The following is a personal story shared by Dr Jeffrey Chiew, in his book The Millionaire Formula where he writes about mind over matter:
When you perform mental programming, you must believe that it will really happen. You must give it a reasonable time to work its wonders. I first came across subconscious programming when my mother suffered a stroke many years ago. As the result of the stroke, my mother was paralysed from the waist down and was bedridden. The doctors told us that she would never walk again. We gave up all hope and started to claim permanent disability insurance from our insurers. But my mother was always a positive person. She said, “Okay, don’t worry, I’ll be cured.” One day, she told my sister, “I’ll be cured very soon. All you need to do is to pray for me.” My sister went to the temple to pray for our mother and true enough, a few days after that, my mother could sit on her bed. By the end of the second or third month, she was able to walk again. I’m sure glad that I didn’t convince her that she couldn’t be cured. After that incident, I started to believe that the mind can perform miracles.
(Dr Jeffrey Chiew himself have a very impressive life story- born in the slum area in Kuala Lumpur, he rose from poverty and became a millionaire by 25. The book itself really pack a punch- providing lots of tips on how to make your first million in 7 easy steps.)
This reminded me of an incident years ago that I’ve witnessed while I was at a Buddhist world conference. The topic that was being discussed was mercy killing- is it right to pull the plug on a person who is declared brain dead?
Most Buddhist teachers do not actually agree with mercy killing or euthanasia as it would violate the first precept- which is no killing. One of the panel speaker, Ajahn Brahmavamso (who previously was a graduate of Physics from Cambridge- but decided to travel to Thailand and become a monk) said even though a person is technically brain dead, the person may still be alive as it will be hard to tell when the exact time the citta (or more commonly understood as the soul). He cited a real life story of one of his followers:
A lady from Singapore suddenly suffered from stroke and was in a coma. While she was in a coma, she could not move any part of her body or even flutter her eyelids. She was declared brain dead and was in a life supporting machine.
But, she knew what was going on around her because she could hear what others around her were saying. She heard about the doctors discussing with her children to arrange to pull the plug off. She was terrified- she did not want to die- she wanted to tell her kids that she was not death, that she could hear them. Sadly, no one knew.
After much discussion, it was agreed that the life support machine was to be turned off- as it was expensive to put a person on a life supporting machine when there seemed to be little hope. But somehow, her youngest son protested and begged for his other siblings to give him three more days. She could hear her son begging the doctors and his siblings to just give it a bit more time. Finally, everyone agreed to wait. She came out of the coma before the agreed time was up. When she awoke from the coma, she was told by doctors that the stroke had paralysed her from the neck down. She would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
As Ajahn Brahm was relating this story to illustrate that we should not assume that a person in coma really died. All of sudden, we heard a commotion at one area of the hall. A man at the conference put up his hand to tell us that the lady in question was also in the conference. She travelled from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur just to meet Ajahn Brahm.
And to the entire audience’s amazement, this lady (probably in her seventies) got up and walked slowly (with some difficulty but had refused assistance) to the stage with a cane. As she reached the stage, she paid her respect to Ajahn Brahm and told her story- she told us that at that point when they wanted to turn off the machine, she was terrified beyond words- her voicebox and her muscles could not take her instructions. She was grateful for her youngest son- who seemed to sense that his mother was still alive. Had it not been for him, she would not be sitting there talking to us.
She was determined to cure herself. After all, she did not intend to work hard her entire life just to end up being a vegetable and had to be fed and taken care by others. She told us that recovery was very tough…. but she never gave up- she went for intense physiotherapy. She was determined not to be a vegetable for the rest of her life. Gradually, she could walk again. The audience stood up and gave her a standing ovation.
Till today, I never forgotten the scene- it was so touching- some of the audience even had tears in their eyes. And how mind over matter is possible and not just mere fallacy.