Why I wanted to take my life at age twelve

I am David and I would like to share what I went through during the early stages of my life.

My father was a carpenter who came from China during the Communist era and came to Singapore in 1921. He married my mother as the second wife and never returned to China, even until his death in 1960. He was buried in Singapore and later cremated.

I had t2 sisters and two brothers and I was the youngest. We were very rich when my father was alive as we had electricity and water with a big house to live in. Life was going from Heaven to Hell when my father died of cancer when I was 3 years old.

We could not afford a coffin for my father’s funeral but luckily his friend, Mr. Tan gave us $50 to buy it. I still can remember when I was 3, my mother had pawned all her gold of about 2 kilograms and we had nothing to eat and my family had to go hungry almost every day.

I had to pluck fruits from jungle and collect tin cans and copper wires to sell for a few cents. My family collected food and clothing from a Catholic church in Katong and a Bethesda church in Koon Seng Road.

Once, I collected a box of hard rock milk power donated from the British army in 1965 and I used a hammer to break it and add hot water to drink. Even though the milk was spoiled and not fit for consumption, I still drank it as I had not eaten any food for a few days.

I collected bread skins from coffee shop as they cut and throw in a box, collected fruits from bags where the people threw them away to feed cows and goats. To survive, my mother collected vegetable, such as cabbage, and pig intestines and pig head given by kind people.

I went to school when I was 7 years old but could not concentrate on my study as I was always hungry. I might took my first meals at 2 in the afternoon by cooking some porridge and add salt or soya sauce, if there was no any other to add. I had to drink plenty of water to stop my hunger every hour.

My family collected social welfare money, which was eight dollars per month for an adult and five dollars per child each month. Once a month, a compassion man named David from a church always visited us and gave my mother some money. I was not sure how much he gave her. That was why my name is also David and if he is still alright he should be around 90 years old now.

At school, my sister and brothers borrowed free textbooks from the Singapore Government after the country gained independence in 1965. Sometimes, there were not enough books and they had to share a torn book used many years before and we just had to use scotch tape to glue the torn pages over and over again.

Luckily, we had kind neighbours and some friends who gave us food and other necessities.

The house we stayed in was rented at $46 per month, which was paid by the Social Welfare Department. The government under our first Prime Minister, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew passed a law that the rent cannot be raised to protect port people like us to become homeless.

I still remember following my mother to beg at bus stops for a few cents in 1964 when I was 7 years old.

My house has no electricity for 20 years but the water bill was paid by the Social Welfare Department. Kerosene lamps were used and I had to study under the moonlight and a street lamp 30 metres in front of my house. We had no clock, so I looked at the sun to estimate the time or run to my neighbour coffee shop to see the time. I also went to the bread factory a few metres away to watch TV programmes in the black and white television.

I learnt English on the television by watching cartoons and TV shows like Ivanhoe and Cowboys – Have Gun Will Travel, listening to neighbours’ radio and reading the newspapers.

I remember wearing my brother’s torn school torn for two years and my mother had to sew the torn parts using patches of cloth. My school mates would tease me by saying, “Look here his pants got television.” I had no hope to live such a life in hunger, and we are always poor.

Committing suicide was always on my mind and I even thought of taking poison was the best method to die. I grew up to be a very angry boy because I see only unfairness on why I had no food and proper clothing but not homeless.

For example, when it rained and I did not have an umbrella, I would scold Heaven for been unfair to me. I decided to leave school when I was 12 and started working at 13 by doing many odd jobs to survive. I also took 10 years to self-study to improve my English as it was my favourite subject.

I am now 56 years old, married with a daughter who is a teacher and an engineer son.

I believe humans are born not to suffer but to become happy, just like what Nichiren Daishonin said in his Gosho, Happiness in this Life.

I am also a District leader in the Singapore Soka Association (SSA) since 1994 till present. I took up faith in 1986 and been studying Nichiren Buddhism, including the concepts and principles and the Gosho. My family are all district leaders too as this was our prayers answered after 15 years.

Thinking back of what I had gone through, I still can feel many people, who are still suffering, everyone in their own ways.

I humbly share my real life hardships and sufferings to encourage anyone in the world to never give up hope in life. I sincerely hope my testimonial will help many people.

The most important thing in the practice of Nichiren Daishonin Buddhism is do not commit slanderous acts; you must fight against any injustice in your daily life and in your organisation of faith, and do your human revolution seriously.

Lastly, I would like to share what Ikeda Sensei has taught us that the last four slanderous of the 14 slanders are the most difficult to overcome:

  1. Contempt
  2. Hatred
  3. Jealousy
  4. Grudges
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