My life stories – Part 11

My life Stories – Part 11
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

I wasn’t interested in getting into any love relationships or thought of getting married to someone, before I met my husband in 2005. I was nearly 35 years old and had never been in any relationship before, not even went out for a romantic outing with anyone. I wasn’t looking for a boyfriend or a husband.

I wasn’t and am not perfect. I didn’t and don’t intend to be one. I don’t have a nice personality or attractive appearance, and don’t know how to behave appropriately when being in a relationship. My personality and behavior were far away from ladylike and gentleness. For many people, being direct and straightforward are being seen as bad attitude or weakness for socializing and interacting in the society. For countless times, I watched people always being friendly, polite and nice in front of some other people, but they can’t hold their tongues to complain and criticize about other people behind their backs. Of course that’s their freedom of thoughts, actions and speech. But, I’ll stay away from this type of social interactions of hypocrisy and back-biting as much as possible.

In yoga practice, we purify our minds until there’s no ill-will or ill-thinking about anyone. There’s nothing to complain about or criticize anyone whether in front or behind their backs. When we criticize about others, it’s not because others are bad and wrong, or when we compliment others, it’s not because others are good and right, but it’s our mind being impure and project impurities of good and bad qualities onto everyone and everything that our minds perceive through the senses, under the influence of personal likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements based on what our egoistic minds believe what things are.

I never interested to make myself or my appearance to be attractive to attract anyone’s attention and liking. If anyone doesn’t like me or disagree with my way of thinking and behavior, and if people feel intimidated or offended by my presence, I’ll let them be and I’ll stay away so that they will have peace. Those who suffer from low self-esteem will easily feel intimidated or offended by anyone and anything, even though nobody is intentionally being intimidating or offensive towards anyone. It has to come from their own effort to be free from low self-esteem, which is part of the egoism. If anyone wants to create unnecessary problems, I’ll leave immediately, and let them take the responsibility for the consequences of their actions. If anyone doesn’t appreciate me or doesn’t want to be in my life anymore, I’ll let them go. I don’t expect anyone to be nice to me and love me. I never try to please anyone so that they will love me or be nice to me. People will be nice to me and love me if they want, as they like, out of their free will. And I will be grateful and thankful for their love and kindness for me.

Compassion is not about trying to please everyone to make them feel good, happy and comfortable, by giving them whatever they like and want, to gratify their desires of craving and aversion. But it’s to allow everyone to be aware of what is going on in their minds, and realize the truth to be free from ignorance and egoism, and transcend suffering and realize unconditional love and peace that is not coming from anyone or anything outside this body and mind, but it’s beyond the impermanent life existence, beyond the body and mind, beyond all our actions and inactions, beyond all the good and bad qualities of name and form, and beyond all our relationships with everyone and everything. It’s from within oneself unconditionally when one is free from ignorance and egoism.

My husband said that I am a strange person and beyond confident. I rarely look into the mirror as I don’t mind at all how I look. I also don’t mind about how other people look at me and what they think of me. I am neither highly confident nor over confident, as I don’t need to feel confident at all. I don’t feel bad about myself, and I don’t think I am better than any others. It’s okay if others want to look down on me, that’s their freedom, but I don’t look down on anyone. What others want to think, act and say about other people is their freedom of thinking, action and speech, but what others think, act and say about me cannot determine what I am and am not. I don’t look up to anyone either. I respect all my teachers and appreciate those who inspire me, but I don’t try to become like them. I don’t need to agree or disagree with everyone with many different types of thinking and behavior. I respect everyone as they are, even if my mind thinks that they are not good and not right based on what my mind believes what is good and bad, right and wrong. And I admire nobody, even when my mind thinks that they are great and wonderful, based on what my mind believes what is great and wonderful. Most of the time, I don’t comment about anything and anyone.

There’s nothing wrong to give praise and compliments to others to encourage people to do good and continue to improve, but the one who needs encouragement of praise and compliments from others to motivate it to do good and continue to improve is the ego, and by giving the ego what it likes and wants won’t help to eliminate the ego, but it’s feeding and strengthening the ego instead. That’s why in traditional yoga classes, the teacher rarely gives praise and compliments, it isn’t that the teacher is arrogant or doesn’t appreciate the students’ good performances, but it’s not to feed and strengthen the ego of the yoga students. Those who are really practicing yoga don’t need any praise and compliments from anyone to motivate them to do good and continue to improve.

In many families in the modern society, when the parents want to ask the children to be doing something for themselves or for other people, the parents will try to encourage or motivate the children by giving them something that they like and want as rewards after they have done what they were asked to do. It’s about performing actions in exchange for something in return. There’s nothing wrong with that. But, this is completely the opposite of the teachings of yoga. The children will grow up with the idea that they will only be motivated to do something only if they can get something that they like and want in return. Or else they won’t be motivated to do anything, even if it’s something beneficial for themselves. In yoga, we perform actions for ourselves and for others out of our free-will and loving kindness, without expecting something that we like and want in return.

And so, it’s not easy to be friend with me, not to say for anyone to be in a relationship with me and shares life with me. I do my best to be kind to others, but not in the way that what other people expect kindness to be like. Instead, people might think that I am being unkind to them. But that’s their freedom of thinking and reaction.

Once, I went through a serious purification process where lots of rash and pimples appeared on my face and my whole body for more than one and a half years, I didn’t feel bad or worry, and didn’t try to do something to get rid of them. My husband saw me in such condition for many months, and he wanted to give me some money to go to a beauty salon to get some treatments, but I said to him, “No need. They will go away one day.” And they went away months later.

I only use hair shampoo once or twice a month and everyday I take shower with water only. I use soap only for washing my hands. My travelling wash bag contains only a toothbrush and toothpaste.

I don’t need to celebrate birthdays or anniversaries. I don’t have a wedding ring or wedding photos. My husband once made a ring out of straw that he picked up from the ground while we were travelling in Varanasi and he gave it to me and told me that we were ‘officially’ married. On another time he secretly put three Bodhi leaves in my diary because I told him it was my first time saw a Bodhi tree when we were travelling in Rishikesh. I only realized the Bodhi leaves were there when I opened my diary a few days later. He also gave me three river stones that he found at the riverbank of the Ganges in Rishikesh. My husband doesn’t need to give me material things as presents as I am not interested in material things or presents. He doesn’t need to give me anything to show that he loves me, or for me to feel loved by him, or for me to love him. I love him as he is. I only appreciate life every moment, from day to day. I live everyday as it is and step by step. I don’t have future plans. I don’t need to own properties or things. I don’t need to have enjoyments. People like to say that we should do things that will make us happy, but I don’t need to do anything special that can make me happy, as I don’t need to feel happy. I am happy as I am.

I’ll share the stories from the past if it would help others to find a way to peace and freedom. But, I leave the past at where they belonged, I don’t keep them in the present. There will always be changes and unexpected happenings in life, some pleasant and unpleasant experiences, and people coming and going. I do my best to have peace in myself and stay away from meaningless and energy wasting human-made troubles as much as possible, and channel my life existence and energy to practice and teach yoga, and cultivate thoughts of may all be free from ignorance and have peace.

My husband is very different from me. He was gentle and romantic. My husband once tried to be romantic and sang a love song to me, but I thought he was just humming a song for himself, and I didn’t pay any attention to him and his singing. When he told me about it later, I said to him that I would try to learn to be more sensitive towards his love and affection for me.

I had been living on my own for many years, but I never felt lonely. And I fully enjoyed those peaceful and quiet moments being with myself. I have some good friends, and occasionally, I would visit them at their homes, or go out with them to have a coffee or lunch gathering. In the past, I didn’t have to tell or inform anyone about how I feel, what I am doing, where I am going, or when I will be coming back home, until my husband came to Malaysia to be with me in 2007. My parents never questioned me about all these things. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, but they didn’t need to worry for me at all.

I wasn’t and aren’t skillful in social interaction, or to engage in any social conversations. Most probably it’s because I was never interested in socializing, mingling, or accumulating personal friendships. Socializing, mingling and chit-chatting are good for worldly social interaction and public relation, but it is detrimental for yoga and meditation practice. It stimulates the thought waves and strengthens the worldly attachments, identifications and ideas, and empowering the desires of craving and aversion. Just list out what people usually talk about in a social conversation, and see how much our minds are being influenced and affected by all those daily conversations about worldly matters. And we might realize what is the cause for our minds being over stimulated and suffer from restlessness, and from where we have been accumulating lots of physical, emotional and mental tension that we need to de-stress or unwind ourselves from time to time. I never need to do something special to unwind myself, as I seldom accumulate unnecessary tension.

In most conversations, many people like to ask or want to know about the past and the future. Most people want to be friendly by starting a social interactive conversation, where they want to talk about themselves and also to hear other people talk about their stuffs, they want to give their opinions and also to hear other people’s opinions, they want to know about other people and want to be known by other people as well. There’s nothing wrong with the worldly social interactions between human beings. But in yoga practice, it’s about knowing oneself. It’s not about knowing other people or want to be known by other people. Minds that are conditioned by worldly thinking and ideas might think that it is a form of selfishness when some people don’t show interest to know about others. But in yoga, one practices disinterest in worldly affairs as well as other people’s affairs. It isn’t that yoga practitioners don’t care for what is happening to the world and other people, but one must take care of one’s mind first before one can care for the world and others efficiently.

When one’s mind is free from ignorance, egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving, aversion and all sorts of impurities, and realizes unconditional love and peace in oneself, being firmly resting in peace undisturbed by all the qualities of names and forms, then naturally, without any intention or expectation, one will be contributing peace into the world by stop generating unrest and disharmony into the world. By taking care of oneself, to have peace in oneself, is actually loving and caring for the world and the society.

One must learn about oneself and know about oneself by quieting and purifying the mind through self-introspection and self-discipline, and then one will know how to love and care for oneself, before one can actually know about others, and love and care for others. The entire society will become more peaceful and harmony when everyone learns about oneself, knows oneself, and loves and cares for oneself.

Instead of wasting energy in socializing or talking about worldly ideas and affairs, I conserve energy for practicing and teaching yoga. Talking about worldly ideas and affairs won’t help anyone to be free from worldly identifications and attachments towards worldly names and forms, and it won’t make the world to be a better place. In fact, talking about this and that will stimulate the mind, and it doesn’t help to quiet the mind. Yoga and meditation practice is mainly to quiet the mind. The states of the world will change towards peace and harmony only if each and everyone who are existing and living in the world has self-awareness and self-control, to make an effort to change themselves to purify and quiet their minds, to be free from ignorance and egoism. The world is just what it is. It is neither good nor bad. It’s the occupants of the world that are projecting good and bad qualities into the world and contributing peace or unrest into the world. The one who is pure, being free from good and bad qualities, perceives the world as it is.

Though I am not interested in accumulating personal social friendships, I do my best to be friendly to all. I don’t discriminate people into friends or not friends. There’s no special treatment towards certain people. Those who think they deserve to be treated in certain ways that they think they should be treated, they will only be disappointed by their own expectation. But it’s people’s freedom if they want to discriminate everyone into friends and not friends, and have expectation towards how other people should act and react, behave and response according to their own practices, beliefs and values, and they feel annoyed or offended by other people who have different actions and reactions, different behaviors and responses being influenced by different practices, beliefs and values.

In the teachings of yoga, friendliness is being kind and compassionate towards all and everyone without ill-will, prejudice or bias towards anyone and without discrimination of friends and not friends, likes and dislikes, good or bad behavior people. We have self-control over our actions and speech to stop generate actions and speech that will cause unrest and disharmony in others or in the society. We constantly be aware of the impurities in our minds, and unceasingly purify our minds to be free from all sorts of impurities, so that we won’t hurt ourselves and others out of the influence of impurities like anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, dissatisfaction, disappointment, pride, arrogance, desires, lust, feelings of hurts, doubt, fear and worry.

There’s no possessiveness or attachment towards anyone to be ‘my friend’. There’s no expectation towards friendships for getting something that we want, like attention, acknowledgement, companionship, interaction, trust, care and support, or getting rid of something that we don’t want, like loneliness and boredom. There’s no expectation towards others that people have to be friendly and nice to us. We allow everyone to be friendly and nice to us, or not. We don’t feel offended when we don’t get the appropriate reactions that what most people expect to be getting from other people. We don’t expect people should react and behave in certain ways according to our own thinking, social ethics, cultural values, belief and practice. We respect all and everyone to be different from us for having different personalities, characteristics, behaviors, opinions, values, policies, thinking and beliefs. We don’t try to interfere with, or to control, or to change other people to be the way that we think they should be, but allowing everyone to be the way as they are.

If people feel hurt or disturbed by other people’s actions and reactions, that is their own responsibility coming from how their minds react towards all the perceptions of names and forms, influenced by their egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion and expectation based on their own particular conditioned thinking and beliefs. Those who are free from egoism, attachment, identification, craving, aversion and expectation based on certain conditioned thinking and beliefs, will not be hurt or disturbed by anything or anyone.

Being in a relationship and to share living space with another person was a great challenge for me in the beginning. There were lots of things I needed to learn, to adjust, to adapt, to accommodate, to tolerate, to accept, to let go of selfishness and the ego. But all these are parts of our yoga practice. And I am still learning.

My husband is a good man and a good husband. He is very friendly, kind-hearted and generous. It is very good karma to have him in my life. He loves me very much, and I appreciate his love for me and I love him as he is.

Before my husband came to Malaysia to be with me, I was teaching aerobics dance classes in and around Kuala Lumpur for living, while he was working in a refuge in the Pyrenees in France.

We met each other for the first time in the Sivananda Dhanwantari Yoga Vedanta Ashram in South India, where we did the International Yoga Teachers Training Course in January 2005.

Without any intentions, we talked about yoga and Buddhism for a few times during the one month course. I never asked him where he came from, where he lived, what he did in the past, what he was doing then, or who he was in general. I didn’t even know what nationality he has. I never interested in knowing about the past, or try to know anyone from where they come from, or what they do, or who they are.

He stayed back in the Ashram for another few months after the course ended, while I came back to Malaysia, continued to teach aerobics dance classes and yoga classes. I wrote him a letter sent to the Ashram after I came back, as I felt that he needed Dhamma at that time. The letter was all about Dhamma, there’s nothing romantic at all. He told me later that the letter meant a lot to him, and he had kept the letter with him all the time wherever he went, until now.

Without any intentions, we both attended the Advance Teachers Training Course in February 2006. My initial plan was to stay back in the Ashram to perform selfless service for three months after the course ended. I would stay longer if I had more money. But the savings that I had was only just enough for the course and for staying in the Ashram for three more months. I didn’t know that my plan would change, and my life too. A few days later after we met again for the second time, he asked me if I wanted to travel with him in India learning more yoga and meditation under different schools and teachers. I didn’t answer him at that time because I wanted to stay in the Ashram after the course, and I couldn’t afford to go travelling somewhere else. We kept a distance with each other in the Ashram as we respect the Ashram’s rule of male and female students’ segregation, and we didn’t say anything about it anymore.

Just a few days before the course finished, a spontaneous thought arose in my mind during one of the evening Satsang meditation sessions, that if he came to me right after the meditation finished and asked me to travel with him in India, then I would go with him. But if he didn’t come to me that night and didn’t ask me that question at that time, then I wouldn’t go with him, but stay in the Ashram for the next three months. And miraculously, as everyone was leaving the meditation hall, he was waiting for me at the exit and he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the side and asked me in the dark, “Do you want to travel with me in India?” And I said yes. So, we went travelling together in India after the course ended. We spent two and a half months together, where we came to know each other deeper. We both got really sick from food poisoning for a month from the first day we arrived in Delhi. During that time, we took turn to take care of each other at our worst condition.

Then he went back to France, while I came back to Malaysia without any expectation that we would see each other again. I mentioned to him before, that he could come to Malaysia to teach yoga with me if he wanted. We didn’t really have any contacts since then.

He went back to India for the third time in the end of 2006, while I was in Malaysia. I didn’t go to India. Nine months later after the last time we saw each other, he called me from India one afternoon, telling me that he had booked a flight to come to Malaysia. He came in February 2007 and never left. We got married in the end of 2008.

All relationships and life experiences will have ups and downs. It’s subject to impermanence or changes. When two people who come from different cultural backgrounds with different personalities come together, there will be some conflicts arise from time to time. It depends on the depth of our understanding, acceptance, adaptation, adjustment, accommodation, tolerance, forgiveness and letting go, for us to be able to stay cheerful and happy in life, disregard all the agreements and disagreements, likes and dislikes, ups and downs in life and in the relationship. But most important is we need to know what we really want in life for ourselves.

My mother tongue is Cantonese, and my second languages are Mandarin and Malay. Before my husband came to Malaysia living with me, I seldom spoke English in daily conversations except when I taught classes I used very simple and minimal English. My husband and I had many misunderstanding especially in the beginning because my English comprehension was really limited and I also have bad hearing due to constant shouting to teach aerobics classes under the loud music. My husband speaks very softly. I had to ask him to repeat his sentences again and again. It was frustrating for him. I used to talk very loud and fast, which was really difficult for my husband because he has sensitive hearing and suffers from tinnitus. He suffered a lot from my loud speaking. As years past by, I started to speak more softly and slowly. And my husband had to keep correcting my English pronunciations and the usage of tenses. It took me few years to learn to pronounce words like egg, eight, three, world, girl, file, wild, duck, abdomen, buttocks, wrists, necessarily, vocabulary, probably, and etc. Even now after many years speaking in English, I am still having trouble pronouncing words like thought, thigh, they and there. When I speak in English, I am actually translating directly from Chinese. And there are no tenses in Chinese language. My husband said that he couldn’t understand me and constantly misunderstood what I wanted to say because I didn’t know how to use the correct pronunciation and tenses to tell my stories or when I wanted to say something. But we understood that very well, and we learned to be patient and accommodate each other when we talked to communicate.

It didn’t and doesn’t matter to me about how other people perceive me, as I am what I am. I accept and love myself as I am. I don’t live my life according to the worldly thinking, beliefs, and current trends, to meet up other people’s expectation, neither will I try to please anyone by pretending to be somebody whom I am not. If people don’t like something or everything about me, it’s their freedom. Everyone is responsible for their own happiness and unhappiness. Nobody can make another person happy or unhappy. If people want to be happy, no one can make them unhappy. If people want to be unhappy, no one can make them happy. When people feel happy is because they are getting something that they like and want, and are not getting what they don’t like and don’t want. When people feel unhappy is because they are getting something that they don’t like and don’t want, and are not getting what they like and want. It’s not because things or people are being good or bad, nice or not nice. Even my husband’s likes and dislikes, and his mind perception about me also cannot determine me, or change me, for what I am and how I think, act and feel. And I can’t make my husband happy. Neither can he make me happy. We are happy as we are.

Most of the time, the truth is not something agreeable or pleasant to the minds that are not free from attachment and identification towards certain conditioned thinking and beliefs influenced by ignorance and egoism. Most people perceive their own reality under the influence of conditional thinking and beliefs, they don’t see the truth as it is. Those who are not free from ignorance and egoism might have heard about the truth from others, but they might not like the truth, or don’t agree with the truth realized by others. Because they haven’t realized the truth through their own realization. They perceive everything based on their own thinking and beliefs and they live in their own personal reality. And people shouldn’t believe in the truth realized by others, even if it’s coming from Buddha or any saints and sages. Everyone has to realize the truth by themselves.

People want and expect the truth to be something that they like and want, that is agreeable to their own personal worldly thinking and beliefs. Everyone who attached to different thinking and beliefs would perceive their own personal reality differently from one another. Everyone has their own perception of reality that is being different from one another and there’s nothing wrong with that. But the universal truth is still the one same truth whether people like and agree with it, or not, whether people think and believe it’s the truth, or not. As the truth is not a belief, or intellectual analysis. It’s the way of how things are, as they are. But most people don’t want things to be what they are, but they want things to be the way that how they like and want it to be, or the way that they think it should be.

This also shows that how kind and loving is my husband for him to love me and accept me as I am. It’s a great challenge for him to be in a relationship with me and to share life with me.

That’s also why I am never interested in joining any ‘groups’. I am free to be who I am, as I am. And I am free from getting involve in gossips, vain talks, conflicts, condemn, criticism, and so on. When we have bad things to say about others, it’s not because others are being bad and wrong, but it’s because our minds are not pure. If our minds are pure, there’s no bad thing to say about others, even if we are aware of something that isn’t good and right about someone based on what our minds believe as good and bad, right and wrong. Worldly minded people might think that being silence towards things that are bad and wrong is supporting all those bad and wrong things. But, what people think and believe as good and bad, right and wrong, is very subjective, it’s not necessarily the truth of what things are. By being vocally and physically violent towards something that is bad and wrong won’t change the reality of those things being bad and wrong. But everyone must develop self-awareness and self-introspection in themselves to be aware of their own minds, to be initiative and make an effort to purify their own minds, and have self-control over their own thinking, actions and speech.

By telling people that they are ignorant or wrong and bad, won’t make people stop being ignorant or wrong and bad. It has to come from their own self-awareness and self-control.

I do things in my own ways and at my own pace. There’s no stress or tension. I’m not greedy to run a bigger retreat centre with higher capacity and income. We do everything by ourselves (my husband and I) within our own capacity. We don’t need to rely on any ’employees’ to run the yoga retreats. As it won’t be the same. It will become a business, with higher expenses and costs. We do all the teachings, cooking, driving, accommodation arrangement, emails response, website updates, cleaning, washing, maintenance, and shopping all by ourselves.

If some people don’t understand about what we do, we don’t expect that they should understand. If people aren’t really interested in the traditional yoga practice about quieting the mind through the annihilation of ignorance and egoism, and they don’t have the humility to learn and practice yoga, but they are only interested in joining some fitness yoga exercise classes, and they are not interested in our yoga retreats or what we teach, that’s their freedom. We will suggest to them to go to some other yoga fitness centres that might provide cheap and cheerful yoga exercise classes. As these people are not really interested in learning and practicing yoga. There are many yoga asana instructors in the world that will provide fitness yoga exercise classes to these people who only interested in doing some stretching, strength and flexibility fitness workout, to be able to do many yoga asana poses that they want to be able to do, and to look good and feel good about themselves. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s their freedom. We would appreciate very much to have the free time to focus on our own personal practice.

Many people said that they are interested in yoga and they want to learn yoga, but when they hear the teachings of yoga about letting go of egoism, attachment, identification, desires, craving and aversion, either their minds will start to be opened towards what they didn’t know before, and be able to see what is going on in their minds, or their minds will be rejecting what they don’t know, or what is contradicted to their existing thinking and beliefs, and they want to runaway from what they minds don’t like and don’t agree with. The stronger the ego is, the stronger the rejection towards the teachings of yoga about the annihilation of the ego will be.

I am responsible for my own thoughts, actions and speech within my own efforts, with self-awareness, self-discipline and conscience. I am always truthful to myself and others. I accept myself as I am, and I love myself as I am. I don’t need to be hypocrite or tell lies to justify myself to anyone. I respect other people who have their own different thinking, beliefs and behaviors. I don’t apply my own way of thinking, belief and behavior onto other people. I allow everyone to be different from me, and from one another. If other people don’t like the way that I am, or disagree with the teachings of yoga, that’s their freedom.

I just do my best within my ability and limitation. Some people being optimistic and they think and believe that they can change the world, that’s their freedom. But even Buddha never claimed that being enlightened and be free from ignorance and suffering could change the world. Buddha didn’t have intention to change the world or have expectation that the world will be changed by his enlightenment, his presence, or by the teachings of Buddhism. He just shared the path towards liberation. Naturally, one will be contributing peace and harmony into the world and stop contributing unrest and disharmony into the world, when one attains unconditional love and peace being free from ignorance and suffering.

Although I don’t belong to any groups, but I respect everyone has their own groups, where they think they belong to, or if people feel the need to attach onto certain identifications and to obtain certain recognition to be who they are. Some people think that they need to mix into certain groups and be accepted by those groups, to feel that those are the places where they belong, to interact and share something in common among the people in those groups.

Some people join certain groups for getting some personal gains, or business exchange and benefits. But then they will complain that they are not free to be who they are, and are being ‘pressured’ or ‘forced’ to do things the way that the groups believe how things should be done. As by joining certain groups, there are some standards and qualities, or rules and regulations in the groups that the members have to comply to and be recognized as being part of them, or else they will be criticized, or condemned, or expelled. You’ll have to be like them or behave like them, and you are not free to be yourself anymore. You and your life are being observed by others all the time, and are bound to play by the rules of the games or activities once you joined any groups.

Some people don’t like and don’t agree with the way we are, as they can’t understand why we want to keep very low profile, that we are not eager to promote our yoga retreats, and they would try to give us many advices about how we should run our yoga retreats and how to live our lives, even though we never interested to ask anyone for any advice. We let them be free to express their minds to give their opinions. But then when they realize that we are happy with the way as we are and have no interest to follow any of their advices, they would feel offended and disrespected. In yoga practice, we refrain ourselves from this type of egoistic action and reaction with attachment and expectation influenced by worldly thinking, concepts and ideas.

I have no greed to get any ‘helps’ or ‘benefits’ from any ‘personal’ or ‘groups’ to ‘enhance’ or ‘improve’ our social life, or life condition, or income. If I need to do something or to attain something, I depend solely on my own effort to get things done. Or else, I don’t. It doesn’t matter if I didn’t get what I wanted. I don’t let other people to determine or control my life and my freedom about how I should live life and how I should feel and express myself. I also don’t need any encouragement, acknowledgement, support, or companionship from some other people or friends to motivate me to do something that I want to do.

No doubt that the existence of everything and everyone is inter-dependent on many others. But, everyone has to work independently towards liberation. When serious Sadhaka advance in their practice, they will renounce the world and go into seclusion for at least five or six years cutting off all kinds of communications with family and friends. Nowadays, many people who identify themselves as ‘yoga practitioners’ or ‘yogis’, who say that they love yoga and like doing a particular style of yoga asana practice, they are not really interested in dispassion and renunciation. And that is their freedom of what they want to do with their life existence.

I believe in the one same nature in everything, which is the truth of impermanence and selflessness. I see the same nature in everything, despite all the different qualities of name and form that exist in everyone, that generate separateness, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements. From separateness, there arise craving and aversion, conflicts, discrimination, fear, anger, hatred and jealousy in us. Though I do things in my own way, I don’t feel myself as an individual being separated from any other beings even though I don’t join any groups or attach onto certain identifications to be who I am. I don’t need to obtain any recognition or support from any social groups to be somebody.

What I do and don’t do is just actions and inactions, it’s not who I am. Whatever I experienced in the past and am experiencing now, it’s not who I am. Whatever qualities I had or didn’t have in the past, and whatever qualities I have or don’t have in the present, it’s not who I am.

I have no expectation towards life, or towards myself and other people, or in my relationships with anyone. Neither will I be disappointed with myself or other people, as I don’t expect anything. By having expectation won’t change the reality that I don’t like into something that I prefer, and I am not interested at all to change other people to be the way that I think they should be.

I live in the present moment. I don’t have much desires, almost none. I am contented as I am. I allow the universe to bring me whatever and wherever. I have no fear and worry towards ‘what’s next’ or ‘what if’. I let the universe to take care of everything. I just need to do my best, perform all my duties and responsibilities. I do my best to help people around me within my ability, like my family and friends and people who come to learn about yoga, but I can’t help anyone if people don’t help themselves. If people don’t help themselves, I’ll let them be. It’s their freedom of what they want to do with themselves and their lives.

I am not determined by the result or the fruit of actions. There’s no success nor failure, no praise nor condemn, that can motivate or demotivate me to perform actions, or not. I don’t need any acknowledgment, recognition, approval, appreciation, gratefulness and thankfulness from anyone to motivate me to perform actions, to feel happy and meaningful, or not.

And so, it’s really not easy to deal with or to live with a person like me. As I can be very ‘stubborn’ or ‘hard’ in my own way. Or some might say this is self-centred. I let people think what they want to think, and say what they want to say, and I am still what I am. I never try to please anyone and I don’t need anyone to please me. It’s not that I don’t care for others. But I don’t try to interfere with others’ freedom to be what and how they are. I allow people to be happy or unhappy, and to take full responsibility for themselves. I have no intention to make anyone unhappy or to hurt anyone deliberately. I wish everyone peace and happiness. I wish everyone be free from unhappiness and suffering. But I can’t and don’t make people become peaceful and happy. People are peaceful and happy is because they are free from ignorance and they allow themselves to be peaceful and happy. I let everyone to be what they are. I can’t control or dictate their thinking and feelings, what they like and dislike, what they want and don’t want. If they want to be ignorant or unhappy, and attach to qualities of name and form to be who they are, I’ll let them be.

I am happy as I am. This is why I am always cheerful and lighthearted even if there’s some challenging situations arise in my life, as I am not disturbed or determined by my pleasant and unpleasant life experiences, and undetermined by other people’s judgments, opinions, likes and dislikes, agreements and disagreements. If my mind is ever being disturbed by certain names and forms, I could let it go very fast.

I take full responsibility for the consequences of my decisions and actions. There are no regrets. If the consequences of my decisions or actions are unpleasant, I take them as they are. Most of the time, good and right decisions and actions are not necessarily bringing pleasant consequences. Life experiences can be very unpleasant and difficult, but it doesn’t mean that we did something wrong or bad.

Yoga and meditation and Buddhism practice is practical in every moment in life while we experience happiness and unhappiness, pleasant and unpleasant experiences in life and in relationships with anyone (including the relationship with ourselves, our body and mind). The practice is in the present moment now, being aware of the reality as it is and accepting the reality as it is, without generate attachment or identification, without craving or aversion towards the qualities of name and form that our mind perceives through the senses. There’s no such thing as “I did a lot of yoga and meditation practice in the past”, or “I do lots of yoga or meditation”, or “I am going to practice yoga and meditation in the future”.

I share what I am with the guests who come for our yoga retreats. I don’t teach yoga to other people according to what we learned from the yoga teachers training course curriculum or the teaching manual, or from reading yoga books, or from hearing from somebody else about what is yoga and how they teach yoga.

Whatever I am and am not, whatever I do and don’t do, it’s not who I am. It’s all nothing but impermanent changes of qualities of names and forms.

May all be free, be peaceful.

Om shanti.

For more stories about our relationship, you can read on this link Love Came Slowly

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My life stories – Part 7

My life stories – Part 7
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams came true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Last updated in August 2015

Though my mother had passed away many years ago, my father still misses her very much. He feels guilty for my mother had passed away in the hospital, alone, without any of us being with her at that moment. He regrets deeply and blames himself for not being there for my mother when she took her last breath. He strongly believes that my mother might have something to say to him before she died. But now and forever, he will never know what my mother wanted to say to him before she died.

My mother was paralyzed during the last two years of her life. She needed special care and attention from my father and my sister to help her in everything from feeding herself to going to the toilet, and bringing her to the hospital and traditional Chinese acupuncture centre for check-up and receiving treatment for a few times every week.

Not long after my mother’s death, my father was paralyzed too and has to lie in bed most of the time. The only wish he has, is waiting for my mother to appear in his dream. Every day and night he just wants to sleep and sleep, hoping that my mother will show up in his dream and talk to him. But he didn’t get to see her. Every time when I visit him, he cries while telling me that my mother didn’t show up in his dream. In great disappointment, he asked me why he couldn’t see my mother in his dream. Another thing that he keeps blaming himself is for being impatient and shouted at my mother when she needed his care and support.

It wasn’t easy to take care of a paralyzed person twenty four hours a day. Everyone became impatient, exhausted and frustrated. My mother had no choice but to depend on my father and my sister to be her hands and legs for everything. It was very hard for a person like my mother who used to be very independent and physically strong, but suddenly she lost all her mobility and freedom to do even the simplest thing. It wasn’t easy for the person who needed help and the person who helped.

I can never complain about how my father, my sister and her two daughters for being impatient and shouted at my mother frequently when they lost their patience being exhausted from taking care of a paralyzed person. Everyone was tired and frustrated. I can understand that. The person who was sick was suffering. The people who cared for the sick person were suffering too.

I felt compassion for my mother for being paralyzed because nobody would want to be in such condition, being helpless and losing one’s strength and mobility. I sympathized with my father, my sister and her daughters, for being trapped in a situation which nobody would like to be in. Nobody would enjoy spending many hours looking after a paralyzed person who needed so much personal care and attention. I commiserated with my two elder brothers who blamed themselves and feeling bad and guilty for not being able to help out financially. I felt sorry for myself for not being able to be there for my mother all the time because I had to be at somewhere else making a living to provide financial support for the entire family.

And now, my father is also having the same difficult condition as my mother had.

Because of the deep sadness from missing my mother, my father refuses to get better. He doesn’t want to go for physiotherapy or receive any kind of treatment. He gave up living from the moment he regained consciousness and realized he had lost his mobility. It’s more than eight years now he has been paralyzed and he is getting weaker and weaker each day.

My eldest brother is taking care of my father. He will bring my father to sit up on the wheelchair for eating and showering, but my father can’t stay in a sitting position for too long. In the beginning, my brother brought my father out of the house with his car, to eat out and to get some fresh air and looking around at the outside world. But then my father became very weak and had to lie down most of the time because his body would be in pain for sitting too long. Since then, he seldom gets out from the house for many years, except when my brother sends him for routine check-ups in the hospital once every three months.

My father was feeling unwell in the morning the day that he got paralyzed. My sister brought him to the hospital for a check-up. The doctor told my sister that my father had to stay back in the hospital until late afternoon for observation and run some tests. My sister went back home to look after her daughters and she would go back to the hospital to pick him up later in the afternoon. During the check-up, a nurse asked him to sit up on the bed to perform some physical movements. Somehow he lost his balance and fell onto the floor from the bed with his head hit the floor first. He lost consciousness and they sent him to the Emergency Unit. He went into a coma. And ridiculously, they informed my sister only after they had sent my father to the ICU. They told her that my father went into a coma and was sent to the ICU. There was nothing they could do, they said. Immediately my sister went back to the hospital while informing everyone in the family. My father regained consciousness many hours later, but half of his body was paralyzed. The doctor explained that there were three blood clots in his head that caused the paralysis. We didn’t know whether the blood clots were caused by the fall, or they had already existed before the fall. We couldn’t undo anything, even if it was somebody’s negligence and responsibility for what had happened to him.

The staff at the hospital didn’t mention anything about why he had been sent to the ICU. It was my father who told us later about what had happened to him on that day.

My sister thought of getting some compensation money by suing the hospital and the nurse. I told my sister that it was needless to sue anyone. It would do more harm to my father than to benefit him, as it would be a very long and stressful process for my father to go through if this went into a court case. I also believed that the nurse didn’t have intention for my father to fall down from the bed. Nobody intentionally wanted this to happen. The nurse might have felt very bad for this incident. Moreover, there was no other witness that could support whatever my father told us about what had happened to him that day, and my father’s memories were a bit confused after he suffered from paralysis. Even if we successfully sued the hospital or the nurse and got some compensation many years later, it still wouldn’t change the fact that my father was paralyzed and wouldn’t get any better. We should forgive and let go. One day this nurse might become a great nurse or a great person learning from this incident. We don’t want to ruin somebody’s life with the possibility for becoming a great person. Someone’s life was already ruined and couldn’t be undone. Everyone makes some mistakes at some points in life. We don’t want the nurse to be unhappy and have no peace for the rest of his life. Even if it was really the nurse’s negligence or responsibility for my father’s unfortunate condition, we would like him to know that we had pardoned him. It was an accident.

I have been supporting my family financially since I was a teenager. My second elder brother has been suffering from asthma since he was a baby. He couldn’t do much physical activities and didn’t have a permanent job to support his own living. In the past, he would need to borrow money from me from time to time to have food on the table. My sister is in great debt with many different banks, relatives and friends, and needs to take care of her own family with two daughters and three grandchildren from two separate broken families. My eldest brother can’t work because he has been taking care of my father twenty four hours a day. Therefore I have to support my father and my eldest brother financially.

Though my eldest brother loves his wife very much, they have to live separately for all these years because in the past she has to live with her family to take care of her father who was very ill for some time before he died, and now, she has to take care of her old mother too. They can only see each other once or twice a month as they are now living more than 120 km away from one another. It’s a sad and unfortunate life story of our family. But my brother never complain. He takes good care of my father out of love. I am glad that my father has such wonderful son to take care of him, and I’m always thankful to my brother for sacrificing so much for our family.

I need to be able to take care of myself so that I can look after my family. I never worry or regret. Worrying and regretting won’t change anything. It won’t take away my father’s suffering or make my family’s difficult condition to become better. Instead, I use my entire energy to practice and teach yoga to help myself and others, to be free from ignorance and suffering, and have love and peace in our hearts while living in the world of impermanence and uncertainty. My family also needs help. But nobody can help another if people don’t want to help themselves.

More than seventeen years ago, my parents were living with me before they moved out to live with my sister. After my late brother-in-law passed away in a tragic work accident, my sister had moved to Senawang where she found a job as an administrative clerk near where she lives. Senawang is a small industrial town with plenty greenery about an hour drive from Kuala Lumpur. She always wanted to live in a house close to the countryside where she could see the mountains and the big blue sky from her house.

Because of her two young daughters were studying in schools near my house in Old Klang Road, she didn’t bring her daughters to live with her. If she brought her daughters with her, she would have to pay someone to take care of the children when she’s at work. Her monthly salary wasn’t much. She couldn’t afford to hire a nanny. She also had to pay back a lot of debts little by little every month. So she left her two daughters with us – my parents and I, to look after them. If she had some money left, she would give a few hundred Ringgit to my parents for her daughters’ daily living expenses.

My sister is very different from me. All I want is a simple, quiet life. She wants to make a lot of money. She wants to have big house, big car and enjoy life. She wanted to invest in property, so she bought a house and a shop lot. She wanted to invest in life insurance, so she bought eight life insurance policies at one time. She wanted to go for holidays staying in nice hotel pampering herself once in a while. And she would use her many different credit cards to pay for everything that she wanted – house instalments, car instalments, insurance premiums, holidays, petrol, grocery shopping, dining, and lots of bills. She didn’t realize that her ambitions were too many and too big, and she ended up accumulating more and more debts. But my sister isn’t a bad person.

She is a very kind and friendly person. She won’t have any bad intentions for anybody. She is a person with great patience and wouldn’t get angry under any circumstances, except when she was too tired from looking after my mother, she lost her patience and shouted at my mother a few times. But I know she would feel very bad afterwards, as she would never want to intentionally hurt anyone’s feelings. She wanted to provide my parents with a better living condition. She wanted to give her daughters the best that she could give. All she wanted was to have a better quality of life. And it’s totally nothing wrong with all her ambitions, but life was so hard on her all the time.

She was a member of the Red Crescent Movement and had helped many people everywhere while she was still in school. She continued to help many people after she finished school. She lost her own handbag many times, when she tried to help people who were injured in car accidents. She is a very good friend to many people. She was very intelligent and had very good results in school exams. She was one of the last batch students who received Malaysian general education in English medium. She reads and writes and speaks good English. She is a bookworm. She used to sing a lot and played a guitar when she was younger. She is a happy and carefree person.

But, all these good and positive qualities don’t guarantee that she wouldn’t be getting into financial problems.

Her elder daughter was a problem child. We couldn’t blame her. She had a very unpleasant toddlerhood before her father passed away when she was four years old. She had been frequently shouted at and canned by her father since she was just a few months old. One time, he slapped her for crying. He hit her so hard in the face that she permanently lost the hearing in one ear. Her jaw was dislocated as well causing her mouth tilted to one side when she talked. It wasn’t a bad thing for her and her baby sister who was five months old when their father died in the work accident.

Somehow she liked to tell lies and had been stealing money since she was just a little girl. One day, I found out that my one and only fifty Ringgit note had been missing from my purse. I used to count how much money I had every day and knew exactly how many notes and coins in my purse, as I didn’t have much money left for myself after giving most of my money to my family. And I knew for sure that I had one piece of fifty Ringgit note in my purse, but it had disappeared.

I was very upset. I was very sure that it must be her who had taken it, as it wasn’t the first time she took money without asking. I couldn’t control my anger. I was different from my sister. I would get angry and wasn’t a nice person at all. I felt really upset that we had been taking care of her and her little sister, but that was what she repaid us. At that stage of my life, I was very ignorant and unhappy. I was very angry with the difficult financial situation in my family and didn’t have the wisdom and compassion to control my anger and my behaviour. My mind was over-powered by ignorance and unhappiness.

I got really, really angry. I shouted at her madly. I told her that I was going to call the police to send her to jail. She was just a nine year old little girl at that time. I realized later in life that I was too harsh on her. I had to forgive myself as I couldn’t undo what I had done which I shouldn’t.

In the beginning, she kept shaking her head and denied that she had stolen the money.

She was very famous for her stubbornness. One time, her school teacher punished her for something that she did at school. The teacher gave her a stroke of caning on her palm. Other children would have cried in pain, and asked for pardon. But she didn’t retreat her hand, she didn’t cry and didn’t apologize. The teacher became more furious and gave her a few more strokes and hit harder and harder each time. She still wouldn’t retreat her hand and wouldn’t cry. The teacher gave another few more strokes until her palm started to bleed. Then the teacher stopped. She still didn’t cry.

She came home with the injured palm, swollen and bleeding. My parents found out what had happened to her, and went to the school to complain to the school principal. Immediately after that day, the teacher was sent to another school to teach. The entire school knew about this. And she became famous for her stubbornness.

After a few times of questioning with me shouting at her like a mad person, she went out in silence. A few minutes later, she came back with some money in a plastic bag. She already spent some of the fifty Ringgit. She kept the remaining money in the plastic bag and hid it under one of the flower pots down stairs.

I was really disappointed. Immediately I called my sister. I told her that she must came right away to take her daughter back with her to Senawang. I didn’t want her to live with us anymore. I was such cold-hearted, uncompassionate and unforgiving. About one and a half hours later, my sister came. She said she needed some time to arrange her daughter to go to a school in Senawang. I said to her, I could wait for another few days or a few weeks, as long as I didn’t want her daughter to live with us anymore. I didn’t mind that her younger daughter to continue to stay with us and I didn’t mind taking care of her.

My parents were very upset. They loved me very much. They knew that I worked very hard to provide financial support for the family. They didn’t want me to be unhappy. They also loved their grandchildren very much. They couldn’t bear the pain being separated from one of their grandchildren. They sympathized with my sister that she had to look after her daughter on her own while she also needed to work. They sympathized with their granddaughter that she wouldn’t get as much love and attention as she could get from them and also be separated from her young sister, if she would have to live with my sister. And so, my parents made a very hard decision. My father decided to move to Senawang to live with my sister to take care of their elder granddaughter. And my mother would live with me and take care of their younger granddaughter. My parents had to live separately since then. They travelled back and forth between Kuala Lumpur and Senawang. And all these were because of me and my bad temper. And yet, my parents never said anything bad about me.

Every weekend, my mother would drive to Senawang to see my father and their elder granddaughter. Sometimes my father would come back to see my mother and their younger granddaughter, and me, of course. This was going on for some time. Two years later, it was time for my younger niece to enter primary school. They decided that the easiest way for everybody, was to send her to the school in Senawang which her sister went to. Therefore, my mother also moved to Senawang to reunite with my father and both their granddaughters for good. And the two granddaughters were no longer be separated from each other and were living together with their mother under the same house.

My sister moved away from Kuala Lumpur hoping for a brighter and happier future, but it seemed like life didn’t want to be easy on her. Now, she doesn’t have the house or the shop lot anymore because the bank had auctioned off both her house and shop lot to pay back the huge amount of debt she owed to the bank.

While living with my sister, my parents continued to help her to clean up the house, and did the cooking, gardening, washing the laundry for everyone and sending the children to school. And my sister thought that she didn’t need to give any money to my parents for looking after her children, but instead, she thought my parents should contribute some money, or pay her back by doing the house works and to serve her and her children, because my parents were living at her house.

I was totally speechless.

This didn’t make sense at all. While her children were living with us and my parents had to take care of them, she would give some money to my parents for taking care of her children and for feeding them. But when my parents were doing the same thing for her, but living in her house, and had to do more house work, and yet, my parents had to contribute money for being the servants of the house? If somebody hired a helper to do some house work, the helper would get to live in the house, would be fed and paid accordingly. It’s like telling the servant, “Since you are living and eating in my house, so you should give me some money and do all the house work in exchange.”

My parents never saw it as working for my sister when they took care of the children and did all the house work for her. My parents love their daughter and granddaughters. Out of love, my parents wanted to take care of them and do everything for them. For my parents, they do everything for us out of love, family love. Family never calculate how much we give and don’t expect anything in return. But somehow their daughter took this love for granted. But yet, they didn’t mind at all. I totally understood my parents’ hearts, what were they thinking and feeling at that time.

I felt that it was unfair to my parents to do so much for my sister, but was being treated like free servants, and had to pay for their stay in my sister house for food and accommodation. But, I respect their freedom to do what they wanted to do. They were happy giving all that they could give to my sister. My parents sympathized my sister had lost her husband and had to bring up two young children all by herself. It was very difficult for my sister to work and take care of the children at the same time. I could understand that.

My parents had the freedom on how they wanted to use the money that I gave them every month. I couldn’t and shouldn’t dictate how they should spend their pocket money although it was coming from me. Once I gave away the money, the money didn’t belong to me anymore, and it’s up to them how they wanted to use it. But I convinced my parents that they didn’t need to tell my sister how much money that I gave them every month because I knew my sister would borrowed all the money that they had, and spent the money recklessly. They listened to me. They received the money from me every month without telling my sister how much I gave them, but they continued to help out my sister’s living expenses silently with their pocket money, without letting her knew about it. How great was that family love!

Sometimes my sister didn’t have enough money to get the daily needs. So my parents were using their own pocket money to do the grocery shopping without telling my sister that the petty cash for grocery shopping had finished, because they didn’t want my sister to get stressed out. My parents treat us as a family – we all share the same flesh and blood, and family never being calculative. This is how much our parents love us. They give everything and never ask anything in return.

Though my parents showed lots of love and care to their granddaughters, they didn’t respect my parents at all. They shouted at my parents, especially to my mother after she was paralyzed. They ignored my mother when she asked them for something. When my sister didn’t have enough money to give to her daughters for their schooling expenses and daily pocket money, my parents would give their own pocket money to their granddaughters. But they didn’t know how to be grateful and thankful. Again, my parents didn’t mind at all. Sometimes they would cry in front of me and told me about what happened to them in my sister’s home. That was how I learned about what my parents had been going through while living with my sister.

There was a time, my parents had almost finished using their pocket money and my sister hadn’t been giving them money to buy rice and vegetables for some time. Every day she went out to work in the early morning and came home after midnight because she had another part time job as a guest relation officer in a karaoke night club in Seremban. She didn’t realize my parents hadn’t been cooking for a few days. My parents didn’t want to trouble me and didn’t tell me that they were running out of money. They didn’t want to ask money from sister as well because they knew my sister already had no money to pay bills and all her instalments for months. They didn’t tell my sister that there was no more rice in the house. They gave the scarce money that they had to their granddaughters to allow them to buy food at school, and my parents had been eating stale bread for many days, until I gave them their next pocket money. I had been giving them enough money for their living, but they spent all their money for their grandchildren and my sister. And they had to eat stale bread for many days instead. I felt so sad, so sad for my parents. And angry as well.

Many years had passed by, but my sister’s elder daughter didn’t get any better or wiser. She became worse. She couldn’t stop telling lies and stealing. One day she stole her friend’s ATM card and took out lots of money from her friend’s savings account. She bought many dresses, shoes and bags. She came home with all these new things, and told my parents and her mother that she had a rich boyfriend who bought her all these things. Sometimes she also brought some presents back for my sister, my parents and her sister, to show that she loved and cared for the family. She was only fourteen years old at that time. But my parents and my sister didn’t suspect anything.

Until one day, her friend’s mother found out that it was my niece who had been stealing her daughter’s money and came to see my sister and my father, and threatened to call the police. My father panicked. He cried and knelt down and begged to the woman not to call the police. He was afraid that his grandchild would be filed criminal record and wouldn’t have a future anymore. It’s a huge humiliation for a man to kneel down to a woman and beg for spareness. My sister also made a promise to the woman that she would slowly pay her back all the stolen money. It was a huge amount for my sister as she didn’t make enough money for living and she had lots of debts at that time. The woman sympathized with my sister’s situation and was moved by my father’s love for his grandchild, and therefore she agreed that she wouldn’t report to the police.

I believe that my niece wasn’t really bad. It wasn’t right to steal and couldn’t be excused under any circumstances. But I knew that she did it partly was because she was frustrated with the unfortunate and difficult condition of this family. There was always not enough money for food and for living, not to say to have any leisure and material enjoyments like what her friends had. She had been teased by her classmates for not having a father and living in poverty. She also wanted to be nice to the family and to be able to give something back to the family, to help out financially. But she went to the wrong way to get what she wanted.

My niece didn’t learn from this incident. She ended up getting pregnant and gave birth to a baby girl when she was sixteen years old. She didn’t even know that she was pregnant when she hadn’t been menstruating for more than four months. One day she felt sick and went to the hospital to seek doctor’s consultation and found out that she was pregnant. She broke up with the baby girl’s father not long after the baby girl was born, and went out with some other men. And now, my niece has two more young children from a relationship with a young man who didn’t want to accept her elder daughter from the previous relationship. Anyway, their relationship didn’t turn out well. And so, my sister has to look after these two young grandchildren who were very unhappy being caught up in a broken family.

When my niece gave birth to her first baby girl, my sister was very happy to be a grandmother. So as my parents were very happy to be great-grandparents. They loved this great-grandchild so much. This baby girl certainly brought some joys into this family after they had been struggling with financial problems for a very long time. After her delivery, my niece didn’t know how to take care of a baby. Therefore, my sister became the baby’s full time nanny.

When this baby girl came into the family, it brought some reliefs and happiness to everyone, especially for my mother. She felt so happy seeing her great-grandchild. When she was looking at this little baby girl, her sadness from suffering paralysis and being shouted at by her husband, her daughter and the two grandchildren were all gone. My mother would cry when she told me about how she was being treated when I wasn’t there, but she would smile when she talked about her great-grandchild. It was her happiest moments in the last two months of her life.

On the 24th of December, 2006, my sister called me while I was teaching my morning yoga class at home. She told me that our mother had passed away in the hospital. The last time I saw my mother was a few weeks before she died. In that final conversation which I had with my mother in private, I told her that she didn’t need to worry for us anymore, that she should let go. I told her that I love her very much, as well as our entire family also love her very much. I also asked her what she would like to do with her funeral. And she told me that she wanted to be cremated and the funeral should be held in Kuala Lumpur, so that her friends could come to see her for one last time. The last few words that she told me were we should always give without expect anything in return but we must repay others for being kind to us, and always be humble and forgiving.

I told my sister over the phone about what our mother had told me. And we followed exactly what she wanted us to do.

I went to the hospital in Seremban with my brothers and my sister-in-law. I saw my mother’s dead body was lying on a table. She looked so peaceful like she was smiling. I held her hands and gently rubbed her hands, her arms and her face with my fingers. I kissed her cheek and forehead. Goodbye, mother. Thank you.

I didn’t cry. Not until a few months later, I started to cry. For all the love that she gave me and to the family. Her wisdom and compassion. Her patience and forbearance. Her forgiveness and generosity. I realized how much I missed her. But I had to let her go. And she’ll always be with me in my heart.

No matter what had happened in the past, who’s right, who’s wrong, and who’d suffered most, I wish my family love and peace, and be able to forgive and let go. Forgive ourselves and others for being imperfect. Forgive life wasn’t as easy as how we would like it to be. And no matter what, we are family.

Life was never easy for me and my family, but I learned to be grateful, thankful and content. I learned to forgive and let go. I learned to be happy no matter what. And love unconditionally.

READ ON…

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 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 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 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 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 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 ‘cultivation’ for the first time when my mother mentioned it to me after she came back from a meeting with a medium. My sister and her husband needed the help from a medium as their live had came 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, and said that 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 live if possible. But they didn’t know what ‘cultivation’ meant. 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.

Less than a year later, he died from falling off a 130 feet high platform at the age of thirty nine. No one knew what really happened and why 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 red and white striped 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 lots. 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. Another time, in the car, he slapped her for crying. He shouted at her asking 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. She was still a small little girl. 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.

The ex-wife had blamed him for the death of their son and hated him. 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 registered 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 registered 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 had been 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 his restaurant. The medium told them that only a Bomoh knew 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 any Bomohs 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 had 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 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 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 wholesaling, but none of these businesses worked out nicely for them. They ended up accumulating more and more debts instead.

They always came to my parents asking for money during their financial difficult moments. So 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 for an 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 succeeded 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 promised. 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 and we had to lived in poor condition. 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 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 moments 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 came 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 questioned 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 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 cause and effect. Everyone who had came 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 the 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 worse years. My parents, my elder brother, his wife and I had volunteered 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 needy people 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 in 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 came naturally. One day she found out from my mother and she asked me to read to her of 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 comfort in the past. She gave them Dhamma, money, food, clothing, books and shelter when they had encountered 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 in Buddhism 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 1

My life stories – Part 1
Stories from my past memories – childhood, family, friends, growing up, poverty, integrity, dreams come true, finding peace and happiness, Buddhism, Yoga, and now…

Me and my second elder brotherPhotos taken at Kampong Manggis.

I was very fond of music since I was a baby. That was what my parents told me.

When they wanted to put me to sleep, they just had to switch on the radio or the cassette player, and played some music. As soon as they switched it off I would wake up naturally. They said I shook and bounced my body trying to dance any time that I heard music. I think most babies have the same reaction when they hear music. Babies are naturally connected with music. That connection becomes less and less for most people as they grow older. But for some they will continue to stay connected with music. I am very grateful to be one of them. That’s why I love dancing so much when I grew into a young girl and somehow I became an aerobics dance instructor for over twenty years.

Part of the earliest memories that I still remember is when I was maybe 3 years old, my family moved from Kampong Manggis to another village nearby called Kampong Pinang less than two kilometres from where we were. Kampong Pinang was built on top of an abandoned tin mine situated at the borderline of Kuala Lumpur and Southern Petaling Jaya where the older generations named that area Petaling Tin.

There wasn’t anyone living on that land at that time. My parents and some friends spotted the empty land and built their own houses on it. Everyone built a fence with barb wires to marked their own piece of land. My parents built their dream house with the help from some friends and relatives. They also planted many kinds of trees, flowers, fruit trees and vegetables on the land. I still remember some of my memories about my mother spreading the cement over the floor of our house while carrying me on her back by wrapping me in a piece of cloth around her body.

Our house was very big, especially coming from the eyes of a little girl. It was built with bricks and wooden planks and zinc roof. It had two big separate living halls, a dining hall, five spacious bedrooms, a huge open space kitchen, a washing area with a well, a bathroom and a separate traditional squatting toilet with septic tank. The entire compound surrounding the house was very large too.

We didn’t have clean water supply from the government in the house for the first few years. We used the water from the well for washing and showering. We also collected rain water in big plastic barrel for washing. Because the land was a tin mine previously, the water from the well was orange. Our hair and skin became orange from using the well water for showering everyday for many years. We called ourselves the orange people.

My parents built a water filter with a big earthen pot. They filled it with layers of sand, gravels, stones, charcoals and dried leaves. We had to get water for drinking and cooking in buckets and water containers at a communal pipe a few hundreds metres away. We washed all the laundries by hand. There was no electricity. We used kerosene lamps at night in the beginning. But then we had a generator to generate electricity for the fridge and to watch television. After many years living there our villagers got together and applied for electricity and water supply from the government.

Very soon all the other empty plots on the land were filled with other houses and eventually it became a big village. There was a Chinese primary school built by the boss of the old tin mine factory. The school is still operating but it’s in a complete different setting now. It should be more than forty years old at this date. I didn’t go to that school because my parents wanted to send me to a better school in PJ Old Town which was a few kilometres away from our home. I am thankful and grateful that my parents had chosen to send me to that school to spend my early childhood with good friends and great teachers. For me, good friends don’t mean that people whom I like to hang out with and have some happy time together, but people who have good and positive influences on my personal growth and well-being, and people who inspire and uplift me to be a better and kinder person.

I learned about the basic humanity of morality, truthfulness, honesty, humility, responsibility, discipline, initiative, tolerance and respect from the Chinese primary school which I truly appreciate. I also learned about all these qualities from my parents whom had allowed me and my brothers and sister to have absolute freedom to do whatever we wanted to do, without abandoning the traditional Chinese cultural values, such like self-control, acceptance, adjustment, adaptation, forbearance, generosity, forgiveness, gratefulness and appreciation. We were allowed to do whatever we liked to do, but we were not allowed stealing, speaking harsh words and telling lies. Once, my brothers were punished by my mother rubbing hot chilies onto their mouth because they had spoken bad words. We were free to go anywhere by ourselves. We could have any ambitions and we were free to express all our thoughts and feelings. Though my parents only earned enough for our living, they did their best to provide us with everything they could possibly give to support us to pursue all our dreams.

Nothing is perfect. There are pros and cons in this type of complete freedom parenting. If we don’t know how to utilize this freedom wisely, we could end up with lots of unnecessary problems in life. But then there is nothing wrong about it as well because we will learn from our own mistakes and grow wiser eventually.

I grew up in the village house until sixteen years old. The government wanted to demolish all the illegal squatter houses in and around Kuala Lumpur to turn it into a modern city with high rise concrete buildings, shopping malls, flats, apartments and condominiums.

I remember during the twelve years we were living in Kampong Pinang, there was no such thing as petty theft or crime happening in our village. Everyone knew each other and were nice to each other. We looked after one another. We let the doors, windows and the front gate wide opened throughout the day and night without the need of locking the doors or closing the gate. My parents had no fear of letting us went out with friends to play outside the house at the nearby sand hills, the riverbank and the fields in the village. Sometimes they left us at home by ourselves.

Nowadays, it isn’t the same anymore in the big city. There is so much fear in everyone whether at home or outside their homes. Everyone locks themselves in with thick metal grills on all doors and windows. There are very few people who know or have interactions with their neighbours, especially those who are living in the modern high density apartments and condominiums with higher security.

People don’t feel safe to hitch hike a ride like what we used to do in the past. Drivers don’t feel safe to stop their cars to pick up strangers, or if they see someone needs help at the roadside. Children are not allowed to go outside to play by themselves without the supervision of the adults.

The children have very little freedom to do what they like to do, or choose what they want to become when they grow up because their parents have already decided for them what they shall become. The parents who have better income will arrange their children to attend extra tuition classes and activities that the parents think are good for the children’s future, hoping that they will become successful people in the society, or in another term, to be able to find a secure good income job and attain a higher standard of living. But, how many people are truly happy with themselves and what they do, or in harmony with the world that they are living in? Why do some people need to depend on doping or drugs to relax themselves, or to feel good, or to escape from something that they aren’t happy about?

Some parents send their children to dance and music lessons even though the children aren’t interested in dancing or music because the parents want to revive their own childhood unfulfilled dreams that they hadn’t accomplished when they were young. They want to fulfill their own dreams through their children. Of course there are children who love to take up dance and music lessons, but the parents can’t afford it. Most children don’t have enough playtime like what we used to have in the old days, especially outdoor activities in the nature, as the children are too busy with studying the school text books preparing for exams because of so much expectation coming from their parents and from themselves, so that they will be able to compete and survive in a competitive materialistic society when they finish study.

I really loved that old house very much. When we saw the house and all the fruit trees and vegetable garden were all gone after the housing developer sent in the bulldozers, I felt so sad, and cried. My parents couldn’t hold their tears too.

We had big area inside and outside the house to play and run about. There were trees surrounding the house and beautiful garden with colourful flowers. We had a vegetable garden and lots of fruit trees – durian, rambutan, mango, chiku, guava, papaya, custard apple, pineapple and starfruit.

My father built two concrete fish ponds beside the house. He loves fishing. Sometimes he brought me and my brothers with him, and we went fishing at the big pond not too far from our house. The big pond was part of the abandoned tin mine where the garbage trucks and the villagers threw the rubbish at. There were lots of Tilapias and cat fish in the pond. If we were lucky we would get a few Tilapias, my mother would cook them for dinner on that same evening. If not, my father would keep the fish that were still alive in the two little fish ponds beside our house. There were more than a hundred of Tilapias and cat fish living in the fish ponds before we moved to Pantai Dalam long house.

I still remember the Tilapias tasted like mud. My father said it was because they grew up eating the mud in the rubbish pond. It is so expensive to eat fish like Tilapias nowadays, but back then they were just a common food on the table for poor people.

There was a big carport for my parents’ cars and a big open store room beside the house. Though my father only worked as a mechanical fitter, my parents could afford two Ford Cortinas when we were living in the old house. One was white and the other one, blue. One for my father and one for my mother. There were not many women who could drive around at that time. Once my father had a Volkswagen Beetle which we called it the frog car in Chinese. My father adored all the cars like his family.

Once my mother asked someone to build a big chicken cage behind the house to breed live chicken for sale and for our own consumption. I remember my mother had to watch out for Monitor lizards as they like hunting for chicken. She also needed to monitor the temperature inside the cage so that the chicken wouldn’t get heat stroke. She would spray the ceiling of the cage with water from time to time when the weather was hot. She kept the cage as clean as possible to keep away diseases. Some of the chicken died of heart-attacked during new years and other kinds of celebration days because of the loud noise coming from the villagers playing the firecrackers. My mother buried those dead chicken at the back of the garden. She said that dead chicken were not good for eating as chicken had to be slaughtered while they were alive. I watched my mother many times when she slaughtered the live chicken. After my mother tided the chicken’s legs with string and hanged the chicken upside down, she gently hold the chicken head back with one hand and she used a knife cutting just a little of the chicken’s throat with the other hand, to allow the blood drained-off completely while the chicken was still alive.

My parents also grew beansprouts to sell at the local vegetables market. They bought a few big earthen pots with several holes at the bottom of the pots to allow water-draining. They lined the bottom of the pots with a hemp sack and place the mung beans over the hemp sack. Then they place another layer of hemp sack over the mung beans to give a little bit of pressure on the beans, so that they wouldn’t grow long and thin, but fat and short as the texture would be much better and crunchier when eaten. My parents needed to water the beansprouts every two hours, even during the night, as the mung beans wouldn’t sprout nicely and evenly if they didn’t get enough water, and the sprouted mung beans would rot from the heat built up under the hemp sack, if they didn’t get watering on time to cool down the temperature.

Our living was close to a self-contained way of life. If it wasn’t because of my sister and her late husband needed money for starting a business and had failed in every business that they ventured, as well as the government had taken away our house and the land we lived on, we wouldn’t have financial problems later on.

My father was a mechanical fitter for Avery weighing machine company for forty years from sixteen years old until the day he retired. He was the longest working employee for Avery Malaysia and was very loyal to the company (that’s what he told me) and never work for any other companies. He was very passionate about his job and he was very thankful to his English boss who had employed him when he was only sixteen years old and without any educational background. When I was little, my father told me that he always felt indebted to his English boss for being very kind to him. The boss trained my father for his assigned job and also taught him how to read and write in English. That was also the biggest reason why my father never left the company because he treated the company like his home. But during the last ten years or so after the English boss had retired and went back to England, my father was very disappointed and unhappy with the new Malaysian boss whom my father said that he was a very arrogant, selfish and unthoughtful man who never care for the welfare and well-being of the employees.

My father was born in Johor and grew up during the Japanese war time in Malaysia. Like many other children who grew up at that time, he didn’t receive any formal education. His widowed mother brought up six children by washing clothes for the Japanese army quarters somewhere in the Southern Malaya at that time. My father said he had studied Japanese at the Japanese army camp for two weeks when he was a small boy, but he didn’t know why he was sent there to study Japanese.

My mother was born in Perak. She was the eldest daughter and had to her her parents to take care of her six younger brothers and sisters when she was growing up. My mother told us that she went around a few wealthy families to wash their laundry everyday helping out my grandparents financially when she was just nine years old. She said that she had to bring her toddler brother with her and carried him on her back while she washed the laundry.

Like my father, she didn’t receive any formal education, but both my parents learn to read and write in Chinese through self-effort. My parents first met each other while attended Chinese language class at a night school in Kuala Lumpur for a few months when my father was sixteen, while my mother was fourteen. My father had just arrived in Kuala Lumpur to find a job at that time. My mother’s parents house happened to have a vacant room to rent. And so, my father was renting the room from my grandparents and my parents were fond of each other. My grandparents had no objection and were very happy when my father told them that he liked my mother very much and asked for permission to have a relationship with my mother. My grandparents also liked my father very much as he was a very down to earth and hardworking young man. Whenever my parents went out for a movie, my father would take my mother with his bicycle to the cinema first, and then came back to take my grandmother. When the movie finished, he would send my grandmother back first and then went back for my mother. On the way back, they would take-away fried noodles for my mother’s whole family for supper. That was their love story that my parents told us.

My mother was a good house wife. She was very talented and independent. She did many types of small business to help out our family living expenses. She was a tailor, a driver sending children to school, a hawker selling many types of local delicacies, a vegetables seller, a chicken livestock seller and some other works. She was an active member of Amway and was very active participating in local community activities and services. She was a very good cook. She made most of our clothes and school bags. She also cut the hair for the entire family.

Even though my mother never went to school, but she had a huge collections of books written in Chinese about cooking, tailoring, parenting, healthcare and medicine.

My parents were down to earth, honest and modest people. They were very generous towards other people and had helped countless people who were injured in road accidents. They sent the injured people to the hospital in their car. It didn’t matter to them when the car seats were tainted by blood. They also helped many of the villagers countless times. May it be someone needed a car ride to somewhere, or there were emergency cases and someone had to go to the hospital. There weren’t many people had cars in the village those days. Because of my parents’ generosity, there were many people always came to them for help and to borrow tools, food or money, even though my parents weren’t rich.

I remember there were snakes frequently coming into our house or the neighbour’s house. Every time our neighbour came to ask for my mother’s help to chase away the snakes. My mother was a fearless woman. Sometimes she had to kill the snakes. This was something that she regretted when she got older in life. That was what she told me before she died.

My parents never asked anything in return from the people they had helped. When people wanted to give them some presents to repay their kindness, my parents didn’t want to accept the presents at all.

These were the values my parents had showed to us. My grandparents taught my parents about living everyday life with enough food on the table for that day, and needless to worry about tomorrow. We must always live in the present moment and be grateful for every little thing. They also taught us to stay humble all the time and be grateful for other people’s kindness and generosity and never forget to repay them. My parents insisted that we must repay other people’s kindness to us, but we should let go of what we had done for others.

We learned from our parents about the practice of letting go of our ego. We don’t ask to be credited or be acknowledged after we have given something to others, or have done something for others, or have helped other people in actions or speech. This is exactly the spirit of the teachings and practice of yoga. Nowadays, in the worldly society, most people expect other people to show appreciation and be thankful, and they expect to be credited or acknowledged for what they have done for others, or else they will be disappointed and unhappy. They will only be happy to give or do something for others only if other people say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ to them, or else, they aren’t pleased to give or do something for others. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of worldly social ethic and cultural practice, but it is not what yoga practice is about. We don’t need anyone to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ for us to give or do something for somebody. We don’t need to be credited or acknowledged for what we have done. We renounce the fruit of actions.

We were satisfied and contented with simple life and weren’t greedy to make lots of money or to have any material enjoyments.

Before the financial crisis, my father liked to bring us to the beach in Morib or Port Dickson to have picnics and enjoy the sea breeze on the weekends. But then we couldn’t afford to have such leisure anymore during the financial crisis.

Though my parents made just enough money for our living, they still managed to bring up the four of us and provide us with enough basic education and some other moral supports that money couldn’t provide. They loved us so much. Though my mother would discipline us if we did something really wrong, which I appreciate very much. My mother didn’t have to discipline me at all, as I was very self-disciplined and be careful with my actions and didn’t want to commit so called ‘wrong doings’. My father never scolded anyone of us even when we were playful and broke something in the house. Only once I overheard my parents arguing over some money issues after we all had went to bed that night. I still remember I felt very sad and cried under the blanket as I never saw or heard my parents arguing before.

Although our family had went through some financial difficult time and everyone was very unhappy and frustrated, but we were fine. We didn’t steal, or rob, or cheat anyone.

There were days that we didn’t have any money left for food. We were in debt because of some other people’s selfishness and greed. One day, when my father sent me to school, he was crying with tears down his cheeks telling me that he didn’t have money to give me to buy food at school because we have no more money left. It was the first time I saw my father cried. At that moment, I was very sad and very angry as well because we didn’t do anything bad to other people and we were always kind to others, but somehow all the bad luck and hardship came to our family. That moment had inspired me to do well in life, so that I could look after my parents and my family. Those few years of hardship was the reason why I am not a fussy health food freak. I am always grateful to be able to have food on the table everyday, that I don’t have to suffer hunger like some other people out there.

There aren’t many Chinese families that have such openness to allow their children to have the freedom to do whatever they like to do and make their own choice to be what they want to be. Though I was very angry with the financial problems in my family because I was ignorant at that time, I am always glad to be born in this family. I didn’t understand about life and suffering at that time. But when I realized the truth about life and suffering, I surrendered my ignorance and unhappiness to forgiveness, acceptance and compassion. Since then I was very glad to have this family and was grateful to have such parents to love me, to accept and support me as I am.

My mother passed away in 2006 on the day before Christmas. She loved me so much and gave me the freedom and guidance to grow and to be what I am now.

Most of the conservative Chinese people from the older generations might think and believe that dancing is something bad and evil for girls, that we must be bad girls if we dance. It’s because dancing is usually being associated with night clubs where there were ladies who wear sexy clothing and heavy make-up, and they would dance with any men to make a living. And in many artistic dance performances, dancing is a form of bodily intimate expression of feelings and emotions. And hence, for the people who have conservative thinking, dancing is something immoral and indecent. But my open-minded parents had no problem with my enthusiasm for dancing and they encouraged and supported me to pursue my dreams to dance and taking part in many dance competitions.

Dancing was something very spiritual for me. I felt like I was dancing for life, for nature, for the whole universe. I danced from within. There’s no specific steps, or rules, or styles. It didn’t matter what types of music I heard, I just moved and danced to the music. Even when there was no music, I danced in my own rhythm in silence.

This is part of my scattering memories about my parents and the old house that I grew up in. A childhood in a village called Kampong Pinang from 1974 – 1986.

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