Friday, August 19

Buddha as the Healer

Last Saturday (13 August) I attended the Buddha as the Healer seminar in Holiday Villa, Subang. It was organised by the Young Buddhist Association Malaysia ( The speakers for the seminar are Venerable Dr K. Sri Dhammananda, Dr Tan Eng Kong and Venerable Dr Bhiksuni Hui Han. The seminar is focussed on the cultivation of mindfulness thru meditation, and the health benefits from mindfulness.

What I learnt from the seminar:

Ven. Dhammananda explained that this life is only part of our journey to the ultimate goal; nirvana. Take this life a preparation for for the next life. When we "die" in this life, it is not the end of our journey. Ven Dhammanand shared his experience when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer.

He laughed when the doctor told him the diagnosis. The shocked doctor asked why he laughed. Ven Dhammananda said it's because he doesn't take the disease seriously. He went for chemotherapy and at the end of 38 days, the tumour disappeared. For a over-80 man, Ven Dhammananda looks good, and his talk is peppered with his great humour and funny anecdotes.

Dr Tan is a psychotherapist. His talk revolved around the research on the beneficial effects of meditation and cultivation of mindfulness. He also mentioned about a Buddhist who embraced death with anticipation because he doesn't want to delay his next life! :)

I could not get much from Dr Bhiksuni's talk because she is not well versed in English, and I had a difficult time following her talk. But she did provide a handout of her talk.

The most useful thing I got out from this seminar is this: to embrace life fully, and treat life and death as part of the life "package", and to fully use this life in preparation for the next. Not only that, the knowledge that our time here and now may be ending anytime will compel us to prepare ourselves and loved ones materially.

When the time comes for us to leave the world, we go knowing that we have paid our dues and done our duty (paid our taxes, for example..hehe) and we go peacefully with great anticipation for what lies ahead. Whatever we do now, or don't do, will be part of our knowledge in our journey to the ultimate goal.

During the Forum Session, I shared my experience as a cancer patient, and asked 2 questions:
1) How to reconcile the Buddhist relatively easy acceptance of death and the will to fight
2) What is the Buddhist approach to health and healing.

I mentioned that I do not want the conventional vision of tackling cancer as a "war" where the body is the battlefield; with the cancer cells as the enemy and white blood cells as the good soldiers. What is the alternative?

To question one, the basis of my question is when I was first diagnosed with cancer, I had a hard time getting Buddhist advise on healing. I was first approached by Christians who talked about divine healing, and even met a bomoh! But advise about Buddhist healing was lacking.

Was it I was not at the right place or have not met the right people? Is it because the easier acceptance of death by Buddhist which make healing less of a priority? Anyway, things got better later when I met with many wonderful people who helped my in my healing journey.

Dr Tan said there is no need for reconciliation because life is precious, and it does not mean the Buddhist concept of "letting go" means we let the disease overcome us without any effort. We try our best, and when the time comes to "go", we "let go" peacefully knowing that we have given our best.

I did not get a satisfactory answer from the panellist for my 2nd question. But one of the participant shared his experience. His son, who is just 3 years old, was diagnosed with cancer of the kidney, and had to be operated upon, followed by chemotherapy. Friends and relatives sent metta to his son's cells including the cancer cells.

This, I think, is the Buddhist approach; not vision of war nor hatred towards any entity. I also did the same thing during my radiotherapy; I wanted this approach to be highlighted by a person other than myself. I am glad someone publicly mentioned this.

I am also elated to get hold of 2 books which hopefully will answer my 2nd question. These two books were published this year, and are two volumes of the book entitled "Don't worry, be healthy". It is written by Dr Phang Cheng Kar and the books compile all the Buddhist approaches to health and healing, including a list of Buddhist healing services in Malaysia.