Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text

During the month of August 2011, Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan held the sutra adaptation of the Water Repentance text, bringing to life the more than 1,000 year old Buddhist text in a modern form of stage adaptation. The sutra adaptation expresses the teaching contained in the Chinese Buddhist text known as "Water Repentance" composed by Dharma Master Wu Da, and does so in the form of theatrical sketches, song, and sign language. This sutra adaptation shows the ways in which human beings have created negative karma as a result of their afflictions and inner impurities, and urges all to sincerely reflect and repent.

The sutra adaptation is in Chinese. In providing an English synopsis of the sutra adaption, we hope that English viewers may also derive benefit from the sutra adaptation and learn the teaching of the repentance practice. Click here to see the video of the sutra adaptation of the Water Repentance text.

 

Content

Act I: Prelude (序曲)
Scene 1: Introduction (一性圆明自然)
Scene 2: The story of Dharma Master Wu Da (悟达国师传奇)
Scene 3: Introducing the practice of repentance (忏悔法门广演)

Act II: The obstacle of affliction (忏悔烦恼障)
Scene 1: Our mind is the source of our afflictions (烦恼意业生)
Scene 2: Desire (意望深无底)
Scene 3: Repenting for our afflictions (一一悉忏悔)
Scene 4: Making vows and starting anew (改往并修来)

Act III: The obstacle of unwholesome action (忏悔业障)
Scene 1: The law of karma (忏悔业障)
Scene 2: The three vices of bodily conduct (身三恶业)
Scene 3: The four vices of speech (语四恶业)
Scene 4: Repenting our wrong ways (一一忏悔)
Scene 5: Making vows after repenting (至诚发愿)

Act IV: The obstacle of karmic retribution (忏悔果报障)
Scene 1: The dream (梦历六道)
Scene 2: Living hell (地狱人间)
Scene 3: The realm of hungry ghosts (饿鬼恶道)
Scene 4: The realm of animals (畜生恶道)
Scene 5: The realm of asuras (阿修罗道)
Scene 6: The human and heaven realms (人天馀报)
Scene 7: Calamities around the world (大小三灾)
Scene 8: The world climate is becoming abnormal (火炼冰封)
Scene 9: The suffering of wars (兵灾焦燃)
Scene 10: The suffering of hunger and famine (饿殍饥荒)
Scene 11: Repenting for our karmic retributions (一一忏悔)
Scene 12: Making vows after repenting (至诚发愿)

Act V: Finale (终曲~大慈大悲大忏悔)

Compiled by the Jing Si Abode English Editorial Team

During the month of August 2011, Tzu Chi volunteers in Taiwan held the sutra adaptation of the Water Repentance text, bringing to life the more than 1,000 year old Buddhist text in a modern form of stage adaptation. The sutra adaptation expresses the teaching contained in the Chinese Buddhist text known as "Water Repentance" composed by Dharma Master Wu Da, and does so in the form of theatrical sketches, song, and sign language. This sutra adaptation shows the ways in which human beings have created negative karma as a result of their afflictions and inner impurities, and urges all to sincerely reflect and repent.

The sutra adaptation is in Chinese. In providing an English synopsis of the sutra adaption, we hope that English viewers may also derive benefit from the sutra adaptation and learn the teaching of the repentance practice. Click here to see the video of the sutra adaptation of the Water Repentance text.

 

Content

Act I: Prelude (序曲)
Scene 1: Introduction (一性圆明自然)
Scene 2: The story of Dharma Master Wu Da (悟达国师传奇)
Scene 3: Introducing the practice of repentance (忏悔法门广演)

Act II: The obstacle of affliction (忏悔烦恼障)
Scene 1: Our mind is the source of our afflictions (烦恼意业生)
Scene 2: Desire (意望深无底)
Scene 3: Repenting for our afflictions (一一悉忏悔)
Scene 4: Making vows and starting anew (改往并修来)

Act III: The obstacle of unwholesome action (忏悔业障)
Scene 1: The law of karma (忏悔业障)
Scene 2: The three vices of bodily conduct (身三恶业)
Scene 3: The four vices of speech (语四恶业)
Scene 4: Repenting our wrong ways (一一忏悔)
Scene 5: Making vows after repenting (至诚发愿)

Act IV: The obstacle of karmic retribution (忏悔果报障)
Scene 1: The dream (梦历六道)
Scene 2: Living hell (地狱人间)
Scene 3: The realm of hungry ghosts (饿鬼恶道)
Scene 4: The realm of animals (畜生恶道)
Scene 5: The realm of asuras (阿修罗道)
Scene 6: The human and heaven realms (人天馀报)
Scene 7: Calamities around the world (大小三灾)
Scene 8: The world climate is becoming abnormal (火炼冰封)
Scene 9: The suffering of wars (兵灾焦燃)
Scene 10: The suffering of hunger and famine (饿殍饥荒)
Scene 11: Repenting for our karmic retributions (一一忏悔)
Scene 12: Making vows after repenting (至诚发愿)

Act V: Finale (终曲~大慈大悲大忏悔)

Compiled by the Jing Si Abode English Editorial Team

Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act I

Act I: Prelude

Scene 1: Introduction

In the cosmos full of stars and planetary bodies, there is planet Earth. (Photo by Tseng Fang-jung)In the cosmos full of stars and planetary bodies, there is planet Earth. (Photo by Tseng Fang-jung)

Through song and sign language, this section introduces the following message:

In the cosmos full of stars and planetary bodies, there is planet Earth. Our world, the Earth, is full of changes and impermanence, such as the changing seasons and the changing of day and night. Besides humans, there are also other creatures living on this Earth.

Impermanence is the underlying principle of everything; nothing is permanent or in stasis. As causes and conditions come together, different things come into being, continue, decay, and go out of existence. Through unwholesome actions, negative karma is created, eventually bringing about karmic retribution. Yet, underlying all the changes is an eternal, never-changing nature—the Buddha nature—our original pure nature.


Scene 2: The story of Dharma Master Wu Da

Through artistic expression, this section introduces the message of how the human heart and mind can create karma, leading to karmic retribution in the cycle of rebirth:

Master Wu Da being entangled in the bad karma he committed ten lifetimes before.Master Wu Da being entangled in the bad karma he committed ten lifetimes before.

Since beginningless time, living beings have been reincarnating in the six realms in an endless cycle. Though living beings possess a pure nature to begin with, this pure nature gradually gets covered with impurities as they go through the cycle of rebirth. As a result, their hearts and minds become full of ignorance; they create karma and reap karmic retribution, suffering life after life.

Onstage, the three people dressed in white symbolize human conscience, or the pure heart. The people dressed in black symbolize unwholesomeness, or the tainted heart.

Next, the life story of Dharma Master Wu Da, the author of the Water Repentance text, is presented in a Taiwanese opera dramatization:

Dharma Master Wu Da was a Buddhist monk in the Tang Dynasty. When he was young, he travelled around China to study Buddhism. On his travels, he encountered an ill Indian monk, Venerable Kanaka. Out of compassion, Master Wu Da tended to Venerable Kanaka and helped him recover his health. Before parting ways, Venerable Kanaka told Master Wu Da that if he should ever encounter problems, he could look for him in Western Sichuan, by the twin pines.

Master Wu Da then continued on his journey. After many years of diligent cultivation and upholding precepts, he became a venerated Buddhist master. The emperor of China established him as the national master and bestowed a chair made of precious agarwood for him to sit on when preaching the Dharma. Upon receiving the chair, Master Wu Da gave rise to a sense of self-importance. As he was about to sit in the chair, he bumped his knee on it. The resulting bruise developed into a sore in the shape of a human face and caused Master Wu Da tremendous pain and suffering. No doctors were able to treat the sore.

The white-clad dancers represent the afflictions of Master Wu Da and the negative karma he had created, which followed him like a shadow life after life.  The white-clad dancers represent the afflictions of Master Wu Da and the negative karma he had created, which followed him like a shadow life after life.

Remembering the words of Venerable Kanaka, Master Wu Da went to seek his help. Upon seeing Master Wu Da, Venerable Kanaka told him to wash his sore in the spring at the foot of the mountain.

Just as Master Wu Da was about to rinse the sore, he heard a voice. The voice spoke of the story of Yuan Yang and Chao Cuo from the Western Han Dynasty. Yuan Yang and Chao Cuo were senior officials serving in the government. Out of political motives, Yuan Yang had the emperor execute Chao Cuo. To take revenge for this, the soul of Chao Cuo followed Yuan Yang life after life. But, because for ten lifetimes, Yuan Yang had cultivated purity of conduct, there was no chance for Chao Cuo to take revenge. In this lifetime, Yuan Yang had become Master Wu Da. Because Master Wu Da gave rise to arrogance, Chao Cuo was able to take his revenge as a sore with a human face inflicting pain and suffering on Master Wu Da.

The voice then told Master Wu Da that after Venerable Kanaka taught him the Dharma, he was willing to let go of his enmity. After the voice faded away, Master Wu Da rinsed the sore with the water, and the sore healed. Realizing that his suffering was the result of the negative karma he had created, Master Wu Da did not return to serve the emperor but instead built a cabin at the foot of the mountain to repent for his wrongs. There, he composed the Water Repentance text.

 

Scene 3: Introducing the practice of repentance

Master Wu Da in his cabin where he composed the Water Repentance Text so that people can learn about the law of karma.Master Wu Da in his cabin where he composed the Water Repentance Text so that people can learn about the law of karma.

This scene starts with Master Wu Da in his cabin, beginning to compose the Water Repentance text so that people can learn the law of karma and be aware of their own unwholesome behavior. With the understanding of the law of karma and the Buddha's teachings, people can transform themselves and end their vices which create negative karma.

Through song and sign language, those onstage express the message that living beings exist as if drifting in a sea of suffering. By turning back toward the shore, they can return to the correct path in life and be liberated from suffering. Hence, all Buddhas earnestly call on living beings to awaken and return to the correct path.


Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act II

Act II: The obstacle of affliction

Scene 1: Our mind is the source of our afflictions

The artist symbolizes our mind, able to think and plan, and bring to life all the desires the mind pursues.  The artist symbolizes our mind, able to think and plan, and bring to life all the desires the mind pursues.

This section describes the power of our mind:
The scene opens with an artist and a painting of a tranquil lake. The artist starts to paint over the painting, turning the tranquil lake into countryside, then into a village. Not satisfied, he continually thinks of new, more complicated things to add, building one high-rise after another. His increasing desires drive him on in the pursuit of more—more buildings, more developments, more technological advancements, etc. until his mind becomes chaotic and he no longer has control over himself.

The artist symbolizes our heart and mind, able to think and plan, and bring to life the images in our mind. But when our heart and mind are filled with desires, we can lose ourselves and suffer from afflictions.

All our sufferings come from the three obstacles—our afflictions, our karma, and our karmic retribution. The repentance practice teaches us how to get rid of these three obstacles and liberate ourselves from suffering. The repentance practice is like water, able to cleanse away the impurities in our heart and mind.

 

Scene 2: Desire

The actors acted out the scene of a man who pursued wealth and success, and ended up suffering greatly due to his greed.The actors acted out the scene of a man who pursued wealth and success, and ended up suffering greatly due to his greed.This section illustrates the source of human suffering—desire. It is presented through a theatrical sketch of a man who pursues wealth and success. As he focuses on climbing the career ladder and expanding his business, he becomes a changed man. But, impermanence strikes. The man ends up losing his business and wealth, and suffers greatly.


 

Scene 3: Repenting for our affliction

The message from the previous sections is that all our afflictions originate from the greed, anger, ignorance, and doubt in our heart and mind. If we can repent for having these unwholesome thoughts, our afflictions can be eliminated. The repentance is done through song and sign language, the lyrics expressing some of the things to repent for:

By repenting for having unwholesome thoughts in our mind, all our afflictions can be eliminated.By repenting for having unwholesome thoughts in our mind, all our afflictions can be eliminated.

Let us repent for our greed for
  fame, wealth, and power
Let us repent for our anger and bad temper,
  which make us want to hurt people
Let us repent for our ignorance and
  lack of understanding of the law of karma
Let us repent for our arrogance,
  which makes us look down on others
Let us repent for doubting the Buddha's teachings,
  which leads to deluded notions
Let us repent for our attachment to "self" and
  our delusions of"permanence" in life
Let us repent for taking up with unwholesome friends
  and doing bad deeds
Let us repent for being stingy and uncharitable,
  and for not forming good affinities with people
Let us repent for being domineering, unreasonable,
  forgetting to be gentle, and becoming angry easily
Let us repent for being jealous of others and
  for unkind actions made in envy
Let us repent for not following the Truth,
  which makes us drift in the sea of samsara
Let us repent for our blindness and delusions,
  which make us undergo the suffering of rebirth in the six realms


Scene 4: making vows and starting anew

Participants at each stage formed the shape of a lotus flower, which bloomed time and again after being nourished by Dharma-water.Participants at each stage formed the shape of a lotus flower, which bloomed time and again after being nourished by Dharma-water.

The repentance practice teaches that after repenting for our unwholesome thoughts, we can prevent repeating our errors by making vows to transform ourselves and begin anew. By replacing old unwholesome behaviors with wholesome ones, afflictions will not arise in our heart and mind again.

In this section, vows are made through song and sign language:

We vow to overcome our greed and selfish desires
  by sowing seeds of kindness in people's hearts
We vow to work on our anger and bad temper
  by spreading love around the world
We vow to dispel our ignorance and delusion
  by learning the Dharma and doing good deeds
We vow to eliminate our ego and arrogance
  by cultivating humility and practicing precepts
We vow to uproot our skepticism of the Dharma
  by developing genuine faith in the Buddha's teachings and the law of karma
We vow to eschew wrong views
  by nurturing loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity in our hearts
We vow to transcend our jealousy and narrow-mindedness
  by respecting and learning from people and emulating their good
We vow to do good and cultivate ourselves diligently,
  as life is impermanent
We vow to practice the 37 Aids to Awakening
  so we may purify our heart and mind
We vow to develop the bodhi mind (the awakened mind)
  so we may have both compassion and wisdom to help all beings

Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act III

Act III: The obstacle of unwholesome action

Scene 1: The law of karma

Onstage, the dancers depict the Buddhist teaching that the karma of the body, speech, and mind will come to fruition in three ways: in the current lifetime, in the next life, or in future lives.Onstage, the dancers depict the Buddhist teaching that the karma of the body, speech, and mind will come to fruition in three ways: in the current lifetime, in the next life, or in future lives.

Onstage, there are three people dressed in white and three people dressed in black. Originally, the six people were together on the same path. Gradually, the three in black were led astray by temptations and deviated from the right path. One of them comes to realize he has gone astray and tries to get back onto the right path. The other two try to stop him, but after much struggle, the repentant one succeeds in returning to the right path, even bringing the other two with him.

The lyrics in this section explain the law of karma:

In the cycle of rebirth, we always carry with us the karma we created in our past lives. The sutras tell us that the karma we created brings karmic retribution, which comes to fruition in three ways: in our current lifetime, in our next life, or in our future lives. While we may not see the karmic retribution for the karma we created in this life, it will eventually come to fruition under the right conditions.


Scene 2: The three vices of bodily conduct

In this scene, the actors portrayed the three vices of bodily conduct.In this scene, the actors portrayed the three vices of bodily conduct.

Through a series of artistic and theatrical sketches, this section shows how people in our modern times commit the three bodily vices of killing, stealing, and sexual misconduct.

Sketch 1: Various acts of killing are presented through artistic expression: killing animals for food, killing another human being to take his possessions, killing for fun, stepping on insects or bugs, sacrificing animals for cultural or religious rituals, hunting for sport, killing oneself, or instigating others to kill.

The Buddha tells us that all living creatures have the Buddha nature and therefore are equal. All creatures value their own life, just as humans do. Because humans do not see this, they take the life of other creatures without remorse.

Sketch 2: One example of the act of stealing is presented. A government official and a businessman scheme to turn protected land to business use for their own personal profit. Through unscrupulous means, they take away an elderly couple's property to build a bus stop. The elderly couple's world is shattered as they lose the land they had lived on for most of their lives.

Sketch 3: One example of sexual misconduct is presented. A womanizer angers a woman he was involved with when he pursues another woman. In revenge, she hires thugs to harm both him and his lover. In the end, the lives of all three are ruined.

Through song and sign language, those onstage express the lesson to be learned:

People should be aware of the harm of sexual misconduct and uphold their marriage vows. If people can carefully guard their minds from going astray, abide by their marital responsibilities, and respect family values, they can build a good, happy family.


Scene 3: The four vices of speech

A mischievous fairy wearing a green vest with protruding knives depicts how different kinds of unwholesome speech can harm people.A mischievous fairy wearing a green vest with protruding knives depicts how different kinds of unwholesome speech can harm people.

This section shows the ways we can create negative karma with our speech, namely by using abusive words, propagating falsehoods, speaking with sweet but empty words, as well as bearing tales. These four kinds of unwholesome speech are like a sharp knife that can hurt people and cause harm. The message is conveyed by a mischievous fairy wearing a green vest with protruding knives, symbolizing unwholesome speech. She takes us through four theatrical sketches to show us how unwholesome speech can harm people, using examples from modern times.

Sketch 1: The harm of speaking abusive words is presented. A tough businesswoman always speaks harshly to her family, hurting their feelings and causing her relations with her family to become strained.

Sketch 2: The harm of lying and spreading false beliefs is presented. A man gives false predictions of misfortune and doom, causing fear among people who blindly believe him; he then sells them a "lucky charm" (in actuality, just a yellow slip) that supposedly will ward off the evil or misfortune. A righteous man with correct views guides people to stop believing in such superstitions.

Sketch 3: The harm of sweet yet empty words is presented. Two people use sweet promises to attract consumers for their health and beauty product. Those who use the product later develop health problems. When the product is discovered to be harmful, the two people run away.

Sketch 4: The harm of bearing tales is presented. The mischievous fairy with the knife vest goes between two people to bear tales, sowing discord.


Scene 4: Repenting our wrong ways

The previous sections show how unwholesome conduct and speech can cause harm. In a formation representing the waters of the ocean, those onstage lead everyone to reflect and repent through song and sign language, the lyrics expressing some of the things to repent for:

Let us repent for killing living creatures and
  committing acts of violence to harm others
Let us repent for killing other creatures accidentally or
  for sport, and for abusing animals, not realizing that all creatures are equal
Let us repent for giving rise to greed when
  enticed by money, and for failing to observe the precepts
Let us repent for being deeply entrenched in
  desire and losing ourselves in the sea of lust
Let us repent for lying to secure personal gains,
  and for speaking meanly to hurt others
Let us repent for speaking insincere words of
  flattery and causing discord through gossip and tale-bearing
Let us repent for giving rise to greed
  when our eyes have come in contact with pleasant sights
Let us repent for letting our ears pursue pleasant sounds and sweet words
  which can cloud our good judgment
Let us repent for giving rise to unwholesome thoughts
  when we come into contact with pleasant fragrances
Let us repent for eating all kinds of living creatures in our attachment
  to taste and the desires of our palate
Let us repent for our desire for fine and smooth textures
  as our body pursues the contact of touch
Let us repent for having a deluded mind as we filled it with false views
  and perceptions and negative emotions


Scene 5: Making vows after repenting

The repentance practice teaches that the true nature of every one of us is as pure as the Buddha's—this is Buddha nature. Yet, we have lost touch with our Buddha nature as we go through life. Out of our ignorance, we create negative karma with our body and speech. After repenting for our unwholesome conduct and speech, we can prevent repeating our errors by making vows not to create more negative karma.

In this section, a formation of the Tzu Chi logo with eight petals is presented, signifying the Eightfold Path of proper conduct in life. Vows are made through song and sign language:

We vow to protect life by not killing and
  by eliminating our hatred and resentment
We vow to be vegetarian life after life
  so that animals do not have to be killed
We vow to be content by reducing our desires
  and transcending thoughts of stealing, jealousy, and greed
We vow to be generous and charitable by not being stingy and greedy.
  Through the practice of giving, we accomplish our spiritual cultivation
We vow to uphold the precepts, to keep our heart pure,
  and to be free from lustful thoughts
We vow to realize that desire acts like a shackle that restrains us,
  and to let go of our greed for wealth, sex, fame, food, and sleep
We vow to avoid speaking gossip and abusive words,
  instead speaking good words in a gentle voice
We vow to treat others with sincerity
  by not lying or spreading hearsay
We vow to speak beneficial words that can bring harmony
and reconciliation among people
We vow to be humble and to be prudent in our speech,
not exaggerating or using flattery
We vow to purify our six sense organs
  so we won't be deluded when encountering the external environment
We vow to end our unwholesome ways
  and prevent future unwholesome actions

Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act IV

Act IV: The obstacle of karmic retribution

A group of actors holding up nets to depict people being trapped in the negative karma they’ve created.A group of actors holding up nets to depict people being trapped in the negative karma they’ve created.

This entire Act describes the workings of karma through theatrical and artistic expression.

The Act begins with a theatrical sketch of a man and two women surrounded by people dressed in black holding a black net. One of the women tells the man she's pregnant with his child. Later, she learns there's another woman pregnant with the man's child. The first woman then kills herself, but her soul wants to take revenge on the man. Eventually, the man dies in a car accident.

The black net symbolizes how living beings are trapped by their karma. While living beings undergo karmic retribution, they create new negative karma, leading to new karmic retribution, in the midst of which they continue to create more negative karma. It forms a vicious cycle, trapping them in samsara, the cycle of rebirth. The way to break out of this cycle is to be aware of the principle of karma and to stop creating new negative karma.

The force of karma is very powerful. When karmic retribution becomes ripe, there's no way one can stop it from happening.


Scene 1: The dream

The dancer in red portrays the soul of the rich man’s wife, which enters the body of each of the animals being killed and cooked for her birthday feast.The dancer in red portrays the soul of the rich man’s wife, which enters the body of each of the animals being killed and cooked for her birthday feast.

This section depicts the true story of a woman in 19th century China, who dreamed of an out-of-body-experience where her soul entered the bodies of animals about to be killed for her birthday feast.

The woman was married to a wealthy man who was a devout Buddhist, a generous philanthropist and a longtime vegetarian. The wife, however, was very fond of meat and fine cuisine. For her birthday, she wanted to have a sumptuous meal to celebrate. Her servants purchased a live pig, chicken, duck, and fish for the occasion. When her husband learned of this, he tried to dissuade her and asked her to spare the lives of these animals. She refused as it was her birthday and she wanted to celebrate.

The night before her birthday, she had a dream. In the dream, she entered the kitchen of her home, where the cook and servants were making preparations for her birthday feast. As the animals were about to be slaughtered, the wife felt her soul enter the body of their bodies in turn. She experienced the pain and suffering of the animals as they were being killed, cut into pieces, and boiled. When the cook was done slaughtering all the animals, a servant brought in a live fish. The wife's soul also entered the body of the fish. After killing the fish and scraping the scales off, the cook made it into fish balls, one of the wife's favorite dishes.

The next morning, the maid brought in the dish of fish-ball soup for breakfast. When the wife saw it, she was filled with fright and ordered the maid to take the dish away.

Feeling frightened, the wife told her husband about her dream and her deep remorse for eating meat.

 

Scene 2: Living hell

The wife struggles with her conscience over the killings she has done and eventually dies.The wife struggles with her conscience over the killings she has done and eventually dies.

The message of this section is that the law of karma is real. We cycle through the six realms of reincarnation due to karmic retribution.

If we do not believe in karma, we might do things that lead us to be reborn in the realm of hell. In fact, we can experience a living hell in our everyday world. When we are under tremendous suffering or mental affliction, that's what being in hell feels like.

This section continues the story of the wife, showing her struggles with her conscience over the killings she had done. Eventually she dies.

We are then taken to see the realm of the hungry ghost.


Scene 3: The realm of hungry ghosts

The two gourmands, who are not satisfied with eating fowl, want to eat meat from other kinds of animals to satisfy their palate.The two gourmands, who are not satisfied with eating fowl, want to eat meat from other kinds of animals to satisfy their palate.

The message of this section is that there are many people in our world who suffer from starvation and malnutrition. They are like the manifestation of the hungry ghost realm.

The theatrical sketch centers on two gourmands (people who pursue good food) who, not satisfied with eating fowl, want to eat meat from other kinds of animals. After eating these, they become sick, can no longer take in any food, and suffer greatly. Two men, one dressed in white and one dressed in black—symbolizing the messengers of death—appear with a long white sheet. One of the gourmands dies. Which realm he is reincarnated in his next life will depend on his karmic retribution.

We are then taken to see another realm, the realm of animals.


Scene 4: The realm of animals

Vain women captivated with jewelry, and leather and fur productsVain women captivated with jewelry, and leather and fur products

This section depicts the animal realm and shows how animals get abused and killed for their skin or meat, undergoing much pain and suffering.

The theatrical sketch shows women in a fashion show wearing fur and animal skins. Four women buy the fur clothing; after they die, they are reborn as the type of animal whose fur they'd worn in their previous life. Being animals, they have to labor for humans, enduring beatings and other abuse. The messengers of death then come and take one of the "animals" away, and where it will be reborn next will depend on its karmic retribution.

We are then taken to see another realm, the realm of asuras.


Scene 5: The realm of asuras

This section depicts the asura realm. Asuras are bad-tempered beings who have a lot of anger and arrogance. They can be found in any of the five realms: heaven, human, animals, hungry ghost, or hell.

The theatrical sketch shows three gangsters and a couple. One gangster gets into an argument with the man, which quickly turns into an all-out brawl. One gangster sets a fire, killing the couple. The leading gangster becomes terribly frightened by the consequences, and eventually is caught for the crime and jailed. The messengers of death then come to take his life away. Where he will be reborn next will depends on his karmic retribution.

Next we are taken to see two realms, the heaven realm and the human realm.


Scene 6: The human and heaven realms

This section depicts the human and heaven realms. In the realm of heaven, heavenly beings enjoy pleasure and happiness. Those in our world who are wealthy, can get whatever they want, and have their desires fulfilled enjoy a kind of heaven on earth.

The theatrical sketch shows a rich man who indulges himself in the pleasures of food and women. He then develops a disease which makes all his friends shun him. A fire burns down his house, and he finds out he has contracted a sexually transmitted disease. While getting treatment, the two messengers of death come, signaling the next stage of his karmic retribution.


Scene 7: Calamities around the world

This scene depicts the disasters of Mother Nature, which all result from human activity.This scene depicts the disasters of Mother Nature, which all result from human activity.

This section shows a video of the Earth undergoing destruction due to natural disasters and human activities.

Our Earth used to be a beautiful planet, with clean rivers and beautiful mountains, where people lived in harmony with Mother Nature. But now humans are destroying mother earth, causing global warming, which brings about natural disasters around the world. Such is the result of the collective negative karma created by humans. Besides natural disasters, man-made disasters, such as war, also cause much suffering to people.


Scene 8: The world climate is becoming abnormal
Disasters of fire and water bring considerable suffering to people.Disasters of fire and water bring considerable suffering to people.

This section shows the natural disasters that ravage our planet, with four different color flags representing disasters of earth, water, fire, and wind. When natural disasters such as earthquakes, floods, snow storms, tornados, or forest fires happen, they can cause a lot of destruction and casualties, bringing considerable suffering.


 

Scene 9: The suffering of wars

People are being injured and dying in the chaotic scene of a battle. The man in the centre is performing a Chinese Yo-Yo, representing the throwing of bombs. People are being injured and dying in the chaotic scene of a battle. The man in the centre is performing a Chinese Yo-Yo, representing the throwing of bombs. This section expresses the suffering of war, doing so through video and a theatrical sketch of a battlefield where people pick up the dead and the injured. The man in the center of the stage performing with a Chinese Yo-Yo represents the throwing of bombs. Wherever the bombs land, war and destruction occur.


 

Scene 10: The suffering of hunger and famine

This section uses video and a theatrical sketch to express the suffering caused by famine and starvation. In the sketch, people who had died in the previous scenes "wake up" to find themselves reborn in places of famine, where they have to scavenge for food, surviving on grasses or tree roots.


Scene 11: Repenting for our karmic retributions

The previous sections show how for countless lives, living beings have been cycling through the six realms, enduring much suffering, without being able to liberate themselves because they do not realize the law of karma and continue to create negative karma. Nevertheless, if people can repent for their unwholesome ways which bring about such karmic retribution, there is hope to break out of this vicious cycle.

The scene shows Dharma Master Wu Da's cabin rising up from the center stage. People dressed in black crawl toward the cabin, reaching for Dharma Master Wu Da, seeking liberation from their sufferings. In a formation representing an ocean, those onstage lead us to repent through song and sign language, the lyrics expressing some of the things to repent for:

Let us repent for the wrongs we've committed through our body,
  speech and mind, leading to the karmic retribution of reincarnation in the hell realm
Let us repent for committing unwholesome acts instead of practicing goodness,
  leading to the karmic retribution of reincarnation in the animal realm
Let us repent for our killing, our self-indulgence and greed,
  leading to the karmic retribution of reincarnation in the hungry ghost realm
Let us repent for leading an unwholesome life and acting arrogantly,
  which lead us to develop the personalities of asuras.
Let us repent for pursuing profit and self-gain,
  thus giving rise to unwholesome thoughts which dispel wholesome thoughts
Let us repent for being cruel to animals by hunting and harming them;
  one day we will reap karmic retribution
Let us repent for breaking the law, being undisciplined and rebellious,
  and not being filial to our parents nor abiding by moral ethics
Let us repent for not respecting the Buddha or his teachings and for doubting
  that the Dharma can liberate living beings from suffering
Let us repent for the obstacles of affliction, unwholesome action, and karmic retribution
  that we have created; and let us dedicate any merit we have to all living beings


Scene 12: Making vows after repenting

Stage participants forming a Dharma ship, symbolizing the ship of Dharma which can rescue people from the sea of suffering and take them to the safety of the shore.Stage participants forming a Dharma ship, symbolizing the ship of Dharma which can rescue people from the sea of suffering and take them to the safety of the shore.

This section presents a representation of a Dharma ship, symbolizing the ship of Dharma which can rescue people from the sea of suffering and take them to the safety of the shore.

The message is that though living beings have gone astray before, now that they've encountered the Dharma, they can turn themselves around. After repenting, all make vows to create a better world with less suffering. Vows are made through song and sign language:

We vow to turn the realm of hell into a Pure Land
  by eliminating karmic obstacles
We vow to turn our animosity to goodwill and transform violence
  into kind actions
We vow to help all living beings in need
  so they can attain peace and happiness
We vow to harbor no thoughts of killing,
  and help all creatures co-exist in harmony
We vow to get rid of our bad habitual tendencies and
  our deluded thoughts and perceptions
We vow to mitigate disasters and epidemics
  so people won't suffer from pain, illness, and loss
We vow to help provide abundant supplies of food and clothing
  so people won't suffer from starvation and cold
We vow to bring harmony and peace to society
  so there'll be no wars in this world
We vow to spread the teachings of the Buddha
so people can understand life's principles and eschew misguided views
We vow to walk the Bodhisattva Path and
help inspire the mind of awakening in people

Synopsis of the Sutra Adaptation of the Water Repentance Text - Act V

Act V: Finale

Dharma Master Wu Da (center). (Photo by Tseng Fang-jung)Dharma Master Wu Da (center). (Photo by Tseng Fang-jung)In this section, Dharma Master Wu Da walks out of his cabin and visits the various people who had done wrong in the previous acts. As he visits each, he spreads the teaching of repentance, and people rectify the wrongs they had committed so that instead of continuing the cycle of negative karma into the next life, they can begin to turn things around in this life.

Venerable Kanaka appears on stage. Those who had done wrong in previous scenes take off their colored costumes, revealing white clothing underneath, symbolizing the purification of their hearts.

The message of this section is that since beginningless time, we've been undergoing the cycle of rebirth, suffering in the six realms without being able to liberate ourselves. The Buddha came to this world to teach us the Four Noble Truths, which show us a way we can end our suffering. If we can learn the Buddha's teachings, we can cleanse our heart and mind.

The world is full of changes and impermanence. Yet, underlying all the changes, even through the cycle of rebirth, our everlasting, non-changing Buddha nature is always with us. But people cannot see this and they go after things that are ephemeral, such as fame and personal gain. In the process, they create negative karma and plant karmic seeds in their consciousness, which then ripen into karmic retributions and trap them in the cycle of rebirth. Through the Twelve Links of Interdependent Co-Arising, they suffer endlessly.

All participants of the stage adaptation leading the audience in singing the song, “Great Repentance” All participants of the stage adaptation leading the audience in singing the song, “Great Repentance”

Dharma Master Wu Da, with the rise of arrogance, brought to fruition the retribution from karma he had created ten lifetimes before. With the help of Venerable Kanaka, Dharma Master Wu Da was able to resolve his negative karma. Thereafter, he composed the Water Repentance text to tell people how to get rid of the three obstacles of affliction, unwholesome action, and karmic retribution through the practice of repentance. These timeless teachings remain beneficial to humanity to this day.

Drifting in the vast sea of suffering, we should turn back toward the safety of the shore. All Buddhas earnestly call on all living beings to awaken and return to the correct path.

Towards the end, Dharma Master Wu Da as well as everyone onstage sing the four verses of great repentance:

In times of crisis, we must recognize right from wrong
In times of great calamities, we must bring forth great compassion
In times of great blindness and ignorance, we need to exercise great wisdom
In times of great turmoil and unrest, we must deeply reflect and repent

Notes:

Notes:

Tzu Chi Singapore will be presenting the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation in two Year-End Blessing ceremonies to be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on 14 December, 2013, with an estimated 2,000-plus participants onstage. The stage scenes and group formations will be different from those in the Taiwan rendition as they will be modified to accommodate the venue requirements. The actors’ costumes and plots of the theatrical sketches will also be altered to better suit the local culture and context.

Master Cheng Yen has emphasized that the stage adaptation is not a performance, but rather a Dharma service. During every practice and rehearsal, all the participants must unite their hearts as one, so their movements will synchronize. It is only through working together in unity and harmony, and helping one another that everyone can express their sincere piety.

It is our sincere hope that the “Dharma as Water” stage adaption will be a success, with the participants truly taking the Dharma to heart and putting it into practice. We hope that the audience will also participate in the Dharma service, be inspired to join in our repentance practice, and take up vegetarianism to help protect life and the Earth.

(Photos taken from Tzu Chi Foundation’s Global English website)

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