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Every year since 1982 I have had to perform yearly medical check-ups on my kidneys as I have acute glomerular nephritis, a kidney disease. When I was first diagnosed I was a student at the National University of Singapore and I felt as if I had been sentenced to an early death. I remember crying for a whole week alone in my hostel.
Fortunately I was very active in the Singapore Soka Association at that time and I was encouraged to chant a lot and study hard. I made a resolution to spend the rest of my life, no matter how long, encouraging others and reminding them that no obstacle should ever stop them from living a creative and meaningful life. This was exactly how I planned to live my life as well, based on the strategy of the Lotus Sutra and backed by the warm support of the SGI members around me. I believe that it is only our reactions to those obstacles and not the obstacle itself that can make us suffer.
Everyone has the wisdom of the Buddha that only needs to be awakened by a good teacher.
I have been practicing Buddhism now for over 30 years, and I am still alive and kicking, and married with two healthy daughters. I am now head of the science department in a private college in Malaysia.
When I started my career as a teacher in a secondary school in Singapore, I was assigned to teach Normal classes in chemistry. In Singapore, “Normal” means slower than average. My colleagues told me the students were really slow so I was not to expect too much from them in order not to be disappointed.
I had read the works of Soka Gakkai first president and educator Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and he stated that there is no such thing as “stupid” students—it is up to the teacher to educate them. I always related what I was about to teach to applications in daily life in order to capture the students’ attention. In fact I was so enthusiastic that the boys in class would ask why I made such an effort to teach them when they were already destined for blue-collar jobs.
Wanting very much to put into practice what I believe in—that everyone has the wisdom of the Buddha that only needs to be awakened by a good teacher, I continued to impress upon the kids the significance of understanding science. I strongly feel that, whether slow or fast, all students need to understand a little about science to make wise decisions in the future. So, I embarked on a journey to make Chemistry come to life for them. All I wanted and cared about was to help them pass the “N” level examination so that they could still have the option of going to university if they chose to. I wanted them to have hopes for the future and not surrender their destiny into the hands of others to decide. That year was the first time my school’s N level result emerged as one of the best in Singapore and that motivated me further.
related article Creating a Satisfactory Outcome by Colin Bergamin, UK Colin Bergamin reflects on how his living and job situation encouraged him to chant for change in his life. I then joined a private college here in Malaysia. Using examples in Chemistry I always try to show my students that all laws come from one law—the Law of the universe. I strive to make them see that whatever happens in the microcosm also happens in the macrocosm. Everything is interrelated. I also want them to know that just when one thinks that all is in chaos, there is order. I often tell them that they have responsibilities to fulfill for the sake of future humanity and that the world is waiting for them. My students seem to appreciate my effort and they say they find my lessons captivating and interesting.
I cherish every single moment of my life. Even though doctors say my illness may deteriorate further, I am determined to continue living meaningfully and victoriously right to the very end.
[Adapted from Winning in Life—Experiences of Malayasian Women Practicing Nichiren Buddhism, October 2004, Soka Gakkai Malaysia. Since this experience was written, Chee Yee Ling has moved to Australia with her family, where she teaches Chemistry in a University of Sydney Foundation Program at Taylors College, Sydney.]
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