Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Ultimate Remembrance on Wesak Day - Part 2

From Part 1

I composed myself and called Bro Kelvin of the Malaysian Buddhist Co-operative Society. Having dealt with overly commercialized undertakers in the past, Bro Kelvin is the most caring and responsible undertaker I’ve ever met. But he told me he was fully tied up yesterday, so I took a chance. I was surprised when he said, ahh now I have people available. What a relief! It was as if my mum waited till Bro Kelvin is available before she passes on.

I went to the Police Station to lodge a report to facilitate the Death Cert. After that, I have 2 choices: to proceed back home and wait for Bro Kelvin and Sis Didi or proceed to a temple since it is Wesak Day. My mind thought of Maha Vihara Brickfields but common sense told me the road would be congested with the float parade. I then drove to Subang Jaya Buddhist Association (SJBA), where the most fantastic turn of events happened.

As expected, SJBA was still packed with devotees even around 9pm. Cars were parked rows along both side of the roads till far away. I made a u-turn from the temple and all of sudden, a car drove away near the front gate – parking is available for me near the FRONT GATE of the temple on Wesak Day!

I walked in and saw rows of devotees still lining up for blessings from the monks. There were many oil lamps on the tables and it gave the temple an air of festivity and an ambience of hope and positivity. I bought a small flower pot, wrote my mum name on it and place it on the altar. For Buddhists, the flower reminds us of impermanence (anicca), that as beautiful as it is, it too will wither, become scentless and dry up.

Since the monks were still busy blessing devotees, I then bought an oil lamp to place on the table. The light from the oil lamp symbolizes wisdom to dispel the darkness of ignorance. All the tables were fully packed with oil lamps but when I turned around after buying the lamp, an empty slot was available on the FIRST ROW of the table facing The Buddha image. By now, I was deeply inspired by all these turn of fortunate events and thought: wow mum, you really did made an impact somehow somewhere.

Then I walked to the main shrine hall and asked one of the worker/volunteer there if there is any monk available to follow me home to chant for my departed mum. The Bro asked me to wait and he approached one of the monk. He signaled me to come over but the monk told me he has to attend another funeral after he finished blessing the devotees. Disappointed, I bowed my head in respect and thank them nevertheless. They asked me to stay on for a simple blessing since it is Wesak Day. As the crowd dwindled after me being the last batch of devotees seeking blessing, someone told me that Bhante (term Buddhists use to address a monk) is now available because the other person canceled his request.

I was so happy that I managed to find a monk to chant for my departed mum on Wesak Day. Bhante told me to wait for him to refresh and change then he will go with me. Some of the workers in SJBA told me to take good care of this monk because he has been chanting and blessing devotees non-stop from morning till night. Give him a glass of warm water, said another. I nodded and tell myself to be extra mindful of Bhante’s condition, while feeling truly blessed by his deep compassion. In the car, I introduced myself to the monk and another SJBA lay person who followed along. The monk told me his name is Nyanaramsi  and he is the Chief Abbot of SJBA. The other lay person introduced himself as Bro Chim, and he is the President of SJBA. I was awestruck! My goodness, I managed to get both the Chief Abbot and the President of SJBA to come to my house to chant for my departed mum on Wesak Day! Talk about my mum’s good blessings even in her passing.

When Venerable Nyanaramsi reached my home, the first thing my Sis asked was where did I found this monk because he radiates such noticeable peace and serenity. We served Bhante a glass of warm water and he sat down besides my departed mum to start chanting. Despite his apparent weariness, he spoke gently and calmly encouraging us to try and understand what we are chanting. Bro Chim told us that although Bhante is very tired, he was moved by my filial piety to come and chant for our late mum out of great compassion. That meant a lot to me because my mum has been my role model and pillar of strength my whole life.

Then Bhante lead us in chanting selected verses for my departed mum using a booklet prepared by SJBA for Buddhist Funeral / Wake Service. I particularly liked this book because it contains Paticcasamuppada Patha – The Law of Dependent Origination (see the image near the end if you don't have the patience to read), which to me is one of best ‘empirical’ explanation of how we came to being, and the reason why I love Buddhism so much. Chanting the verses from this sutta did managed to lessen my grief and put some sense into what we are experiencing now. As I fetched Venerable Nyanaramsi back, he asked if I have any monk chanting for my late mum tomorrow and offered to come again. I was deeply touched by his compassionate gesture. Bhante came the next day and not only chanted but even taught us few basic steps in meditation. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! Another graphical version of Paticcasamuppada Patha.

We also have the honor and privilege of meeting and knowing Dr Tan Ho Soon, who is the founder of Nalanda Buddhist Society and Nalanda Institute Malaysia. Dr Tan came to my house on the kind request by my friend, Sis Yvette Wong to share the Dhamma with my then dying mother. I didn’t know he was such a prominent Buddhist leader and teacher when he came over to my house but his gentle and polite demeanor was very exemplary. He taught me Hiri (shame) and Ottapa (moral dread): 2 basic things that help Buddhist from breaking the precepts which resonate with me till today. And he has one the most powerful and penetrating chant I’ve ever heard. When he came and chanted on my mum’s funeral, tears flow freely from our eyes, especially from my Dad. I realized that we are both Widowers now. Bro Tan said that living and dying are but both ends on the same string. It is nature of impermanence as long as we are stuck in this endless round of rebirths and sufferings call Samsara.

From Part 1

To Part 3

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