My life stories – Part 5

My life stories – Part 5
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

I always liked to stretch my body since I was little. Whenever my body felt tired or there’s some tightness or soreness I would stretch my body until all the discomforts went away. I felt so good every time after I stretched. I didn’t know that those stretches were related to yoga poses before I was introduced to yoga. I wasn’t exposed to anything about yoga until I took up the aerobics instructor course at the yoga and aerobics dance academy when I was fifteen years old. But the yoga classes at that place were only doing some yoga poses as fitness exercise classes and the teacher didn’t talk about yoga philosophy at all. I also didn’t know what was Buddhism.

My journey into yoga and Buddhism began when I first experienced disappointment, anger, hatred, frustration and unhappiness in my early childhood. I wanted to look for the way out from unhappiness and in search for the meaning of life after being depressed and frustrated for a couple of years. Most people will only think about how to transcend suffering when they experience unhappiness and disappointment beyond what they can tolerate. Everyone is looking for happiness and don’t want to have unhappiness. But we tend to get lost and confused while trying to live a happy life or have a better living condition. We end up becoming more frustrated, dissatisfied, disappointed, angry, upset and depressed.

My family was like most Chinese. We prayed to different Chinese gods and would have an altar at home for offering incense, light, flowers, water and food to all the gods and our past ancestors. Most of us were praying to a god named The Goddess Of Mercy. We didn’t know that this god was actually the great compassionate Bodhisattva Guan Yin Pu Xa, who was an enlightened being as mentioned in the teachings of Buddhism. We didn’t know what was Buddhism or its philosophy and practices. We prayed to many different gods, but only with one intention – asking for protection and blessing from them. We didn’t know what was Karma, cause and effect or the path of self-transformation.

Every time I saw pictures or statues of any gods, I would bow and pay respect to them. I was told by my parents to do so. They said gods protect us from bad things and bless us with good fortune and we must thank them by bowing and pay respect to them. I wasn’t expecting to get anything from gods because I didn’t have desire for material things or enjoyments in life. But in my own imagination, I felt very strong connection with gods and spiritual beings when I was growing up. In the past, I believed in gods and spiritual beings that they were good beings and they were my friends and protectors. I always put my palms together and bowed to them to express thankfulness for looking after me and my family. If I stopped believing in spiritual beings and gods, it’s okay. Because If they truly exist and they are wise, selfless and kind beings, they won’t get unhappy or upset if people don’t believe in them or stop believing in them. Just like, if we truly love someone, we allow this person to love us, or not. We won’t feel hurt or get angry when someone whom we love doesn’t love us, or when someone who used to love us, but has stopped loving us. We only wish this person peace and happiness, it doesn’t matter whether this person loves us, or not.

There’s nothing wrong when people have certain beliefs that they follow to be their guidance as a way of living, whether they believe in spiritual beings or not, whether they think God exists or not. It’s just a way of thinking and living. Whether people believe in spiritual beings and God, or not, it doesn’t determine that whether they are wise and kind and peaceful, or not.

Every time when someone asked me about my religion, I would tell them my religion was Buddhism because I am a Chinese. I thought all Chinese are Buddhists and all Indians are Hindus and all Malays are Muslims. I was so ignorant. Someone must had told me that I am a Buddhist because I am a Chinese. That was my incorrect understanding before I got to know more about Buddhism and what was a religion.

I heard the word of ‘cultivation’ for the first time when my mother mentioned it to me after she came back from a meeting with a medium. Many Chinese like to go to a medium to seek advice or help when they have troubles. My sister and her husband needed the help from a medium as their life had come to a critical point where they couldn’t make a living at all no matter how hard they tried in whatever they did. The medium told my mother that he couldn’t read my brother-in-law’s palms to read his destiny, as his palms and face were covered in heavy dark energy, that he would die very soon.

The medium told my sister and her husband that they had to ‘cultivate’ a lot of good actions to accumulate merits and virtues urgently to change their luck and try to save my brother-in-law’s life, if possible. But they didn’t know what ‘cultivation’ means. None in our family knew. My brother-in-law didn’t know how to control his bad temper and violent behavior. He didn’t make any efforts to ‘cultivate’ any good actions and couldn’t change his destiny.

Within that year, he died from falling off a 130 feet high platform at the age of thirty nine. No one knew what really happened and why or how he fell. There wasn’t anyone with him when it happened. He was working for a two months contract for a construction company and it was his last few days of work. He was cleaning the inside of a giant chimney at an oil refinery in Klang. My sister came back from the hospital and told us that she could hardly recognize him as his body and face were swollen with all his bones were smashed into tiny pieces.

My brother-in-law was a man who liked to hunt and drink a lot. He grew up drinking beers and other alcohols ever since he was a little boy. He always boasted about how his parents fed him with beers since he was just a toddler. He claimed that it was their family’s special tradition. He also fed his own children with beer when they were just a few months old. His temper was extremely bad. The Chinese said that alcohol increases the heat in our blood and aggravates the fire of anger. They also said that a person with fiery temper like him shouldn’t go near anything that was related to fire. But somehow he liked cooking and worked as a cook for a few restaurants before. He always ended up conflicting with his boss or his co-workers, and he would threaten to kill them with his hunting knife or hunting gun.

When his daughter was just a few months old he caned her because she was crying. One time, in the car, he slapped her for crying. He shouted at her telling her to stop crying, but she couldn’t stop crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well. Even to this day her mouth tilts to one side when she talks. He always argued with my sister over financial matters. When he got very angry he would smash things and kick the furniture, the walls and doors. The shouting and banging and crying in their house could be heard from far away. My heart pounded and tears fell down my cheeks. I hated him. I wished that he would leave us alone. I wished that he would die.
Later in life, I started to understand that his bad temper and mood swing with uncontrollable anger and violent behavior could be related to what he had went through in his previous marriage when he was younger before he knew my sister.

He came from a renowned family in a small town somewhere in Perak. His family was quite wealthy before his father died. But then things were not the same after his father was gone. They owned a small old oil palm estate near to their house. He grew up as a Christian and was English educated. He was married at very young age. He had a daughter and a son from his first marriage, and the ex-wife was from another renowned wealthy family. Her father was one of the rich and famous business men in Malaysia at that time. My sister said that he had loved his ex-wife and children very much.

Unfortunately, his ex-wife was being unfaithful to him and had an affair with his best friend. One day he came home early from work and saw the ex-wife and his best friend were in their bedroom, on their bed, naked. He got really angry and went crazy, and had a huge quarrel and fight with the wife and her lover, in front of their young children. His wife grabbed the two children who were seven and five at that time, and sped off in their car. The car lost control not too far from their house. The ex-wife suffered serious head and spinal injury and multiple broken bones, and had to be hospitalized for six months under the intensive care. While the son died at the scene instantly from being plunged into the steering wheel, and the daughter had suffered serious injury with one broken arm and one broken leg from being plunged out of the car’s windscreen. He was very angry, but at the same time, being deeply guilty and depressed for the whole incident. Since then he drank even more and suffered from serious mood swing.

He had filed a divorce, but the ex-wife didn’t want to give consent and the case went to the court and had been prolonged for a long time. Somehow he managed to kept the daughter with him. Before he met my sister, he had tried a few relationships with some women with the intention of looking for a good step mother for the daughter, but all the relationships didn’t last long, as the daughter didn’t like those women to be her step mother. He was a very handsome young man, and many women were attracted to him. He had no difficulty to find a girlfriend at all. Somehow he met my sister and they had fallen in with love with each other. Surprisingly, the daughter didn’t reject my sister, and so they got married under the Chinese tradition ceremony, without registering themselves at the city hall marriage council because he wasn’t legally divorced yet. After many years later he finally got the divorce approval from the court because the ex-wife finally gave her consent and signed the divorce paper, as she wanted to get married with another man at that time. But then my sister thought that it wasn’t necessary for them to register their marriage legally. And that had given my sister some problems with the husband’s family when her husband died.

Not long after my sister was being in a relationship with my brother-in-law, she resigned from her many years office job to run a seafood restaurant with him on Pangkor Island. They joined venture with his uncle to set up the restaurant. The restaurant was built on top of a leasehold land with a beautiful beach front location. In the beginning there were quite many people patronizing the restaurant and they made some good profits shared among the three of them. Somehow a few months later, they realized that his uncle had been taking money from the cash machine without informing them. They went to talk to his uncle and ended up in a quarrel and my brother-in-law kicked his uncle out of the business. From then on, their business was becoming very bad. They didn’t understand why. There were many tourists passing by their restaurant everyday, but nobody would come in, as if their restaurant was invisible.

A few months passed by and they were losing more and more money. At the same time, there was some itchy rash started to appear on my brother-in-law’s body every day after midnight, and it became more serious night after night. Someone told them that they should try to look for a medium to find out what was happening to him and their restaurant. And so, they went to a medium and found out that his uncle had saved hatred towards my brother-in-law and had asked a Bomoh to put a curse on him and their restaurant. The medium told them that only a Bomoh would know how to help them. And so they had asked a Bomoh to help them to remove the curse. The Bomoh realized it was a very serious curse that my brother-in-law would die very soon. And immediately, the Bomoh had went to their restaurant together with my sister and my brother-in-law. He brought along a live chicken with him.

When they arrived at the restaurant, the Bomoh cut the throat of the chicken while chanting some prayers and let the chicken walked free with blood dripping down its throat to bring them around the restaurant, until the chicken stopped walking and dropped dead at a place right in front of the restaurant. Then the Bomoh started to dig into the sand, and dug out a piece of human shaped steal plate with a lime being nailed onto it with a thick needle. My brother-in-law’s name and his date of birth were also being engraved onto the steal plate. The thick needle was started to rust as well. Immediately the Bomoh made some prayers and blessed my brother-in-law and the restaurant with some water. And then he told them that the curse was cleared, but my brother-in-law had to take shower with water mixed with some flowers and lime leaves for the next few weeks. The Bomoh said that they were lucky enough to have discovered this earlier, or else when the needle went completely rusted, my brother-in-law would have no possibility to be alive. But before the Bomoh left, he also told them that whoever had been cursed by a Bomoh’s curse, would be having bad luck for the rest of their life. And there wasn’t anything a Bomoh could do about it.

Miraclely, my brother-in-law stopped having the rash from that day onward, but the bad luck never stopped following him. Though there were people starting to come into the restaurant, but the business wasn’t good enough to cover their cost. And so, they closed the restaurant and came back to Kuala Lumpur hoping to make a living, which turned out to be very difficult for them. They had to borrow money from family and friends to have food on the table.

Anyway, my sister was never welcomed by his family. My sister’s mother-in-law didn’t like her at all. One of the main reason that the husband’s family didn’t like her was because my sister came from a lower class family background, and she also didn’t know any of the Chinese traditions which was being observed in her husband’s conservative Chinese family. My sister’s elder daughter was less than one year old when they lived with the husband’s family for about a year, as they couldn’t make a living at that time and had to depend on his family’s help. Because of this, my sister’s mother-in-law believed that my sister was a bad luck carrier and they treated my sister like a servant for the family. My sister was always being scolded for not being able to do things the right way or the proper way according to their family’s traditional cultural belief. From washing the laundry, to cleaning the house and cooking for the family, to the way she talked, walked, stood, sat, and the eating and serving manners on the dining table, she was being criticized and shouted at, all the time. If it was me in her shoes, they wouldn’t have the chance to treat a person in such way as I wouldn’t allow something like that to happen to myself. But my sister was a very patient and angry-less person. She needed to protect her baby daughter as well. She swallowed all those ill-treatments in silence and keeping her head down all the time.

My sister had tried to find work in offices again to make a living, but somehow he didn’t like her to work. He wasn’t happy about my sister being the family finance provider while himself couldn’t have a stable income, and so he would prefer to borrow money from family and friends instead. And so, my sister tried to make a living together with him by venturing into a few small businesses such like selling Bak-Kut-Teh at food court, selling fried noodles in the night market, selling vegetables in the morning market, and growing beansprout for wholesale, but none of these businesses worked out nicely for them. They ended up accumulating more and more debts instead.
They frequently came to my parents asking for money during their financial difficult times. My parents wanted to help them to get the money to start a business, without realizing that their kind intention to help my sister had dragged themselves into financial problem later.

In desperation to help my sister, my mother had involved in a ‘villagers money scheme’. This was very popular among the Chinese community in rural villages at that time, but it was also illegal. The idea was the villagers joined together to help among themselves financially, especially when someone needed a lump sum of money for emergency or starting a business. Instead of borrowing money with high interest rate from the bank, they helped each other by gathering money through the scheme. Every member would contribute a fixed amount of money to the scheme every month. They would select a person who was trustworthy to be the head of the group to collect and safeguard the monthly gathered money and organize fortnightly or monthly meetings. My mother had always been selected as the head of the group, as everyone trusted her and she had been very helpful to all the villagers.

My mother would organize the monthly meetings at different timing and in different houses to avoid the police’s attention. Those who were in need of money would turn up in the meeting for that month and bid for the gathered money. The one who had successfully bidding for the money would continue to contribute to the monthly lump sum for other members who would bid for it in the next meetings. Everyone should pay back what they had taken in a fixed amount bit by bit, month by month. Unfortunately, many of them were dishonest. They had took the lump sum, but they didn’t want to pay back every month as it should. And so, my mother had to take out money from her own pocket every month to cover the missing money.

She couldn’t go to the police because it was illegal. My parents were very kind and softhearted people. And all these people who didn’t pay back the money they had taken were my parents long time friends and fellow villagers. Every time when my mother went to collect money from them, they would give excuses that their business was bad or someone at home was sick, that they had not enough money to pay back after taking other people’s contribution.

My parents were very responsible people and they sympathized with the other people who had been contributing money, but still waiting for their turn to bid for the lump sum. So my mother had to use a big part of the household income from my father’s monthly salary to cover the missing money. There were many months, she had to cover as much as 1,400 Ringgit per month which was more than what my father earned every month. It was a lot of money for us at that time, and this situation lasted for a couple of years. My sister had her own financial problem. My elder brother was working in a precision mould engineering company and had a very low salary which he gave it all to my parents to help out our living expenses, to have food on the table.

I am always very grateful for my brother’s generosity. Though he’s an honest hardworking man, and a very good son to my parents, and a good friend to many people, but life was very hard on him. He went through lots of hardships for many many years until today.

My second elder brother and I were still studying in school. We were very disturbed by our family financial problem. We were very upset and angry because we thought we were robbed by those greedy and dishonest people, that we had to lived in poor condition because of that. My parents were very compassionate and forgiving. They didn’t save hatred towards those people who had robbed our money and left us living in a state of poverty. Especially my mother. When she passed away in the end of 2006, she looked like she was smiling and looked so peaceful. She always told me that it was okay for other people to be in debt with us, but we never wanted to be in debt with anyone.

It was also during those couple of years I went into seclusion. I didn’t want to talk to my family and I secluded myself to stay away from friends and people. I was full of anger and hatred.

Though I was always one of the top students, my school studies had started to decline dramatically. I started teaching aerobics classes and decided to leave school before I finished the final year. I had never regret about that decision. I am happy and contented with what I have experienced and learned in life so far. I am glad and grateful for what I am doing now which is a very meaningful thing to do. I learned that in our schools, no body taught us how to be happy and peaceful in life. They taught us how to read and write and count, and how to make a living with certain skill and be successful in life, where all these things are not a guarantee of peace and happiness.

I’m so glad that during those difficult times I didn’t do anything stupid to ruin my life that I will regret for the rest of my life. At that time, Madonna and Buddhism had come into my life when I needed them most. One was there to encourage me to have hopes and dreams and never give up. The biggest inspiration from Madonna was from watching her concert’s video – Virgin Tour. And the other one was there to teach me how to change the conditions of my life and take control over my own fate and destiny, and to know what is true happiness and how to attain it. Buddhism also taught me to be open-minded and questioning the truth of everything.

While I was teaching aerobics exercise classes in my own aerobics dance studio I came to know a wonderful lady who came for the aerobics classes. She was a sincere Buddhist and she started a Buddhist library in her house in Taman Sri Sentosa a couple of years later. She had helped many people who had came to her for help in many ways.

She told me that the Buddhist library will be finished one day. She said to me that it didn’t matter whether there would be thousands of people coming to the library looking for her help or one day people would stop coming. Her prediction came true a few years later. The library had to close down due to karmic reasons according to the law of nature. Everyone who had come to the library before had deserted her and condemned her. But I continued to respect her because I knew she did nothing wrong and she had performed lots of selfless service to help these people. She knew what she was doing and she told me that she forgave everyone with her great compassionate heart.

She was there to help everyone in my family during our worst years. My parents, my elder brother, his wife and I had volunteer to help out in the Buddhist library. Twice a month on the new moon day and the full moon day, we helped her to prepare and cook vegetarian meal for the people who came to the library and I would be the emcee for the chanting session after the vegetarian meal. That was how I started to become an occasional vegetarian.

During some other days, my mother and my brother would send her to different places in our van to help the people who were in need of help, or to get the things for the library. I also helped to wrap the Buddhism books and arrange them on the book shelves. I read many Buddhism books from the library and I came across books written by Ajahn Chah. He was a great teacher to me, even though I didn’t meet him personally in this life time. But it didn’t matter because I never feel separated from all the Dhamma teachers.

I also helped to record chanting session into cassette tapes to be distributed among the people who were interested in the chanting session, so that they could have chanting session at home everyday. I had duplicated thousands and thousands of cassette tapes for the library.

Though my English was very limited she had asked me to translate some Chinese Dhamma into simple English for the people who weren’t Chinese educated. It was about the six fold path of the Bodhisattva. Since then, without any intentions, I started to write about Dhamma in Chinese everyday for almost a year. I had no intention to write anything, but it happened naturally. One day she found out from my mother and she asked me to read to her about what I had written. Afterwards she asked me to give Dhamma talks from what I have written after the chanting session. All these experiences in the Buddhist library was another great learning process for me.

The Buddhist Library frequently organized visiting trips to many old folks and children homes. Seeing the sick and unfortunate people in the old folks and children homes was another transformational experience for me to cultivate compassion and gratitude. Anyone who always complains a lot about life and feel meaningless and unhappy about themselves or the world, they should frequently visit old folks and children homes, or be volunteers in places like these. It will change their perception and perspective about life and how they feel about themselves.

After the library stopped operating, many people came to me trying to speak bad about her. I just gave them a smile and didn’t want to get involved in any of the gossips and criticisms. All these people came to her when they needed help and sought comfort from her in the past. She gave them Dhamma, money, food, clothing, books and shelter when they had mental and emotional problems, and family and financial crisis. She had to fight with ‘evil spirits’ while trying to help those who were disturbed by ‘evil spirits’. But she didn’t complain about all these ungrateful people and move on in her journey on the path of Buddhism, alone by herself.

I haven’t seen her for years since I moved out from Taman Sri Sentosa. But I believe she is fine wherever she is.

READ ON…

My life stories – Part 3

My life stories – Part 3

Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

It was always my dream to be a dancer and singer. Every year the school gave us a form to update our details and there was a column to fill in our ambitions. We could write down three ambitions. I had the same ambitions every year – dancer, singer and police.

Kampung Pinang was finished in 1986. All the houses in the village were destroyed and soon to be replaced with high rise low-cost flats, apartments and condominiums. We were sent to a temporary housing in Pantai Dalam where each family was given one unit of the long house. The house has only one small living cum dining hall, a small kitchen, a bathroom with a toilet and one bedroom which we converted into two small size bedrooms. Since we had lived on the land where they built the low-cost flats we were given the priority to buy one of the low-cost flats. First they took our home, then they took our money.

There were 10 houses in each block of the long houses. My parents were given one unit and my sister who was already married was given one unit next to ours. There were about 90 blocks of long houses as I can remember. There was no space for a garden and the entire place smelled because of poor sanitation. There were rubbish everywhere and the drains were blocked most of the time. At least we have electricity and water supply in the house. We spent almost two years living there. Many years later we learned that some of the long houses were destroyed by a fire outbreak.

One day I watched Madonna’s concert the Virgin Tour on TV, and recorded the show with the video tape recorder. Every day I played that video over and over, imitating Madonna in her Virgin Tour concert, learning to sing all her songs and dance like her. I was about fourteen years old when I first saw Madonna on TV and heard her songs over the radio and television programs. Somehow I thought she was very positive and inspirational. Just like many other young girls, she was my idol and inspiration for me to become a successful performer. I dreamt of performing on stage like her in front of thousands and thousands of audience. She ignited hopes in me and never give up to make my dreams come true. She was my life changer.

Madonna inspired me to move on my life with hopes and dreams during the time I encountered difficult moments while I was a teenager. In those days, the conservative Chinese villagers would condemned any young girls who admired Madonna and tried to imitate and dress up like her. They said she was a bad girl. But I didn’t care what they said. I was inspired by Madonna to change the hard condition of my life. I knew she had had a hard life too when she was younger. She was the biggest motivator for me to strive to be stronger, to be successful and to have a better life. I never saw her in person and she didn’t know me, but she saved me from self-destruction.

After I learned all her dance moves, I started to choreograph my own dance routines and had entered many dance competitions held in shopping malls even though I didn’t go through any formal dance training. I loved dancing and enjoyed performing on stage very much, and I aspired to be a dance champion for once in my life. My dreams come true later in life even though it wasn’t really a dance competition, but somehow I ended up competing in sport aerobics competitions which required much more effort, discipline, artistic and technical skills, power, speed, strength and flexibility.

If I hadn’t been through all those hardships and unhappiness when I was a teenager, I don’t think I would be here today doing what I am doing now. It would be a complete different life. Because of all the hardships and unhappiness, I wanted to know about life and the truth of life existence. I always wondered why we had to suffer so much even though we had tried to be good and do good?

Hardships and unhappiness are neither good nor bad. People can become more negative and depressed if they don’t know how to go beyond hardships and unhappiness. People can also become motivated to find out how to transcend suffering. The experience of suffering can bring us onto the path of self-transformation and self-realization. If I always had had an easy life and lived in good condition and being happy all the time, I think I wouldn’t be thinking about these questions and I won’t know how other people feel when they suffer from dissatisfaction, disappointment, anger, hatred, hopelessness, unhappiness and painful sorrow.

One day I came across a Buddhism Dhamma book – ‘Our fate Is In Our Own Control’. It talked about how we can change our fate and take control of our own destiny. Just like Madonna, it was another life changer for me.

I was so tired of being unhappy and angry all the time. I asked myself, “Why do I have to live my life in such sadness and full of anger and hatred? I don’t have to and I don’t want to.” I believed that I had the will-power and freedom to be happy or unhappy. I didn’t want to continue living in sadness and anger and hatred. In the past, I thought the difficult condition in my life was the cause of my unhappiness. And so, I wanted to change my life. I didn’t like myself, my evil thinking and my unhappy feelings at that time. And so, I wanted to change myself, my thinking and my feelings. I felt life was meaningless for being unhappy and angry all the time. I didn’t understand about life, the mind, the ego, ignorance, suffering, the cause of suffering and how to be free from suffering at that time. I still had to go through lots of disappointment and unhappiness for many more years later.

After I read that book, I made a firmed resolution that I wanted to come out from miseries, to free myself from anger, hatred and unhappiness. The teachings in the book taught me to endure difficult conditions and unpleasant emotions. It also taught me to have gratitude and appreciation for the little good things that I had and stop complaining about happenings that weren’t what I wanted or liked. There was nobody could help me, not even my parents or gods, but myself.

The teachings of Buddhism is about purification of the mind, be free from ignorance, egoism, attachment and desires. It teaches the importance of inquiry into the truth of everything. We learn to be self-reliant and develop self-control, to stop having evil and negative intentions, thoughts, actions and speech, to do good and have kind and positive intentions, thoughts, actions and speech. The Buddhism practice is about developing patience, perseverance, determination, compassion, tolerance, forbearance, forgiveness, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, accommodation, cheerfulness and letting go, which life had been trying to teach me all the while, but I didn’t realize about it when I was younger. Even though I heard about all these terms since I was small from my mother and school teachers, but I didn’t know what they really meant, and so I had to go through lots of unnecessary suffering due to my deep ignorance.

There’s nothing wrong with the desires for attaining good living condition and happiness, and don’t want to have difficult living condition and unhappiness. But, liberation from suffering is not about having all the good conditions and don’t have any bad conditions, or only want to feel happy and don’t want to feel unhappy at all. It’s learning how to go beyond all the qualities of names and forms, go beyond the impermanent life existence and the function of the body and mind, knowing the truth of the mind perceptions of names and forms, and be free from ignorance, egoism, attachments, identifications, desires of craving and aversion, and all sorts of impurities. We stop rejecting unhappiness and stop longing for happiness, and be in peace unconditionally, when we know how to go beyond all the perceptions of names and forms.

I decided to look for a dance school to learn proper dance skills and pursue my dream to be a professional dancer. I told my parents about my wish. They were very supportive even though our family financial situation was very difficult at that time. We went looking for a good dancing school around Kuala Lumpur and Petaling Jaya. Somehow, I ended up in a yoga and aerobics dance academy in Petaling Jaya where the principal told me that I was very talented, and she encouraged me to take up the aerobics dance instructor course with her. The course fee was 600 Ringgit. My brother gave me a huge part of his salary from that month for the course fee and the rest of the salary to my parents. Usually he gave all his salary around 800 Ringgit to my parents every month. And so, I was really grateful for the money and opportunity, and took up the course and started teaching aerobics classes and some yoga exercise classes at that place even before I finished the aerobics instructor course. I had joined the Chinese traditional dance troupe organized by MCA in our village at that time, and they asked me to teach aerobics classes twice a week at their centre as well.

The principal employed me as her full-time assistant afterwards and I did many show performances for the company besides teaching aerobics classes. She paid me very little salary every month. It was 200 Ringgit when I worked from 5.30 p.m. – 9.30 p.m. for 5 days a week, and 400 Ringgit when I worked from 8.30 a.m. – 9.30 p.m. for 7 days a week, for teaching a few classes per day and doing all the dinner and shopping malls dance shows. When I wasn’t teaching classes I had to do the administrative work, clean the floors, mirrors and windows of her aerobics studio, and look after her precious dog. Sometimes she asked me to clean the dust on all the leaves of the indoor plants and remove all the handprints on the walls. She even made me give her son free tuition classes in Maths, English, Chinese and Malay – all without a single ringgit extra pay. In the beginning, she paid a woman 100 Ringgit a month to clean the studio thrice a week. Afterwards she stopped hiring the cleaning lady and asked me to do all the cleaning but not paying me any extra.

Two years later, realizing I was not very happy working for her, my boss started to pay me 100 Ringgit per month for giving tuition classes for her son thrice a week at her house. Not long after that, she asked one of the aerobics students to bring her son to join in the tuition classes. They still gave me 100 Ringgit for teaching two children by sharing the payment at 50 Ringgit from each of them. Then my boss asked another aerobics student to also bring her son to join in the tuition classes. Three of them still gave me 100 Ringgit to teach three children by sharing the payment. The new boy’s mother would pay 50 Ringgit, while my boss and the other boy’s mother would pay 25 Ringgit each. But, this aerobics student found that it was too ridiculous and didn’t want to treat me like that, and so she stopped bringing her son to my boss’s house for the tuition classes, but instead, she invited me to her house to give tuition classes to her son and paid me 100 Ringgit per month for it.

My mother used her van to help my lady boss to pick up the other dancers and brought them to the show venues, and then sent the dancers back to their home after the shows. My boss made lots of money from dance shows (up to a few thousands Ringgit per show). The other dancers were paid reasonably by her for doing the dance shows. I was also performing for her, but for me and my mother, we only get a meal at the food court and a cup of fizzy drink. She didn’t even give money to my mother for the petrol. One time, she gave me something else, a belt worth 5 Ringgit.

All these experiences were neither good nor bad, but it gave me some good reflections about the mind and human’s behavior. I am thankful for these experiences allowing me to learn and understand more about life existence and the mind.

I worked for my boss for two and a half years. I finally gave up working for her because I realized she was just taking advantage of me. When I told her I wanted to stop working for her while she was sending me home in her car, she was in great shock that she stopped her car in the middle of the road for a few moments before she could continue to drive me home. She knew she would never find another ‘naive’ and ‘stupid’ hardworking person like me to work for her.

I liked to do a lot of stretching exercises which were similar to most of the yoga poses when I was growing up, but I had no idea that they were related to yoga poses until I started working at the yoga and aerobics dance academy.

The forty five minutes yoga classes at that place was only doing some stretching exercises using yoga asana poses. It didn’t talk about yoga philosophy at all. That’s why in the beginning I thought yoga was only some stretching exercises coming from India for promoting fitness, health and beauty, and nothing else. Not knowing the real meanings of yoga, I was never interested in doing or teaching yoga exercise classes as I found it too slow and boring. I only enjoyed doing and teaching high speed and energetic aerobics dance exercises.

Working for my first boss had taught me a great lesson in life – Never be like her taking advantage of other people.

When I was working at that yoga and aerobics studio, I also took up some modern dance lessons under one of the dance instructor for The Dance Company. From there I got to know Ichiro Chuah, our Malaysian famous dancer and show performer. I also participated in their rehearsal for dance shows, standing at the back trying to learn their dance moves. But I wasn’t good enough and I realized my personality didn’t fit into a professional dance troupe. I didn’t and don’t smoke or drink. I didn’t like to put myself in sexy outfits to project sexy appearance, body language and dance moves.

Before I stopped working for my first boss, I already set up my little aerobics dance studio inside my friend’s hair salon in Old Klang Road in 1989. Besides teaching at my own aerobics studio, I also started teaching free-lancing for a few different bosses at different dance studios, corporate companies and golf clubs in and around Kuala Lumpur. The way my new bosses treating their employees were not any different from my first boss. But I learned from my previous experience and I was no longer the same person as I was. I wouldn’t let anyone to take advantage of me, ever again. Somehow I was very talented in teaching aerobics dance classes, and all my classes everywhere were always full as the students always preferred to come to my classes than the other instructors’ classes. On top of being a popular aerobics instructor in Kuala Lumpur, I was always punctual for my classes and I never took leave even when I was not feeling well, and I rarely got sicked. So my bosses didn’t mind paying me a little more than other instructors when I asked for increment.

One time, one of the bosses who owned several dance academies in Petaling Jaya and Kuala Lumpur had cut my pay because she said all the other dance teachers only get paid 20 Ringgit for a 45 minutes dance class, and I was getting 25 Ringgit per class. I was very unhappy about it. I asked to talk to her directly. The admin clerk cum receptionist called my boss and then she gave me a phone number to call my boss later in the evening, as she was too busy to talk at that time. This boss and me had never met each other before, as she was a very busy business woman and the head principal for a few dance schools. And so, when I called her later in the evening that day, I said directly to her that she lived in a big bungalow house with a few pet dogs and owned a few big dance academies, while I was just a poor person who tried to make a living working so hard, but she was so calculative about that little bit of 5 Ringgit a class, or 20 Ringgit a month, and cutting my pay was really ridiculous. And so she told her admin clerk to forget about the pay cut and paid me as before.

And then another boss was always reluctant to pay her instructors on time by the end of every month. Sometimes the instructors only got paid two or three months later. The excuse that she gave to the instructors was she hadn’t received payment from the corporate companies or the golf clubs, and so the instructors wouldn’t get their payment on time from her. Usually she would pay me not later than seven days after the end of the month. And I wouldn’t say anything about her late payment towards other instructors. But one time, she didn’t pay me after the seventh of the month. I called her and told her that she could never fool me like all the other instructors. I said to her, as a boss to all these free-lance instructors, she had to take the responsibility to pay her employees on time even if she hadn’t received payment from the corporate companies and golf clubs yet. She was our boss, not the corporate companies and golf clubs. We received our pay from her, not from them. Or else all the instructors didn’t need to go through her being the middle-man, and they worked directly with all those corporate companies and golf clubs. And I would stop working for her if she didn’t pay me immediately. And so, she wrote me a check and gave it to me the next day.

After teaching aerobics classes for many years in corporate companies and golf clubs working for a middle-man, I decided to stop and found some aerobics classes to teach at smaller dance schools without the middle-man. Though the pay was rather low working for a middle-man, I was thankful for all the opportunities, exposures and experiences to teach classes at many places that provided me with some living income. I also moved my aerobics dance studio to another bigger shop-lot next to my friend’s hair salon in 1991. And then I moved my studio to Taman Sri Sentosa where I lived, in 1995. My father was retired that year and gave me some of his EPF money for setting up a proper aerobics dance studio. I was still teaching free-lancing at some other dance studios as the small profits coming from my own studio was not enough for supporting myself and my family.

I had been teaching aerobics for more than eighteen years since fifteen years old, and then coincidentally I started to teach yoga exercise classes in 2004, which led me to India in early 2005 and met my Irish husband there. I had closed my aerobics dance studio for good before I go to India. After I came back from India I started teaching yoga at home and at some other dance studios where I used to teach aerobics classes. I retired from teaching aerobics classes in 2006. My husband and I have been running yoga retreats together and teaching yoga to many people from all over the world after my husband came to Malaysia to be with me in 2007.

All the Dhamma that I had been learning and practicing, I didn’t know they weren’t different from the teachings of yoga until I read the Bhagavad Gita just before I went to India for the Yoga Teachers Training Course. Only then I realized what I have been believing in and practicing in my heart all the while weren’t separated from Yoga. Changing from teaching aerobics exercise and fitness classes to be teaching and sharing Yoga with many people from around the world is another great life experience.

Everything was there on the path for me, leading me to where I am in the present. When I was a little girl, I had sensitive sixth sense about good and bad energy, and could feel what was happening to my family and friends, and had predictions, visions and dreams about what was going to happen to them and myself.

Without any intention, I was helping in a Buddhist library and started to write about Dhamma every day and gave Dhamma talks to the public twice a month.

Without any expectation, I represented Malaysia for world sport aerobics championship in France and then came back to Malaysia and became a national champion, having all my dreams come true.

Without any intention to change from teaching fitness exercise classes into teaching yoga classes, I am now teaching and sharing Yoga with people who come to learn and practice yoga. And without worry about money I made it to India twice for attending Yoga Courses, even though I had to deal with my family’s financial problem for many years.

Without the intention to get into a relationship and having a life partner, I met my husband in India in the ashram during the Yoga Teachers Training Course, and we got married in 2008. Without any intention to be living in Langkawi and teaching yoga here, I am now living in Langkawi teaching and sharing yoga with many people coming from everywhere.

All those life experiences were in the past. They were just a memory, a history. It was real, but it doesn’t exist in the present moment, except that I am still living and teaching yoga here in Langkawi in the present moment.

All the good and not so good experiences were some stepping stones to bring me here and doing what I am doing now.

I realized I don’t have to be a professional singer to sing. I don’t have to sing well to sing. I don’t have to be a professional dancer to dance. Everyone can sing and dance as they like, no matter how out of tune or out of rhythm they are.

I didn’t become a professional dancer in the end, but it didn’t matter because I realized that although I love dancing very much and wanted to be a dancer, but my personality didn’t fit into the world of show business. I still can dance as I like, at anywhere and anytime, but not necessarily that I have to be in a professional dance troupe.

It has been a long time I didn’t sing or dance in the form of singing and dancing physically, but it didn’t change my love for singing and dancing. It didn’t stop me from singing and dancing in my heart. I don’t need to sing or dance to make me feel happy, or to feel good. It doesn’t make me feel unhappy if I don’t sing or dance. I am happy as I am.

For me, everything that I perceive and experience through this mind, is a form of singing and dancing coming from the universal consciousness. The sound of the breeze whistling, the sounds of people talking and laughing, the sounds of birds chirping and all kinds of sound made by all beings, the flowing rivers and streams, the movements of the trees, the flowers and the grass move by the wind, the magnificent waterfalls, the waves of the ocean, the beautiful sunset and sunrise, the infinite sky, the clouds, the lightning, the thunder, the rain, the beings experiencing happiness and unhappiness, ups and downs in life are a form of dance and music coming from the universal consciousness.

The world is dancing and singing all the time, turning round and round, expressing through the nature, oceans, mountains, forests, rivers, volcanoes, rain, wind, thunder and lightning.

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