An App for Fixing Bad Things in Life

We can use an app to fix bad photos, but is there an app to help us fix bad things in life?

I recently attended a training class for Tzu Chi documenting volunteers. During the class, our lecturer, Jian Yin-yu (簡因玉), shared with us an incredible photo editing app. It could salvage badly taken photos and give them new life. With Jian’s help, I used the app to improve a photo I took during a visit to an elderly Tzu Chi care recipient. The photo had been taken against the light, so my subjects were too dark to be seen clearly. Thanks to the app, I was able to salvage the photo.

The class and that app got me to thinking. How I wish there was a similar app that, with the press of a button, could help me break my bad habits and become a better person, or reverse dreadful events and make everything okay again. Sadly, that’s not how life works. Becoming a better person isn’t as easy as running an app. And sometimes life’s events hit us out of the blue, when we are least expecting it, catching us completely off guard. When those sorts of things happen in real life, we are stuck with the consequences—there is no reversing them, no do-over app that will reset time for us.

These thoughts brought my father, Leong Siew Cheong (梁詔淐), to mind. He passed away without any warning, catching everyone off guard, when he was 74. On a visit to Hualien, eastern Taiwan, in 2019, he suddenly had difficulty breathing, and he departed from the world just like that. My sister, Leong Yien Ngo (梁嫣娥), and I honored his wishes by donating his organs and having his body cremated, then giving him a green burial.

My dad donated a pair of corneas, his bones, and his ligaments. His gifts were expected to benefit more than a hundred people. After his organ donation surgery, his cheeks were rosy and the corners of his mouth turned up. He looked peaceful. No one can take anything with them when they leave this world, but my dad chose to give in his final moments. Looking at his peaceful face, I was able to feel his joy, a joy that comes from giving without expecting anything in return.

Leong Siew Cheong (second from right) and his two daughters, Leong Imm Chon (梁嫣親, second from left) and Leong Yien Ngo (right), take part in a charitable distribution in Malaysia. Joining Tzu Chi has changed this family’s life.

Buddhism app

Dharma Master Cheng Yen once said, “Many people today have lost their direction in life—that’s why we have so many problems in society. People need guidance in a world that’s full of suffering, and the Buddha’s teachings are the light that can cut across the darkness.” There is no shortcut to changing this world, much less an app that can fix everything for us. But we have the Dharma, that is, the Buddha’s teachings, to guide us through life. If we can install a “Buddhism app” in our lives, if we have faith in the Dharma and live it out, we will have a remedy in hand for all worries and afflictions.

My family would be mired in endless remorse and sorrow if we hadn’t encountered Buddhism. I experienced life’s impermanence early in life—my mother passed away when I was 18. Following her death, I started searching for a way that would enable me to repay her love for me. That search led me to Tzu Chi.

Master Cheng Yen answered my questions about life. She said that using our time on Earth to benefit this world was the best way to repay our parents’ love for us. That’s why I decided to join Tzu Chi and use this healthy body of mine, given to me by my parents, to serve others.

It wasn’t just me that joined Tzu Chi—my entire family did. Since we joined, we’ve unconsciously changed a lot. For example, we began avoiding using styrofoam products and one-use plastic bags. We carry reusable tableware with us. We eat vegetarian. My father was the one who changed the most. Due to the influence of Buddhism, he learned to be more grateful for everything he had, and instead of seeking to have more in life, he gave of himself as much as he could. He participated actively in all kinds of volunteer work. He did his best to solicit donations for Tzu Chi, visited the needy, and did recycling work. He visited retirement homes to extend care to the elderly there, and he cooked for Tzu Chi events.

Every time he heard the Master talking about body donation, he’d say to my sister and me: “After I die, scatter my ashes on a piece of land to nourish the earth. There is no need for a gravestone, and no need to visit me. I’ll be gone from this world; there is no point in such a visit. The most important thing for you to do is to follow the Master closely and do things that benefit mankind. That would be the best way for you to honor your mother and me.”

Because of the Master’s teachings, we had come to realize that death is but a part of life. Our lives are like leaves: though they may thrive for a time on a tree, they eventually have to wither and fall. Because of the Dharma, my dad was able to exit this stage of life in peace and leave a legacy of love, kindness, and warmth.

By founding Tzu Chi, Master Cheng Yen created a path everyone can follow, a path to doing good and living out the Dharma. She can always pinpoint the crux of a matter and explain it to us in a way we can understand. She guides those of us who have lost our way in life to the Bodhisattva Path, a path that allows us to benefit others as well as ourselves. By helping others, we tap into our compassion and realize the real meaning of Buddhism. In the process, it is as if a magic wand is waved over us and we discover the fountain of joy.

I’m full of gratitude to have encountered the Master and the Dharma. It has enabled me to uncover my innate goodness and helped me realize that kindness and purity of heart can help us beat all odds in life. I hope I can inspire kindness in more people as I serve others. Working together, we can spread love to the dark corners of the world. We can help those who are going through hard times in life to find their inner light and the strength to overcome their challenges.

Install the Buddhism app in your life. Then press that button that allows you to follow the Buddha’s guidance and embark on a fulfilling life.

January 2021