Finding faith

April 09, 2017


Dad Pham is the most zen and neutral person in my life thanks to Buddhism. When I was younger, I mistook it for him not caring. Now I know better. He lets us lead our own lives, only nudging us a little in the right direction if we stray too far. Dad wasn't always religious. Actually, he was the naughtiest kid in his Phamly and constantly copped beatings (don't panic, this was the norm for his generation) when he was little and not so little, but that didn't stop him from being a cheeky monkey. He was a bit of a wild child, and ended up in the navy because a regular job and life would bore him.

The horrors of war and prison camp splintered Dad's mind. He wasn't raised with structured religion and he wasn't born a schizophrenic. It was brought on by PTSD and he had many, many bad episodes in Germany when my Long Lost German Cousin was living with him and Mum Pham - though judging by our photo albums of his time in German, he looked mighty fine doing it. My dad is the coolest. To focus his thoughts, Dad Pham read a lot about many religions including Buddhism. To this day, he can talk circles around the Mormons that used to visit his house until they gave up trying to convert him. Dad Pham found Buddhism resonated with his personal beliefs best, and made sense of his challenging life so he became a devout follower.

It wasn't smooth sailing from the beginning. Being severely ill, I remember schizophrenic episodes where Dad Pham thought he was so close to God and to get to the final stage, he had to cleanse his body by drinking insane amounts of water. He was right - that would have been the last step to meeting God, because that's also when we learned you can drown yourself drinking water. Dad ended up unconscious and rushed to hospital where the doctors saved his life. This was the last major episode I remember.

Dad's mind still races with a hundred thoughts a second, Buddhism hasn't calmed his schizophrenia in that sense. But its philosophies have helped him find peace with mankind, and the atrocities he witnessed and took part in the war. I believe a combination of time, distance, and Buddhism has helped him find a good place.

In the next episode, I'll tell you about how Dad Pham knew Mum Pham was the woman for him.

If you want to start from the beginning of Phamly history, read:
Part 1 - O Captain! My Captain! Dad Pham's navy days during the Vietnam War.
Part 2 - P.O.W. Viet Cong Re-education Camp Dad Pham's time as a prisoner of war.
Part 3 - Living with Viet Cong Mum Pham's experience with communism.
Part 4 - Boat People Dad Pham seeks refuge after the war.
This Part 5 - Finding Faith. Dad finds peace.

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