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Sunday, 21 June 2015 09:57

Reciting Sutra Nurtures One’s Mind

Written by  Tan Kim Hion, KL & Selangor / Translated by Chew Chiau Ping

Shai Hwee Chong made a sign language of a heart confidently. She is grateful to be part of the sutra adaptation performance. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]

By participating in the sutra adaptation performance, Shai Hwee Chong has progressed from performing sign language and chanting of sutra verses to repenting; and eventually, her wounded heart was healed. She has finally understood that chanting verses on repentance does not eradicate one’s delusion. It is only when one repents reverently and makes a vow for change will one’s defilements be cleansed.


 
“We are not merely performers. We are preachers of the Dharma who promulgate the wondrous Dharma to all!”
 
In early June 2015, Joy Lu, Chief Planner and Director of the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance in Taiwan, led a team to Kuala Lumpur to coach the local performers for their Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance at Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil in July. Joy reminded everyone that they are preachers of the Dharma, preaching with their body language and singing, hoping that the audience could comprehend the Law of Karma, reflect and repent for their past wrongdoings and advance themselves spiritually.
 
Shai Hwee Chong was hit hard by the phrases, “preachers of the Dharma” and “propagators of the Dharma” and realized that the sutra adaptation performance was meant to propagate the profound Dharma teachings to all. If she could not purify her mind with the Dharma, how then could she convince others how wondrous the Dharma is and that the Dharma could free one’s mind from delusion and worries?
 
By repenting sincerely, Hwee Chong was able to eradicate her resentment and emotional pain, and attain inner peace.
 
Repent for a great deal of things
 
Hwee Chong had a number of things to repent for. In her younger days, she was ignorant, reckless and often moaned over the lack of parental love. Her family did not appreciate her hard work and good grades in school, and they also scolded her often when she spent time away from hone or skipped her household chores.
 
While in secondary school, she picked up smoking, drinking and car racing to seek attention from her parents, but these only resulted in scolding.
 
“Back then, I could neither understand their worries nor feel their love for me. Even though I dared not give up on my studies and my grades were good, I was unhappy and felt that the world was dark.”
 
Then she met her husband and their relationship led to an unexpected pregnancy. As they were both in school, she decided to have an abortion, and that had haunted her since then.
 
After she started working, the family was blessed with a child. As their son grew up, they tried for a second baby but failed despite numerous attempts, which also resulted in a miscarriage. Due to that, the couple often argued as she could not fulfil her husband’s desire to have a sibling for their three-year-old son despite seeking medical consultations, praying to God and making donations to accumulate merits.
 
Hwee Chong said, “I was having trouble conceiving due to the earlier abortion. Therefore, I blamed my husband for not stopping me back then. The issue strained our relationship as I had often lashed out on him during heated arguments.” Being hard-headed, she had always thought she was right and would even slam the door; and her even-tempered husband would always be the one to give in.
 
However, her life changed when she volunteered as a ‘Loving Mother’ to accompany her child in the Da Ai Educare Centre in Kuala Lumpur.
 
Seize the opportunity to practise filial piety
 
She shared, “My son has benefitted from the Jing Si Aphorisms. During our visits to his grandparents, he would hold their hands; and he told me to love them more as they were getting older…”
 
His innocent words struck a chord in her, yet she hung onto her bitter upbringing. For three years in the Da Ai Educare Centre, she was constantly reminded by various quotes from the Jing Si Aphorisms that doing good and filial piety should not wait, yet deep down inside, she was struggling.
 
At the end of 2014, she joined the Dharma as Water sutra adaptation performance at the invitation of Zheng Xian Min, a ‘Loving Mother’. She participated without any expectations, but the chanting of the sutra verses often brought her to tears.
 
Whenever she performed the hand gestures for the phrase, “the Law of Karma never fails; for the karma created, we must repent”, she would be reminded of the unwholesome karma she had created in the past unknowingly.
 
Through the sutra study group, she understood that the karma one has created will stealthily follow one like a shadow. Reflecting on her negligence towards her parents, she wondered whether she should continue forming unwholesome karmic affinity with them. All those years, she had only supported them financially, but had not fulfilled her filial duties.
 
While chanting the sutra verses, she recalled her younger days, where her mother would attend to her whenever she was sick, especially during asthma attacks. In fact, her mother loves her dearly.
 
She felt remorseful when she recalled her mother had to work as a rubber tapper to earn extra income besides taking care of her six children, and her father had to work in Sabah and could only return home a few times a year. She repented for not appreciating her parents’ kindness and for causing them worries often.
 
One day, when she visited her parents and saw how frail they looked, she held her mother’s hand and said chokingly, “Mum, actually I love you dearly; I wish you can regain your health sooner so that I can fulfil my filial duties and show you my love!” The unexpected affection moved her mother to tears.
 
Hwee Chong also hugged her father, who had become depressed due to sickness. She encouraged him to stay strong and convinced him that the family would support him through the sickness. Her words brought a smile to his face.
 
For the first time, the long buried resentment was erased and replaced with love and respect. Since then, she often visits her parents and seizes every opportunity to practise filial piety.
 
Learn to be compassionate and forgiving
 
Hwee Chong likened her past self to the mischievous and thorn-covered elf in “The Four Evil Karmas of Speech”, who hurt others. She was self-righteous and her husband often took the blame. At one rehearsal, while singing the verse, “I vow to douse the fires of anger and impatience”, from the song, “Correct Past Wrongs and Cultivate for the Future”, she reflected on those undesirable words she had hurled at her husband during quarrels. Those harsh words had not only hurt her husband’s feeling, but also broke her heart.
 
At that moment, she recalled how her husband has been caring for her all this while. When she wanted to quit her job and stay home to take care of the kid, her husband gave his support without questioning.
 
He has provided for the family and taken good care of them, yet she hurt his feelings time and time again. When chanting the verse, “if we guard our bodies and minds well, every family will be peaceful, happy and blessed”, she promised to restore happiness to her family. Thus, upon returning home, she apologized to her husband sincerely, “I should not hold grudges on you as it is not your fault. I truly hope that you will be well and happy. It is time to let go of that issue and I would not be stubborn. Thank you for being with me and giving me all the support I needed all this while.”
 
Her husband was shocked and deeply moved, and she burst into tears, feeling the pain of revealing her wounded heart again. However, after repenting, she felt liberated from the resentment and chose to face the past karma she had created courageously. She vowed to refrain from creating unwholesome karma, do more good deeds and cultivate herself.
 
During every rehearsal, Hwee Chong would chant the verses loudly as they served as reminders to her and brought her to reflect upon herself. She gradually learnt to control her temper and speak to her husband softly, and has also become more understanding and forgiving.
 
Pleased with Hwee Chong’s transformation, her husband would get home early to take care of their son whenever she needed to go for rehearsals so that she could concentrate on the performance. He even supported Hwee Chong’s decision to observe a vegetarian diet.
 
Initially, Hwee Chong was worried about upholding vegetarianism for 108 days for the sutra adaptation. She often heard from the teachers at the Da Ai Educare Centre that all lives are equal. Her son also shared with her, “We should love the animals and not eat them. If they are in pain, I will be as well.” Even though she supported vegetarianism, she was worried if prolonged vegetarian diet could cause malnutrition.
 
To fulfil her promise for vegetarianism, she started studying and picking up on vegetarian cooking. Eventually, she grew more skilful at it, and realized that vegetarian meals are as good as non-vegetarian.
 
“When chanting the song, ‘Perfect and Radiant Buddha-nature’, I truly felt that all living beings live, breathe and rest in similar ways. It is such a beautiful world when animals and humans live peacefully under the same starry sky, so how can we be so merciless and eat their meat?”
 
Filled with compassion, Hwee Chong related her wish to her husband about becoming vegetarian in all lifetimes to come and asked if he would support her. Since then, not only does he consume Hwee Chong’s vegetarian cooking but has often opted for vegetarian restaurants while dining out. When dining in a non-vegetarian restaurant, he would order vegetables and tofu for her.
 
After undertaking a vegetarian diet for a few months, she did not find it inconvenient and everyone’s health was not affected. Much to her surprise, her son’s skin allergy has improved with better immunity. Her husband also shared that he has grown fond of her vegetarian cooking and finds it hard to accept the taste of meat.
 
Standing on the mock stage with a lotus light in her hand, Hwee Chong appeared dignified and confident. She chanted every sutra verse loudly, and felt the Buddha’s compassion reaching the hearts of audiences through the singing and body language.
 
 

 
In a sutra study, Shai Hwee Chong repented sincerely after learning about the Law of Karma. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]   Shai Hwee Chong let go of resentment towards her parents and seizes the opportunity to fulfil her filial duties. [Photograph provided by Shai Hwee Chong]

In a sutra study, Shai Hwee Chong repented sincerely after learning about the Law of Karma. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]
 
Shai Hwee Chong let go of resentment towards her parents and seizes the opportunity to fulfil her filial duties. [Photograph provided by Shai Hwee Chong]
 
Shai Hwee Chong often practises sign language together with Zheng Xian Min (right), who invited her to join the performance. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]   The family happiness was reinstated after Shai Hwee Chong repented sincerely and transformed herself. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]

Shai Hwee Chong often practises sign language together with Zheng Xian Min (right), who invited her to join the performance. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]
 
 
The family happiness was reinstated after Shai Hwee Chong repented sincerely and transformed herself. [Photograph by Kevin Tan Kok Sieong]
 
Shai Hwee Chong (2nd right) stood on the mock stage and recited the sutra loudly as a reminder to herself. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]    

Shai Hwee Chong (2nd right) stood on the mock stage and recited the sutra loudly as a reminder to herself. [Photograph by Lim Chin Shein]