For over ten years, Su Xiu Zhen had experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in her life due to an unhappy marriage. Despite the suffering in her heart, she did not confide in others; she did not know where to start, and neither did she feel like talking about it. Today, taking on the role of a sign language actor in the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation, she has finally learnt to let go of the past with the realization that sunshine does indeed come after the rain.
The impression that others get of Su Xiu Zhen is that she is a happy person who does not have any troubles. Her face is often wreathed in smiles and she is always understanding of others. She gives of her best in Tzu Chi activities and the joy she derives from her undertakings is evident to others.
“I’d be lying if I said I did not feel any unhappiness in my heart!”Su, who had been divorced for 12 years, had experienced her fair share of ups and downs. “If you had known the old me, you would have seen how I always wore a gloomy look on my face every day.”Even Su’s colleagues could not help but ask why she always looked so downcast.
Su’s former husband used to work in the food and beverage industry, where the working hours and rest days were the exact opposite of her own schedule. As a result, they seldom spent time together and even if he was at home, there would be little interaction among them. Gradually, they drifted apart and even the parent-child relationship was affected. It was only when creditors started knocking on her door at midnight, and her house was repossessed by the bank, that Su came to the realization that for the sake of her daughter, she had to end the unhappy marriage and start a new life.
Life was hard for Su as a single mother, but no matter what challenges she faced, she would grit her teeth and carry on. Su remembers an instance where she was physically abused by her ex-husband. After being shoved roughly to the ground, she immediately got up and the first words out of her mouth were : “No matter how many times you push me over, I will always pick myself up; I will never be beaten by you!”
Tears Flow in the Vast Darkness of Night
After the divorce was finalized, her ex-husband was declared a bankrupt and could not pay child maintenance. Su focused all her energies into her work, leaving the house early every day and returning home late at night; by doing so, she prevented herself from dwelling on the unhappy thoughts. Fortunately for Su, her daughter had always been independent and this gave her some peace of mind.
Though Su stayed strong, she could not shake off the feeling that she had let her daughter down by not being able to give her a complete family. Every time she looked at her daughter’s sleeping face, feelings of guilt would arise. This feeling was especially intense when Su attended social gatherings with only her daughter accompanying, and saw colleagues and friends with their complete families in tow. After the food and lively conversations ended, Su’s happy front would disintegrate the moment she reached home. The sole outlet for all her loneliness and pain could only be found in the solace of the dark, silent night, when Su would kneel by the side of her bed with tears flowing down her face. Repeatedly in her heart, she could not but ask God, why she had to be the one to shoulder the pain.
Su recounts how, in the past, she had put on a steely facade to hide her vulnerability. However, this tough exterior gradually softened as she interacted with Tzu Chi volunteers. She never imagined that kind people like them still existed in the world.
Though busy, Su would find time to participate in Tzu Chi activities. As she busied herself with house visits to care recipients, recycling and group sharing sessions, she began to understand what the Master meant when she said that that with compassion, one has no enemies, and with wisdom, afflictions do not arise.
In 2012, Su participated in the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation for the first time. When the section,“Perfect and Radiant Buddha Nature”was in full swing, her tears started to flow. The beautiful lyrics portrayed a peacefulness that was in stark contrast to the bitterness and anguish of her former marriage, and every word served to remind her of the law of cause and effect. After her emotions had settled somewhat, Su started to change her mindset and decided to let go of past grievances.
A friend had once told her that if one does not hold on to a grievance, there will be no need to let go. These words made a deep impact on Su. “Since my divorce is already a reality, there is no need for me to look back on past hurts and cling on to old grudges.”
Busy Living Life With a Purpose
Su used to track her daughter’s movements closely but not anymore. She has learnt to be more easy going, and to have trust in her daughter. Morever, Su is now even busier than her daughter. Su’s daughter shares that her mother may be even busier now after participating in Tzu Chi activities, but her life is more meaningful. While her mother previously had a small social circle, things were different now as she participates in more activities.
Having gone through so much together, the relationship between mother and daughter has become closer. Su’s daughter, who is now a working adult, also sees her mother as a faithful listener of her problems and “chief strategist.” Her eyes turn red as she says, “To me, the most important thing is that my parents are healthy and well. It is enough for me that they are both still around.
Transforming Negative Affinities to Good Through Repentance
Su has derived much joy from coming into contact with the teachings in the “Dharma as Water” sutra adaptation. It is her first experience of using sign language to convey Buddhist teachings, and she feels blessed to be able to participate as a sign language facilitator, never once missing any practice or training session. Though she is a facilitator, she feels that the one who has benefitted the most is herself, as every time she explains the concepts to others, she also reminds herself to truly live out the teachings. In particular, the sentence referring to the misuse of power and bullying others stands out as a stark reminder for Su to beware of such behaviour.
Before joining Tzu Chi, Su, together with three other female colleagues, were collectively branded “The Four Evil Women”at the workplace for their fierceness and impatience. Woe betide the colleague who made a mistake at work, for Su would not hesitate to aim a volley of harsh words at the hapless one!
Bilingual in English and Chinese, Su’s proficiency in business writing gave rise to arrogance. She could not tolerate colleagues who were lacking in their English writing skills and would lose her temper with them. In particular, there was a manager whose letter to a customer was severely criticized by Su. After the incident, both of them began to ignore each other.
While singing the lyrics of the stage adaptation that goes “May all evil affinities be transformed into good ones,
and mountains of blades into fields of merit,”Su experienced a deep jolt in her heart; she was immensely repentant upon realizing that her unkind thoughts and words had caused much negative affinity to develop between herself and others. Su immediately sought out her colleague and apologized, thereby resolving the animosity between them.
“Knowing our wrongs, we repent and feel remorse; the Law of Karma never fails, we will surely reap what we sow.”It was with effort and the passing of time, that Su has finally come to understand the teaching contained within this stanza.
Maintaining a marriage well needs much care; it is also the unfortunate reality faced by many women who suffer from an unhappy union. For some, the knots in their heart that cannot be untied, gradually leads them onto the path of depression. Su chose to be strong and face life’s challenges independently for the sake of her daughter and herself. Now that she has joined the Tzu Chi family, she is no longer confused about her direction in life; Su is clear that she wants to be on the path seeking enlightenment, life after life.
（By Li Chun Mei, Translated by Shu Yin 15/10/2013）