Friday, January 06, 2006

Who is your enemy?

Posted By: Kee Date: Monday, 2 January 2006, at 5:39 p.m.

Happy New Year to everyone, friends of all faiths. Hope that the New Year brings a new freshness to your life and family. Do you know who your enemy is?

I walked through the National Museum of Cambodia in Phnom Penh and delighted in many old ancient Khmer sculpture, including the head of Jayavaraman VII. But the most delightful of all was the proverb of the Buddha that reads: Ignorance is the enemy of a lifetime.

I’d like to relate my small personal experience to this very powerful saying. When I was about 10 years old, my friend and I took a leisure walk outside the village out of boredom. It was a hot sunny day and the rice paddies were already dry. I began to feel thirsty as we walked under the hot sun. I couldn’t control my thirst and told my friend I wanted to have a drink. We found a small water hole in one of the rice fields and without thinking; I scooped the water up in my two hands and drank. The water was hot.

A few minutes later, I started to feel some pain in my stomach. It got worse later on. As we were walking, my right hand continued to massage my abdomen. It did not seem to cease, but the pain intensified. My friend and I decided to head back to the village. As soon as I got home, I threw myself onto a bamboo bed. I rubbed my stomach with two hands and nothing helped.
My 94-year-old great grand ma noticed something was wrong and she came to help. I could no longer control the pain and began to cry. The pain was extremely sharp as if someone had violently cut my stomach open and pulled out the intestine. There was no ER. Villagers normally applied traditional medicine and practiced Animism. My mom attempted to perform a traditional coin scraping on my belly. But it only exacerbated the pain as the coin put pressure on the pain area. I never stopped crying and turning my body against the rough surface of the bed.

My cry was quite loud that some of my neighbors and kids came and stood watching me twisting my half-naked body like a crocodile turning its body to feast on a killed. Mom was worried and prayed to the spirit of the dead with burning incense. But it was to no avail. My life was now completely at the mercy of my own Karma. The fruit of my own action had immediately ripened and no gods, deity, or divine beings could interfere with the law of Karma. The bacteria from the water I drank were eating me alive.

This is what it means to be “ignorant.” One can only hear the word but does not realize the truth behind its meaning until he experiences it himself. The teaching of the Buddha is best when one learns it, practices it, and experiences it to feel the truth. I was too young at age ten to know the depth of the Buddha’s teaching. Ignorance is one of the causes of human sufferings. First, I craved for water. But with the complete lack of true knowledge about the water, I drank. Then came suffering, and it was I alone who experienced the suffering. No one could share my own pain, or pleasure. My friend, who did not drink the water at all, was free from stomach pain.
The remedy to remove “ignorance” is wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to see the true nature of things. Wisdom helps guide a person to right action, and right action leads to right results, which bring safety and happiness. If we cannot remove “ignorance,” it will remain our enemy for a lifetime and suffering does not cease. Learning from our past mistakes is self-awakening.
For further reading:

I have re-written the Buddha’s proverb in both Khmer and English above.


Post a Comment

<< Home