07 Nov 2020 Awakening to the True Meaning of Happiness
Eddie Foong Wai Keong
In 1998, I returned from my studies in the United Kingdom with a good degree and the IBM Award for outstanding academic performance. I was self-centred and arrogant, ambitious and temperamental, throwing temper tantrums at the slightest aggravation, like when my mother prepared food not to my liking.
One year after I started work, I found a lump on my neck and immediately consulted a doctor. After much investigation and a referral to the Otorhinolaryngology (Ear, Nose, Throat) department of Tan Tock Seng Hospital, I was diagnosed with nose cancer. My whole world crumpled. I was only 26 years old!
I wandered the streets, thinking how should I tell my mother and how she would receive the news. Eventually I returned home and the first thing I did was to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo three times in front of the Gohonzon. I thanked the Gohonzon that my cancer was Stage 3, and not the final stage. I was not a practitioner then, but my mother was an active SSA member. I am sure it was her prayers that led to my early diagnosis. That night, I broke the news to my mother and promised her that “I will not die”.
However, questions bounced around in my head. I realised that a person can lose everything overnight, and nothing is more important than the people around you. I began chanting daimoku earnestly and read SGI President Ikeda’s (whom I address as Sensei) guidance and Nichiren Daishonin’s writings with deep thoughts. I realised the profound teaching taught in Nichiren Buddhism of voluntarily assuming the appropriate karma. It was my awakening in life. I stopped questioning “Why me?” Armed with daimoku and Sensei’s guidance, I decided to fight till my last breath. I must live!
Setting “Impossible” Prayers
In 2000, as Chinese New Year was around the corner, I set the following “impossible” prayers that my hair must not drop, and my skin must not char as I wanted to look good during the festive season. I also chanted that I was able to go for my daily therapy independently, as I did not wish to burden anyone.
Two months passed, I was fighting pain and vomiting. I lost almost 15 kilograms. I went to the oncologist for my scheduled review. The first question the doctor asked was, “Did you come for treatment?” I replied that I was there daily and showed him my registration card. He remarked on my good hair and skin. I was certain this was the power of the Mystic Law. My prayers for my hair and skin were answered. I continued to chant in my heart as I was not able to speak due to the excruciating pain in my throat. Some nights, I had to sleep sitting up due to unbearable pain.
My taste buds were damaged, and I was on liquid diet during my treatment. I could not taste anything, but I knew I had to eat despite the pain and zero appetite for food. My daily menu was porridges with broccoli, carrot, cauliflower and fish cooked to a mash. Due to pain, I took two hours to consume a bowl of porridge and sometimes threw everything up after the meal. It suddenly dawned on me how in the past I used to throw tantrums at my mother for not cooking to my taste and just walked away from the dining table without eating a bite. Now, I could not even eat. President Ikeda once wrote, “The darker the night, the nearer the dawn.” I was determined to keep the promise to my mother that I will not die. I will fight till my last breath.
Four months passed and looking back, I felt it was the most peaceful time in my life despite fighting cancer. As I continued to chant, I started to reflect on the life I was living, my self-centred nature and temperament. I was pursuing relative happiness in career, status, money and material stuff. On the contrary, I realised that true happiness is from within. I felt so peaceful and calm.
Illness Leads One to Seek the Way
Throughout the ordeal, I did not shed a single tear. On the last day of treatment, the doctor explained that I had been given maximum treatment and if I did not recover, I would need alternative treatment. I bade farewell to the doctors and the nurses, knowing that I would not return for further treatment. This was the confidence I derived from my Buddhist practice.
Upon reaching home I went directly to bed as I was completely exhausted. When I woke up, I felt refreshed.The pain in my throat was gone. I jumped out of bed, walked to the kitchen and told my mother that I was very hungry. I wanted to eat rice, not porridge. I understood from the doctor it usually takes a few months to transit from a liquid diet to a solid one and some people can take as long as six months to a year. This is another actual proof for me! It took me only one day to switch from liquid to solid diet. The power of the Mystic Law is unimaginable.
A week later, I went back to the doctor who had diagnosed my cancer. As he moved the scope deeper and deeper into my right nostril, try as he might, he could not find the location of the tumour! I cannot forget the dazed look on the doctor’s face! Once again, the Mystic Law has proven its power, beyond medicine and science.
Cancer has really changed my perspective on life. It had led me to gain further insight into the true meaning of happiness. A person can lose everything overnight, but I will always keep my faith, my stand-alone spirit and my sense of humour. Chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo has not only transformed my karma, turning the impossible to possible, but even enabled me to carry out my human revolution.
President Ikeda says, “When we develop dauntless fortitude, like mighty trees, we will be untroubled by even the most powerful gales. In fact, we can even find them exhilarating. The aim of our Buddhist practice is to carry out our human revolution so that we can lead such lives and develop such inner strength.”
I have since taken on the mission for kosen-rufu as a district leader and have been sharing the greatness of Nichiren Buddhism with people around me, to inspire hope and courage in others. I continue to practise with the spirit that, the tougher the obstacle, the more I should chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and strive alongside the Soka family and Sensei for kosen-rufu. I will continue to exert myself in faith, practice and study to give hope to as many people as possible.
(Adapted from SSA Times issue 623)