I was beside myself with grief. Everything I had always cherished as important in life suddenly collapsed and I plunged into a deep depression.
That was in 2010, five years after my university graduation from engineering school. A longtime group of best friends and I all graduated the same year. In 2008, two of those friends advanced to prestigious jobs. Unfortunately, over the next two years, a “master-servant” relationship replaced the friendship that had existed between them and the rest of us in the group.
I was devastated to see how the lure of money and power quietly transformed the seemingly enduring and faithful friendships we once had, and I couldn’t accept it.
I had grown up with a firm belief in traditional values such as loyalty, fair-mindedness, and kindness, and I never treated anyone differently based on his status in society. Indeed, I placed my friendships with everyone in our group as the most important thing in my life.
When I tried to point out what was happening, I was met with silence and avoidance. Then gradually everyone shunned me. I had no choice but to leave the group, crushed by a broken heart. I felt betrayed, alone, and helpless.
Perhaps it was a blow meant to awaken me to new horizons and a clearer sense of responsibility toward the people around me.
I was fortunate to soon escape from that dark time, thanks to a former colleague who was a kindred spirit in our search for meaning in life. He made the effort to contact me after he found what he was looking for in his spiritual quest and knew it would benefit me, too.
I hope my story resonates with people who have felt the pain of broken friendships and a life gone astray, so that they, like me, may find peace and a bright future.
Happy Childhood, Pure Faith
I had a happy childhood and have fond memories of the love I received from my mother and grandmother. They were Buddhist and brought me to many religious services in temples. I developed an innocent faith and a strong belief in the existence of a magnificent Buddha who managed all things and had the power to create miracles in the world.
At the same time, many questions arose in my mind: Where will I go after death? Why does the Earth rotate? Why is there pain and joy, happiness and sadness?
I never found answers to these questions, and they faded away as I grew up.
During my childhood and youth, I was also deeply touched by the traditional virtues I learned from classic historical novels of Chinese literature, such as kindness, justice, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness.
I took these principles to heart and tried my best to apply them in my own life, but in a way that I now realize went to extremes. It manifested in my absolute devotion to my friends that went as far as deceiving my parents.
My First Fall: Gambling
My first stumble in life came due to my favorite pastime during my high school years: watching soccer matches during the football seasons.
I would stay up all night with my friends and fellow football fanatics to watch the games on television. We made up lies to justify to our parents why we had to stay out, such as saying we had to complete team projects or study together as a group.
My friends and I soon started placing bets, using up all of our pocket money to participate in football pools. We were devastated whenever we lost, yet we were addicted, pulled into the vortex of gambling and the idea of quick, easy money.
We kept our losses a secret until our debt grew beyond our ability to pay and we finally had to tell our parents the truth. It was only after this happened more than once, after having been scolded and punished multiple times, that I came to my senses and stopped gambling. Fortunately I was able to refocus on my studies and successfully finish high school.
When I entered university in 2000, at age 18, I decided to study marine engineering and was determined to be a serious student. However, in my second year, problem gambling reappeared when one of my friends from the former “football team” started getting into more and more trouble with his sports betting.
My friend was suffering heavy financial losses, and due to the principles of kindness and loyalty deeply embedded in my mind since I was a child, I wholeheartedly set out to help him to the best of my ability.
I quietly took money meant to pay my tuition fees and used it to help my friend. I also pawned my motorbike and other belongings to get more money. In the end, I got deeply into debt myself.
I was worried I would be expelled from school. The only solution was to offload the burden onto my mother’s shoulders.
To my surprise, after hearing my confession, my mother didn’t scold or punish me. Instead, in tears, she quietly gave me money to pay my debt and advised me to concentrate on my studies.
For the first time, I felt the full weight of guilt and shame. I recognized that I was not a filial son and realized the seriousness of what I had done. I promised myself it would never happen again.
Yet I didn’t truly understand at the time the impact that my tendency to put friendship on a pedestal above all else had on my family.
I graduated from university in 2005 and got married in 2010, but my wife soon discovered she had a husband who would “disappear” every time he received a phone call from one of his friends. She often cried due to loneliness because I was away from home so much.
Deep in my heart and in my every thought, I put friendship as the highest priority. I saw my attitude as one of sincere loyalty and absolute purity. That was why I was willing to take on enormous debt in order to help my friend. I would have sacrificed my life for a friend.
Then, later in 2010, when those friendships collapsed, I saw the power that money had over people, and how greed can leave little room for conscience and consideration of others. Nevertheless, leaving the group was a traumatic loss that cut deeply. It left a hole in my heart, and I was overwhelmed by sadness, depression, and loneliness.
Recalling My Faith
At a time when I was most depressed, I remembered a book I had received earlier that year from a trustworthy former colleague who had in common with me an interest in faith and spirituality.
We first met in 2005 when he came to my office on a business trip and we ended up spending an entire night discussing these topics.
Then, not long before my friendships fell, he had called me to say he sincerely wished to reconnect with me and share with me his quest to find answers to the spiritual questions we had discussed that night. He said he had found the true answers and would send me a book to read.
“Read it all,” he said. “Whether you understand it or not right away, don’t be discouraged. The profound implications will manifest if you persevere in reading the book with a calm mind.”
Finding Meaning in Life
That book, Zhuan Falun, contains the main teachings of an ancient Chinese spiritual discipline called Falun Dafa, or Falun Gong, which teaches that the fundamental principles of the universe are Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance. Falun Dafa also includes five sets of meditative exercises, four performed while standing and one while sitting.
After receiving Zhuan Falun from my former colleague, I read it once very quickly and thought that it indeed answered many of the questions I had had since childhood. But then I put it away, thinking that I needed more time to mature and consider its principles deeply.
Recalling this, and the phone call with my colleague, I picked up the book again to read it for the second time. This time I found that it truly awakened me, helping me understand the meaning of life and the root cause of everything that people encounter, whether it appears to be good or bad on the surface.
I then had a vivid dream of being reborn as a rock in a valley, feeling the sun, wind, and grass around me. A deep sense of regret and anguish came over me, not knowing when I would be freed from that reincarnation.
I woke up soaked in sweat but feeling overwhelmingly fortunate that it was only a dream. At that moment, I was determined to practice Falun Dafa. I had no doubt it was the precious true path for elevating human beings to enlightenment and Buddhahood, where they will have eternal life and be freed from the cycle of reincarnation.
Moral Character Elevated
Since then, I’ve done my best to be diligent in reading Zhuan Falun and doing the exercises daily and also studying the other writings by Falun Dafa’s teacher, Mr. Li Hongzhi.
My entire worldview has changed. Following Falun Dafa’s principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance, I’ve strived to improve my moral character and become a better person in every area of my life.
I no longer blame others if something goes wrong, but quickly look inward to try and understand how I might have played a role, and then adjust my own thoughts and behaviors.
I have less conflict with others, including my wife. I’ve quit constantly going out to be with friends like in the past, but often help my wife around the house. My son was born in 2011, and I regularly bring him and my wife to visit our elderly parents and grandparents on both sides of the family, and everyone is now happier and our relationships have become more harmonious.
Keeping Dafa Principles in Mind Amid Tribulation
When I encountered a difficult situation at work in 2015, it was the principles of Falun Dafa that helped me find a benevolent resolution.
I was put in charge of an important national project that involved a big workload including tasks new to my company. We underestimated the challenges and were unprepared. As pressure and criticism mounted, negativity took over and many team members began to blame one another.
I often started work at 5 a.m. and wouldn’t finish until 10 p.m. or even 3 a.m. the next day.
Without adequate time and energy to read the Falun Dafa book, I became tired, irritated, and depressed, and started complaining and blaming others.
One day, my director on the project, himself under great pressure, asked me to perform an additional task, and when I explained that I was already overloaded, he dismissed my concerns.
At first I was shocked. Then I remembered I was a practitioner of Falun Dafa and that I wanted to be a good role model for my son so that he would grow up to be a genuine practitioner as well. So I quickly looked inside to try and understand what I might have done wrong that could have led to this comment from my director.
I set aside my worries about the project and quietly pondered the incident. I realized that my mind wasn’t calm. The thought of being busy, busy, busy was constantly disturbing me. I made effort to let go of this thought.
I then started to make a priority of reading Zhuan Falun every day. I also decided that I would not refuse any work but would simply make a commitment to complete it within a reasonable timeframe and then follow through. Miraculously, right after this, I had the opportunity to learn a number of new work methods and time management strategies that were extremely effective.
Then, in keeping with Falun Dafa’s teachings to consider others before oneself, I put myself in my director’s shoes and tried to understand things from his point of view. At the same time, I did my best to fulfill my assigned tasks. It seemed as though my director recognized my unconditional effort, as I saw his attitude toward me gradually change to become more sympathetic.
After that, a staff member from another group was transferred to my project to add support, and although the workload continued to be heavy, our coordination as a company was very good; our whole work environment had clearly changed.
We successfully completed the project, and everyone was happy and expressed hope that a similar big project will come our way in the new year. My company awarded me a certificate of merit and promoted me to a new position with greater responsibility.
‘Happiness comes from letting go’
I was very moved by this experience. I realized that the best result awaits me if I always maintain the principles of Truthfulness, Compassion, and Tolerance in my heart and apply them in my every thought and action, while at the same time looking inside, thinking of others first, and letting go of selfishness. I saw that happiness comes from letting go rather than holding on to notions that are keeping me stuck.
I also enlightened to another layer of meaning within Truthfulness-Compassion-Tolerance: When I am sincere, kind, patient, and happy, a new horizon appears bringing with it benevolent possibilities to improve and elevate.
Nguyen Anh Duc lives in Vietnam.
Falun Dafa is a cultivation practice of mind and body that teaches truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance as a way to improve health and moral character and attain spiritual wisdom.
For more information about the practice, visit www.falundafa.org. All books, exercise music, resources, and instructions are available free of charge.