Buddhist Compassion Relief Tzu Chi Foundation

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May 23rd
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Blessing is Daring to Love

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“I’m grateful to her. It was she who led me to Tzu Chi,” says Shen Rong-jun (沈榮俊), speaking of his wife, Zhong Bao-ying (鍾寶瑩). She echoes back, “I’m indebted to Rong-jun for his company on the Path of the Bodhisattvas.” They cherish each other and extend their love to others outside the circle of their immediate family.

I was born in Hong Kong, but my parents passed away when I was very young. Although my older brothers and sister could work and support themselves, I spent my life before age 11 in a Catholic orphanage.

Some children in the orphanage still had one parent. When their mom or dad visited them on weekends, they received food or gifts. Although occasionally one of my brothers visited me on holidays, I rarely received anything. He was poor and could only afford to bring me paper and envelopes for letters. Whenever I wrote, I always told him that I was well. I didn’t want him to worry about me. I once told him that I wanted some coloring pens, and he brought them to me! Bless him. I was overjoyed.

The orphanage had 10 bedrooms, each occupied by 10 to 14 children. Each room had a room mother. My mother died of asthma, which also afflicted me. I was often very sick. My room mother had to take me to the hospital when my asthma flared up. She missed many nights of sleep because of me.

My room mother often rapped me on my head, perhaps because of all the trouble I caused her. One day, on the way back home from a hospital visit, she told me to take my medicine. I swallowed it, but began coughing because I didn’t have any water to wash it down my throat. She banged me on my head; I squatted down and cried.

Life was hard at the orphanage. Even those with one parent couldn’t get love most of the time. I longed for better days to come, and I hoped that one day when I had the ability, I could love and help others.

I was most fortunate. I married a wonderful man who has given me love and a warm family. We immigrated to New Zealand in 1997.

One day in 2005, out of the blue, I lost my hearing in my left ear. A trip to the doctor revealed that a three-centimeter tumor had encroached on the auditory nerves. The doctors promised to do their best to save my life, but they also warned me of the possibility of a stroke during surgery. Such an event might commit me to a wheelchair for the rest of my life.

I was in great agony, knowing that my life could end in a heartbeat. The worst part was probably the two months leading up to the operation. Pressure from waiting and the anxiety over my uncertain future hung over everyone in my family. My husband, whose mother also died when he was young, and I didn’t want our son to follow in our unfortunate footsteps by losing his mother as a child.

The Tzu Chi volunteers I knew gave me many books to encourage me. At one point in my worry, I picked one out and turned to a random page. The book was Jing Si Aphorisms by Master Cheng Yen. The page that I opened to contained an aphorism that grabbed my attention. It talked about how in Buddhism adverse circumstances are regarded as great opportunities to cultivate and elevate oneself. Adversity picks those on whom it falls—it never comes on request. Therefore, one should be grateful when one runs into some adversity.

I considered the wisdom of the aphorism. How could I thank my tumor for all the agonies that it was inflicting on me and my family? I turned to another page and saw another aphorism: “Hand the care of your body over to the doctor, and the care of your heart to the bodhisattvas.” This, too, was very hard for me to accept. I was so worried! So, I went to another page and came upon another adage: “Overcome adversity or it will defeat you.”

Though the wisdom in those and other aphorisms was hard for me to put into practice at first, they all seemed to apply to me. I felt as though the Master were speaking those words just for me, soothing and urging me on just when I was in despair. I read and pondered those aphorisms over and over again. Eventually, they sunk in and I began to calm down. I was no longer fearful of death.

As I lost the fear of death, I gained a new habit: reading the Master’s books. I decided to keep this up as long as I was physically able to do so. Her teachings, ingrained in my mind, filled me with indescribable joy and seem to inoculate me with antigens against my illness.

I started going to Tzu Chi activities during my recovery from the surgery. Because I couldn’t drive, my husband chauffeured me to the meetings. While waiting for me, he busied himself by doing small things to help out, such as cleaning up the environment at the Tzu Chi branch office. By and by, he started taking part in Tzu Chi activities himself. Eventually, he became a regular Tzu Chi member too.

Because my husband didn’t enjoy reading as I did, I shared with him what I had read about the Master’s teachings. Little by little, he became as familiar with her teachings as I was.

We have found a good outlet for our desire to give back to society in the Association of Chinese Stroke Victims. We help its senior members make handicrafts to help stimulate the recovery of their limbs and nerves. I also make cakes and cards for their birthdays.

Our mothers died when we were young, so my husband and I use our longings for them to love the elderly and the needy. Though it is sometimes physically tiring, giving to others gives me plenty of joy. Phone calls stream in on the days when I don’t show up at the Tzu Chi office—my Tzu Chi sisters and brothers want to make sure that I am well. This warmth fills the void of love that was once left behind by my deceased parents. I am most grateful for being so blessed.

Though I will never hear again in my left ear, it reminds me to be more mindful to make up for the loss. The Master teaches us to “listen with your eyes and see with your ears.”

I hope to spread the love that I’ve amply received so that more people can experience the wonder of love.

Narrated By Zhong Bao-ying
Compiled by Lu Xiang-fang
Translated by Tang Yau-yang