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Thursday, 26 March 2015 17:32

Easing the Pain of Illness with Dharma Water

Written by  Chan Shi Yih, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chong Pei Fen

Through the story of Master Wu Da, Teong Chwee Le understood that what we experienced is the result of the karma we had created in the past; it is not necessarily that we have not been good enough in this life. Thus, she opened up her heart to accept the reality. [Photograph by Teh Poh Tat]

Teong Chwee Le is thankful that her participation in the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance has helped her to accept the fact that she has cancer calmly. She said, “I told myself, so long as I repent sincerely, I can surely survive it. Just like the verses: ‘the Samadhi Dharma water cleanses, purifying the sins of all beings’, I will let the Dharma water purify my sins so that my next life will be better and I will be awakened sooner to walk on the Bodhisattva Path.”


 
In August 2014, when Teong Chwee Le moved into her new home in Subang Jaya, she contacted her ex-colleague Lim Pei Sze, a Tzu Chi volunteer, to enquire about the location of Tzu Chi’s recycling point nearest to her place.
 
Through the phone, Pei Sze then invited Chwee Le to take part in the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance. Surprisingly, Chwee Le, who had been busy juggling with her studies and work, accepted her invitation. Chwee Le said, “I had been working and studying part-time since I graduated from secondary school, and finally obtained a Master’s degree in 2011. I had wished to participate in Tzu Chi’s activities during my student days but I had no time for that. Since I have the time now, and this is a rare affinity according to Pei Sze, I agreed to take part.”
 
Face her illness calmly with understanding of the Dharma
 
Not long after Chwee Le’s relocation, she found a sarcoma on her left leg, but paid no heed to it. A month later, she was admitted to a hospital due to an infection on the sarcoma. To her dismay, she was diagnosed with late stage cancer.
 
Thirty-six-year-old Chwee Le was aggrieved at the distressing news. She said, “Since I have the ability to support myself, I have been generous in giving donations. I even spared ten percent of my bonus for orphanages or hospitals. Whenever there is a disaster, I would also make contributions to the victims. I have been contributing to charitable causes over the past ten years or so, but why am I to suffer from cancer when I am only half way through my life?”
 
Then in a sutra study, she learnt from the story of Master Wu Da that everything we experienced is the result of the negative karma we had created in the past; it is not necessarily that we have not been good enough in this life. With that understanding of the Dharma, she accepted the harsh reality.
 
Cherish lives and observe a vegetarian diet
 
Chwee Le admitted that it was because of the sutra adaptation performance that she started to undertake a vegetarian fast. After she underwent a surgical resection of the tumour, a nurse, who is a cancer survivor, advised her to have a balanced diet. She also related to Chwee Le how as a vegetarian, she had to consume meat again during her chemotherapy treatment for the sake of nutrient intakes. Hearing her personal experience, Chwee Le’s determination for a vegetarian diet wavered and she thought to herself, “I will take meat again if I can’t withstand the chemotherapy!”
 
Later, when Chwee Le was recuperating at home, a friend lent her a video disc, “The 2011 Compassionate Samadhi Water Repentance Sutra Adaptation Performance”. She had a deep realization upon watching the scene, “The Dream”, and decided to observe a vegetarian diet steadfastly.
 
She shared, “That lady dreamt that she turned into an animal. With a hole the size of a fist on my left leg, a cut of skin the size of an A4 paper on my right leg and a 15 cm scar after surgery, I was no different from an animal that was being slaughtered. I reflected on my craving for chickens and asked myself whether I should continue harming animals to sustain my life. And the answer was whatever obstacles I may face, I will insist on a vegetarian diet.”
 
Chwee Le was petrified the first time she saw the instruments for electrotherapy. She gathered her courage and assured herself, “So long as I accept it sincerely, I will be fine.” Each electrotherapy brought her greater physical and mental suffering, from loose joints, swollen and sore wounds, recurrence of hemorrhoids, unstable emotions, incontinence to burns on her buttocks. But, she braved them all with the Dharma in her heart.
 
Her mother had frequently showed her concerns. However, Chwee Le could not understand her love and worries, and had even asked her to stop asking about her condition. Her mother, who is in her sixties, would travel from Ampang to Subang on her motorbike to accompany her to see a doctor. Chwee Le said remorsefully, “I had no choice but to answer the doctor’s questions, and that was when my mother learnt of my actual condition. I feel truly sorry that I had not been filial to my mother.”
 
Chwee Le, who firmly believes that the Dharma water can purify one’s sins, completed the 33 electrotherapies on March 5, 2015. She said humorously, “I don’t look like a cancer patient, do I? I have covered all my scars under my clothes, and thankfully, I do not suffer from debilitating side effects.”
 
Repent and start anew
 
Chwee Le has taken the sutra verses personally and almost every verse gives rise to a heart of repentance. The verse, “greed for fame, wealth and power”, in the sub-chapter “One by One, I Repent My Wrongs” of “Repenting the Obstacle of Afflictions”, is a portrayal of her former self.
 
Born to a poor family, Chwee Le joined the workforce after graduating from high school and had worked very hard to accumulate wealth. Even though her pay had increased over time, she kept yearning for more, and had studied hard to earn herself academic qualifications that would enable her to achieve greater career success.
 
Later, when she took part in Tzu Chi’s home visits to the poor and needy, she gained a better insight into life and learnt to appreciate her blessings. She said, “It was only then that I realized there are many people out there who are left helpless with their medical costs. In reflection, I am so fortunate that my company paid for my medical bills of RM70,000 and I was paid despite my four-month absence from work. I should count my blessings and sow more blessings.”
 
The verses, “I repent telling lies for my own benefit; like a snake spitting poison, my words hurt others; I repent speaking insincere words of flattery and for causing discord through gossip and tale-bearing”, in the sub-chapter “One by One, I Repent” of “Repenting the Obstacle of Karma”, told the negative karma of speech that Chwee Le committed in the past.
 
She disclosed, “My colleagues and I loved backbiting our superior and telling tales when we got together. Not only did I fail to be a mediator to resolve any conflicts between my colleagues, but I would also add insult to injury.”
 
After learning the Dharma, Chwee Le repented for her ignorance and started to handle interpersonal relationships differently. Now, she is a virtuous friend to her colleagues and has formed good affinities with many.
 
She had also been insincere in her words in an attempt to please her superior and colleagues. She said, “Sometimes I would praise a colleague for his/her outfit or hairdo that was obviously a poor choice. I would also ingratiate myself with my boss for his ideas that were apparently inappropriate. Now, I will reply to whatever I am unable to advise with a smile.”
 
Moreover, Chwee Le used to be quick-tempered and often scolded her subordinates to tears. The verses, “I repent for my pride, conceit and arrogance; and how I had looked down on others”, brought her to reflect on her approach. She repented for her arrogance and learns to treat everyone around her humbly and kindly. She shared, “I would repeat my explanations if my subordinates could not get me. I would even prepare notes for them. By so doing, I am also growing spiritually and would not hurt others with my ill-temper.”
 
She also found the verses, “I repent for often being captivated by appearance and giving rise to greed when I see beautiful sights. I repent for letting my ears to be bewitched by pleasant sounds; and by sweet words, my judgement is clouded”, a reflection of her mind that was clouded by ignorance and delusion.
 
She shared, “I was an appearance supremacist. I only loved to befriend good-looking people. When recruiting a staff, I would give bonus points to those good-looking candidates. I would also be bias towards my subordinates who look beautiful. I must really repent for my superficial view.”
 
Other than her love for beautiful things, Chwee Le was easily confused by sweet words. She confessed that she loved hearing flattering words, which made her feel smug. Awakened by the sutra verses, she started to be alert and has learnt to discern sincere praises from insincere flatteries. She said, “My illness has brought me to recognize and cherish my true friends.”
 
A decade of small kindness
 
Chwee Le learnt about Tzu Chi through Pei Sze in 2005. On a visit to Melaka Tzu-Chi Jing Si Hall, she learnt about recyclable sorting and was touched by the spirit of the “Bamboo Bank Era”. She recalled, “That time, an Indian care recipient, who had just undergone a leg surgery, shared with us his stories on a wheelchair. I was deeply moved the moment he emptied his savings in a Milo tin and gave to the doctor. I told myself that I could also do the same.”
 
After returning home, Chwee Le turned a plastic bottle into a bamboo bank. She would save RM0.20 daily and donate the money when she sent recyclables she had collected to Tzu Chi’s recycling point.
 
That little act of kindness has become her daily routine over the past ten years, with the amount increasing from RM0.20 to RM1 or more now. She said, “This is different from my donations to other charitable organizations; it is my daily token of kindness.”
 
The small yet precious kindness continues to grow even after Chwee Le’s relocation to Subang Jaya. Not only does she partake in the Water Repentance sutra adaptation performance, she has also become a new volunteer in December 2014 and progressed to a volunteer trainee this year. The dreadful illness has led her to grasp that “we can bring nothing but the karma we have created with us when we depart from this world”, and change her approach in doing charity. She said, “I am no longer confined to contribution in cash. I want to walk into the multitude, serve humanity and make a difference in their lives.”
 
 

 
Teong Chwee Lee shared that she felt like the sutra verses were particularly meant for her and every verse gives rise to a heart of repentance. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]   Enlightened by the sutra verses, Teong Chwee Le repented the karma of speech that she had created in the past. [Photograph by Teh Poh Tat]

Teong Chwee Lee shared that she felt like the sutra verses were particularly meant for her and every verse gives rise to a heart of repentance. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]
 
Enlightened by the sutra verses, Teong Chwee Le repented the karma of speech that she had created in the past. [Photograph by Teh Poh Tat]
 
Teong Chwee Le (centre), who is a Dharma Expressionist in Group B, attends the group study at the Tzu Chi USJ Community Centre every Monday after work. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]   Although Teong Chwee Le picked up sign language interpretation only after she joined the sutra adaptation performance, she was already able to help teach the hand gestures in December 2014. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]

Teong Chwee Le (centre), who is a Dharma Expressionist in Group B, attends the group study at the Tzu Chi USJ Community Centre every Monday after work. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]
 
 
Although Teong Chwee Le picked up sign language interpretation only after she joined the sutra adaptation performance, she was already able to help teach the hand gestures in December 2014. [Photograph by How Siew Heok]
 
Teong Chwee Le turned a plastic bottle into a bamboo bank and saved RM0.20 daily. She would donate the money when she sent recyclables she had collected to Tzu Chi’s recycling point. [Photograph by Chan Shi Yih]    

Teong Chwee Le turned a plastic bottle into a bamboo bank and saved RM0.20 daily. She would donate the money when she sent recyclables she had collected to Tzu Chi’s recycling point. [Photograph by Chan Shi Yih]