From Small "Self" To Great Way
Excerpt from Jennifer's memoir "Witnessing History: One woman's fight for freedom and Falun Gong"
This is essentially how it was the entire summer, right up until autumn: enduring in silence the stress and pain of practising in secret. I had lost almost all contact with other Falun Gong practitioners and only spoke on the phone with two or three of them from time to time.
Just before I finished work on 25 October 1999, six months after the 25 April incident, a fellow practitioner called An Xiulan phoned and asked me to come around to her place. I called in after work and found ten or so people there already. I knew only a couple of them, from the practice site. They were all chatting when I arrived and of course the main topic was what to do about the crackdown.
I sat down and proceeded to tell a story my husband had told me about an old peasant. This old peasant had a shabby old violin that had been in the family for many years. One day a man who collected violins discovered that it was actually a priceless antique; he offered the old peasant a large amount for it and arranged to come and get it a few days later. The old peasant was very happy with this arrangement but the more he thought about it the guiltier he felt at profiting at the collector’s expense. Eventually he decided to buy some paint and give the whole violin a thorough coat of paint.
‘Now I feel content that I’m not conning this man who is buying it,’ he said to himself.
The collector came with the money a few days later and almost cried when he saw the freshly painted violin. The old peasant couldn’t understand why he no longer wanted it, after he’d gone to all the trouble of buying paint and making it look so beautiful.
My husband’s point in telling me this story was that the best thing we could do in the face of the government’s crackdown was to do nothing. I agreed entirely with his idea that we should avoid doing as the old peasant had and worsening the situation.
As I finished telling this story a young woman wearing a red sweater smiled. In her early twenties, she was from Chongqing in Sichuan and she said I reminded her very much of herself just a month ago. She told us how her ideas had changed and that she had come to Beijing to lodge an appeal on behalf of Falun Gong. Then others in the room started to say how they felt. There was even a former policeman from Changchun who had come to Beijing with his wife and child to lodge an appeal.
As I sat there, I was not so much listening to their words as trying to follow their train of thought. All I could remember later was that all of them had stories to tell of what had happened to them or to other practitioners since the crackdown began.
But suddenly a tremor ran through my whole body, as if my brain had exploded, and I knew at once where the difference between us lay. Until then I had had a fairly good sense of self. My faith in Falun Gong had never wavered, I had not bowed to outside pressure; despite the difficult situation I had never let a day go by without practising. But all of this was nothing more than just ‘me’, while they had long ago done away with ‘me’. They had dissolved into the Dafa, the Great Law in which they had faith. This was the major difference between us.
Once I saw this I realised that the guarantee I had written was wrong. Did a government have the right to say black was white and to do exactly as it pleased simply because it had the power to do so?
It was fortunate for the nation and for the people that Falun Gong was spreading, because those who practised it benefited from it; some even gained a second life. If we did not speak up during this vicious attack on Falun Gong, we would be undeserving of the good it had done us. The Ministry of Public Security’s circular on the six prohibitions violated the constitutional rights of Chinese citizens to freedom of belief, association, speech, assembly, procession and demonstration. What was especially absurd was not being allowed to make an appeal and being forbidden to hang Falun pictures anywhere. This was completely unconstitutional. How could I guarantee to comply with something that was unconstitutional? Here I was, practising this, practising that, and I hadn’t even understood this principle.
It all came down to selfishness. When a catastrophe hits, people instinctively look after themselves and theirs. As our teacher said, ‘In fact, your previous nature was founded on selfishness.’ Our teacher has also demanded this of us:
From now on, whatever you do, you should consider others first, so as to attain the righteous Enlightenment of selflessness and altruism. So from now on, whatever you do or whatever you say, you must consider others—or even future generations—along with Dafa’s eternal stability.
I believed I was most steadfast but had I done this? Wasn’t China’s biggest problem the serious decline in moral standards throughout society? If we didn’t speak out against these slanderous attacks on
Truthfulness, Compassion and Forbearance, what kind of society could we expect to have? Didn’t practitioners talk of compassion, of saving all sentient beings? But where was our compassion, much less our saving all sentient beings, if each one of us remained silent in the face of such a catastrophe?
As I came to this realisation I was suddenly more at ease than I had ever been in my life. In an instant, the pressure I had felt since the crackdown had lifted. Suddenly everything was different and I no longer felt as if I was suffocating. With vivid clarity, my whole being felt ‘With heavens clear and celestial bodies transparent, the cosmos is rectified; the mega-havoc is over, and the universe is illuminated’.* So beautiful, so pure, so fresh. My body seemed to have taken on what our teacher describes as an intangible life, expanding and diffusing into infinity and becoming one with the boundless universe.
‘This must be what is meant by transcending the self,’ I thought. Once you can genuinely lay aside self-interest you feel at ease. After selflessness comes fearlessness. And then I understood what I had to do: I had to stand up for truth and principle.
* from Li Hongzhi, After Havoc
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