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Sunday, 06 November 2011 00:00

Yap Yoon Siong's Life Changing Story

Written by  By Yong Siew Lee, Kota Tinggi/ Translated by Tay Kim Geok

Tan Choon San (right), Yoon Siong's mentor in Tzu Chi, was very happy to see the transformation in Yoon Siong.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】

Following the demise of his son and the severe flooding in Southern Peninsula Malaysia in 2006, Yap Yoon Siong was invited to a Tzu Chi fellowship. Later he became an active volunteer and gave up his hobby of 40years - fishing.


His whole life was centered on fishing - fishing rods from Taiwan, prawn rods from Seoul, reels from Japan, and so on. He has a collection of 23 rods and about 40 sets of fishing equipment accumulated over the past 40 years of his life.

Yap Yoon Siong started fishing when he was 8, using iron wires to make his hooks and his mother's sewing threads to make fishing lines. Whenever he went overseas, he only shopped for fishing paraphernalia. During holidays, he would spend most of his time fishing. He even bought a giant freezer that could store hundreds of fish.

In 1993, when Yoon Siong's son was killed in a car accident, his whole world shattered into a million pieces. His heart was filled with hatred and sorrow. He burned lots of joss paper and nearly smashed a statue of the Goddess, not realizing that many sea creatures had died in his hands.

Seeing that Yoon Siong was unable to get over the demise of his son, a relative suggested that he does some chanting at a temple. Through chanting, Yoon Siong soon understood the general truth of causal inter-dependence to the problem of human suffering and began to accept that his son was gone. However, Yoon Siong still could not give up fishing. Even on the day he took his pledge in front of a Dharma Master to observe the Buddhist's five precepts (the first is ‘do not kill'), he asked the Master if he could be excused of the "killing precept". And he continued fishing, saying that it was the fault of the fish.

In 2006, Yoon Siong came to know of Tzu Chi when its volunteers carried out relief efforts for the victims of the severe flooding in southern Malaysia. From then, Yoon Siong began to join Tzu Chi in its charity and recycling missions.

One day, when he was angling, a hook caught his heel. Suddenly he realized that the pleasure he had been enjoying all those years was at the expense of someone else's pain. He immediately stopped fishing and started to spend his leisure time on Tzu Chi matters. He said, "Fishing is like playing with fire crackers, just a fleeting show. It is more rewarding to lend a helping hand to someone going through a hard time."

Be willing to face karmic retribution

Despite giving up fishing, Yoon Siong refused to sell his fishing equipment as advised by friends and relatives, because he does not want others to commit more evil deeds with them. Besides, keeping them can serve to remind him of his past wrongdoings.

When he thought of all the lives he took all those years, he was full of shame, guilt and regret. He remembered Master Cheng Yen once said, "You will be given a 20% discount if you repay your karmic retribution willingly." Yoon Siong said, "I will face my karmic retribution willingly when it comes."

In the past, Yoon Siong held chanting services at the temple for the marine lives that he had killed. He knew very well that this would not absolve him of his wrongdoings, but was only a token gesture to assuage his guilt. Now, whenever he fell sick, he would face his pains and discomfort with no complaints.

Although Yoon Siong has been doing good deeds with Tzu Chi, he still has the problem of being tactless, resulting in him offending many fellow volunteers. For this reason, everyone avoided him most of the time. Following Master Cheng Yen's urging for all to practise repentance early this year, Yoon Siong repented for his behaviour and begged forgiveness from fellow volunteers openly in an assembly. Brother Tan Choon San was surprised and said, "He used to offend many people. But I can see that he has changed a lot today. He is much friendlier and is ever willing to carry out the many duties assigned to him."

Yoon Siong said, "If we repent to a Buddha's statue, it will just smile at you. To truly repent and promise not to do it again, we must do it in public."

Yoon Siong's funny tale

Once Yoon Siong attended a training course at the Melaka Chapter and heard a volunteer's sharing. The speaker said, "How could you tell people that you have a compassionate heart when you are eating meat?" He was dumbfounded and decided to become a vegetarian immediately.

In the past, Yoon Siong used to make all kinds of excuses for taking meat, except on the 1st and 15th day of every lunar month. He quit his smoking easily, but not his meat consumption. He continued to eat meat until his commitment to Tzu Chi made him realize that going vegetarian not only stops killing but also protect lives.

At this juncture, Yoon Siong related a hilarious incident that happened to him.

A year ago, someone found a Malayan pangolin near his workshop. It was about 1 metre long, 5 kg in weight and pregnant. The market price for this animal was approximately RM300 per kilo, and the worker, who caught it, planned to have it slaughtered. However, Yoon Siong was desperate to buy and set it free. The hunter refused to sell to him initially but when Yoon Siong went down on his knees and begged him, he finally gave in. Yoon Siong bought the pangolin and sent it back to the jungle.

Use Jing-Si Aphorisms instead of vulgar words

As a car mechanic, Yoon Siong and his friends would often use the rude "4 letter word" freely. Today, he quotes Jing-Si Aphorisms all the time. He also has a sticker affixed to his car that says, "The greater our generosity, the greater our blessings." According to his employee, the bad tempered boss is now very easy-going and he is no longer aggressive with clients, who are late in payment. More importantly, most of the people working nearby have become Yoon Siong's donating members.

Yoon Siong is going to be one of the leaders in Tzu Chi next year. In preparation for this, he has begun to learn to use the computer and doing power-point presentation. He believes that his greatest satisfaction is to learn how to appreciate life through home visits. He said, "It is better to give than to receive." Thus, home visit is his favourite work in Tzu Chi.

Every few days, Yoon Siong and his wife will visit their care-recipients. One of them, who has terminal cancer, has even approached them for decision-making. Yoon Siong and his wife have taken good care of her and also resolved her problem with her son, thereby allowing her to leave in peace. Attributing all these to Master Cheng Yen, Yoon Siong said, "We are only helping our Master to get things done. So, thank our Master for establishing Tzu Chi."

Now, Yoon Siong has a firm direction in life because of Tzu Chi; and he has also identified his life's purpose. He is growing spiritually and helping others to do the same, so that people can live together harmoniously.

 

Yap Yoon Siong with his collection of fishing rods.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】   The hot-tempered Yoon Siong became a friendly person after joining Tzu Chi. Truck driver, Chandran (right) became his donating member five years ago.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】

Yap Yoon Siong with his collection of fishing rods.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】
 
The hot-tempered Yoon Siong became a friendly person after joining Tzu Chi. Truck driver, Chandran (right) became his donating member five years ago.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】
 
Yoon Siong has his wife's full support in going vegetarian.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】   Yoon Siong chatting happily with an elderly in the old folks' home. He has excellent rapport with all his care-recipients.【Photograph by Yong Siew Lee】

Yoon Siong has his wife's full support in going vegetarian.【Photograph by Koh Eng Kiat】
 
 
Yoon Siong chatting happily with an elderly in the old folks' home. He has excellent rapport with all his care-recipients.【Photograph by Yong Siew Lee】

 

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