My husband left me to become a monk

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 26 June, 2011, 12:00am


In many people's eyes, my situation would seem miserable: my husband has left to become a monk, and my two daughters live overseas, leaving me on my own. But I've learned to transform what I'm missing into something I'm grateful for.

I met my husband, Alain Yip Tsing-lam, through Louie Castro, a good friend and former colleague on TVB's variety show Enjoy Yourself Tonight. Alain was the photographer for Louie's albums, and Louie introduced us at a gathering.

We used to hang out as a group, and sometimes Alain would ask us to model for him.

At that time, I was driving a second-hand Toyota. Alain, a car aficionado, thought the tyres were bad and took me to a mechanic's shop. We went to dinner after that. He asked me out again, and that was how we started.

We were an affectionate couple, together all the time. He was a very romantic person, but I'm more realistic. In our first year together, he took a full-page ad in a newspaper to wish me happy birthday. When he proposed, I was doing a radio programme. He called in and asked me on-air to marry him.

We opened a bridal photography studio, Modern Classic, in 1986, the year we got married. After getting pregnant unexpectedly, I quit my television job and started to focus on our business. Little problems emerged: inevitable obstacles at work, plus trivial things in daily life, brought friction between us.

The real problem came when we moved to Australia in 1992. Migrating was his idea. Although Alain loved me and our two daughters very much, he was very self-centred and didn't know how to see things from other people's perspectives. He was the decision maker, but I felt fine with that.

Since our studio in Hong Kong was very successful, we decided that I would stay in Australia to take care of the children while he would fly back and forth to handle the business in Hong Kong. He was very content with that, as he could enjoy the relaxing lifestyle in Australia and stay connected to Hong Kong.

He also took up interesting projects and travelled to different countries without me. I started to feel left out and frustrated.

I wanted the family to move back to Hong Kong, but he rejected the idea. So I tried to be more independent. I learned English, became an assistant instructor in a kindergarten, worked part time in a local radio station and did community work. I also made a movie, Floating Life, directed by Clara Law. I gradually built up my own network in Australia, but still I felt depressed and insecure.

Alain began studying Buddhism in 1994 and went on a short monastic retreat in Australia three years later. He said it was a very good experience and he became very enthusiastic about Buddhism.

He would go to Buddhist schools every year. He was keen to study different sects and learned from talking to senior monks and reading lots of books. He also volunteered at temples, acting as the photographer for events at the Chi Lin Nunnery. Through his influence, I also became a Buddhist, in 1997.

He began to understand my frustrations and allowed our family to move back to Hong Kong, where I picked up the business again. Unfortunately, competition was stiff, and we lost a lot of money. He wanted to wind up the business, but I insisted we go on. It was a blow to our relationship.

On his birthday in 2008, he said he wanted to quit business to devote his time to studying Buddhism, so we sold up. The next year, he embarked on a journey to search for a master in Taiwan. At a temple in Taiwan, he messaged our family and his students that we could contact him via e-mail. I was relieved that he was not completely out of contact.

Then in March last year, he sent an e-mail saying he would be ordained as a monk in May. Although I'd been prepared for that, I was still a bit shocked. I felt uncertain about the future, as our relationship would change completely, and so would my life, but I was happy for him.

At the ceremony, one of the rituals was to bid farewell to the family, and he knelt in front of me.

I didn't feel much at first. But when he bowed, I couldn't help but shed tears. My thoughts flashed back to the moment we got married, and I also thought about what my life would be like alone. But seconds later, I told myself not to be silly. He was going to do something laudable.

I'm grateful my husband made this decision. As he undertakes this spiritual mission, I have reflected on my life. I always admired him, his thought and determination. I like him more now than before. Some people might think he is selfish, but I don't agree. When he left us in Australia, that was selfish. But now he has become a monk because he wants to help more people. The love between us has transformed. I still feel close to him, and we e-mail each other almost every day.

After so many years of family life, it took time for me to get used to living alone. I learned to enjoy the feeling. I still miss him, but I tell myself that I'm lucky to have experienced some happy and interesting moments with him.

It takes practice, but you'll find it really works. After all, we'll see each other again. People come into and go out of our lives. When it's time for them to go, we should let go.

I've been doing community work, and taking a few acting jobs in television and theatre. I'm grateful I'm healthy and have lots of good friends. I want to use the rest of my life to help more people.