My trip to the operating theatre and back

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Kenryuu has been a student of Venerable Chodron’s for many years. Malaysian by birth, he now lives in Singapore.

I recently had an infected cyst on my back. It had grown quickly, got infected, and was compressed against my spine. An operation successfully removed it. I wish to share with you the beautiful experience of going into and emerging from the operating theatre. Because of the covid virus, new measures regarding visitors in hospital were enacted, so that my admission, consultation, and so forth had to be done alone. No friends or relatives could accompany me. On the journey to operating theatre before given general anesthesia, I meditated on the nine-point death meditation, one of the points—that we die alone—resembled the journey to the operating theatre, which was like embarking on the journey of death journey, all alone, with no one to help us, and only the Dharma being of help at that time.

Kenryuu with his arm around his mother, both smiling and standing with Venerable Chodron.
Kenryuu with his mother and Venerable Chodron. (Photo by Sravasti Abbey)

I knew that it was just a small operation, but my creative mind made up all sorts of anxiety stories. At one moment, I felt so regretful that I hadn’t practiced or studied the Dharma well enough in this life, and I may have disappointed my teacher, Venerable Chodron. At that very point, Venerable Chodron’s image appeared. My tears fell, and suddenly I missed the Abbey and Venerable Chodron. I wished that if anything happened to me during surgery, I will meet my teacher again in Sukhavati Pure Land or in places where she teaches, and strive my very best to learn until I attain Great Awakening.

Suddenly, I remembered the taking-and-giving meditation (tong-len) that Venerable had taught me when I was hospitalized eight years ago. She also taught it last year when all of us were in Malaysia. I started to reflect on equanimity, myself being no different than any other sentient being. Like me, they too experience pain and suffering. In this very moment, very strong compassion arose and I wanted to take all their pain and suffering from that so that it would ripen on me. Let me take the pain of everyone in this hospital, everyone who suffers mental suffering—please may it ripen on me.

My fear disappeared and my mind was immersed in love and compassion. I radiated loving-kindness (metta) to all the people who were busy walking the holding area and operating theatre. I even joked with them and smiled from my heart at the medical staffs who attended me, until they administered the general anesthesia.

When I woke up after the operation, I found myself automatically chanting the metta meditation in Pali, wishing sentient beings to be well and happy. That very instant, I was filled with boundless love and bliss toward all sentient beings. I sat up in bed and meditated on loving-kindness for almost a half hour in the holding area without feeling tired at all. I didn’t even feel the post operation anesthesia effect. I would like to thank Venerable Chodron for her kindness in teaching me the valuable tool of the taking-and-giving meditation.

I am recovering well now and feel very positive and happy no matter what the news of the histology report is. If a seed of negative karma ripens, I’ll celebrate that some negativity I created in the past is now ripening and I’m purifying it. We can take all events, good and bad, into our Dharma practice.

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