Friday, April 3, 2015

Auspicious Grandma

                          Paw Paw's visit to Kwan Di Temple during the lunar new year of 2006.
                      Both Paw Paw & Gong Gong's memorial are now established at this temple. 

One of this blog's early entry was about my maternal grandma or Paw Paw in Cantonese (See “Bác sĩ chy - Doctor Ran Away"), and on March 21st, my family and I scattered her ashes at the Santa Cruz Beach. Just like Gong Gong (Cantonese for maternal grandfather) decades ago, Paw Paw went to sleep peacefully and did not wake up in the morning. My family received a phone call from the convalescent home early Monday morning on March 2, 2015 informing us that Paw Paw passed away at 6:00AM. She ended this very life at the age of 92, survived by her only daughter (my mom), son-in-law, four grandchildren and many siblings, relatives and friends. She lived a very long and peaceful life, an auspicious life.

As her second grandchild, I often visited Paw Paw at the convalescent home that she stayed at since 2007 with my mom and sometimes by myself and occasionally with siblings and friends. Looking back, these eight years of weekly visitations seem so momentary in comparison to my often fast-paced and packed schedule outside the vicinity of the nursing home. Life there is often mundane and follows a seasonal rhythm signaled by the holiday-driven decorations throughout the center. The slowing down of the physical body and the mental processes in the natural aging process of the elderly citizens there set the center core of a slow-paced life at the nursing home. Unlike a preschool center with vibrant children dazzling and running around, many of the nursing home residents are on wheelchair and some are bedridden until a staff or a family member comes around to wheel them to and fro. 

Paw Paw, on the other hand, had always been one of the more healthier residents there. In the early years, she used to walk with a walker and take care of all her personal hygiene (brushing teeth, restroom and bathing) on her own. She was independent and enjoyed her independence. She was a loving and loyal wife to Gong Gong and together they had seven daughters. My mom is the eldest and the only surviving one; six of her younger sisters passed away before the age of thirteen. Gong Gong passed away at the age of 39 and Paw Paw was a widow since. So she certainly had decades of training to be independent.

Paw Paw was introvert in nature and preferred indoor and away from the crowd. Her room 229C
was situated in a corner in the most inner room of the convalescent home. My mom is the opposite. She is extrovert, prefers outdoor and be in the company of people. Throughout these last eight years, my mom had been diligently visiting Paw Paw three times a week. She cooked Paw Paw's favorite Chinese or Vietnamese dishes and bought her cookies, candies, snacks, flowers, denture tapes, coloring books and pencils, and anything that Paw Paw needed and requested. Rather than leaving the laundry task to the nursing home staff, Mom also took Paw Paw's laundry home, washed and folded them, and then brought them back to the nursing home. And each journey to the nursing home was no easy task. Because Mom doesn't drive, she normally would need to take several buses and walk to and from buses stops so a one-way trip is approximately more than an hour long. Occasionally, Mom would get rides from her children, relatives or friends who were visiting Paw Paw also.

Several weeks prior to Paw Paw's passing, her memory was poor and she failed to recognize Mom. During Mom's regular visit, she would ask, "Who are you? I don't remember you." 

Then her memory regained its former clarity two weeks prior to her departure. Paw Paw expressed to Mom, "Thank you so much for all your help. Thank you so much for taking care of me." 
         Mom responded, "I am your daughter. You don't need to thank me."
         Paw Paw answered, "Yes, you are my daughter but I still need to thank you."

Paw Paw often thanked me in my last half year of visits as she no longer recognized me. During my solo visits, she often asked me who my mother was, do I have any siblings and am I married. She often advised me to find a good man. I had developed a routine to bring her home-cooked food, gave her acupressure massage and cleaned up her living corner so that she can enjoy a tidy and fresh environment. Occasionally while massaging her, I would sing songs to her or chant the Heart Sutra and other sutras. This transitory time spent with her always brought a smile to our faces. 

Being in the nursing home environment is an effectual reminder of the sufferings of aging, illness and death. The sights of debilitation, the periodic holler and murmur of the residents, the stench and fetor of diseases-all signals the deterioration of the body. When I first brought Talersak to the nursing home to introduce to Paw Paw, I expressed to Talersak, "You are looking into the future version of me because one day I will be old just like Paw Paw. This youthful look is impermanence." All that arises will pass. This is the law of nature. 

Holding her biodegradable urn made of compact sand close to me on a sailboat in the sea, I chanted several suttas for her followed by the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit before dropping the urn into the ocean. 


"Going, going, going on beyond, always going on beyond, always becoming Buddha."


Friday, October 3, 2014

Anicca - Impermanence

This is a perfect example of Anicca.  Everything is limited to a certain duration and is
subjected to disappear eventually.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ten Paramis in Cartoon

Recently, we came across a wonderful cartoon series known as Dasa Jata Jataka produced by Dhamma Media Channel in Thailand and it is available on Youtube in Thai language with English and Chinese subtitles. These ten series of the ten paramis or perfection is about Gotama Buddha's previous lives while he perfects these ten paramis. These series can be located through Youtube search by copying the series title below or simply click on the link and it will take you to the first episode. The subsequent episodes can be searched easily by changing the episode number at the end.

The 10 Paramis 十集本生故事 - 波羅蜜:

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mothers are Buddhas

Yesterday while at the Lion grocery store, I picked up a copy of "Meditation & Heath" magazine and was happy to come across an English translated version of a classic Chinese stories, "Mothers are Buddhas."

Mothers Are Buddhas
Translation by Mi Zhea

During the Ming Dynasty, there was a young man from Anhui province called Yangfu. His father passed away when he was very young, so he was brought up by his mother. The early passing of his father made Yangfu reflect deeply on the impermanence of life. As a result, he decided to pursue a Buddhist path as soon as he reached adulthood. After hearing that Zen master Wuji was the reincarnation of a bodhisattva, he traveled a long distance to learn from him.

When he met Wuji, he asked where Buddhas could be found. The Zen master told him, “On your way back, when you look for a place to rest for the night, the person who will open the door for you wrapped in a quilt and wearing shoes the wrong way is a Buddha.”

After leaving the master, Yangfu began searching for Buddhas. Climbing high mountains and crossing wide rivers, he knocked on countless doors to find resting places. He closely examined each person who opened doors for him; none fit the Zen master’s description of a Buddha. Feeling very disappointed, he headed home.

It was midnight when he arrived at his doorstep. Utterly exhausted, he knocked and called out, “Mother, please open the door quickly.”

His mother had not been able to stop worrying about him since his departure. Hearing her son’s voice, she sprang from her bed. She hurriedly wrapped herself in a quilt and stuffed her left foot in her right shoe and her right foot in her left shoe, and ran to the door.

When she saw that her son had indeed returned safely, her heart was at peace.

Yangfu gazed at his mother as she stood in the night chill awkwardly wrapped in a quilt, wearing shoes the wrong way. In that moment, Yangfu remembered the Zen master’s words: “The one who will open the door for you wrapped in a quilt and wearing shoes the wrong way is a Buddha.” He came to the sudden realization that the person he had been searching for far and wide was right in front of him.

Mothers are Buddhas.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

"My Beautiful Woman"

Based on a true story.  This story focuses on a young, single mother named Jane

and her daughter June.  The bond between a mother and daughter.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

"The Great Legacy" Movie

"The Great Legacy" is a simple yet deeply inspiring movie that was shot in Phaung Daw Oo School of Madalay and the surrounding areas in Burma. All the actors and actresses in this movie are volunteers. This film was made without any audiovisual professional experience or professional equipments; it is simply shot with only one simple camera. The full movie is available on youtube in English, Burmese, French, Spanish and perhaps other languages also. Also nice to watch after the movie is the 10 minutes interview video at:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Mae Chee Kaew: Modern Era Arahant

Just finished reading the book, "Mae Chee Kaew: Her Journey to Spiritual Awakening & Enlightenment" and am profoundly inspired by it.  She is revered as a modern enlightened Buddhist saint in the Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Mun and Ajahn Maha Boowa and had been taught by Luang Phor Mun.

"Mae Chee Kaew (1901- 1991) was a countrywoman, who lived a simple village life in the northeastern region of Thailand and overcame enormous difficulties in her attempt to leave home and follow the Buddha's' noble path. Blessed with the good fortune to meet the most renowned meditation masters of her era, Mae Chee Kaew took their teachings on meditation to heart, diligently cultivating a mind of clear and spontaneous awareness. Her persistence, courage, and intuitive wisdom enabled her to transcend conventional boundaries--both those imposed upon her by the world and those limiting her mind from withing--and thereby find release from birth, ageing, sickness and death.
Mae Chee Kaew is one of the few known female arahants of the modern era and testimony to all beings that regardless of race, gender or class, the Buddha's goal of supreme enlightenment is still possible."