attainment.

The Buddha described the vastness of the universe after having witnessed it at his level of attainment. His teaching implied that there are other beings in the Milky Way galaxy with physical bodies similar to ours, and that even in just a single grain of sand a great many worlds can be found. This is consistent with modern physics, as the orbiting of electrons around a nucleus is really no different from that of the Earth around the Sun. And so the Buddha taught that in smaller, invisible realms a great many worlds can be seen even in just a grain of sand; meaning, a grain of sand is similar to a universe where lives and a multitude of things exist. Then assuming that’s valid, within the worlds inside a single grain of sand, there would again be sand, presumably. And within that sand we would expect to find yet more worlds. And then in those worlds inside the sand we would expect to again find still more sand. It could go on endlessly. And so even the Buddha, with his level of spiritual awakening, concluded that the universe was both “infinitely large and infinitely small.” This suggests that it is so large he couldn’t see its perimeter, and so small that he couldn’t determine what the tiniest elemental substance is at the origin of matter.

There are masters who have said that a city can be seen in a single pore of the skin, complete with moving cars and trains. While that might sound far-fetched at first, it proves reasonable if it’s considered in a scientific spirit and with a genuine intent to understand. While I was talking about the opening of the inner eye, I mentioned that many who have experienced it have had visions where they are moving along a seemingly endless tunnel in their forehead region. And each day as they exercise or meditate they see themselves moving forward, with mountains and rivers to the sides; and they pass through cities and see a number of people. They are apt to think it’s a figment of their imaginations. I can dispel any doubts and tell you that those things were not imagined; what they saw was very clear. Things like those shouldn’t be written off as imaginary, if the world within the body is as vast as those masters have seen with the inner eye. Remember that Daoist thought has long maintained that the human body is a universe unto itself. It’s only to be expected, then, that the distance from your forehead to the pineal gland, [where the inner eye is located,] is going to be enormous in that inner universe—making it feel like a really long way.

If the greater cosmic orbit becomes fully formed in the course of someone’s practice, it will bring about an extrasensory power. But before going into that, we should note that the greater cosmic orbit is variously referred to as the Meridian Orbit, the Revolution of Heaven and Earth, and the Revolution of the River Channel. The orbit will give rise to an energy current when it begins flowing, even at a low level of attainment. With time, its density will increase and it will become something of a higher order, becoming a very dense belt of energy that revolves. If someone’s inner eye has opened at a lower plane he might see that the belt, while revolving, has the ability to transport the various energies of the body from one location to another. The energy of the heart might be moved to the intestines, for example, or the energy of the liver might be moved to the stomach. Those who can perceive the microcosm might observe that what’s moved is quite sizeable. If the energy belt is brought outside of the body it is what people call the power of telekinesis. Those with stronger powers can exercise greater telekinesis and move large objects, while those with weaker powers can exercise lesser telekinesis and move smaller objects. These are the forms that telekinesis takes and how they come about.

A person enters right into true spiritual practice with the forming of the greater cosmic orbit; with it will come different miraculous experiences and expressions of one’s energy. One such experience that comes about might be familiar if you’ve read traditional religious works like The Lives of the Saints and Principles of Mind-Body Practice, or the Daoist Canon and various alchemical manuals. These works tell of individuals who experienced levitation, and speak of people “soaring in broad daylight”—or in other words, floating up into the air in plain sight. And I can vouch that people are capable of it once the greater cosmic orbit has been formed. It’s a simple fact. Many people have formed these orbits, as you might suspect, with all the centuries of history that spiritual practice has. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say tens of thousands have, since it’s really just one of the first developments in a person’s practice.

Then why haven’t all those adherents been seen floating about? It’s because the human condition is not to be upset; the secular world mustn’t be violated or altered without due reason. It would be a problem if all of those people were seen flying about. The human world wouldn’t be what it is. So this is one primary reason. Another is that the people of this world are not here to be human but to become pure again and return to their true heavenly abodes, which entails faith. Everyone would want to practice if they actually saw with their own eyes people levitating, and there would be no question of faith left. So you aren’t allowed to be seen levitating or just freely show people if you have the power. People still need to practice by exercising faith. And this is why once your greater cosmic orbit has formed, you won’t be able to levitate if even so much as the tip of your finger or toe is locked.

When the greater cosmic orbit is on the verge of being formed, some people find that their bodies lean forward as they meditate. This is due to the energy of the back of the body flowing well, and so it feels quite light while the front feels heavy. In other cases people may tend to lean backwards instead, as the back feels heavy and the front light. You might spring upward if energy is flowing well throughout your body, and feel as if you were being lifted upward off the ground. But only in exceptional cases is this allowed to happen. Those who experience such powers tend to be at two ends of the spectrum: the very young and old, and especially older women. Both of these groups tend to have few attachments and are more likely to experience powers like levitation and be able to retain them. Men, on the other hand, and especially young men, would have a hard time not showing off and might even try to gain from their powers. That is forbidden, however, and so their powers are typically sealed up after being developed. If even so much as one part of the body is sealed up they won’t be able to levitate. But it’s not that people are never allowed to experience levitation. You might be allowed to have a taste of it, with some of you being allowed to continue to experience it.

Instances of levitation have occurred wherever we have offered classes. When I held a class in Shandong province there were learners from the cities of Jinan and Beijing there as well, one of whom asked me, “Teacher, do you know what’s happening to me? I often start floating as I walk, and it’s the same when I lie down at home to sleep—even when I have a blanket over me. I’m always floating up, like a balloon.” There was a similar case involving an older woman in Guizhou province who attended my class in the city of Guiyang. At home there were two beds in her room, one next to each wall. One time she was meditating on one of the beds and had the sense that she was levitating. She opened her eyes and realized that she had floated over to the other bed. She had the thought, “I should go back,” and with that, she floated back to the initial bed.

Another example involves a student in the city of Qingdao who meditated on a sofa in a room at his workplace; it was during his lunch break and nobody was around. He began to levitate while meditating, and really floated up—over a yard high. He floated up and dropped down with a loud thud, multiple times. A blanket that was folded next to him was even bounced off, onto the floor. He was both a bit excited and frightened. It carried on like this, up and down, for the duration of the lunch hour. Eventually the work bell rang and he thought to himself, “I shouldn’t let people see this. They wouldn’t know what to make of it. I’d better stop this right away.” And just like that, it stopped. So you can see how older people exercise better self-control. Were it someone younger, they probably would have hoped that everyone would see them levitating when the bell rang and know how well they were doing at their practice, since they could fly. The temptation to show off isn’t easily overcome. If you do show your powers off they will be lost, for that’s not what they are meant for. Experiences like these have been recounted by learners everywhere.

We want all of the body’s energy channels to be opened up right from the outset. Eighty to ninety percent of you will find that your bodies have now become light and illness-free. But in this class we do more than just boost your body to the point of being completely purified; we also plant many things in your body so that you can develop higher energy during the course of the classes. What I am doing amounts to lifting you up and putting you far ahead. Your very character is changing as I give my teachings during these sessions. Many of you will feel like a new person after the classes are over. I guarantee that your view of the world will have expanded and you will know what it takes to be a good person; you will no longer be confused about life. I’m confident of this. What this means is that your character will be keeping pace [with the physical changes that occur].

Returning to the topic of the greater cosmic orbit, though you may not be allowed to levitate, you will find that your whole body feels light and as though you are walking on air. If walking even a short distance tired you out before, now you will be able to comfortably go however far you’d like. When riding a bike it will seem as if you are getting a push, and no amount of stair climbing will tire you. I can assure you of it. Those who can’t attend a class but learn the practice by reading this book will experience whatever benefits they are meant to, just the same. I’m the type of person who if he speaks must tell the truth. It would be teaching evil on my part if I were to speak falsely, say baseless things, or speak loosely and without a purpose when I am supposed to be teaching the Way. What I am doing is not easy; the whole universe is watching. There would be consequences if I misled you.

Spiritual adherents normally never come to experience more than the familiar greater cosmic orbit that I’ve been describing. But that orbit isn’t sufficient if you want your body to be replaced by and converted into high-energy matter as efficiently as possible. For this, there needs to be another type of cosmic-orbit circulation that sets all of your body’s energy channels into motion. And it is called the Prime Vertical Orbit. Very few people know of it. The name might surface occasionally in books, but nowhere is it disclosed or explained. People have skirted around the subject by keeping any discussion of it at the level of theory, since it’s been a closely guarded secret. But here I am going to spell it out for you. The orbit might begin from either the Hundred Convergences acupoint at the top of the head or the Meeting of Yin point at the perineum. So, supposing energy comes forth at the former point, it will travel along the borderline between the yin (front) and yang (back) sides of the body, and move down from the ear and past the shoulder, going downwards. It weaves its way over each of the fingers and then travels along the side of the body, passing underneath the foot and then up the inner side of the leg. It then goes down the inner side of the other leg, passes under the other foot, and travels up the other side of the body. It weaves its way around each of the fingers again and completes a circuit by arriving at the top of the head. This is what constitutes a Prime Vertical Orbit. So there you have it in just a few sentences; it needn’t take a full-length book, as is sometimes done. I don’t consider it a great secret even if knowledge of it has been carefully guarded and only been revealed when a lineage is being genuinely passed down to a disciple. Though I have explained what it is, you shouldn’t use your mind to try to bring it about or exert any control over it while practicing. That’s not how we go about things in Falun Dafa. You don’t need to will anything to happen when you are following an authentic spiritual discipline that leads to higher levels of attainment; all that you need will be given to you, ready to use. So in our case, the orbit will be automatically generated by the mechanisms inside you, which are working constantly to transform you. This orbit will naturally circulate on its own when the time is ripe. You might notice one day while practicing that your head is swaying to one side, which would mean that the Prime Vertical Orbit is moving in that direction; or if your head sways to the other side it means that the Orbit is moving in the other direction. It moves in both directions.

Once a greater or lesser cosmic orbit has been formed in a person, his head may nod during meditation, and it indicates that energy is coursing through. The fourth exercise that we do, called Falun Cosmic Orbit, cycles energy through the body in the same fashion as these orbits; and in fact, it will continue to cycle by itself even after you have finished doing the exercise. What the exercise does is to strengthen the mechanisms inside you, and this is what allows the orbit to continually cycle. In our practice the Way works through you. And so you will normally find that your cosmic orbit is circulating nonstop. The layer of energy mechanisms that has been placed outside of your body is equivalent to a layer of major, external energy channels, and it will guide your body to do the work automatically—even when you aren’t doing the exercise. The external channels may also reverse their direction, cycling energy in one direction or the other, working at every moment to promote the flow of energy in your channels.

At this point you might be wondering what the larger goal of forming cosmic orbits is. Forming them in and of itself isn’t the purpose; just having a connected orbit isn’t that special. The purpose of it, as one progresses further in spiritual practice, is to fully open up all of the body’s energy channels via one circuit, and this is what the cosmic orbit helps one achieve. Yet [opening the channels] is something we’ve already begun doing for you. And as you continue on, if you track the circulation of your greater cosmic orbit, you will sense your channels broadening inside and widening, perhaps becoming as wide as a finger. This happens because a stronger energy current results in wider and brighter channels. But this still doesn’t amount to much. You need to go further with your practice, to the point that all of your body’s energy channels are widening and the energy is becoming stronger and brighter, until finally all of the myriad channels are merged into one whole. At that point the body will no longer have energy channels or acupuncture points, for it will be connected as one piece. And that is the ultimate goal of fully opening your channels: to transform your entire body into high-energy matter.

If you have reached this stage in your practice, it means that your body has basically been remade with high-energy matter. It means that you have reached the highest phase of practice that can occur in the human realm, and your mortal body has reached the pinnacle of its development. Your body will experience a new state, which I’ll describe in a moment. At this point you will now have a substantial amount of higher energy, or gong. And by now you will have developed all supernormal powers (innate abilities) possible of the human body, while working on your body during the stage of human-realm practice. But since we do our practice in the world, most of your powers will have been sealed up and won’t be available to you. Your energy column will have grown to a sizeable height, and the different forms that your energy has assumed will have been strengthened greatly by your powerful energy. But any powers you have at this stage will only function in this immediate dimension; they will have no impact in other dimensions since they were born of a mortal body. Yet they will still be quite substantial. These powers will be part of your bodies in other dimensions and will have metamorphosed in dramatic ways; they will be diverse and abundant, and they might even be startling to behold. Eyes will cover some people’s bodies, filling each and every pore of the skin as well as the dimensions associated with their bodies. Some individuals could have images of divine beings like Bodhisattvas or Buddhas all over their bodies, since this is a Buddhist practice. The higher energy you have might assume any of many appearances and give rise to many supernatural beings.

At this point you will experience atop your head what is referred to as “three flowers gathered at the crown.” It’s dramatic and striking to behold, and can be seen even by those whose inner eyes aren’t at a very high plane. Three flowers will appear on top of your head, one of which is a lotus flower—though not the lotus of the human realm. The other two flowers similarly belong to other worlds, and each is simply wondrous. They rotate in succession atop the head, turning clockwise and counterclockwise; the flowers turn independently. Each flower will have a tall pole accompanying it, equal in diameter to the flower and reaching to the heights of the heavens. The poles are not energy columns, however. Rather, they just happen to assume that shape and exude an otherworldly feel. You will really be startled if you see them. When your practice reaches this stage your body will be pure and fair, with skin that’s supple and youthful. You will have reached the highest phase of practice in the human realm, but it doesn’t mark the end of your journey. You need to continue practicing and progress still further.

What comes next is a transitional phase between that of the human realm and that which is beyond, where you will have what is referred to as a “crystal-clear body.” At this point your body will still be a mortal one, even if transformed, but it will have reached the highest form possible while practicing in this realm. It is referred to as crystal clear for having achieved the greatest degree of purity and being made entirely of high-energy matter. Your whole body will be transparent if seen with higher vision, and look similar to glass, as if nothing were there. This means that your body is now a holy one, for it consists of high-energy matter, unlike the body you began with. All of the powers and magical things developed by your body will now be promptly discarded. They will be unloaded into a deeper dimension, since they serve no further purpose and couldn’t be drawn upon again. Their only use might be that some day, once your practice has come to fruition and you have gained enlightenment, you will wish to look them over as you reflect back upon your spiritual journey. Just two things will remain then: your column of energy and your angelic body, which will be great in size. But both of these will exist in a deeper dimension and be imperceptible even to most people who have higher sight, since their sight is usually limited; your body will just appear transparent to them.

With further practice you will progress beyond this interim phase where you have a crystal-clear body, and begin the stage of practice that lies beyond the human realm. In this new phase you will be developing your body further, a body which will already be divine. This will be a body that’s composed only of higher energy, and your character will be one that is unwavering. In this phase of practice you will be forging new powers that are befitting the title of “divine.” They will be infinitely powerful and able to command any dimension. As you carry on persistently with your spiritual efforts, you will come to know what it takes to practice at still higher stages and what to expect.

 

Getting Carried Away

I would like to discuss the problems that stem from being overly enthused. There are many people, both spiritual and not, who have long been seeking the truth and pondering the meaning of life. With Falun Dafa they find answers to their many lifelong questions, and it’s only natural that they would be excited by all the new insights they gain. I know that those who are sincere about practicing will realize the significance of the teachings and cherish them. Yet a problem is apt to follow. Namely, people are so happy that they go overboard, and come across as abnormal when they interact with people, or seem odd compared to others. But that shouldn’t happen, as I see it.

Most of you practice in the secular world, and so you should be mindful of this fact and not distance yourselves from the world. You should have relationships with others like people normally do. The only thing different about you is that you come across as someone of excellent character and who is positive, who strives to be a better person and grow spiritually, and who always tries to do the right thing. Yet some of you come across as abnormal, or apathetic about the world, and people can’t relate to what you say. This could lead people to wrongly conclude that doing Falun Dafa made you that way, as if you’ve gone off the deep end. They wouldn’t realize that you were simply too excited and not being rational, and had a lapse in judgment. I think you would have to agree, that’s not the right way to be and it is extreme—which means attachment is involved. You should get over it and instead go about your life and practice in a normal way around people. People won’t think well of you and will distance themselves from you if they think you are obsessed with Falun Dafa. And then you would no longer be presented with opportunities to perfect your character. It’s really a problem if people think you’re not normal. So keep what I said in mind and be sure to exercise good judgment.

Our practice isn’t like others where the adherent is oblivious to the passage of time, lost in a state of rapture or trance, and completely absorbed as he or she practices. With our practice you have to stay mentally present. I often hear from people that they start swaying involuntarily after they close their eyes to do the exercises. But that shouldn’t happen, as I see it. The problem is that you have grown used to letting your conscious mind drift off while your eyes are closed, and it’s become a habit. And yet you don’t sway while listening to me speak. You surely wouldn’t do that while exercising if you tried to maintain the state of mind that you have when your eyes are open, and just closed them lightly. The problem is that you think that that’s how practicing is done, and the idea has become ingrained; so you disappear shortly after closing your eyes and lose yourself. We teach that your conscious mind has to stay alert and aware. These exercises are meant to work upon the true you, and you should make progress through them while staying mentally present. Our practice includes a meditation. With ours, you have to stay aware that you are practicing, however focused you may be, and not let yourself slip into a hypnotic state where you’re aware of nothing. Instead, you should expect to experience a very pleasant sensation as you sit there, much like sitting inside an eggshell, where you’re aware that you are practicing but feel as if you can’t move a muscle. This is necessary in our practice. Another experience that you might have is as follows. As you sit in meditation it will seem as if your legs have disappeared and you don’t know where they are; and your body will have disappeared as well, including your arms and hands, and only your head will seem to remain. And as you go on, even your head will seem to disappear, leaving only your mind—with just a little awareness left that you are practicing there. It will suffice to achieve this state, as this provides the optimal conditions for your body to be transformed. And that is why you need to enter into such stillness. But don’t let yourself doze off or muddle through it, lest the fruits of your efforts be gained by another.

It is essential that all of us avoid seeming abnormal to non-practitioners. You will be giving Falun Dafa a bad name if you come across the wrong way and lead people to think that Falun Dafa makes people odd. I really want you to keep this in mind. You should be careful not to get carried away in any sense or at any point as you practice. A mind that’s prone to such extremes is susceptible to evil.

 

Guarding Your Speech

Various religious traditions have made a practice of silence, and it is something done by a specific segment of the religious community; namely, the brothers and sisters who have renounced the world and who live in monastic settings. For them, the practice entails refraining from speech altogether. They dedicate themselves to the spiritual life and are set on becoming as detached as possible, and believe that even one single bad thought might generate karma or amount to a sin. And while you may have heard of karma being referred to as “good” as well as “bad,” either way, it’s not something you would want to have as someone who aspires to become “empty” to this world, and have, in a sense “nothing”—as the Buddhist and Daoist traditions have put it. Adherents in certain monastic traditions have even tried to refrain from all actions. They have taken this approach since they couldn’t perceive the reasons behind things or know whether something was good or bad to do; there would always lurk the question of what factors were involved. Most adherents would not have been that advanced or able to perceive such things. So if they took action, they would have to worry that what seemed like a good thing to do might turn out to be bad. Their solution was to practice non-intervention as much as possible, in the hope that by refraining from all unnecessary activities or actions they would avoid making karma. They knew that any karma they made would have to be painfully worked off. The day of a believer’s spiritual perfection or enlightenment is something preordained, and any karma added along the way will only make the whole journey that much more difficult. So this explains the aversion to action.

In the Buddhist tradition the practice of self-imposed silence is based on the idea that whatever words someone utters are dictated by his thoughts, and behind those thoughts there is bound to be intention. And it’s very possible that it is an attachment at work when a person’s consciousness leads him to form a thought, make a comment, do something, or use his senses or limbs out in the secular world. To shed light on this, consider the issues that people sometimes have with one another, where they speak well of one person while speaking ill of another, or comment on someone’s having practiced well in contrast to someone else. Comments like those reflect underlying issues between people. Or take something commonplace, such as your expressing that you want to do something or see something done in a certain way. What you say might result in someone being unwittingly hurt or undermined. And so your words or actions might unknowingly be making karma for you, given how complex things can be between people. This is why some monastics have been so strict about refraining from speaking altogether. So guarding one’s speech, or practicing silence, has always held an important place in religious traditions, and so far I’ve been describing the approaches others have taken.

The vast majority of people who do Falun Dafa, however, carry out their practice in the secular world (the exception being those who previously took monastic vows or were ordained), and so we inevitably lead normal lives in the world and are part of society. We have jobs and should be doing them well. Some lines of work entail verbal communication, which might seem at odds with the goal of practicing silence. But there is no conflict, as the guarding of speech that we practice is quite different from the past approach of silence. Our discipline is different from those of the past, and so too is what it asks of you. When we speak, we should simply speak in a manner befitting a practitioner, and not say anything bad or divisive. As practitioners we should gauge what we intend to say with the teachings and see whether it’s appropriate. And if it is, then it’s fine to speak. And besides, if we always kept silent we would have a hard time introducing the practice to people and sharing it with others. What we do is to simply exercise restraint in situations where you might be speaking out of attachment, such as talking about worldly things above and beyond what’s required at your job; chitchatting with other practitioners about meaningless things; saying things that are self-aggrandizing; sharing the latest gossip that you heard; or discussing worldly things that you’re fond of and find stimulating. It’s in these regards that I believe we should guard our speech, and this is our version of practicing silence. Monks used to believe that even just one inappropriate thought could result in karma, or sin, and they used to take things like this very seriously. And this is why there were teachings about limiting physical, verbal, and mental activity. Physical action was limited in order to avoid doing anything wrong. Silence was practiced in order to limit all verbal activity. And mental activity was restricted so as to keep the mind clear of thoughts. These strictures have been quite central for some monastic communities. In our practice, however, it’s sufficient to have a good sense for what’s appropriate to say, and to live up to the expectations for your character.


Footnotes:
* Inedia: This refers to going without food or drink for prolonged periods of time, and is a phenomenon found historically in religious and spiritual traditions throughout the world. In the 1980s and 90s in China, as the passage suggests, “bi-gu” (the Chinese term for it) had become a fairly well-known phenomenon associated with chi-gong, and was the subject of much debate and research.