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Shedding the Light of Education for the Disabled

Chan Bih Yee, Negeri Sembilan

I have been a teacher for deaf youths for over 20 years in a secondary school in Negeri Sembilan. Each day, I strive to help deaf youths break through their limitations, contribute to society and live with dignity and confidence.

Chan Bih YeeI have been a teacher for deaf youths for over 20 years in a secondary school in Negeri Sembilan. Throughout these years, I have upheld the ideals of Tsunesaburo Makiguchi (1871 – 1944), who established the value-creation philosophy. Each day, I strive to help deaf youths break through their limitations, contribute to society and live with dignity and confidence.

My Buddhist practice began when I was ten, following in my parents’ footsteps and embracing faith in Nichiren Buddhism. Subsequently, I immersed myself in SGM Hope Fife-and-Drum Corps (also known as Kiboo Kotekitai) cultural division activities and eventually became a person-in-charge for the corps in Negeri Sembilan. The corps’ motto, “Clear Goals, Never Give Up” has since became the guiding light of my life.

After graduating from Form 6, I enrolled in a Diploma program majoring in the Primary School Standard Curriculum (KSSR) at a teacher training college in Johor Bahru. Later, I was fortunate to be assigned to a primary school in Port Dickson, also in Negeri Sembilan, where I secured a full-time position.

During that period, I had a profound conversation with a Women’s Division member, which deepened my understanding of special education. To enhance my teaching abilities for the deaf and respond to my mentor SGI President Ikeda‘s encouragement for youth to attend university, I applied to Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) for a Bachelor’s programme specialising in education for deaf individuals.

I vividly recall the joy of receiving the admissions letter from the university, despite my then-superior’s advice to give up due to the anticipated challenges of working with special needs children. Facing her comments with a smile, I remained steadfast in my goals, drawing inspiration from the Kiboo Kotekitai motto.

I felt protected as I continued to receive half of my salary as a teacher during my studies, relieving financial stress. At that time, I chanted Daimoku fervently, praying for a return to Negeri Sembilan upon graduation and assignment to the only secondary school for the deaf.

My prayers were answered, and now, 20 years have passed since I began serving here.

Deaf students are not inferior, not in any way.

Chan Bih Yee

My primary subject is mathematics, and communicating with my deaf students using sign language is no easy task.

However, regardless of the challenges I encountered, I would identify the root cause, analyse, and discuss potential solutions with my colleagues. My chanting and prayers to the Gohonzon were crucial in supporting me through these challenges. I prayed for wisdom in both myself and my students, enabling them to learn and excel in exams.

Although other teachers advised me to lower my expectations for the deaf students, I believed they could achieve more. I did not expect them to merely pass; I believed they could even earn A’s. Guided by my Buddhist belief in each person’s innate Buddha nature and limitless potential, I continued to give my all. As a result, the Form 3 students not only passed but also achieved A’s and B’s in Mathematics. It was a delightful surprise!

During the Movement Control Order (MCO) in 2021, the Special Education Department organised an online competition involving sign language performances. My school selected two students to participate, with me as their trainer.

Although competing in singing competitions was undoubtedly challenging for deaf students, they managed through facial expressions, sign language, and body movements. This posed a high level of challenge for both me and my students, as none of us had prior experience. Nevertheless, we persevered.

To deliver a good performance, students needed to be proficient in sign language, and synchronize with rhythm and music, as the video would be recorded without edits. Driven by a sincere wish for their success, I volunteered for extra practices and even went to the extent of picking them up from their homes.

I am grateful that my dedication to them was met with their persistent commitment to self-improvement, leading to their progress and even culminating in one of them achieving 4th place at the national level.

Chan Bih Yee

In a recent event in August 2022, I brought two students to participate in a reading competition. They did well enough to breeze through the district and state-level competitions but were caught in chaos at the national level due to other commitments. They lacked sufficient time to prepare adequately.

One student considered withdrawing from the event, influencing the other. Confronting their negativity, I sincerely encouraged them to persevere and develop self-confidence. In addition to training, I chanted for them to manifest strong memorisation skills and wisdom to respond to real-time questions from judges.

The results were remarkable. On competition day, both students delivered outstanding performances and confidently addressed the judges’ queries. They each won titles in the national championships. This incident solidified their never-give-up spirit, which I believe will guide them through life.

Working with deaf students has shown me the power of Soka humanistic education, which enables individuals to explore and manifest their unique potential through the principle of ‘cherry, plum, peach, and damson.’

The core spirit of education is to ‘Believe in People.’ Despite the social barriers faced by the deaf community due to their hearing impairment, I trust my students fully and help them cultivate warmth and security in a world filled with sounds. It brings me great joy that these students continue to stay in touch, even after establishing their own families, including visiting me during the festive Chinese New Year season.

President Ikeda once said, “Only by conquering adversity can one grow as a real person.” I am determined to continue overcoming challenges alongside my students until the end of my life, helping them and their parents realise that a wonderful life is attainable despite disabilities.

Adapted from Cosmic February 2023

Siow Yoon Kee had a long-standing ambition to become a doctor since his secondary school days. However, his motivation to save lives had not taken deep root.

During his college years, he battled gastrointestinal diseases and sought medical treatment from numerous doctors but to no avail. Coupled with a demanding schedule, he experienced immense stress and despair, even contemplating ending his life. Eventually, through the power of chanting Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (daimoku), he realised that his illness was a consequence of an irregular lifestyle, and acknowledged his own arrogance and negligence in his faith. This profound experience led to a shift in his perspective on the purpose of becoming a doctor.

After graduating, he was filled with joy and excitement on his first day of work, being addressed as a doctor. However, that excitement didn’t last. The overwhelming workload, long hours, and the constant fear of being reprimanded for mistakes quickly diminished his initial joy. As a result, the tough realities of the job made him less motivated and less excited about the work he had to do.

Yoon Kee reflected, “I would feel annoyed by patients, especially during night shifts when they complained of pain. I would question them with a skeptical tone. It seemed like I had become a terrible doctor, losing my passion for the job. During those unpleasant days, it was through repeatedly chanting the daimoku that I gradually reflected on my own attitude.”

“I recall a training session for the Beacon Group, a medical group within Soka Gakkai Malaysia, where our seniors encouraged us to face the Gohonzon with our most authentic selves. Inspired by their guidance, I wholeheartedly put it into practice and truly felt the profound joy that daimoku brings. Chanting the daimoku is indeed the greatest of all joys.”

Doctor Siow Yoon Kee

The power of daimoku awakened a profound sense of compassion in Yoon Kee, inspiring him to strive in his human revolution and towards becoming a doctor who could genuinely listen to his patients’ voices.

“After a change in mindset, it was incredible how I found myself wanting to treat patients like family and making an effort to truly listen to their words. My colleagues also noticed that I was more energetic and confident.”

However, transformation takes time and effort. Yoon Kee realised that the biggest hurdle for a doctor is their own sense of superiority. Therefore, his aim was to cultivate resilience and to serve selflessly without seeking personal gain. With the goal of becoming a skilled listener, step by step he made steady progress.

“Once, there was a patient in the final stages of cancer who told me he felt hungry and wanted something to eat. Although I was busy with work, I took a couple of minutes to feed the patient before tending to other patients and resuming my duties. Sadly, the patient passed away thirty minutes later. It was a moment that made me appreciate the power and significance of chanting daimoku, as it enabled me to be there at a crucial time and fulfill the patient’s last wish.

“On another occasion, there was a patient who complained to me, pointing out, “You see, my hands are still swollen, and the medication you prescribed is not effective!” In that moment, I patiently reassured the patient, emphasizing the importance of trusting in the medication’s effectiveness. I assured them that if they maintained their belief, they would experience improvement quickly. As a result, after a few days, the patient’s hand recovered, and the swelling subsided.”

Yoon Kee’s transformation became increasingly apparent over time. Through the practice of faith, he has been forged into becoming a doctor with a sense of mission who confronts the challenges of society with determination. While he humbly recognizes his own areas for growth, he consistently emphasises his resolute dedication to becoming a proficient listener and continuously improving himself.

Adapted from Cosmic May 2017