a Beautiful New Life
Chien Hsing-yuan Returns to Society (mirror of http://taipei.tzuchi.org.tw/tzquart/97fall/qf97-19.htm)
|By Tai Yu-hung
Translated by Norman Yuan
One is an enthusiastic, elderly Tzu Chi commissioner, and the other is a woman whose face was disfigured by sulfuric acid. The compassion and sincerity of the old bodhisattva opened the locked heart of that woman. She took off her hat and mask and walked toward a beautiful new life.
One day about six years ago, Lin Wan-hua, a Tzu Chi commissioner, was riding on a bus. It was in hot summer. She noticed a woman, Chien Hsing-yuan, wearing a hat and a mask. Taking a closer look, she found a sad, disfigured face behind the mask. Immediately she thought of defacement by sulfuric acid. She made a vow to help that woman and to encourage her to remove the mask and to breathe fresh air like a normal person.
Having made up her mind, Ms. Lin walked toward the woman. She felt even more sorrowful when she saw that she could not raise her head because her chin was stuck to her neck. She wondered how she could look up to see the bus stop sign.
After talking for a while, Ms. Lin told Ms. Chien that she would like to be her friend. Ms. Chien gave Ms. Lin her address and telephone number.
One day when I was riding on a bus, a lady came over and said to me, "You can have an operation. Do you have any difficulty? I can help you. If you need money or skin, I can give both to you."
Her words astonished me. I didn't believe there was such a kind person in the world. Although I was a total stranger, she was willing to donate her skin to me. I couldn't control my tears.
To donate money may be easy, but to donate skin is very difficult. Even your own relatives may not be willing to do so, let alone a complete stranger. I learned that her name was Lin Wan-hua. I was moved by her sincerity. In the past year since I had been injured, that was the first time I was so pleased to talk with a stranger.
After that, Sister Lin frequently called me and told me about Master Cheng Yen and many stories that had happened in the Tzu Chi world. She encouraged me to get treatment, to accept the fact of my injury, and to remove my mask so as to breathe more easily. I finally accepted her suggestion to remove the mask.
When she got enough courage to remove the mask, I saw she didn't even have a nose. There were simply two holes instead. I had an ache in the bottom of my heart. I thought it must be hard for her to breathe.
I told her that appearance is not so important-more important is the heart. Since she was brave enough to take off the mask, I encouraged her to get treatment and to look forward to her future life.
When she learned that there were people under Tzu Chi's long-term care who were even less fortunate than she was, she began to save every penny by leading an austere life. She asked me to donate the money to Tzu Chi.
One day, she told me the whole story of her injury. I was so sorry that I didn't know what to say. How could such an unfortunate thing have happened to such a feeble woman?
I used to complain about my misfortune, but when I got to know Tzu Chi people, I stopped complaining. I took it as a result of my bad karma in the past and accepted it willingly.
Because my husband's family was poor, he had to work as a butcher. Most people in Taiwan like to eat fresh, unfrozen pork, so he had to slaughter several pigs each day. My job was to put the pigs in boiling water and shave the hair off.
Although our business was profitable, the whole family was very unhealthy. We spent all our money on doctors and medicine. The family finances never got any better. My husband's temper became worse and worse. He frequently yelled at me and beat me. I endured him for more than ten years, never daring to tell anybody.
One time he beat me so severely that my whole body was covered with wounds. I couldn't take it any longer, so I went back to cry to my father. Seeing so many wounds on my body, Dad became very angry. He went to the court on my behalf to petition for a divorce.
After the divorce, I went to work in a factory. One night I was on my way back home. All of a sudden, my face was badly burned. The pain was unbearable and before I knew what had happened, I lost consciousness. When I woke up, I was lying in the hospital.
I was unconscious for several days before I finally woke up. The first thing I wanted to know was what had happened. I found out that someone had thrown sulfuric acid on me. A kind passerby had called an ambulance and sent me to the hospital. As to who threw the sulfuric acid, nobody knew.
Terrible Cause and Effect
How much hatred I had at that time! "Why me?" I screamed in my heart many times. I'd never done anything wrong to anyone and I'd never offended anybody. Who would be so cruel to me?
The surgeon said that thirty-seven percent of my body had been burned. Even my lungs and windpipe had been damaged.
In order to cover the wounds, nearly all my good skin was peeled off. I don't remember how many operations I went through. So much blood was shed in each operation. Even on my bed, there were pools of blood here and there.
Whenever new skin grew out, I had to undergo more skin transplants. The scalded flesh had to be soaked in hot water and scraped off bit by bit-just the way I used to put the pigs in boiling water and shave their hair off. Each time a piece of my flesh was scraped off, the pain made me scream just like a pig being slaughtered. I was bathed in tears. I was shocked to find out how terrible the law of cause and effect could be.
The surgeon cut a hole on my chin to pull my head upward so that my chin and my neck wouldn't stick together, just like I used to cut a pig's head off and hang it by the chin. However, the doctor failed. My chin and my neck still stuck together. I could no longer raise my head to see people.
I went through so much suffering. My face was completely disfigured, with only two holes instead of a nose. I had no mouth and could only be fed with liquid food. I thought I was finished. How could I meet people like this? Besides, the hospital was so tremendously expensive and the treatments were so painful. I couldn't stand it any longer. I refused any more treatment.
No Courage to Live
During those days of suffering, Dad was always with me. More than once, he heard me beg the surgeon to let me die. He was always very steadfast, but behind my back he wiped away his tears. Although I had a strong intention to end my own life, I didn't know how to face him.
Mom passed away when I was six. Dad refused to remarry, afraid that a stepmother might mistreat my two brothers and me. When I was in elementary school, I had cooked breakfast one morning and was ready to go to school when I heard Dad scream "Help." I dashed out to the field and saw him pinned down under a farming machine. He was half buried in mud. Suddenly I felt what a heavy burden it must be on his shoulders to be a father and mother at the same time. I made up my mind that I would be filial to him the rest of my life.
So in the hospital, I thought that if I died, not only could I not fulfill my duty as a filial daughter, but I would also make my father very sad. I was in a dilemma and didn't know what to do. On the one hand, I had no courage to go on. On the other hand, I couldn't stop loving my father.
I gave up any hope for the future and locked myself up in my room for nearly two years. I never saw anyone. Only once in a while I went out to buy food. I thought the rest of my life would pass like that, but then I met Sister Lin and my life changed completely.
Having heard her sad story, I felt very sorry. However, it was useless to cry over spilled milk. Therefore, I encouraged her not to give up treatment. I told her she should continue to have the operations. Meantime I would pray for her and ask Buddha to bless her.
I told her that if she needed skin, I would donate mine to her since I had always wanted to donate my organs to somebody. Finally, she was brave enough to undergo further operations. After two more operations, she had a nose and her neck and chin were disconnected.
Now her suffering is over. She can turn her neck without any difficulty and she can raise her head to see people. The wounds on her face have been minimized. Most important of all, she no longer has to wear a hat and a mask. She can accept herself candidly. She frequently tells people her own story and advises them not to kill living beings to satisfy their own appetite.
What made me respect her all the more was that as soon as she recovered, she started to learn tailoring. With diligence and skillful hands, she quickly learned to make beautiful dresses. She saved her money, bought material, made several dresses and donated them to Tzu Chi for a charity sale.
Sister Lin's continuous care and encouragement moved me, especially when she said she would like to donate her skin to me. Therefore, I decided to have further operations. During each operation, Sister Lin prayed for me. I am really grateful to her.
After one operation, I told Sister Lin that the operation had gone very smoothly and I had almost no bleeding. It must have been because of her prayers. Sister Lin said, "Actually, my prayers depended on your reverence. Otherwise, the bodhisattvas would not have listened to me. Therefore, you should pray yourself."
Sister Lin's every word and action gave me enlightenment. I'm no longer afraid to face people. On the contrary, I encourage other burned people to get out into the world. Even though our bodies have been wounded, we shouldn't let our hearts be wounded.
Tzu Chi not only brought sunshine to my life, but also changed my mentality. I was grateful to my father and other family members. They gave me continuous support and encouragement when I was in despair. However, just at the time I gained faith in the future, there was a bolt from the blue-my father was seriously wounded in a car accident and was on the verge of death. When I heard the news, I was so furious that I wanted to give the other driver a good tongue-lashing. Later on, I found out that the driver was a young college student. I controlled my rage and asked myself whether I should let the young man lead the rest of his life knowing that he had killed someone. My heart ached.
Watching my dying father and the sorrow of my brothers who had always been so filial, I was really agonized. Then I thought of the hatred which might go deeper and deeper if not solved properly. I told my brother that when Master Cheng Yen's brother was accidentally killed by a colleague in the army, the Master was very compassionate and advised her mother to consider the position of the killer's parents, let go of her anger and forgive the other man.
My brother didn't say anything.
Several days later, I spoke to him again. "Our father has been a good man all his life. Don't let this accident spoil his merits. Master Cheng Yen says to love our own kin is 'small love,' but to love our foe is 'great love.'" My brother still kept silent. I knew it was difficult for him to accept such words, so I didn't say anything more. But I was worried.
Two days later, my brother suddenly told me that he had found the best way to solve the problem. He would adopt the young man as his son. This way we could pay respect to our father, and at the same time the young man could be rid of his sense of guilt.
I am very glad that my brother could solve the hatred this way. I also respect him very much. Although our father passed away, our relationship with that young man has been very harmonious. Now by telling others about his own change, my brother is doing his best to solve the hatred in other people's hearts too.