The attachment to lust or sensual desire is one of the strongest attachments that a human being can have and one that a cultivator should definitely eliminate, but it is also something that we all seem to be very shy about discussing. I think that because we are so shy or embarrassed to talk about it, it may become a hiding place for dark forces. And because of this, we can be vulnerable to be taken advantage of by evil forces. For this reason, I have come forward to talk about this issue and to share my experiences with you.
Master Li said of the attachment to lust: “We begin cultivation practice as everyday people. The first step is this test.” (Zhuan Falun, Lecture 6, Demonic Interference in Cultivation, Paragraph 10, Sentence 2) When I found out that Master Li stated this in Zhuan Falun, I took it very seriously, but at the same time deep in my heart I did not want to give it up and wished that it could be the last attachment to give up. Nevertheless I knew that this was a righteous Fa and reluctantly began to cultivate.
I think that I may represent an extreme case but maybe in its extremism, it will help other practitioners or even non-practitioners and future cultivators. When I was fairly young I had discovered pornography and was very fascinated by it. This fascination soon developed into a habit of using pornography as a form of entertainment and of escapism. Even as an everyday person, I knew deep down that this was not healthy, but the notions that I had picked up from society led me to believe that it was not abnormal behavior and so I never had the thought of putting my heart into totally eliminating this bad habit. It was only when I had found Falun Dafa and read Zhuan Falun did I realize that I had to completely eliminate this attachment if I was going to do genuine cultivation.
In the beginning it was extremely difficult to make progress in giving up this attachment, as I did not understand very deeply why Master Li put such strong emphasis on giving up this attachment. I only understood that it was a very strong attachment for me and that it was imperative that I give it up. It weighed heavily on my mind ever since I read Teacher’s words.
A few months after I found Falun Dafa, I attended a 9-day lecture. On one of those nights, Master Li talked about the attachment of lust. When I went to sleep that night I saw a beautiful partially naked woman. I remember that I really wanted to enjoy that spectacle but I felt that something strange was going on with my body just the way that Master Li described how one would fail the test during their sleep. So I tried to stop myself and the dream was over. That was a very strange experience for me because I had never before had the experience of seeing a naked woman in my sleep who was there just to arouse my desires. I realized then that this was a test and what Master Li said was really true and that cultivation was really serious. I told myself that I had to completely give up my interest in looking at women in order to take cultivation seriously.
Master Li also writes: “As long as you regard yourself as a practitioner, you will remember right away and be able to restrain yourself.” (Zhuan Falun, Lecture 6 , Demonic Interference in Cultivation, Paragraph 9, Sentence 15) When I began to restrain myself I began to see how immersed society was in sexuality. I began to see how people were being manipulated because they had the attachment to lust. I saw how easy it was to control a man just by showing him images of a woman. I was not able to see those things before as I was thoroughly immersed in that world. Having climbed out of that level, I felt relieved to be free from those restrictions, yet that was just the beginning. My understanding was still quite shallow.
In Essentials for Further Advancement, there is a line: “Those who are attached to lust are no different from wicked people.” (Cultivator’s Avoidances, April 15, 1996) When I first read this I was shocked and I also felt sad because I thought that the attachment to lust was harmless and benign. I did not begin to understand that statement until one day as I examined myself I found that there were times in my life when I developed friendships with women not for genuine friendship but for the possibility of a sexual relationship. After getting over the shock of realizing that I had a predatory mentality, I realized that this is fairly common in society and people casually form relationships this way without being very conscious of it. I resolved to develop firm boundaries in my relationships with all women and made a commitment to keep my interpersonal intentions pure and in accord with the Fa.
The more that I tried to break away from the attachment to lust the more I found resistance. But when I was successful it was as though I had broken through a layer of delusion and then I was able to see how other everyday people around me were prisoners to this attachment. For example, it is widely believed that it is essential for a person to have a healthy sex life in order to maintain good mental health. That implies that something will go wrong with a person if he does not have an orgasm once in a while. Taken further, it suggests that a man will go crazy if he does not have access to sexual relief, because the belief is that the sexual energy will just naturally build up and eventually demand a release. I have found that this is a fallacy. This principle of the everyday world only works and is universally held because everyday people are caught up in seeking sexual pleasure. People don’t realize that the sexual energy that they think naturally builds up comes directly from their pursuit of it. So because of their shared beliefs, people in society are limiting their consciousness to a very narrowly defined range of possibilities.
I discovered that I could go for months at a time keeping my mind pure and undistracted and physiologically as well as mentally, I was very balanced. However, I also found that if I allowed myself to be tempted and slip, I would fall very quickly back into humanness and again be vulnerable to the principles of nature that pertained to the human level.
For a long time, I went back and forth between maintaining diligence for a while and then failing an important test. The tests became severe when totally naked women began to appear in my dreams. The first time it happened I was totally unprepared and my first thought was to enjoy the spectacle. The spectacle didn’t last very long as my desires got the best of me and failed the test and immediately the dream was over. I woke up realizing that beyond making the superficial changes I had to look deeper within myself in order to truly let go of this attachment. Sometime after that I had a similar dream in which a very unattractive naked woman appeared. She sat on my lap and with just that I failed again. I realized even more clearly that this attachment was not just simply about attraction to the opposite sex but also essentially it included the attachment to physical pleasure and the pursuit of physical pleasure. At an even more fundamental level, this was how I sought advantages for myself purely for the sake of my enjoyment and therefore it was just plainly a manifestation of selfishness.
Also from Essentials for Further Advancement:
“It is not that one who appears to have committed a bad deed is a bad person and one who has done something good is a good person. Some people’s minds are full of bad thoughts-it is just that they have not shown them or have slyly concealed them relatively well; yet these are truly bad people.” (“Melt Into the Fa,” Paragraph 2, Sentence 2)
Although I had made very significant changes in my behavior and my attitudes, my mind was far from being clean. With one particular friend, I would often make jokes of a crude sexual nature. I did not think much of it until one day he sternly remarked that I had a dirty mind. Again, this was a sober reminder that there were still more levels of attachments that I needed to eliminate. I then began to be serious about maintaining a righteous state of mind even when I was making jokes.
Still, I was being tested in my dreams and came to a point where I could not pass the tests at all. Although I was failing the tests my mind was not righteous enough to regret it. All I knew was that I was failing and that I needed to make a fundamental change in myself in order to be worthy of being a Falun Dafa practitioner. This fundamental change came when I resolved that I would not allow myself to be moved by anything. It is with this attitude that I was finally able to experience tranquility during meditation and I found temporary freedom from the demon of lust.
By then, the thoughts telling me to indulge were very weak, but if I gave them any amount of attention, they would become extremely powerful and when this happened I knew that my level had dropped. At times I even totally gave in to this demon and for a long time I was not able to move very far beyond this level.
What I find unique about the attachment to lust is that it is so easily stimulated and the things that can stimulate it are so readily available. And even the smallest amount can bring immediate and instant gratification. I have often been tested at crucial moments but I have often failed to make the right decision. When faced with those decisions, doing the most righteous thing felt like making a big sacrifice. It felt as though in giving up this pleasure I would no longer have a reason to live, which is just like what Master Li says about sentimentality and desires:
“Why can human beings be human? It is because human beings have sentimentality. They live just for this sentimentality.” (Zhuan Falun, Chapter 4, “Upgrading Xinxing,” Paragraph 3, Sentence 4)
I have found that in order to break through this I’ve had to be very strict with myself and not give in to the pursuit of pleasure. To do this I’ve had to use all of my concentration to not indulge. I really had to stop all thinking and concentrate on not wanting pleasure. Sometimes I’ve had to shut my eyes tightly to resist the temptations. The thought karma was so strong that I had to do this many times over and over, every time I saw some image or some person that would stimulate my desires. I had to maintain this for several minutes after the stimuli were gone and I had to do this even when there were no stimuli because thoughts would come on their own. I did not know what would come out of this intentional repression of thought, but I had faith in the Fa to guide me in what seemed like darkness and I was very calm in knowing that this was the most righteous thing I could think of doing.
After having done this for several days, I noticed that my state of mind was slowly changing in ways that I did not expect. My mind was more calm and I was not as easily distracted in whatever I was doing. I also noticed that the superficial level of the physical world became less tangible to me, almost like it became less real. People and things seemed more like shadows. I began to place much less importance on the physical world and the things within it. I saw that in general I had fewer feelings of worry or fear and fewer concerns about losses and gains. I saw how several attachments collapsed because I was able to resist this one attachment. For me, working on the attachment to lust is a microcosm of the entire process of cultivation itself.
Today I am still challenged by this attachment but we are also in the middle of the Fa-rectification period now. I do not see this strictly as a matter of my personal cultivation. I did not incarnate on Earth just to cultivate as I realize now that I am here to help Master Li rectify the Fa in the human world. To do that, I must do well in my cultivation so that I can take care of the responsibilities that I have for countless other sentient beings.
This is only my experience at my level of understanding. It is not the most correct understanding but my hope is that it will help encourage more open conversations among practitioners and help us all advance.