Life is only as unkind
as we are unkind in life
(including to ourselves).
Hi Dr Lee Wei Ling, thank you for sharing about your Mother’s illness in ‘The Straits Times’. Below, I quote the most poignant parts of your article ‘Difficult to Accept a Loved One’s Suffering’, with some added comments. I hope they are helpful. Re: ‘It is easy… to conclude that being born, growing old, falling sick and eventually dying is what happens to all of us. I accept these facts with no resentment that life is unkind. I have more than my fair share of bad luck, but I have never resented it, for I think suffering built up my resilience.’ Comments: Could it be that you repeated the word ‘resent/ment’ due to some denial of underlying resentment from being long-suffering, such that you conclude that ‘life is unkind’? Life just is; it is not always kind; or unkind. Perhaps your ‘resilience’ is still inadequate, if you have yet to accept the reality of suffering? It’s not very wise to think suffering is due to ‘bad luck’, which contradicts ‘fair share’. If suffering is based on ‘luck’, life is equally (un)fair to all. It is more rational to believe there is cause and effect (karma – from this and/or a past life). As there is no ‘chance’ in the ‘mechanics’ of everything, there is no ‘luck’ in suffering too.
Re: ‘But I find it difficult to accept my mother’s suffering. The Buddhist principle of feeling compassion but with detachment is wise, but it is not an attitude that I find humanly possible to adopt when it comes to Mama. I cannot see her suffering with detachment.’ Comments: Compassion with detachment seems impossible only when we continue to deny the reality of suffering. The First Noble Truth taught by the Buddha is about the reality of suffering, before advancing to the other three Truths, which help us to overcome suffering, to realise True Happiness. With enough reflection, we can learn to accept suffering, while doing our best to transform it, and with less attachment to results too. It is good to remember that out of love, your Mother would not wish you to be attached to your suffering or hers, but to simply do the best for both of you. To remain heartbroken would break your Mother’s heart even more.
If something similar happens to my Mother, I would talk to her, hoping she can hear, to share about the Buddha’s teachings, and urge her to nianfo (be mindful of Amituofo; Amitabha Buddha) by practising it with her. I would share this too – ‘By the blessings of Amituofo, if you can recover, may you swiftly recover. By the blessings of Amituofo, if you cannot recover, may you swiftly be reborn in his Pure Land, where there is no suffering, where you will attain Enlightenment.’ I would also do good to create merits in her name, and let her know this to rejoice and thus create merits herself too. On compassion with detachment, ‘The Buddha is the best example of exemplifying unconditional compassion without any unhealthy attachment. For example, when a disciple passes away before him, he does not suffer from attachment. He just ensures that he does his best to help his disciples while they are alive.’ (Please see https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/07/is-there-tension-between-compassion-detachment for the complete article.) May all be well and happy! – Shen Shi’an
What the Buddha Really Taught
If even suffering has the potential to enlighten,
there is no such thing as a useless experience.