Monday, May 16, 2011

Sharing the Dhamma with my dying mum

My mum time is very near. She is no longer conscious for the past 3 days, and her breathing is irregular with rattling sound, similar to symptoms I observed when my grandma passed away 2 years ago.

But something wonderful (under the circumstances) happened few days ago before my mum became totally unconscious. My aunt friend Elaine from their Pureland temple came to visit my mum. She wore a bright pink dress and to my surprise, my mum said aloud she looked very beautiful, and my mum even managed to muster a smile in her weak and frail condition. That was the first time I heard my mum talked so clearly in weeks. Elaine sat around for awhile asking my mum not to worry and think of The Buddha.

After Elaine left, I noticed my mum is still awake and I took this opportunity to share the Dhamma with her. My mum is a very gentle and good nature person but I'm afraid she has limited exposure to the Dhamma aside from chanting Amitabha. I wished I have strive harder to share the Dhamma with her when she was in better health. It was very negligent of me to only give priority to my work & take her time with us for granted. It's my sincere hope for those reading this to cherish time with your loved ones and please plan some time for spiritual development, because life can be cruel and unpredictable.

Thoughts were running through my mind how best to share the Dhamma with her. I started with telling her in Cantonese (her main language) my simple translation of the First Noble Truth: The Buddha taught that life is suffering, as long as we are in the wheel of existence, we suffer. Birth, old age, sickness and death is suffering. And that is the first time I talk about death to her. She looked at me and I continued saying we must find a way out of this wheel. Then I told her let's take refuge in the Triple Gem together, explaining the meaning of taking the refuge in Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha. I was glad she was awake the whole period till I finished chanting. Then I continue chanting Amitabha into her ear because she has affinity to this mantra. She then closed her eyes and slept peacefully.

The following day, as I came back from work at night, I cleaned her up and changed her dressings to cover the bed sores. As me & my Dad flipped her on the side to relieve pressure from sleeping on her back whole day, I noticed her eyes wide opened, and looking at me. Quickly! Said my inner voice, another window of opportunity to share the Dhamma with her. I said gently to my mum; "Mother, let me share with you what my Sifu (referring to the monks & books I've learned from) taught me. The Buddha said being human will sure have sufferings from birth, old age, sickness and dying. This is because we all have craving, therefore we exist in this cycle of rebirth. Death comes to everybody, me included." I then told her Kisagotami tale with the hope to reduce her fear of death. She looked at me intently and I continued; "Once The Buddha asked this woman if she wants to have 10 children in her village and she said yes that would make her very happy. The Buddha then said if the 10 children died, you would suffer 10 times." I sorta made up this because I cannot remember the exact story. She blinked her eyes in agreement. I then said the more we want, the more we suffer. That is why monks leave home to let go everything in order to practice and cultivate till enlightenment. She blinked her eyes and nodded her head slightly. This really comforted me because I sensed she understood at least some parts of my message. I reminded her that by offering robe to a monk in the past, she has actually assisted someone who is cultivating to reach enlightenment, and that is great merit. I've never seen my mum looked at me so intently the past few weeks therefore I think my message must have left a good impression on her.

I also told her The Buddha taught the "Law" of Kamma which states good people will reap good results and good people will go to good places, just like oil will always float when dropped on water, compare to rock which will sink to the bottom. So I told her not to worry because she has been a gentle, good nature, thoughtful & caring person, filial daughter & good mother her whole life. She has brought us up well & we are now filial and taking good care of her. She kept looking at me without blinking. I told her now is the time where she must let go everything and constantly think of The Buddha only. By focusing on The Buddha, we will not be disturbed by our fears or worries. Just keep chanting Amitabha with your mind. She nodded slightly in agreement. Then I asked her to take the Three Refuge in Pali with me followed by me chanting Amitabha to her 108 times, after which I left the room to let her rest.

I'm glad I managed to share what little I know about the Dhamma with her during those few critical moments when she is awake. By minimizing travelling and staying at home, I managed to catch these opportunities to plant the Dhamma seed in her. After the second chance to share the Dhamma with her, she has since became unconscious. Nevertheless, I continue to remind her of her good deeds and take the Three Refuge, chant Amitabha and few suttas near her as often as I can.

Yesterday, I told her I will buy cooking oil, rice, onions and potatoes for the monks in Maha Vihara on her behalf. One lady in the office of Maha Vihara told me they needed onions and potatoes. I whispered to my mum ear before I left and informed her when I returned that the deed is done. This is my final chance to do my best for my mum, so I need to treasure every moment.

1 comment:

Amy J. Wang said...

hi Charles,
Thank you for sharing this. I'm glad that your mom was receptive to the Dhamma you gave her, and I guess I'm writing to you because it touched me somehow to read your entry. I'm also looking for a way to introduce the Dhamma into my parents' lives, but they are not Buddhist and my mom especially is very resistant. We don't have good communication. In the meantime I try to practice the path as much as I can, hoping that someday I can find a way to introduce the Dhamma to my mom and dad. Like you said, life is unpredictable, so I never know how much time I have. I feel anxious about this sometimes, but I can't let it get to me. Thanks again for writing this entry. May your heart be at peace during this time in your life.
-amy wang