Never Too Old to Show Actual Proof 

By Josho Ah-Po 

In my earliest years, Grandma was the one who took care of the children in our family. Our mother was a nurse who worked long shifts and our father was a busy primary school teacher. Grandma looked after us, took care of the house, cooked, shopped, etc. She was the one who would sacrifice again and again for the sake of family-members.  

In 1984, my beloved father was killed in an accident. I can still remember that night, when Grandma cried the whole night long, saddened by the sudden death of her eldest son (my dad). All the family had to learn to accept this loss and our relationship with Grandma grew even stronger than before. Even though I was only 15, I resolved to shoulder responsibility for the family. 

One year later, my mother was introduced to the Buddhism of Nichiren Daishonin. Then one day, some Young Men’s Division members came to visit and they introduced my brother and me to this Buddhism. Without any hesitation, both of us took up faith and started practicing with the Soka Gakkai organization. As I grew in faith, I developed a wonderful goal: to have my entire family chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together in harmony.  

In the beginning, my mom, brother, sister, and myself were all practicing together. We prayed that Grandma would also have the good fortune to practice and, sure enough, after one year of sincere prayer, this opportunity occurred: My Grandma’s eldest daughter (our aunt) needed an operation on her leg. According to the doctor, the surgery was absolutely necessary, but there was only a 50% chance that she would be able to keep her leg. This caused thousands of worries for Grandma and she was very concerned about her eldest daughter’s future. She could hardly eat or sleep for days leading up to the surgery. 

We told Grandma that there was no point in worrying; it would not solve the problem at all. We proposed to pray and chant for the success of the operation and the quick recovery of our aunt. Grandma was very stubborn and she refused to join us at first, but we did not give up. Then, one morning, when all of us were doing gongyo and chanting, Grandma sat behind us and chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the very first time. We were so surprised and happy when we heard her. After that, Grandma would just sit behind us and chant whenever we chanted.  

My aunt’s operation was successful and her leg was spared. Later we brought Grandma to discussion meetings and also to the Grand Cultural Centre twice to make contributions. However, she had difficulty walking and was unable to attend most Gakkai activities. But she still showed her love and care for all of us, especially the grandchildren like myself. We always organized big birthday dinners for her so that our uncles and aunts could celebrate with us as well. Grandma felt great joy and happiness when she saw the whole family getting along harmoniously. 

In 2001, my wife and I moved into our own new apartment and we decided to bring Grandma along with us. Our bond with her was very strong and she was so happy that we invited her to stay together with us. In order to take good care of her, my aunt and uncle hired a maid for us. With the maid around, we did not have to worry about Grandma whenever we weren’t home. During her stay with us, we could see and feel the joy on her face everyday. She always felt happiness whenever we were around. We would often massage her legs and I used to joke with her and have fun with her. Grandma always clapped her hands and waved her hands at me to wish me good-bye and good luck, whenever I went to work, and I always reminded her to chant more daimoku, which she did. She always prayed that “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo will protect me.” Both my wife and I will never forget the last five months with our beloved Grandma. 

On September 2nd, 2001, Grandma was not feeling well. She was very weak and drowsy, and she had a cough. My aunt and uncle came over to visit and found that Grandma could hardly keep her eyes open. Suddenly, she had a seizure and couldn’t breathe. We shouted, called her name, and chanted daimoku in her ear, but she was not breathing. Then we remembered something we had seen done — we pressed on her chest and after a few pushes, Grandma began to vomit and then started breathing slowly again.  

The ambulance arrived and took her to the hospital. The doctor in charge suspected that Grandma had contracted pneumonia, and ordered an X-ray. But it was not pneumonia: Grandma had a brain tumor. It was a very slow-growing tumor with no symptoms, but it needed to be removed because it had grown so big. The biggest challenge was whether Grandma was fit enough for the operation. The chance of recovery was less than 50%, due to her age (87 years old).  

After 4 days in the critical care ward, her condition had improved a little and she was transferred to the regular ward. Grandma had regained consciousness and could recognize all of us. She was not happy about being in a hospital and wanted to go home immediately. We tried to explain the situation to her and to make her as comfortable as possible. After a week, the doctor was ready to discharge her and we were all so happy to hear this good news. Then, all of a sudden, Grandma suffered a mild heart attack and she was transferred back to the critical care unit. She stayed there for three more days and we visited her and chanted daimoku with her whenever we could. Grandma was still longing to come home. 

On Friday [14th September 2001], I went home early and I chanted strong daimoku to pray for Grandma’s quick recovery. I began to visualize and think deeply about her situation. I began to realize some very important things: Grandma had a very important mission to fulfill. She must be able to overcome her karma and show actual proof; then she will be able to convince all our family members of the power of this Buddhist practice. What an important example she could set for elderly people everywhere! I knew that Grandma’s fighting spirit and life force were still strong, because whenever we asked her to chant with us, she would without any hesitation. She had not given up hope and neither could we.  

Another factor to consider was that Grandma had encountered quite a number of obstacles: the brain tumor, heart attack, and all her other ailments, etc. This was clearly the function of the “Devil of the Sixth Heaven” which was trying to obstruct our strong faith in the Gohonzon. Since these obstacles had appeared, I knew we were definitely on the right track. The answer was PERSEVERANCE. I resolved not to give up hope and to continue to strive together with Grandma until the end. The reason I knew that Grandma still had a mission to fulfill was that she had managed to initially survive the first trauma when she had had the seizure and stopped breathing. Clearly, she had a lot of life left. 

One source of inspiration and support throughout this struggle was our connection with our “godmother,” who is an SGI member in “Ever Victorious Kansai.” She asked all the Kansai members to pray for our Grandma’s victory and she even sought guidance from the senior leaders in Kansai. She recorded the guidance on a cassette tape and sent it to us by mail. With this great support, we determined to employ the strategy of the Lotus Sutra.  

In our family, we have seven family members who embrace the Gohonzon. Each of us took turns staying overnight in the ward to chant and pray for Grandma, making the hospital into a Buddha land. We would not give up no matter what.  

At one point, my aunt wanted the doctor to discharge Grandma from the hospital, saying that it looked like she was in a “hopeless situation.” The doctor had no objection; it was totally up to us to decide. I was quite upset and angry, because it felt like we would be giving up. The next morning, the doctor informed us that Grandma’s condition was deteriorating and asked us to prepare for the worst, but again we refused to give up hope. Sometimes, medical science doesn’t have the answer. We continued to fight hard against all those obstacles with our strong daimoku. For a few nights straight, we performed midnight gongyo and daimoku in the ward. Although we were tired, our spirit was so strong. After a few days, Grandma’s condition showed improvement, according to the doctor. We knew we had to continue to fight until the end. The doctor informed us that if Grandma’s condition continued to improve, then the operation to remove the tumor might be possible. We only had one week to decide on the operation.  

We asked the doctor about the chances of success for the operation and he said that the chance was less than 50% due to Grandma’s current weakness and age. The family had to consider what would be the best result for Grandma. After lengthy discussion, we came to a consensus that we would not go ahead with the operation. We decided to bring Grandma back home, as she had been wanting to do, hire a private nurse to take care of her, and purchase whatever necessary medical equipment. The hospital had done its best for Grandma and now it was up to us to fight with our daimoku at home. We strongly believed that we had made a good decision for Grandma.  

The Challenges at Home 
The situation at home was that we still had our maid and we had also hired a private nurse to come in every weekday. On Saturdays and Sundays, the family would take over the nursing care. Grandma was only half-conscious most of the time and sometimes it felt so sad to see her condition. It was extremely difficult to sustain a strong fighting spirit and daimoku chanting.  

My wife and myself and my brother and his wife decided to press on, no matter what, and we were so encouraged by the support from other Gakkai members (especially the Kansai members), who were also praying fervently for Grandma.  

After she came back home, Grandma’s condition seemed to be neither improving nor deteriorating and this situation continued for about one and a half months. During this period, all we could do was to chant for Grandma and nothing else. Every morning before we went to work, we always went to Grandma and spoke to her and chanted a few daimoku in her ear. We encouraged her to chant, and sometimes she responded, but most of the time, she did not. However, we still continued to communicate with her and encourage her; we knew that she could hear our voices and feel our care and encouragement. We never knew when the end would come, but in our hearts, we just continued to pray earnestly until the last moment.  

Finally, the day came. At 10:30 a.m., the maid yelled from Grandma’s room, and we rushed in to see that Grandma had already stopped breathing. I quickly walked to her side, held her hand, and called her. I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo in her ear, and suddenly she began to breathe again, but it only lasted for a few seconds. Grandma took her last breath gently. My wife and I kept on chanting beside her and, to our surprise, our maid even kneeled down and chanted daimoku for the very first time together with us. My aunt, Grandma’s youngest daughter, was with us as well. As I held Grandma’s hand, I could feel the energy leaving her body. Our Grandma had left us forever. I could not fight back my tears; I felt great sorrow for such a loss. My wife felt the same. After chanting daimoku for a while, I calmed down enough to begin to prepare for the funeral. Soon other family members arrived to pay their last respects to Grandma. 

Grandma really knew how to pick a day! The day of her funeral, November 22, 2001, was declared a public holiday in Malaysia because it was the day of mourning for our ruler (Sultan Salahuddin) who had passed away the day before. Therefore, Grandma had the good fortune to share this ceremony together with the King of Malaysia and the entire nation. The weather was very good and clear. During the night of the particular funeral day, I could see twinkling stars in the sky and the wind blew gently. In the early morning, it rained a bit, and then the morning sun rose majestically. Grandma’s ashes were put into a container and placed at the same site with our deceased grandfather and my deceased father.  

We are convinced that Grandma fulfilled her mission in this lifetime. Her struggle enabled our whole family to feel the warmth and harmony associated with Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. Because of the holiday, many people were able to attend Grandma’s funeral, hundreds of them: relatives, friends, and Gakkai members. All our relatives were very surprised to see so many people who came to pray and chant for Grandma. Even those relatives who were not practicing Buddhism pressed their palms together and showed respect for Grandma during the entire gongyo ceremony and daimoku session.  

Also, the maid who had been taking care of Grandma was able to begin chanting. 

Our family decided to donate the hospital bed and other medical equipment to a non-profit charitable organization. Those items will now be used by patients who cannot afford them. 

Although we have lost Grandma, we have won in all aspects of the struggle. Grandma has already demonstrated to all of us the power of the Gohonzon, the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and the power of Nichiren Daishonin’s Buddhism. This is the greatest benefit and actual proof. This is exactly the spirit of "Ever Victorious Kansai" that we have been inspired to emulate. Now our goal is to move on and continue to fight for kosen-rufu.