07 May 2012


It was Vesak Day two days ago and I was caught in a slight traffic jam in the night on my way to Bishan. There were so many people on the bus to the famous Buddhist temple at Sin Ming Ave. It is a day celebrated by all Buddhists and marks the day when Buddha (Siddharta Gautama) was born, attained enlightenment and entered into Nirvana, a state where one is freed from suffering and rebirth, I think.

It must be such a coincidence for the key events of the Buddha to happen on the same day and I wonder if it is made up for convenience. If not, is there a greater power at play here?

Anyway, the above is not the purpose of this post.

It is just that half my lifetime ago, I was young, unhappy and suffering from my own personal demons. But at least in terms of physical health, I was in good form because I didn't suffer from any bodily discomfort. Youth is not overrated. One does indeed feel rather invincible and indestructible when young. But fast forward two decades, I am now past the 40th mark. All other things are superb but the physical state is worrying. After a slipped disc later, I suffer from occasional bouts of knee pain, I feel tired easily, and of late, the developing presbyopia has affected my vision somewhat. I really need to rely on glasses for far vision. Two nights ago, I had some chest pains again, presumably due to the constriction of chest muscles, I hope. I feel almost as if I have half or two-thirds of my legs in the grave.

After living for so many years, we start to see young stars or people we knew during our time  to start ageing or even dying. Even when I see students wearing the t-shirt from my junior college, I would be so proud yet find it hard to believe that I left the jc many, many years ago. I start to question our mortality. I worry about my parents because if I feel shitty at this age, I wonder how bad they would be feeling at their age.

After reading about countless deaths, the most recent one being that of our local artiste Emma Yong who passed away recently as a result of end stage cancer, I wonder how long more my loved and close ones and I can live. It is a very scary and fearful thought that you see them alive now but they could be gone next. And when one of us is gone, we are gone forever. The idea that we will never, ever see each other again, unless one believes in reincarnation and past lives really freaks me out. I don't know if I can ever get over the feeling of such life and death separation. But I know I am not alone since everyone has to go through such a stage and has to cope with it no matter what.

So, to a certain extent, I am beginning to comprehend the underlying fear that Siddharta Gautama felt when he realized that when there is life, there is death and when there is happiness, there is also suffering. He preached that nothing is permanent in this world and it is so true. And it is precisely because of these emotions and truth that drove him to search for the answer of one's life and existence. He was able to free himself from the cycle of life and death, in his words, and freed himself from suffering.

Sadly, I don't think I will ever be able to attain enlightenment in this lifetime because of my fear of losing my loved ones or of being separated from them by death. The only things that I can and am trying hard to do is really to live my life the way I deemed best for myself, be happy as much as I can and try to let go and ignore the negative things people say or do to me.