Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Trip To Hospital Bahagia, Tanjung Rambutan

Some years ago, a bus load of some adult Buddhist Association members, librarians and Dhamma students made a 0ne-Day trip to the Mental Hospital in Tanjung Rambutan and some places in Ipoh.
We gathered at our Buddhist Association Premises at 6.00 a.m. It was very good to note that the students ( Form 1 to Lower 6 ) were very punctual ( you know, these days, punctuality is getting to be a rare virtue …. More and more people seem to be getting into the habit of arriving late for things …. Meetings, wedding dinners, functions etc. ). We had a short Buddha Puja ( we try to make this a practice for all trips and excursions organized by our Association. I think this is good …we pay Homage and make positive aspirations and also ask for Blessings Of The Triple Gem. )
The bus left at 6.30 a.m. and we stopped at Kampar for breakfast. The students were quite well-disciplined … another happy point to note. (You know, at the present time, we hear so much about the lack of discipline in schools …. defiance, rowdiness, lack of manners, loose morals, gang fights, restlessness and so on. It is my sincere conviction that some Dhamma education for students right from the age of 4 or 5 would go a long way to molding character.)
After breakfast, we continued our journey and reached Tanjung Rambutan at about 9.00 a.m. The Hospital ground is tremendously big and we had to go by bus from one area to the other. Two senior nursing Sisters were our guide. What impressed me most was their dedication, kindness and compassion. One had already served for almost 20 years …tending to and helping so many who are mentally ill. ( In a materialistic society today, it is not easy to find "Bodhisattvas” … it is a ‘rat race’, ‘dog eat dog ‘ and ‘No Money, No Talk’ world. Small surprise that it is very difficult nowadays to get volunteer workers for Dhammaduta work. Our Association is no exception … we struggle to recruit volunteers for Dhamma and outreach work …. Teachers for Dhamma classes, tutors for Guidance classes, helpers to cook for Camps and other functions, counselors, people to help upkeep the premises, librarians, people to help at Buddhist Funeral Services, people to run Welfare projects , Camps and so on. )
At the Hospital Bahagia, we were briefed on many informative things and taken to visit some centers where some inmates are occupied in useful work such as workshop work for men, handicraft work for women and gardening/farming. Such work and tasks have very good therapeutic value.
We were also taken to some male and female wards. The patients maintain the cleanliness pretty well under supervision by Staff members.
There were many things we learnt at the Hospital Bahagia which are very good for Dhamma Reflection :
· More than 90 % of the patients are Schizophrenic cases. Some are more serious; the majority are not aggressive or violent. They suffer from spells of depression and withdrawal especially if they skip their medication.
· Schizophrenia is incurable and it afflicts about 1 % of the human population. It is really a strange and bizarre mental illness.

( I have long wondered about the link between Kamma and Mental Illnesses. I remember a prominent local monk once told me that there is a correlation between mental illnesses and heavy breaking of the first and fifth Precepts namely, the Precept not to kill and the Precept to abstain from intoxicants. I find this makes sense …. Just think about the mental states of people who, with cruelty, anguish, hatred, anger, ill-will and jealousy torture and kill others and the people who “drown” their minds with intoxicants. Sometimes the terrible effects on the minds already start to take shape in the later years of their lives. I think it is very important for us to inculcate the virtues of kindness and compassion and the need to keep our minds clear, heedful and mindful. )
· People have a lot of taboos and misconceptions about mental illnesses. We don’t realize that we ( unenlightened ones) are all afflicted with mental “diseases” in a way ….the “diseases” of Greed, Hatred and Delusion. It’s really a matter of degree.
( You know, when I was away for this “Tanjung Rambutan” trip, two of my friends came to see me at my home. When one of my brothers told them that I went to Tanjung Rambutan, they were so shocked and said things like “ What happened to him ?” “ When did this happen ?” )
In Hospital Bahagia, we learnt that many of the inmates’ families had already abandoned them. It’s really pitiful. Whom can they turn to ?
· The number of cases of mental illnesses is on the rise. There is no doubt that STRESS is one precipitating factor. This is the price we have to pay for so-called economic progress, technological advancement and what-nots. The Sisters told us that Mental Illnesses ( Schizophrenia, depression, neuroticism, anxiety, manic obsession etc ) can affect just about anyone …people of different race, culture, sex and professions. At the Hospital, there are students ( School and University ) who scored many A’s. The new Millennium is not going to be an easy one in terms of mental health … and sanity. ( To my mind Dhamma Education is our hope ..and salvation but it’s not easy to convince others. We feel they have ‘dust’ in their eyes but they think we are ‘Nuts’! )
· It’s good to always remind ourselves that STRESS is related to one of the following:
* We want to satisfy our EGO or SELF ( in reality there is no “self” )
* We are victims of “conditioning” …. Our upbringing, education, outside
influence etc ( We need to learn, understand, practice and realize the Dhamma to
* We have no real understanding of the true nature of things . ( Dhamma is the only
remedy. )
* We have the wrong attitude.(Learn and practise the Dhamma to grow in Wisdom)

All in all, we spent about 3 hours at the Mental Hospital. The rest of the Trip was spent visiting some Buddhist Caves in Ipoh, The Nalanda Buddhist Library, A Recreational Park and Jaya Jusco Supermarket.
We arrived back in our Association at about 10.00 p.m. It was a good Trip …Dhamma-wise.
With Metta,
Bro. Oh Teik Bin

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