18 Dec 2019 Learning to Walk Again with Faith
Ye Yao Sheng, Desmond
Young Men Division Leader
I took up faith in Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism and started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in the year 2008. For one year, I challenged myself to overcome my health problem. I was born with Scoliosis (curved spine) and abnormal bone joints. For years, my spine had continued to curve and there would be severe pain in both my legs after walking long distances. Usually the pain would go off after some rest, but I had to bear with this problem as the doctors were not able to solve it.
In 2008, however the pain in both my legs suddenly extended from the thighs to my feet. And this time, the pain remained even if it was merely after walking short distances or after I had rested. The usual doctor whom I consulted from the National University Hospital (NUH) was baffled as well and was unable to explain or ease my pain. Desperate, I tried taking painkillers on my own as you would when you have a severe headache, but it was useless.
At the time I was a student at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and travelled by internal shuttle buses to the lecture theatres. Every morning, I had to bear the pain of climbing up the high steps of the buses and fighting for space with fellow students. At the university hostel, I stayed on the fourth storey. It was a struggle to carry unwashed clothes to the washing machine on the ground floor and an even bigger struggle to carry the washed, wet and heavy laundry up again to dry. This great struggle with the pain went on for a week before I made the decision to give up. I had enough.
I thought about how contented I already was with my life – having studied Building Services at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), then Civil and Structural Engineering in the Singapore Polytechnic; having the opportunity to be involved in the design of a mega-building project – Yishun’s Khoo Teck Puat Hospital during my NTU internship. Even though it was only six months before I would complete my studies at NTU, the unbearable pain only made me think of attempting suicide. I could not take it anymore and called my mum one night to tell her about my negative thoughts.
At that time, my mum had taken up faith in Nichiren Buddhism for eight years and advised me to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo to stop the pain. Before this, I could never imagine practising Nichiren Buddhism at all, but at that moment I decided to give chanting a try. After chanting for about an hour, the pain in my legs mystically subsided. Chanting could just be the solution. With that initial test of victory, I attended district discussion meetings and NTU Student Division meetings (comprising students in tertiary education). Supported by my fellow members and leaders, I practised faith with the aim of meeting the right doctor to operate and solve my medical problem.
I conducted an intense search for doctors to cure me, scouring the Internet and newspapers. I also went for chiropractic sessions to re-adjust my spine and less invasive methods like an injection. However, these were all in vain. One day, a year after I had chanted continuously for the right doctor, a distanced relative introduced her orthopaedic doctor from NUH to me when she came to distribute wedding invitations. I went for an MRI and some X-rays.
After assessing my condition, the doctor recommended an injection to numb the pressed nerve in my spine. So I chanted very hard for this injection to make the pain go away forever. The pain in both legs did go off, but after a week the pain returned. I felt very disappointed and lost. I went back to the doctor and insisted on an operation. Upon further investigation, the doctor discovered that the joints connecting my thigh bone to my hip bone were jagged and not normal. A normal person has rounded joints. So he referred me to a leg doctor to do a leg-hip bone replacement operation. Once again I chanted very hard for the success of the operation. Despite my utmost efforts, the pain remained.
During those moments, I felt totally demoralised that my prayers were not answered. I simply wanted a healthy and painless body yet it was so difficult, even after two operations! Why were there so many fortunate people who need not suffer the way I did! I was prescribed strong painkillers which made me giddy and sleepy, and hindered me from staying attentive in class. I was only able to pull through that period with testimonies of members overcoming various struggles and difficulties through faith.
During discussion meetings and Student Division meetings, we studied various Nichiren Daishonin Gosho (writings by Nichiren Daishonin) and I was particularly motivated and inspired by three of them:
“Winter always turns to spring”. (WND 1, 536)
– The tough time of eradicating negative karma is like the suffering during winter. But winter will definitely be over and the comfort of spring
“The journey from Kamakura to Kyoto takes twelve days. If you travel for eleven but stop with only one day remaining, how can you admire the moon over the capital?” (WND 1, 1027) – I will never give up half-way during
a struggle. I must have the determination to persist with faith and chanting. If I give up, it is equivalent to stopping after walking 11 days and not arriving at the final destination to see the beautiful moon over Kyoto. We need to walk the full 12 days to Kyoto and have no regrets.
“Change poison into medicine”. (WND 1, 146)
– With strong faith, we can transform “poison” (our sufferings) into “medicine” which is actual proof and victory in our lives.
The inspiration that I felt from these and other encouragements turn to resolve to practice even more fervently. A small benefit came along whereby the COE prices fell and I was able to buy a car so that I need not struggle with transportation around the campus. I was also able to travel to Soka Culture Centre for my student division activities and was allowed more time for chanting. Another important usage of the car was to drive a new friend around. My mum shared the Buddhism with this stroke patient and I took on the responsibility to drive him to meetings and activities. It felt wonderful to see him eventually enshrining the Gohonzon (the object of devotion in Nichiren Buddhism).
Meanwhile, I chanted for my doctor to have the wisdom and courage to go ahead with my spinal operation. His previous advice on injection and hip replacement was to prevent the risk of a total disability of the lower limbs if a spinal operation were to be done. With absolute faith and confidence in the Mystic Law, I chanted vigorously for the success of the spinal operation with much support from my members and leaders. I managed to go through with the operation in August 2009.
The operation shifted the spine straighter and it involved implanting two metal rods as support, secured with numerous screws. I was relieved of the pain in my legs after the operation, but for a period I suffered pain in the back of my body due to the sharp screws poking my flesh. Instead of getting affected this time, I turned to chanting to have tissues grow around the screws to act as cushion. After several weeks, I recovered steadily indeed and started walking after some physiotherapy sessions. In a mere four months later at the end of November 2009, I was able to start work!
I consider myself fortunate to encounter this practice through my mum and to be able to enshrine our Gohonzon in October 2008 when I was facing my health challenge. I am also glad that my brother has taken up faith after witnessing my actual proof through the practice of Nichiren Buddhism. I now have a healthy body that enables me to move on with life and find work. More importantly, I am able to contribute to the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) by participating in activities and sharing Nichiren Buddhism with those who are facing various challenges in life.
We all have different karma in life. What is important is how we view life and go about challenging our problems through the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. If I had not accepted this faith and put it into serious practice, I doubt I would have been able to overcome this karma of mine. So I want to be a living example of actual proof to all who are in the midst of challenging their difficult health problems. Winter does turn to spring!
(Adapted from the Young Men’s testimony book Hero of the World published in 2017)