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Last updateWed, 11 Nov 2015 11am

Wednesday, 15 April 2015 19:34

Overcame Physical and Mental Challenges to Shoulder More

Written by  Yo Choon Yen, Muar / Translated by Ong Mooi Lin

Tey Kak learnt diligently and overcame her frustration arising from her inability to grasp the movements. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]

Tey Kak felt blessed to encounter “Dharma as Water” sutra adaptation performance before she turns 60. Thus, she registered herself as a performer without hesitation. She was later assigned to take charge of the “Sea of Great Love” team, though reluctant but felt shy to push back. Upon overcoming many psychical and mental challenges, she has turned her worries into commitment, and decided to grasp this opportunity to fulfil her wish to perform.


 
2015 is a meaningful year for Tzu Chi volunteers in the Central and Southern region of Malaysia as there will be a grand Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance. Such a project is particularly challenging for Muar’s Team. Apart from working hard to invite the public to participate, they also need to source for new volunteers, lead in sign language and bodily movements, as well as, appoint sub-group leaders and caring team members.
 
Tey Kak, who is approaching 60 soon, felt blessed to come across this exceptional event, hence, she seized the opportunity to perform without hesitation. However, after learning that she would be in charge of the “Sea of Great Love” team1, she accepted the role with trepidation. Nevertheless, she persevered as she felt that, as a Commissioner, she should not turn it down when half of the performers from the community are new volunteers.
 
Attending the volunteers training for the first time, she felt uneasy, confused and anxious, and could not remember what was taught. Upon returning home, she was so stressed that she could not sleep or eat.
 
She came across the lyrics: “In the journey of life, if one loses oneself in the endless vast ocean, one drifts aimlessly at the mercy of the wind and waves, heading nowhere.” It was as if they were describing her helplessness in the endless vast ocean, unable to find her direction.
 
Tey Kak sighed in dismay, “The Dharma vessel has yet to sail and I am already seasick.” She was fickle-minded about assuming the role as person-in-charge of the “Sea of Great Love” team. Weary of her inability and still depressed over the loss of her son, she was careful not to touch her wounded heart that was still in distinctive pain.
 
Parent-child relationship improved
 
Since young, Tey Kak’s three sons had achieved good academic results, with her youngest, Tee Chen Siang, being the most outstanding. He achieved excellent grades in his primary education and was also very obedient. Sadly, he was obsessed with computer games after entering secondary school, where his grades deteriorated.
 
Tey Kak’s constant nagging irritated him. Knowing that she must change in order to connect with her son, she found her solution in Tzu Chi. She started volunteering at the recycling centre in her community, and participating in the volunteers training. She finally found her direction that led to a fulfilling life. More importantly, she has learnt to listen and empathize with her children.
 
Chen Siang later met friends of Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth and joined Tzu Chi in university. He reflected and regretted his association with bad company and for his rebellious actions in the past. Then he began to change and focus on his studies; and, there was once he returned home and warmed his mother’s heart by washing her feet with a pail of water.
 
In 2012, Tey Kak and Chen Siang attended the Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Blessing Ceremony at Tzu Chi Muar. On stage, both of them expressed their gratitude to each other and repented for their past mistakes. When Tey Kak apologized and asked for forgiveness for her strict discipline, Chen Siang hugged his mother tightly, exclaiming that actions speak louder than words. He wanted to be a filial and good son, instead of saying “I love you” countlessly.
 
That evening, Tey Kak performed reverently with gratitude the sign language for two scenes from Dharma as Water –“Repenting for karmic retributions” and “Making vows after repenting”.
 
Comforted for her grief over loss of son
 
Tey Kak is committed to Tzu Chi’s missions. At the Tzu Chi kindergarten, she instils the environmental protection awareness to the children, guiding them on how to sort recyclables and educating them not to waste food. She also promotes kindness and generosity wholeheartedly, and many school teachers have become Tzu Chi’s monthly donors. She is actively involved in home visits, and through witnessing the suffering of others, she is grateful of her own blessings.
 
At the Year-end Blessing Ceremony held on January 6, 2013, she took the opportunity again to participate in the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance, feeling joyful despite the intensive practising schedules.
 
Regrettably, life is full of unexpected changes. At 12 noon on January 5, 2013, her world came crashing down when she received a call that Chen Siang died in a highway car accident. She was uncertain if her son’s demise was because he wanted to surprise her at the Year-end Blessing Ceremony the following day; but she was unable to accept the fact that affinity with her son lasted only 23 years.
 
After grieving alone and shutting herself off for a few months, she realized that only through associating with others would she be able to liberate from sorrow. She felt truly blessed that there are still Dharma and Tzu Chi in her life to turn to. But when she was alone, the feeling of loss and thoughts of her son still made her cry to sleep.
 
Despite feeling that life is cruel to her, Tey Kak understood the affinity with her son has ended. This inevitable incident is a lesson on impermanence, and she vigilantly reminded herself to grasp every opportunity to contribute!
 
Bravely accepted responsibility despite bodily pain
 
Realizing that the opportunity of encountering the Dharma as Water sutra is rare, Tey Kak felt blessed to come across the sutra again. She had supported others previously but this time, her role is to lead others. She needs time to adjust. Sensing her anxiety, the Dharma sisters and brothers showered her with care and motivation, and encouraged her to watch, listen and practise more, as practice makes perfect.
 
Tey Kak decided to accept the responsibility and work with everyone in the sutra adaptation performance. She would use this opportunity to repent her past karma and purify her mind. She studied the songs conscientiously to give her best wholeheartedly and willingly. She guided the performers in her community strictly but patiently, making sure that their gestures and steps are perfect. However, she was again troubled by her difficulty in kneeling down, fearing it might affect others.
 
One day in December 2014, while wide awake at around 4 am, she got up and switched on Da Ai TV. It was showing the morning chanting of Lotus Sutra at Jing Si Abode. It was spiritually uplifting to hear the striking of the drum, chanting of sutra verses, and recitation of Buddha’s name. 
 
She followed suit and prostrated persistently in spite of her aching legs and slow movements. Volunteer Wong Jan Jan said, “It is difficult for her to kneel down yet she has assumed the role courageously. Her spirit is indeed worthy of admiration.”
 
From that day onwards, she has woken up at dawn to chant Lotus Sutra and prostrate diligently, gradually feeling relax. Tey Kak admitted her initial motive was to look for a way to release her anxieties and worries, but surprisingly, the pain in her legs eased and the tensed nerves loosened after some time, allowing her to prostrate easily now. This had boosted her confidence.
 
Now, she can recite the sutra word for word besides practising the posture diligently. From the initial unfamiliarity to grasping the techniques gradually, she has learnt that with a focused and attentive mind, all problems could be resolved. Hence, she is at ease now.
 
At the Dharma as Water study group, she became weary of the explanations on karmic retribution, especially the lyrics that “…bad cause bad effect and bad karma, one must be clear and mindful; evil karma created must be repented for there is inescapable karmic retribution…” The verses cautioned her to be vigilant in her speech, action and thoughts, to rid her negative habitual tendencies and not to create unwholesome affinities with others.
 
Energized with children’s support
 
Tey Kak’s children, who are working inter-state, support her participation in Tzu Chi’s activities for it is a comfort to them knowing there are Dharma sisters and brothers to care and show concern for their mother like family members.
 
The eldest son, Tee Chen Chean, taught his mother how to copy teaching materials into a pendrive for practice at home. The second son, Tee Chen Haw, who works in Penang, returned home to fix the old bicycle, encouraging her mother to cycle to build up her stamina. The family has also planned to travel overseas after the sutra adaptation performance. She is extremely happy about her sons’ thoughtfulness.
 
“I must take care of my body and build up stamina for the sutra adaptation performance,” said a determined Tey Kak. As long as she can overcome various challenges, there is no turning back.
 
 
Two years after Chen Siang’s demise, Tey Kak arrived with flowers and fruits at the Melaka Straits, the place where his ashes were dispersed. She could now talk to her son calmly about her current life. Sharing the sweetness and bitterness of the sutra adaptation performance, her only wish is that her legs will cooperate to make the July performance a success.
 
It is the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance that brought her out of darkness, allowing her to live a different and meaningful life. Although her eyes still brim with tears, she is able to put up a smile.
 
1 Simple sign language performed by seated participants in front of the stage to echo the performance on stage, thus forming a breathtaking musical play.
 
 

 
Being in charge of the “Sea of Great Love” team, Tey Kak (1st left) has guided volunteers in her community patiently during practice, ensuring their gestures and movements were correct.  [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]   Tey Kak wakes up early in the morning to chant the Lotus Sutra on her knees to subdue her emotional turbulence. The pain on her knees gradually disappear, allowing her to prostrate easily now. [Photograph by Yo Choon Yen]

Being in charge of the “Sea of Great Love” team, Tey Kak (1st left) has guided volunteers in her community patiently during practice, ensuring their gestures and movements were correct. [Photograph by Kang Miew Tiang]
 
Tey Kak wakes up early in the morning to chant the Lotus Sutra on her knees to subdue her emotional turbulence. The pain on her knees gradually disappear, allowing her to prostrate easily now. [Photograph by Yo Choon Yen]
 
In the 2012 Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Blessing Ceremony, Tey Kak with her late son, Tee Chen Siang, shared their bonding and interaction on stage. [Photograph by Tan Siong Kee]    

In the 2012 Auspicious Seventh Lunar Month Blessing Ceremony, Tey Kak with her late son, Tee Chen Siang, shared their bonding and interaction on stage. [Photograph by Tan Siong Kee]