Not to Yield to Sickness

Yutang Lin

The body burdened with severe illness, the spirit sinks low.
Remaining lifeless and closed within just makes it worse.
Changing attitude toward bold struggle and improvement,
Plum blossom weathers snowstorms to spread its fragrance.


A Buddhist friend wrote me, saying that his friend who got cancer was very depressed, and yet he had no idea of how to comfort the patient. In ordinary time we as Buddhist could easily remind ourselves of lofty ideas such as "Death is certain to life, hence we should make good use of the remaining time to chant 'Amitabha' diligently in order to attain rebirth in the Utmost Joy Pureland," or "Human bodies being attacked by sickness is just one chain in the universal food chain of nature." Now in the face of a patient, who has no interest in religious practices, it is beyond our knowledge as to where to start to talk to him.

In the world there are but few who are in perfect health. Ordinary people's physical conditions are maintained and improved through efforts made in health care and medical treatment. All such efforts would be effective only with one's physical and mental cooperation. Therefore, when one falls sick, one should drum up the spirit to actively engage in healing and therapeutic processes. If one were to give up the fight, become depressed and closed, then not only would it render the illness more difficult to treat but also cast the shadow of despair over the surrounding relatives and friends. Over the years I have prayed for many people in all kinds of illness. Consequently I have witnessed many examples of struggling through severe illnesses. Relying on faith in Buddha, chanting Buddha's name and prostration to Buddha, many have passed their lonely days of suffering, and step by step they have safely gone through the ordeal of surgical operations, chemotherapy, spinal marrow transplant, etc. Struggling together through such ordeal only brought their loved ones closer.

To people who are waist-deep in the suffering of illness anything verbal could be just vain and helpless. Nevertheless, the above thoughts could help change their attitude toward how to face the illness. At least, the above thoughts could help people to adopt a positive attitude before they ever encounter severe sickness.

Written in Chinese and translated on May 19, 2000
El Cerrito, California

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