Spiritual Training With the Help of Sandbags and Kneepads

Lin Jin Yan is a nursing coordinator of TIMA and also a sign language facilitator for TIMA members. Watching her singing and confidently using the accompanying sign language on stage as she knelt down and stood up as required in the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation, one can never imagine how much struggle and pain she has gone through in order to do so.


“How do I read this Chinese character?” Holding the book of song lyrics for the “Water Repentance” stage adaptation, Lin Jin Yan began to search for the Hanyu Pinyin pronunciation of the corresponding Chinese character. While the lyrics were profound and not easy to understand, Lin can now almost memorize them all after listening and reading them repeatedly for a year.

For someone who had been educated only in English, the Chinese lyrics are not Lin’s biggest obstacle. Rather, her aging aching joints and stiff leg are her biggest challenges as she is required to kneel and stand on cue during the sutra adaption.

Enduring Pain for a Precious Opportunity

Lin, who is now over 60 years of age, is a surgical nurse at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital. Back in 2011, Lin attended the annual TIMA conference in Taiwan and fell in love with the delicious vegetarian food provided during the event. Since then, she has continued with a vegetarian diet and is now more determined than ever to be a vegetarian after coming into contact with the “Water Repentance” text.

Lin participates actively in TIMA activities and was invited to take part in the presentation of the “Sutra Opening Verse” for the 2012 Year-end Blessing Ceremony. Though she was full of joy at the invitation, she hesitated for a long while before agreeing to take part due to her problems of weak legs and stiff joints.

To overcome her physical constraints, Lin made a daily effort to practice kneeling on a cushion. She started off with a few seconds daily and gradually increased the duration to four minutes. At one point, her knee gave way due excessive exercise and she had to rely on painkillers to relieve the pain.

She was in fact, so determined not to miss participating in the sutra adaptation that she racked her brain for ideas and came up with using kneepad cushions in addition to double-layered knee pads. She thus endured the pain and successfully took part in the stage adaptation that year.

Now Lin plays an even bigger role. As TIMA’s hand sign facilitator for the stage adaptation that has been planned for December 2013, she works tirelessly to ensure that everything will go as planned despite the pain in her knees.

Not wanting to hold back the progress of the group with her physical challenges, Lin consulted a physiotherapist. She diligently goes through the prescribed exercises every day, raising her legs and stretching them forward and backward each a hundred times a day, as well as repeatedly kneeling down. Also, as a form of therapy, she ties a one kilogram sandbag on each leg while she works during the day.

"I must practice every day, if I do not practice for a few days, I lose the ability to kneel down." Lin has all kinds of knee protection gear which are either her own inventions, or purchased from elsewhere.

Displacing Fear With Willingness to Commit

As a nurse in the surgical department, Lin is no stranger to the wards and surgical theatres and has witnessed both minor and serious operations. Her fearless exterior is in contrast to her timidity come nightfall, and this caused her to have problems falling asleep. Lin lives alone and in order to have some companionship, she even rented out a room to a tenant. Previously, she often slept with the lights on, or waited for her tenant to come home before she could fall asleep. Thus, she did not have good quality of sleep.

Lin considers herself as Buddhist, but she has little knowledge of the Dharma. Her fear of ghosts during the seventh lunar month used to cause her unnecessary suffering and loss of sleep. However, after she had been studying the teachings in the “Water Repentance” text, with correct faith, her life has turned around and become more meaningful. She said in jest:”Now I don’t even know when the seventh lunar month comes around.”

Through continuous singing the lyrics and repeatedly practicing the hand signs, Lin has gained a better understanding of the meanings behind the profound lyrics. "My most frequent transgression is to create negative karma with my words. Often, I would get into conflicts with my subordinates and say hurtful words. I was also impatient with those who repeatedly make mistakes and would raise my voice at them." Even worse, after the incidents, Lin would continue to bear grudges against her co-workers; it did not matter if ten days or even half a year had passed – the embers of resentment would continue to smolder within her heart. She would never consider apologizing even if it was her fault, and all her colleagues feared her.

However, Lin now chooses her choice of words carefully at the workplace. She also takes the initiative to apologize when necessary. To promote vegetarianism, she volunteers to help her colleagues to buy packed vegetarian lunch and slowly, she was able to foster a closer relationship with her colleagues. Also, in her role as a TIMA recycling volunteer in the Tan Tock Seng Hospital, she meets other medical personnel from various departments and therefore her social circle has expanded.

Lin used to love travelling, and in the past, she would go on overseas trips with friends every year. She would also faithfully follow TV serials in her spare time and buy crystals to add to her collection whenever she had spare cash. These things no longer interest Lin today as she now devotes her time to leading the TIMA group members in the practice sessions for the “Dharma as Water”sutra adaptation. Though it keeps her very busy, Lin finds joy in doing so and the spiritual peace she now enjoys is something she has never experienced before.

Lin’s willingness to take up Tzu Chi commitments has resulted in her exceeding her own expectations. Introverted by nature, she never dreamed that one day, she would be able to stand on stage in front of a hundred people and guide them in sign language. While the journey was not without its challenges and Lin’s resolve had been tested at various points, she did eventually come to understand that the Tzu Chi undertakings are a means to mold one’s character. Just like our bodies, one’s spirit needs to undergo training in order to grow in strength and continue to be of service to mankind. Lin shares her hopes for her future “Previously, my life was empty. Now that I have found the right path in life, I will persevere!”

Before Lin Jin Yan joined Tzu Chi, she liked to collect various expensive crystals. (Photo by Li Ming Hui)Before Lin Jin Yan joined Tzu Chi, she liked to collect various expensive crystals. (Photo by Li Ming Hui) Lin overcame her introverted nature and took up more responsibilities in order to help others. Here, she stands on stage and leads other members during a practice session. (Photo by Tan Cheng Hwa)Lin overcame her introverted nature and took up more responsibilities in order to help others. Here, she stands on stage and leads other members during a practice session. (Photo by Tan Cheng Hwa) In order to carry out her role as a sign language facilitator, Lin racked her brains for various solutions to overcome the challenges posed by her weak knees and joint problems. (Photo by Li Ming Hui)In order to carry out her role as a sign language facilitator, Lin racked her brains for various solutions to overcome the challenges posed by her weak knees and joint problems. (Photo by Li Ming Hui) Lin (left) patiently guides a TIMA member on sign language. (Photo by Tan Cheng Hwa)Lin (left) patiently guides a TIMA member on sign language. (Photo by Tan Cheng Hwa)

(By Zhuang Ying Ying and Li Ming Hui, Translated by Wendy Tan 15/10/203)

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