Thursday 1 July 2010

The Accidental Teacher

Last night was one of those nights when sleep eluded me. I sat up in bed and reached out for the Words of My Perfect Teacher and randomly flipped the pages. It took me to the Taking Refuge section and I started reading, keeping in mind that I want to get the practice of taking refuge right.

As I read, this sentence jumped up at me: How could we practise patience if there were no one who made us angry? Oh, a justification to be angry! Something that I could do with, considering how often anger has consumed me. Angry with others and always, ending up with being angry with myself.

But angry is an understatement. Fit of rage. Flew off the handle. Mad. Beserk. These would be more apt descriptions of my temperament. Son No 1 warned me that at my age, I was heading for trouble – to put it plainly, a heart attack or stroke was looming.

But how? I am very well aware that I have allowed external factors to bring this upon myself. I am aware that it’s my big ego that reacted and manifested in this rage. I am aware that I need to to go beyond self.

But these are just intellectual knowledge which goes out of the window as quickly as thoughts and words stoke the ambers of anger. The heart constricts and balls up, inflamed with anger and hatred. I can feel that pain as I recall now.

Obstacle makers – a term never in my vocabulary until I pounced on it last night – are always the cause, firing me up the wrong way. The blame is on them. They are the ones that caused me to explode and luckily, not implode, yet.

Oh, how I hate them… until Patrul Rinpoche is his book shed the light. Like a beacon that cuts through the thick darkness of my ignorance, he said: It is harm caused by enemies and obstacle makers that gives you the opportunity to develop patience. He also went on to say: It is the adversity your enemies cause you that provides you with a reason for practising patience…

They separate you, whether you like it or not, from your wealth and possessions – the bonds that prevent you from ever getting free from samsara and therefore the very source of all suffering.

Negative forces and obstacle makers too provide you with a focus for the practice of patience. Through the illnesses and sufferings they provoke, many past misdeeds are purified. What is more, enemies and obstacle makers bring you to the Dhamma.

He then quoted Longchenpa (also known as Longchen Rabjam, ‘Infinite, Vast Expanse of Space’, was one of the most brilliant teachers of the Nyingma lineage) in these beautiful lines:

Assailed by afflictions, we discover Dhamma

And find the way to liberation. Thank you, evil forces!

When sorrows invade the mind, we discover Dhamma

And find lasting happiness. Thank you, sorrows!

Through harm caused by spirits, we discover Dhamma

And find fearlessness. Thank you, ghosts and demons!

Through people’s hate, we discover Dhamma

And find benefits and happiness. Thank you, those who hate us!

Through cruel adversity, we discover Dhamma

And find the unchanging way. Thank you, adversity!

Through being impelled to by others, we discover Dhamma

And find the essential meaning. Thank you, all who drive us on!

We dedicate our merits to you all, to repay your kindness.

Profound! In essence, the obstacle makers and enemies are, in a way, extremely kind to us. Who would bother to prod us to see the Dhamma and practise it? That may not have been their intention but they are a means to an end. For that, I am grateful.

Seeing them in that light, they are no longer a cause for my pain and suffering. Seeing them in that light, they are no longer a cause to react with anger and fit of rage. Seeing them in that light, I am blessed to have them as my teachers.

The doors of my heart now open for them and with folded palms I welcome them in – for they have taught me the lesson to be loved and love, the pure way!

Tuesday 19 January 2010


Yes he did, just as he kicked Ajahn Nyanadhammo.

Speaking on Saturday evening at the Ajahn Chah Remembrance Day in Kuala Lumpur, Ajahn Nyanadhammo recalled one time when walking back to the monastery in Thailand after alms round, a brother monk had complained of the other monks. Not wanting to indulge in it, he walked ahead but a conversation carried on his mind along the lines of “how can he say that…’ etc. The more irritated he felt, the lower he hung his head. As he reached the monastery, he heard a “Good Morning” greeting and he looked up. It was Ajahn Chah, his teacher who could only speak a smattering of English. That lifted his spirits and soon enough, his mood changed and the rest of the day, he forgot about the brother monk’s complaint.

That evening, he was at Ajahn Chah’s kuti to give him a foot massage. As always, there were other monks around to discuss the Dhamma with the teacher. The time came for evening chanting and Ajahn Chah instructed all except him to go for chanting. Ajahn Nyanadhammo remained to continue the massage. He recalled that the temperature was just soothingly nice, the moon was clear in the sky and there were no mosquitoes. He actually felt heavenly, performing an act of gratitude for his revered teacher. Just then out of the blue, Ajahn Chah kicked him and fell back, hitting his head. That knocked some senses into him. “Don’t get lost in the words of others, watch your own mind, “Ajahn Chah said, reprimanding him for being so affected, brooding by what a brother monk said but so elated by a “Good Morning” greeting.

Don’t get lost in the words of others, watch your own mind. That was one precious takeaway for me that evening in between manning the Book Distribution counter and catching snippets of the talk. I repeated it in my mind to commit it to memory.

The next morning as I was having breakfast, I related to Jessie of an inconsiderate man that evening who just stood by without lifting a finger to see me and two other girl volunteers pile more than 1,000 books into his CRV for his pregnant wife to send to a reverend for distribution. His son, probably three or four-years-old, even helped by carrying the bundle packs of 30 books but he coolly stood by. He even told his boy that he may hurt himself but he did not even reach out to take the books from his son. How inconsiderate! As I related it, I just blurted out to Jessie that I have been carrying this thought with me the whole night and even the next morning, having a conversation in mind about how unhelpful, uncaring... blah, blah, blah. Just that moment, I felt that Ajahn Chah just kicked me!

With folded palms and great reverence, I thank you, Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Nyanadhammo. I will remember that kick and the lesson.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

The Longest Day

Wednesday, 23 September 2009. That was the longest day in our recce trip to India, precisely Sarnath, to finalise arrangements for the Novitiate (Temporary Monkhood) Programme to take place in November.

Early completion of the tasks at hand saw our group of four leaving Sarnath early for an unscheduled trip to Bodhgaya, the place where the Buddha gained Enlightenment.

After a two-night stopover at Bodhgaya, it was time to head for home. Our day began at 4.00 am in Bodhgaya for a six-hour road trip to Varanasi to catch the flight to New Delhi enroute back to Kuala Lumpur.

The 200-km journey on the highway, which I suspect was built by a Malaysian company, was relatively smooth except for some heart stopping moments. It's a norm in India to have on-coming traffic on your side of the highway!

We arrived in Varanasi in good time -- just below six hours -- but only to be greeted by news of a flight delay.

After an one hour delay, our flight took off and we arrived one-and-a-half hour later in New Delhi. Exiting the airport, we were caught in the evening's rush hour traffic. A quick detour to buy some books saw us back at the airport early to check in for our 11 pm flight to KL.

We killed time browsing at the airport and the five-hour flight took off an hour before midnight. After little sleep, we arrived in KL at 6.55 am Malaysian time (4.25 am Indian time) on Thursday, 24 September.

This old body was still up to it despite the long hours with little sleep. A quick bath and off I was off to the office. By afternoon, I just had to struggle to stay awake. Still fine. A little tired.

By late afternoon, I noticed my voice getting nasal. I paid no heed to the sign of my body system revolting for the punishing pace. The flu knocked me out for a couple of days after that.

My body just couldn't take it. Admittedly. I am old!

Tuesday 15 September 2009


Yes, NOOB. That's how I feel. It has been a loooooooooooog time since my last post. Initially, it was a hectic schedule and then a loss of memory. Blank. No idea of log in name and password. Saw Son No 2 logging in to his blog and just asked sheepishly what does one do if one forgets one's password.

Son No 2 just clicked away on the keyboard. My eyes couldn't follow and the next thing he showed me was a feature to reset the password. But that was not what I was looking at. I saw the log in box just required the email log in name. You mean the log in name is just the same as that of email? All I got was the look that says in his language, "NOOB".

That jogged my memory and this morning, I bravely tried it out. Viola! I am logged on. Now I can blog again. Just have to have the discipline! Will indeed try.

Tuesday 6 May 2008

Lessons in Love

irstly want to wish happpeeeeeeeeeee 23rd birthday to my bro =)... As i can recall, years ago, I always tagged along with brother everywhere he went... going to Genting, playing football with people twice my size, cyber cafe or whatever. If i were him, I wouldn't have brought my little brother along, with the extra responsibility etc.

Sometimes i feel like he's a brother/parent because of the responsibility for me. But most of the times he's my best buddy. All the things that I have done can never match the things he has done for me. Although we used to fight a lot during the younger days; although we look really different physically -- he's tall, I'm well short and I look Malay and he, Chinese -- I realise that we have so much in common, not only having the same blood that runs in our body.

Not only do I know his secondary school friends but also his university buddies. To me five years is not a barrier. I'm grateful to him. He's my fashion consultant, hairstylist, football buddy, and most importantly, he's my only brother.

Happy birthday koko. To me, you're always an overgrown kid.

What a heart warming posting by Son No 2, Justin, on his blog this morning. This unsolicited outpouring of love -- which I have edited by replacing the sms lingo -- is the best birthday present that anyone could have wished for.

Am I so proud of the two of you. Julian, for showing me how to love and care. Justin, for that great sense of gratitude and love as well. It does raise a doubt and a sense of guilt in me as to whether I have been that ideal and good father to the two of you.

Thanks my precious for the lessons in love. Tears and all, I am so very proud of you.

And Happy Birthday Julian!

Thursday 13 March 2008

Connected with Walter

Gd mrng, how r u & every 1 at home? Just a short update on Walter's SPM result. He did well scoring 10As. Will b going to Form 6 next. A msg from Walter.."Thank you so much! This is one of the best days of my life. I wouldn't have come this far without your support and love. Once again, thank you."

This was the SMS I received yesterday. An ordinary SMS. But it meant a world to me. Even though I did not recognise the phone number of the sender, I knew who it was from the message. By the time, I came to the part "...i wouldn't have come this far", tears welled in my eyes. My heart lifted with joy, great joy!

Walter indeed has come far considering that only five years ago he was fighting for dear life having been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

I remembered that I had responded to an appeal for platelet donation. I paid Walter a visit in the hospital room after that. This was out of the norm for me, considering that I do not know Walter nor his family.

The room was warmly decorated but on the bed was a boy, who with his head shaven was pale and weak. Spoke a few words with his dad, made a contribution towards his medical expenses and left.

But somehow, I felt connected with Walter. Each visit to the Subang Jaya Medical Centre Blood Bank for a platelet donation, I would ask about him and the good news each time was that he was progressing well.

In June last year, I received the most wonderful news from Walter's mum. The doctor has declared him completely cured!

Walter has not only been given a new lease of life but is doing so well. I am sure that his parents are so proud of him as I am proud of my Son No 2, Justin, who returned from the 3-month National Service and brought us the added joy of a 9As SPM results.

It is moments like these that justly reward and make up for all the pain and anxieties that parents go through for their offspring. Life's great in its own way!

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Pain All Over Again

Pain...that of my heart being ripped. I still feel that pain in my heart as memories of last night flood my mind once again.

It was past 11 and I was driving back from the hospital. I had just left Son No 1 Julian in the ward, arm in cast and not fully out of sedation. Even in that state, he remembered that I had an early trip to Tampin the next morning. He asked me to go back and rest while mum, Jessie, and younger brother, Justin, accompany him a while longer.

I was a spent force. Not from physical exhaustion but mental. I just went through a few hours of excruciating pain in my heart, matching the tearing pain that Julian experienced from a dislocated elbow from a fall in varsity soccer match.

I had shaken my head when I first saw him in the x-ray ward, sitting on wheel chair with his arm bandaged in a splint. How can you Julian? You're so accident prone... these were the thoughts racing through my mind. Even though I did not mouth it, Julian read it.

"I can still move my fingers," he mumbled.

"Great", I retorted.

That opened the floodgates. My 22-year-old was expecting words of comfort but least of all, reprimand, laced with sarcasm. He lashed out, tears rolling down his cheeks. That knocked me back to my senses. How uncaring I had been while seemingly caring.

My mind had been playing back, one by one, the scenes of Julian in hospital since he was still a toddler. The first was when he turned blue in my in-laws' house in Penang. He was admitted and diagnosed to be suffering pneumonia.

The pain came back... how baby Julian had cried his lungs out when at regular intervals, a pipe was put into his mouth to get the phelgm out of his lungs... how he suffered a long needle wound from his buttocks to his thigh as he struggled while the nurse was giving him a jab... how he was getting dehydrated from diarrhoea while being treated from pneumonia...

How I faced the longest night of my life... A family friend consulted a medium without our knowledge and broke the news to us that THAT night was critical. Baby Julian would make it if he managed to make it through the night. Jessie was totally shaken. I flew into a rage. I don't believe in such hocus-pocus. Why! Why? Why tell us this... we didn't ask for it in the first place!!!

The instruction was to give him a drop of holy water every hour during that night. While a non-believer, I religiously went through it. You just can't imagine the relief and the joy to see the sun as dawn broke and replaced the darkness.

It was a beautiful day. And it woke us up from the darkness of ignorance. We decided to discharge him on our own accord and move him to another hospital. There he was immediately put on the drip which the previous hospital consider not necessary even though he was dehydrating.

That was not the one and only hospital episode for Julian. There were many more. As a tiny tot, Julian had to be rushed to hospital several times -- gash on his right eye and several stitches, fish bone lodged in his throat and a steady hand from the doctor to get it out, a deep cut on his lower lip and also several stitches...

All these came flooding back as we waited for the Orthopaedic Surgeon to arrive. He will have to be sedated for the elbow to be "popped" back in place. Later while the Surgeon was going through the procedure, I heard Julian cry out in pain but not as loud as the scream he let out when the Medical Officer in the Emergency Ward had tried to shift his arm to ease the pain.

The pain that we bear each time we see Julian going through all these had made us somewhat protective of him. We tend to curb his adventurous tendencies, but is it getting more and more difficult in his adulthood.

It is out of love and caring for your well being, my son knowing how accident and incident-prone you are. But Julian does listen to reason... like heeding our advice against his choice of hiking Mount Kinabalu for his elective stint as part of his course earlier this year.

May you be blessed with speedy recovery. And no more such pain please... my old heart just can't keep on taking it!