Reviving a Thousand Year Old Teaching

“Buddhism must be relevant to the times we are living in. While prayer and repentance may be made in a certain manner, the main thing is that our hearts are purified in the process and we correct our past transgressions.” A total of 111 Dharma Masters from various religious organizations attended the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation cum Year-End Blessing Ceremony organized by Tzu Chi, and were of the opinion that the Dharma assembly was a truly sanctimonious event.


“In today’s world, there are many occurrences of unrest and disasters, both natural and man-made, and these are related to the thoughts of mankind. Tzu Chi’s attempt to bring the Dharma to others by employing the use of sign language and theatrical skits is a good way to remind us all to pay heed to our thoughts… we can achieve a harmonious society if we do not give rise to thoughts of greed, anger and ignorance.” Secretary-General of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Venerable Guang Pin, gave his praise after watching the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation.

Tzu Chi Foundation (Singapore) presented the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation at the Singapore Indoor Stadium from 13-15 December 2013, and a total of 18,000 people attended the four performances held over three days.

Representatives from the government, community and grassroots organisations, the media and Taoist, Baha’i and Hindu religions were invited to attend the event.

Rooting Out Evil, Promoting Societal Harmony

Mr. S K Gupta, the Hindu representative and Asst. Treasurer of the Inter-religious Organization (Singapore) expressed that he was happy to be present. In addition, he said that different religious paths are but a means to reach the same goal; as many conflicts in the world happen as a result of mutual misunderstandings, it is important for those of different faiths and races to seek to understand each other.

Venerable Bellawila Dhammaratana, Founder of the Buddhist Library, gave his feedback, saying that the stage adaptation illustrated how sentient beings create evil karma because of greed, hatred, doubt and arrogance. The Five Precepts of Buddhism (no killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech and consumption of alcohol) provides a good set of guidelines for our society in preventing evils from taking root.

A Dharma master from Sri Lanka also pointed out that in highly developed countries, the majority of people are concerned more about material pursuits rather than spiritual matters. But in order for one’s heart to be at peace and experience happiness, one has to first pay attention to one’s spiritual cultivation, and it is precisely this aspect that have been overlooked by the young of today.

He said that seeing how Tzu Chi had simplified profound Buddhist concepts, and presented them in such an easy-to-understand format, he hoped that more young people would be encouraged to delve deeper into the spiritual teachings.

The Repentance Practice - An Ancient Teaching for Contemporary Times

Venerable Chuan Guan from Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery often organizes Buddhist classes conducted in English in order to cater to the needs of the locals. However, he observes that while many Buddhist organizations do conduct courses, whether in Singapore, Taiwan, or elsewhere in the world, the fast pace of life means that not everybody can spare the time to attend these courses.

“In three hours, Tzu Chi has managed to convey the core teachings within the ‘Water Repentance’ text, reminding us to be aware of the evils of body, speech and mind in our daily life, and to refrain from harming other beings. The presentation today is a good thing; for a start, it inspires people to learn more about Buddhism.”

In addition, Venerable Chuan Guan feels that the repentance practice is relevant in any era. The crux of the practice is for one to stop committing wrongful actions and follow up with vows, that one will not err in the same way once again. What is of consequence is that after making vows, one will henceforth give rise to the Bodhi-mind and act to benefit others.

Stressing that learning from the original teachings is important, he noted that it was because the original works of the Buddhist canon had been properly preserved and passed down, that Chinese Buddhism is still thriving today. The “Water Repentance” text has three parts to it, and only when one delves deeply into the complete set of teachings can it be ensured that there will be no deviation from the original intent.

A Call for Spiritual Awakening

Venerable Ding Rong of the Singapore Buddhist Youth Mission gravely commented that many people have lost themselves under the myriad of external influences in today’s world. Just like how it is stated in the scriptures, the pure waters of Dharma cannot penetrate the wall of arrogance that surrounds one; in a similar vein, Dharma Master Wu Da opened the doors to his karmic retribution with just one arrogant thought.

“Buddhism must be relevant to the times we are living in. While prayer and repentance may be made in a certain manner, the main thing is that our hearts are purified in the process and we correct our past transgressions. This Dharma assembly brings the teachings across in a much clearer way; it successfully conveys the message that misfortune awaits if one indulges in one’s greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance and doubt.”

The Sea of Suffering is Vast and Boundless

The part of Dharma Master Wu Da was presented by local artiste Nick Shen Wei Jun, who specially requested to take the tonsure under Venerable Guang Pin. Looking fresh-faced and dignified after the tonsure, Shen says, “I am grateful to the Venerable for bestowing on me the Dharma name of ‘Wu Da,’which is the name of Dharma Master Wu Da, whose character I am presenting in the stage adaptation. I’m both full of gratitude and very moved. The Venerable hopes that I can learn from the spirit of benefitting oneself and others, as exemplified by Master Wu Da himself. From today onwards, I will practice with greater diligence, and not just because of my role in the stage adaptation.” Overcome by his emotions at that point, Shen could not stop the tears from rolling down his face.

Shen came to know of Tzu Chi because of his late mother, who was a grey uniform Tzu Chi volunteer before she passed on a few years ago from cancer. Over the last few years, even as Shen was working in the entertainment industry, he desired to study the Buddhist teachings in depth. It is also his wish to become a monk for a short period of time. Over the last six months, as he focused his energies on the role of Master Wu Da, he came to the realization that though Master Wu Da could not escape his serious karmic retribution, the Repentance text came about because he had attained realizations through the process, and was able to compose the text for the benefit of Buddhists and all sentient beings.

“The sea of suffering is vast and boundless, by turning back, we can return to the shore. Over our lifetime, whether intentionally or not, we would have committed a lot of actions which should not have been done. The Buddhist teachings show us the path out of our sufferings. I wish to do more for society, and in the years ahead, be of benefit to both myself and others.”

Though the “Dharma as Water” stage adaptation has ended, it is hoped that the participants and audience will continue to be inspired and through their actions, create a better and more peaceful world.

Among the invited attendees were representatives from the Taoist and Baha’i faiths. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng)Among the invited attendees were representatives from the Taoist and Baha’i faiths. (Photo by Lai Tong Heng) Mr. S K Gupta, the Hindu representative and Asst. Treasurer of the Inter-religious Organization (Singapore) said that different religions are all paths to the same goal, and that he was happy to be present and learn more about Buddhism. (Photo by O Kok Kin)Mr. S K Gupta, the Hindu representative and Asst. Treasurer of the Inter-religious Organization (Singapore) said that different religions are all paths to the same goal, and that he was happy to be present and learn more about Buddhism. (Photo by O Kok Kin) Venerable Guang Pin feels that Tzu Chi’s attempt to bring the Dharma to others by employing the use of sign language and theatrical skits is a good way to making the teachings accessible to others. (Photo by O Kok Kin)Venerable Guang Pin feels that Tzu Chi’s attempt to bring the Dharma to others by employing the use of sign language and theatrical skits is a good way to making the teachings accessible to others. (Photo by O Kok Kin) Local artiste Nick Shen respectfully requested to take the tonsure under Secretary-General of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Venerable Guang Pin, in the hopes of presenting the role of Master Wu Da with great purity and reverence in his heart. (Photo by Yong Keah Pei)Local artiste Nick Shen respectfully requested to take the tonsure under Secretary-General of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Venerable Guang Pin, in the hopes of presenting the role of Master Wu Da with great purity and reverence in his heart. (Photo by Yong Keah Pei) Shen (left), realized the importance of the law of cause and effect after immersing himself in the role of Master Wu Da.  He hopes to contribute to society and be of benefit to both himself and others. (Photo by Yang Xiu Li)Shen (left), realized the importance of the law of cause and effect after immersing himself in the role of Master Wu Da. He hopes to contribute to society and be of benefit to both himself and others. (Photo by Yang Xiu Li) During the adaptation, the Buddha rises from the middle of the stage to lead all into the Dharma, while participants onstage and downstage pray sincerely for the world. (Photo by Leong Li Ling)During the adaptation, the Buddha rises from the middle of the stage to lead all into the Dharma, while participants onstage and downstage pray sincerely for the world. (Photo by Leong Li Ling)

(By Lim Chwee Lian;Translated by Shu Yin,14/12/2013)

Share