Finding milk and forgiveness
One morning, my family needed milk. I went next door to buy a carton.
I collected the milk and went to pay the shopkeeper in small change. He abruptly swept the coins away from the table and almost hit me. I thought at once that he was a racist, an anti-Asian type. His action bothered me all day. Many negative thoughts built up in my mind. I did not go back to his store for a few days, as I was quite hurt.
Through the practice of inner listening, which I had learned through IofC, a thought came to me that was ever so clear. It was that I had escaped from my war-torn country, Laos, to come to this land, Australia, to make it home - not to create more trouble here, and above all, not to cause another war to start, even a small one. The clear thought was I should go introduce myself formally to the shopkeeper.
The next morning, I went back to the shop and said, ‘Good morning! My name is Nith. What’s yours?’
He replied very nicely, ‘My name’s Bill.’
I said, ‘Hi Bill, I work next door.’
And we shook hands. That was the moment all the ill feelings I had towards him melted away. I could feel my heart opening out to him. We became best friends.
Three weeks later, I went to the shop and walked to the fridge to get some milk. There was none. ‘Bill, no milk today?’ Bill replied, ‘Oh, Nith, no milk left today, but don’t worry - I’ve got one for you upstairs!’
What I learnt later was that Bill didn’t like small change from any customer.
With this incident, I have learnt that it is important not to keep hurts in my heart. IofC has taught me to forgive quickly and get on with life as soon as possible - and to keep the heart clear of any resentment.
‘The world as one big family’
Attending IofC gatherings, I had first-hand experience of other faiths and cultures that were present. Now I have a better understanding of different religious traditions. I have learned a great deal from them, especially finding common ground that allows us to work together for all.
The sincerity in words and, more so, in the actions of people involved with IofC was what stood out for me. The four absolute standards taught at IofC - honesty, purity, unselfishness and love - resonate well with Buddhist teachings such as, ‘to do good, not to do evil and to purify the mind - from greed, hatred and delusion.’ Buddhists are taught to be fully aware of these ‘kilesas’ (defilements) that can disturb the mind at any moment.
Through 10 years of experience of helping at my Buddhist temple, I have learned that it is only through my actions that I can become a role model who motivates people around me. This is my purpose - to live according to the Buddhist values I believe in and put them into practice in everyday life.
Building peace and trust
There are instances where people have closed their hearts to me. There have been some who compete and even stab others in the back. But I have kept my heart open and continued to work with them. It takes a long time, but it is the only way I have found that trust can be built. I have witnessed that the more I keep my heart open to those who hurt me, the more they are amazed. Without their realizing it, they start to respond in friendship and teamwork.
From childhood, I was taught by our elders the nature of karmic effects that, ‘If you want someone to prosper, you prosper. If you want someone harmed, you will be harmed.’ This has given me a deep commitment to serve others. Through IofC, I have also learned to put myself in the shoes of others. I’ve found the passion to serve my people and help them prosper through the practice of our Buddhist teachings.
People nowadays are engulfed by technology and materialistic concerns, forgetting the real value and purpose of why they are here on earth. In a world full of noise and distraction, people keep so busy they forget to look within. There is little time for oneself - to find contemplation and peace.
My wish is that people find time for self-knowledge, for their true life’s purpose, and find time for stillness to listen for deeper messages and self-healing.
- This story was first published in ‘Beyond Walls,’ ed. Suresh Khatri, by the Friends of Moral Re-Armament (India) Trust, 2018.