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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Thursday, 26 March 2015 10:23

Repent and Rewrite His Life’s Script

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Jacqueline Khoo

Liew Kim Shin (middle) is deeply grateful for the chance to join the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance, which allows him to allay his worries with the Dharma, repent for his past killing actions, and thus rewriting his life’s script. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]

Liew Kim Shin, 53, has bravely taken the opportunity to be a sign language performer for the Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance. To him, the chance to learn the Dharma is very rare and precious. As he understood more about karma through the songs, he slowly allayed his worries, repented for his past and rewrote his present life’s script.


 
Father’s young teachers are his sons
 
“Sons, give me some of your time tonight!” Liew Kim Shin said to his sons smilingly. The two brothers, both in secondary schools, looked at each other and smiled; they knew their father would be practising a new song and its sign language that night.
 
At a Tzu Chi group study in October 2014, Kim Shin was invited to participate as a sign language performer in Group A of the four-session Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance (or Water Repentance in short) sutra adaptation performance that Tzu Chi KL & Selangor will be staging on July 4 and 5, 2015, at Putra Indoor Stadium, Bukit Jalil. 
 
Despite having no prior experience or knowledge in sign language and unable to interpret the “doll images” (illustrations of sign language gestures), Kim Shin accepted the offer. Later, he was told he has to perform hand gestures according to the lyrics. When he first received the “doll images”, he was totally lost and could not even differentiate left and right gestures. Even though he had considered quitting, the thought of having gone through various challenges in life changed his mind. 
 
Firmly believing that he could overcome his difficulties in learning the sign language, he started practising. Besides learning from volunteers at the Tzu Chi Tayton Community Centre, he also discussed and sought help from his sons when they have the time.
 
After carefully watching the video clips their father recorded, the sons taught the latter accordingly. They also slowed down the speed of the video to enable their father to catch up.
“My sons watched and learnt first, then they guided me to memorize the lyrics before learning the hand gestures. This helped me to get an idea. I also watched the tutorial video repeatedly, and eventually, I was able to sing it too,” shared Kim Shin.
 
After grasping the lyrics and hand gestures, Kim Shin, who loves singing, loves the sign languages even more. Upon waking up each morning, he will look at the “doll images” and practise while singing until it is time to leave for work. Whenever he stops at a traffic light, he will also seize the time to practise. At night, as his sons do their homework, he practises the sign language beside them; and will ask them for help if needed.
 
To ensure that his actions are correct, he also seeks coaching lessons from Khew Nyet Chin, volunteer in charge of sign language for his community. With this one-on-one coaching at a recycling centre, Kim Shin has improved tremendously, especially for the song, “Perfect and Radiant Buddha Nature”. Not only is he able to sing the song well, his gestures are now close to perfection.
 
Through memorizing the lyrics, practising the hand movements and sharing during the group studies, Kim Shin has slowly come to understand the meaning of the sutra verses. Thus, when practising, he would at times repent for his past actions, especially his love for meat.
 
Craved for meat in every meal
 
“When I was young, my family was poor. My parents worked as rubber tappers to raise the six of us. We had to often borrow some rice from neighbours to cook porridge; and we grew up eating porridge with lots of water,” recalled Kim Shin.
 
Back then, Kim Shin could hardly fill his stomach. Whenever he went to a bakery to buy a cake, the owner would chase him out presuming he could not afford the cakes. Such incidences were deeply etched in Kim Shin’s mind and prompted him to stop schooling after Form 3. He started working hard for money and learnt to enjoy life.
 
When he was 27, he stayed in Japan illegally to earn more money. During weekends and holidays, he went drinking with friends and indulged in good food. Such was his image in his younger days.
 
Two years later, Kim Shin returned to Malaysia and started a joint business venture in furniture with his friends. Later, he got married and had kids. Although not very wealthy, they led a peaceful and stable life, and occasionally, he would still join his friends for good food and drinks to satisfy his cravings.
 
Kim Shin revealed, “I loved eating chicken and duck then. Out of 365 days per year, I only consumed vegetarian food on the first day of Chinese New Year, and ate meat for every meal on other days. Sometimes, I would stop and buy a quarter or half a roasted duck, which I enjoyed eating while riding my motorbike. At the time, it was a form of enjoyment.”
 
He could not understand his cravings for chicken and duck meat. Normally, half a chicken is enough for his family of four. But whenever he cooked drunken chicken, he alone could finish more than half a chicken. He considered roasted chicken or duck served with beer as the best food in the world, and it would be perfect if followed by a cigarette. 
 
Three years ago, when he was diagnosed with kidney cancer, he realized that life is impermanent and fragile; and that death was fast approaching. At every check-up, he felt like a prisoner awaiting execution. He was scared and suffered badly. When the doctor told him that he needed surgery to remove his kidney that had the malignancy, he helplessly left the decision to his family. All his family members agreed to the surgery, leaving him no choice but to undergo the operation, followed by chemotherapy. During those days, he deeply felt the pain of being cut and the fear when death was near.
 
He shared, “I used to think, I had always been the good boy in my parents’ eyes, a good husband to my wife and a good father to my kids. I thought I never did anything bad either, so why was I the one suffering this illness?”
 
During that desperate and helpless period, a health-conscious friend encouraged him that cancer is not fatal. If we could improve our body’s condition and be mindful of our diet, we could still regain our health. Thus, from that moment onwards, he started to learn qigong, take sweet potato porridge, pumpkin rice and a light diet. He also reduced his cravings for meat and ate more vegetables.
 
Awakened to the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect
 
In September 2013, Kim Shin met some Tzu Chi volunteers, who were selling Jing-Si products in a market. It then dawned on him that four to five years earlier, upon his friend’s encouragement, he became a Tzu Chi donating member. Later, when told that the volunteer, who used to collect the donations, had stopped coming, he thought his chance to do good had dissipated. Meeting the volunteers again meant that he could resume his donation, and even invite his friends along.
 
At the start of 2014, a volunteer, who collected donations from him, invited him to join Tzu Chi’s activities. He went to the Tzu Chi Tayton Community Centre with curiosity, and started joining activities from chanting the Lotus Sutra twice monthly to group and sutra study, and eventually, he became a new volunteer.
 
To Kim Shin, Tzu Chi’s centres are always peaceful and harmonious. There, he can see a beautiful life of goodness, and what he hears are always good words. The truth, goodness and beauty he witnessed in Tzu Chi had energized him; he became cheerful, and smiles also appeared on his face more often.
 
After joining the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month activity in July 2014 at the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall, he understood the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect through the chanting of the Kshitigarbha Sutra. He could not help but relate his fear and pain when he was on the operating table to that of the chickens and ducks he ate. It had agonized him tremendously to think that he had killed numerous lives just for their meat in the past 50 or more years. At that instant, he was awakened and decided to become a vegetarian. He also decided to stop his drinking and smoking habits.
 
Kim Shin did not complain about having to eat sweet potato porridge instead of meat. Instead, he was very grateful. He also understood a great deal more about karma and the significance of repentance after chanting the Water Repentance Sutra.
 
Whenever he sang and performed the verses - “Evil causes, conditions and retributions; no matter how subtle, must be clearly recognized. The Law of Karma is infallible; for the karma we have created, we must repent” - from the song, “Perfect and Radiant Buddha Nature”, he would gasp in horror and ponder if his kidney cancer is a result of karmic retribution.
 
He said, “I repent every time I sing this song. I am really grateful that I joined Tzu Chi and stopped my cravings for meat. If it was not for this opportunity (to learn the Dharma), I would surely still be eating meat, and my bad karma would have accumulated. How do I repay such karmic debts in my next life?”
 
Although Kim Shin has recovered from his illness, he was still worried that the cancer would recur. However, since learning the Dharma and having understood the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect, he has stopped worrying. In repenting for his past actions, he has opened his heart to face the unknown future.
 
Now, Kim Shin is devoting his time and life to the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance. Practising the sign language and songs has become his primary daily task. Listening to the Dharma has also become an essential part of his life. Although he cannot attend the Master’s Dharma lecture at dawn daily due to his work, he still makes an effort to learn the Dharma at Tzu Chi’s community centre at least once a week. With the help of subtitles and sharing by other volunteers, he could slowly understand the Dharma preached by the Master in Taiwanese Hokkien.
 
Kim Shin can totally relate to this saying by the Master: “We do not know if impermanence or tomorrow would come first”. On New Year eve this year, he felt an unusual lethargy, and was later diagnosed with gallstones. Instead of surgically removing the gallstones as suggested by the doctor, he opted instead to excrete the gallstones from his body the natural way so as not to experience the pain of surgery again.
 
As a result of this, he has understood the nature of impermanence as mentioned by the Master. Thus, besides joining the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance, he also involves himself in other activities, like recycling and recruiting campaign.
 
Correcting the past and cultivate diligently
 
It is rare to be reborn as a human and to hear the Dharma. Thus, Kim Shin is convinced that he should seize this precious lifetime to learn the Dharma. 
 
At the end of 2014, his sister, who works in Australia, invited him over to pluck apples for a month. Kim Shin actually wanted to grab this opportunity to visit Australia, however, the thought that the month-long trip would certainly interrupt his sign language practices, he rejected the offer. He said, “There will still be a chance for me to pluck apples in Australia, but if I missed this opportunity to be involved in a sutra adaptation performance, I may not get this chance again even in my future lives.”
 
Joining the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance has brought Kim Shin abundant happiness. He shared that every time after singing and practising the sign language, he feels like his mind has been purified and is at ease. Although he is left with only one kidney and his immunity has deteriorated after having cancer, he feels very energetic each time after practising the sign language.
 
Now, on weekends, he would go on walks to the small hill near his house and have some fresh air. While doing that, he would sing the songs loudly and practise the hand movements.
 
On the hill, there are always mosquitoes. In the past, he would kill them without a second thought. But now, whenever he sees mosquitoes, he would be reminded of the verses, “Living beings are many and varied; living, breathing and resting as one”, thus, he would gently wave his hands to shoo the mosquitoes away.
 
With a feeling of compassion slowly rising in his heart, and a sense of gratitude increasing day by day, Kim Shin is showered in gratefulness every day. He is grateful that as he gradually switched from a heavy meat-based diet to vegetarian in the past two years, he has achieved his desired weight of 50-plus kg from 80-plus kg. He is also grateful for his family, children and fellow volunteers, who have been by his side along this path, allowing him to join the Water Repentance performance, repent for his past killing actions; and even rewrite his life’s script, turning ignorance to enlightenment, and walking steadfastly on the Bodhisattva Path.
 
 

 
Although Kim Shin cannot understand the Master’s Dharma lecture in Taiwanese Hokkien, with the help from subtitles, sharing by other volunteers and jotting down important notes, he could slowly understand the Dharma. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]   Although he had one kidney removed, Liew Kim Shin (right) still contributes at the recycling centre every week. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]

Although Kim Shin cannot understand the Master’s Dharma lecture in Taiwanese Hokkien, with the help from subtitles, sharing by other volunteers and jotting down important notes, he could slowly understand the Dharma. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]
 
Although he had one kidney removed, Liew Kim Shin (right) still contributes at the recycling centre every week. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]
 
Liew Kim Shin (right) asked his sons to help guide him with the lyrics and hand gestures during their free time, by referring to the “doll images” and tutorial videos. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]   Liew Kim Shin’s sons are his teachers. They would confirm the hand gestures that they were unsure of by referring to the tutorial videos before teaching their father. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]

Liew Kim Shin (right) asked his sons to help guide him with the lyrics and hand gestures during their free time, by referring to the “doll images” and tutorial videos. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]
 
 
Liew Kim Shin’s sons are his teachers. They would confirm the hand gestures that they were unsure of by referring to the tutorial videos before teaching their father. [Photograph by Gary Kong Yuen Foo]
 
When he was young, Liew Kim Shin (right) stayed and worked illegally in Japan to earn more money, which he spent on scrumptious food and drinking. [Photograph provided by Liew Kim Shin]   A family photo taken before Liew Kim Shin was diagnosed with cancer. His weight was reduced from 80-plus kg to a desired weight of 50-plus kg with the change in his eating habit from heavy meat-based diet to vegetarian. [Photograph provided by Liew Kim Shin]

When he was young, Liew Kim Shin (right) stayed and worked illegally in Japan to earn more money, which he spent on scrumptious food and drinking. [Photograph provided by Liew Kim Shin]
 
 
A family photo taken before Liew Kim Shin was diagnosed with cancer. His weight was reduced from 80-plus kg to a desired weight of 50-plus kg with the change in his eating habit from heavy meat-based diet to vegetarian. [Photograph provided by Liew Kim Shin]
 
Liew Kim Shin always seek help from volunteer Khew Nyet Chin (right) to ensure that his hand movements are correct. Nyet Chin is seen here coaching Kim Shin during a practice at the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]    

Liew Kim Shin always seek help from volunteer Khew Nyet Chin (right) to ensure that his hand movements are correct. Nyet Chin is seen here coaching Kim Shin during a practice at the KL Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall. [Photograph by Lim Chin Tong]